"It's not sunny". "Sunscreen breaks me out". And so on. We address all your concerns (and excuses) for not applying SPF every day.
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I’ve changed my tact, however, as in the last fortnight alone I’ve had three conversations with people who’ve all said something to the tune of “But why would you wear sunscreen if it’s not hot?”
Perhaps this is a reflection of the beauty industry echo chamber I orbit within.
I was of the understanding that everyone knew we needed to wear sunscreen whatever the weather, they just didn’t want to. A sentiment that echoes throughout the beauty industry, one I have heard supported countless times by dermatologists, is that sunscreen is the most important thing you can apply to your skin - for both health and aesthetic reasons.
The fact remains, however, that very few of us are taking that advice seriously.
My intention was to write about how we can choose the right sunscreen for our skin, as I know many people opt out as they find it uncomfortable, they dislike the scent, they find it breaks them out, they’re unsure how to correctly apply it and so forth.
I will deliver on this intention! But first, given the above, I think it’s worth touching on why the SPF message continues to be drilled into (some of) us.
I’ve gone into pretty significant detail on this here, but in short- the sun’s rays combine UVA and UVB. Both are of detriment to the skin. Both contribute to the development of skin cancers.
UVA is a longer wavelength and is associated with skin ageing, while UVB is a shorter wavelength that contributes to skin burning.
UVA can penetrate clouds, glass windows, and water, meaning it is present year round. As a rule of thumb, if it’s light enough to read without switching on a light, you need sunscreen to protect exposed skin from UVA rays.
This in mind, “But it’s not sunny,” is not an excuse I entertain when it comes to the SPF debate. Do as you wish, but here’s my take on the other most-frequently-used reasons those close to me (you know who you are) fall back on when it comes to sunscreen.
More often than not, the link between sunscreen and acne is not all that linked to sunscreen itself- it’s down to cleansing.
Sunscreen needs to be properly broken down in order to fully wash it from the skin’s surface. I find using an oil based cleanser as a “first cleanse” is the best way to break down both sunscreen and any makeup, and I’ll then follow this with a gentler cleanse to really get into the pores.
The double cleanse method has been useful for several of my friends who complained of sunscreen breaking them out, when in fact it was that they weren’t removing the sunscreen properly each evening.
That said, there are of course people who do have particularly reactive skin and, in those cases, the sunscreen probably is the cause of the breakouts. Unfortunately in these instances, it’s a game of trial and error.
Given the importance of sunscreen, my recommendation here would be to visit a dermatologist or dermal clinician who will be able to assist in isolating which specific ingredients are triggering your skin’s response to sunscreen, and make non-irritating recommendations from there.
This is usually the catch cry of those who still believe all sunscreen comes in a 2 litre jumbo beach pack. If you tell me that sunscreen is too thick for daily wear, you are outing yourself as someone who only wears sunscreen on family holidays and probably hasn’t strayed from the one formula since 1997.
Facial sunscreens and body sunscreens are, now, formulated very differently. A higher SPF (sun protection factor) does not make the sunscreen any thicker, however I’ve found (through multiple sunscreen trials) that facial sunscreens are formulated with more “skincare benefits” than sunscreens for the body.
There are so, so many sunscreens available now, from creams to fluids to serum consistencies, meaning your sunscreen can be as weightless (or as thick and creamy!) as you like without it affecting your level of protection.
Flashback certainly does exist, however the idea that it is sunscreen on its own that causes it is a myth. Flashback is specifically caused by an ingredient called “titanium dioxide.”
This ingredient is most commonly found in “physical sunscreens” like zincs, so if you’re going to be photographed then simply opt for a “chemical sunscreen.” Simple!
For those with deeper skintones, however, whitecast can still be an issue. Fortunately, some of our favourite brands are (finally!) catering to those with melanin rich skin who still love a physical sunscreen.
Mother SPF’s The Mother of Pearl drops have been formulated for application prior to SPF, protecting the skin from blue light, evening out the skin tone with a subtle bronze tint, and counteracting the whitecast effect of some sunscreens.
Unfortunately, any change in the colour of your skin (unless you’re applying makeup or false tanner) is your skin cells signalling that they are in trauma. Your skin turning pink or red (ie. a sunburn) isn’t the only sign that UV rays are damaging your skin- a tan is signifying the very same thing.
The solution here is a higher sun protection factor (where possible), more frequent reapplication, and working other protective factors into your day like a hat, protective clothing and seeking shade.
So glad you asked. If you're tanning despite wearing sunscreen, you also may not be applying enough product.
Don’t forget that you need to use approximately half a teaspoon of sunscreen for your face and neck combined, half a teaspoon for each arm, and 1 teaspoon for each leg, your torso and your back in order to achieve the marked level of sun protection.
+ Sunscreen for dry skin: opt for the rich, creamy consistency of the Hunter Lab SPF50+ Facial Sunscreen Stick
+ Sunscreen for oily skin: you’ll love the fluid, lightweight texture of Mesoestetic’s Mesoprotech Melan 130 Pigment Control
+ Sunscreen for the body: you can’t go past Standard Procedure’s 500mL pump pack
+ For the physical sunscreen purist: try Grown Alchemist’s Natural Hydrating Sunscreen
+ Need an all-rounder? Mother SPF’s 30+ Face and Body sunscreen has you covered- literally