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Article: The best sunscreens for keeping skin healthy in 2024

The best sunscreens for keeping skin healthy in 2024

The best sunscreens for keeping skin healthy in 2024

By Lucia Ferrari  

Usually considered more of a chore than a luxury, applying sunscreen has a newfound appeal thanks in part to many of the new formulas on the shelves these days. The best sunscreens today manage to sidestep the ghostly white casts that many products used to have, alongside off-putting fragrances and instead offer more weightless lotions with elegant formulas which sometimes include skin nourishing ingredients too.  

Despite the fact that we know that applying sunscreen will lessen our risk of developing skin cancer, as well as the anti-ageing benefits, statistics still show that lots of us in the UK don’t wear it as often as we should.  A government survey conducted by the skincare company Face The Future (as part of their 366 Days of SPF campaign) showed this year that only 22 % of the UK apply SPF daily and 40% of the UK who wear SPF only buy it to wear when they go on holiday.   

Consultant Dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch is unequivocal on the subject, “UV penetrates through grey clouds and comes through glass windows whether you’re in an office or at the wheel of a car, so it’s crucial to protect your skin all year round to help prevent UV induced photo ageing or long-term damage that may lead to skin cancer.” 

Face the Future’s research is backed by Amy Callaghan MP, whose VAT Burn Campaign is calling on the UK government to remove VAT from sunscreen products that have a health benefit. Callaghan says, “Too many people still don’t protect their skin from the sun, putting them at risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. It’s high time the UK government took note of these stats and enacted meaningful action.” 

While we’re not there yet in terms of removing the VAT from sunscreen, the formulas are improved in most cases of reputable brands. However it’s also worth noting a report just published by consumer organisation Which claiming that some cheaper SPF’s from Calypso Sun, Bondi Sans an Asda offer less protection than they claim. So it is worth spending a little bit more and investing in a reputable sunscreen to ensure you and your family are well protected.  

What to look for in a sunscreen? 

The key non negotiables are broad spectrum (protection against both UVA and UVB rays) and a minimum SPF of 30 (but ideally SPF 50) especially during the summer months.  

Mineral v Chemical sunscreen 

Mineral sunscreens include natural ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that sit on the skin to physically block the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens use ingredients such as oxybenzone that are absorbed into the skin to convert UV rays into heat, which is then released from the body.  

 A lot of dermatologists will favour mineral sunscreens especially if it’s to be used it in direct sunlight on holiday, but also what most dermatologists agree on is the importance to find a sunscreen that you like the consistency of as you’ll be much more likely to use it rather than something you don’t enjoy using. Also the new ‘nano’ titanium and zinc particles used in the formulas make the white cast issues a thing of the past.   

How to apply sunscreen correctly 

Lots of studies have shown that we don’t apply enough sunscreen (and reapply it enough). The number of times sunscreen should be reapplied over the course of the day is largely dependent on your level of activity, the amount of sun exposure and the type of product you’re using. It’s recommended to apply your SPF 20 – 30 minutes before going outside with reapplications every few hours during the summer. 

And it’s also worth remembering that the amount of UVA and UVB protection a sunscreen provides is related to how thickly it is applied on to the skin, so be generous with your application. 

For the average adult, a shot glass sized amount should be used to cover the whole body. For the face, the two-finger rule is a good one to try and get into the habit when applying. You dispense two strips of sunscreen along your index and middle fingers and apply for full facial coverage.   

For sensitive and acne prone skin 

Skinceuticals Brightening UV Defence SPF30 

Sensitive or acne prone skin don’t respond well to anything that’s too rich, and this is an excellent lightweight consistency which is also hydrating on the skin.  

For pigmented skin and summer holidays 

Skinceuticals Advanced Brightening UV Defense SPF 50 

This formula also includes some anti-ageing skin ingredients so works well if you’re using it in place of your daily moisturiser. The other plus is that it doesn’t leave any white cast on the skin and sits well under makeup and doesn’t pill as some of the other SPF’s can do when makeup is applied on top. 

Heliocare Oil Free gel SPF 50 is also very good. It isn’t a tint but has a slight colour that seems to go with any skin colour from the very fair to darker skins.  

For post-procedure in clinic treatments 

Eucerin Actinic Control MD SPF 100, has a lovely lightweight consistency and is the SPF which Dr Ophelia uses in clinic after laser treatments on patients.   

For those who like a tinted formula 

Heliocare 360 Color Gel Oil-Free Sunscreen Protector SPF50 

Loyal fans keep returning to this formula because it’s hard to beat. This product is a combination of a tinted moisturiser (with medium to full coverage) with an SPF. The skin looks flawless after applying and they also do a useful compact version which comes with a mirror for on-the-go touch ups during the day. 

For those who like a lightweight formula 

La Roche Posay Anthelios UV Mune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF 50 

This is a good all-rounder. It’s fragrance free and is invisible on the skin, and men seem to like using this fluid too as it’s so easy to apply. It’s also a good one for rosacea sufferers who should be extra vigilant about protecting their skin from UV rays.  

For families 

Altruist Family Sunspray SPF 50, £12.50 

Created by a British dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon, this fragrance-free spray is suitable for the whole family including babies from six months old. The trigger spray format is handy for the wriggliest of bodies. It may be a little thick for some people in which case the Eucerin Sensitive Protect Sun Spray SPF 50, £14.60 is also very good. 

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