What’s the best sunscreen?
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
In an age when our phones are also our wallet, watch and GPS, I expect intelligent, multitasking efficiency from everyday skincare as well; especially SPF. And today’s best creams, make-up and sprays do double duty – providing skin-enhancing benefits alongside sun protection.
Sunscreen of course goes way back: the ancient Egyptians used extracts of rice bran, jasmine and lupine plants to protect skin from sunburn; indigenous Australians used mud and leaves; the Greeks and Romans used an olive oil formula. Modern-day sunscreen was invented in the ’40s by Franz Greiter; his thick paste was named Piz Buin in honour of the mountain where he needed sun protection. And though ultraviolet filters had been produced since the late ’20s, their adaptation for sunscreen came only in 1974; it was then that the sun-protection factor (SPF) became the standard for measuring UVB. Water-resistant and broad-spectrum formulas followed, with the FDA approving the first UVA/UVB SPF in 1988.
Wear SPF daily. It helps to protect against not only sun damage (reducing the risk of melanoma by 50 cent) but also almost 80 per cent of the skin and ageing problems I come across as a facialist (UVA leads to collagen breakdown– responsible for fine lines, deep wrinkles, blotchiness and discoloration).
Despite overwhelming evidence that SPF is vital, clients still tell me they will only wear it if they like its look and feel. Thankfully, I have many options to recommend. Ultra Violette Queen Screen SPF50+ Luminising Serum Skinscreen is a serum that has been formulated to be compatible with make-up. Likewise L’Oréal Revitalift Clinical SPF50+ Vitamin C Daily Invisible Fluid, the texture of which is designed to be fast-absorbing without any oily or white-shine residue.
Tips for applying
Apply enough: about a shot glass for the whole body and about a quarter teaspoon (1.25ml) each for face and neck. No less for high SPF.
Apply 20 minutes before heading outside and reapply every two hours (more if you are swimming or sweating).
Don’t miss the hairline, eyelids, ears, under chin and back of neck.
Make-up with SPF is not enough sun protection alone. Layer it on top of sunscreen. I like the oil-absorbing Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser Oil-Free Natural Skin Perfector SPF20 UVB/UVA/PA+++ for a shine-free matte finish.
Choose an SPF number based on length of time in the sun and the intensity of the sunlight, which increases with factors such as latitudinal proximity to the equator, the higher the sun is in the sky, summer season and closeness to reflective surfaces. SPF30 lets about three per cent of UVB rays through; SPF50 about two per cent. If in doubt, try liberally re-applying with an SPF water spray such as Vichy Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water SPF30 Hydrating, with its lightweight and hyaluronic acid-enriched formula.
It’s also useful to understand the difference between chemical (or “organic”) and mineral (also known as “inorganic” physical) sunscreens. Chemical formulations (such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and octisalate) work like a sponge, absorbing UV light. Their composition causes a reaction that converts light into heat and dissipates it. Mineral sunscreens, meanwhile, act like a shield. Active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect from both UVA and UVB rays, and sit on the surface of the skin, deflecting the sun’s rays. These are generally thicker in texture and can leave a white cast.
Chemical sunscreens tend to be more lightweight and less greasy. Shiseido’s Octocrylene-based Expert Sun Protector Face Cream SPF50+ is a great example. But, while chemical ingredients are safe for human use, they have been found to exacerbate reef bleaching, and some tourist destinations, including Hawaii, have banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone. If you are swimming, Chantecaille SeaScreen 30 Mineral Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen Mist SPF30 has a formulation based on coral-friendly, non-nano-sized minerals such as zinc oxide – it also contributes five per cent of sales towards marine non-profit WildAid. Similarly, the “ocean-respecting” formula Nivea Sun UV Face Q10 Anti-Age Sun Cream SPF50 is free from microplastics.
The sun can also aggravate skin disorders such as rosacea, acne and post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (PIH). Post-exposure, try applying Ligne St Barth Aloe Vera Gel with Mint After Sun to heat-stressed skin. Keep it in the fridge and apply with a cooling compress. And to prevent heat stress, use products with a mix of antioxidant, hydrating and protective ingredients: Bioderma Pigmentbio Daily Care SPF50+ is an antioxidant-rich formula that reduces the production of melanin and boosts cell renewal.
Finally, sun-dried skin craves nothing more than moisture, and Sisley Super Soin Solaire SPF50+ acts as a moisturiser, providing deep hydration and that “just-returned-from-the-Amalfi-coast” glow. And for those with oily and acne-prone skin, I suggest going for a product with a cooling, gel-like texture: La Roche Posay has rolled SPF, gel-like moisturiser and hyaluronic serum into one with its Hyalu B5 Aquagel SPF30.
Do you need advice on spot solutions, make-up or a skin emergency? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will address your concerns in an upcoming column