The best sunscreens for every skin type
Despite all the conflicting opinions we hear in relation to skincare, sunscreen is the one consistent recommendation.
Not only is it essential to prevent accelerated signs of ageing, but also the prevalence of skin cancers. According to the Melanoma Institute Australia, we have some of the highest rates of Melanoma in the world – most of which are caused by overexposure to the sun.
The trick to daily wear is finding a formula you love, and thankfully this year there are plenty of new intelligent and beautiful formulas on the market.
To explain SPF basics (and the trick to finding a winning product) we spoke with PhD-qualified scientist, skincare science educator and former registered nurse Dr Michele Squire.
When should you apply SPF and how much do you need?
Dr Squire: Sunscreen should be applied over the top of skincare (once it has sunk in), and allowed to sit for at least eight minutes before makeup. The eight minutes is the time it takes for sunscreen to form a film on the skin.
You need a quarter teaspoon applied to the face and another quarter teaspoon for the neck and uppermost part of the chest. Don’t forget the back of the neck, ears and part line in your hair.
What are the differences between “mineral” and “chemical” sunscreens?
These are terms coined by the cosmetic industry that don’t tell the whole story (minerals are chemicals, too). In general, we refer to mineral sunscreens as those using zinc and titanium oxides as the active ingredient, whereas chemical sunscreens contain a wide range of other UV filters. Some sunscreens contain both.
Mineral and chemical UV filters work in the same way: they both absorb UV light and transform it into heat energy. Some filters (mineral and some chemical) reflect a small amount of UV away from the skin as well.
Do you need to apply sunscreen more frequently when you’re at the beach versus indoors?
Most people wear sunscreen for outdoor activities but don’t recognise the risk of exposure indoors can also result in cumulative DNA damage. Whether you’re outdoors or inside, SPF application is necessary to protect you from both skin cancers and signs of photoageing (wrinkles, skin roughness, broken capillaries and hyperpigmentation).
If the UV index is 3 or higher and you are in the sun, you need sunscreen (and other sun protection like a hat and sunglasses). I use the Cancer Council SeeUV app on my phone to work out the UV. But a good rule of thumb is to wear SPF every single day.
What do you suggest for those who feel SPF causes them breakouts?
Comedogenicity (the potential of a formulation to clog pores) is an unreliable science. This means that choosing a sunscreen really is a process of trial and error. To reduce greasiness, you can use sunscreen alone as your daily moisturiser. If this feels too dry, try a humectant serum underneath.
Best for dry skin: Emma Lewisham Skin Shield SPF 30
Emma Lewisham hails from New Zealand but its clean, efficacious approach is making waves internationally. Take the SPF 30 Skin Shield: a zinc oxide-based mineral formula that hydrates thanks to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid, kakadu plum, jojoba and prickly pear oil.
Best for sensitive skin: Ultra Violette Lean Screen SPF 50+ Mattifying Zinc
Best for acne-prone skin: TBH Skincare Skin Shady 50+ (launching Nov 27)
SPF for breakout-prone skin can be a hard sell, but this new launch from acne-specific TBH Skincare is pretty close to perfect. It’s a chemical filter, but the texture is super light and dries down to a soft matte finish, so greasy residue isn’t an issue. It’s oil-free and doubles as a primer as well.
Best for dark skin tones: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF 50+
The latest iteration of the French sunscreen franchise is the brand’s lightest formula yet (hence the name Invisible). It’s light and milky but still feels beautiful on the skin – almost like a serum. It also applies completely translucent, making it ace for dark skin tones.
Best for body: Everyday Humans Oh My Bod! SPF 50 Body Sunscreen
Everyday Humans just launched into Sephora and this body formula feels less sunscreen, more expensive moisturiser. It sinks in, dries down to a matte finish and contains cucumber and green tea to revitalise.
Best for lips: Ultra Violette Sheen Screen Hydrating Lip Balm SPF 50
Lips need sun protection, too! This lanolin-based formula is supremely hydrating and comes in a range of beautiful tints.