Sun protection is the last thing any one of any age or gender should be neglecting, whether they’re more interested in preserving your youthful skin or warding off the threats of skin cancer.
There are a few different types of UV rays, all of which you should be protecting yourself against. UVA may cause premature ageing of the skin, UVB is responsible for sunburns and damage to the superficial layers, and both of them are able to trigger skin cancer.
We believe that any beauty or skincare junkie worth his or her salt would know immediately that SPF30 is the very minimum you need to be looking for in a sunscreen. SPF30 can protect the skin against 97% of UVB rays, while SPF50 protects against 98%, and SPF100 against 99%.
Note that SPF does not protect you against UVA rays, which is really what’s causing your skin to look older with more sun exposure over time. That’s why you need to be looking for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, rather than one with just SPF.
Check out our guide to sunscreens for more information on how SPF and PA works!
Your sunscreen may not be working as well as you think
In an ideal world, looking at the SPF alone would be enough to help us separate the good from the bad when it comes to shopping for sunscreen. Unfortunately, this isn’t true in reality.
Consumer Reports recently published a report that showed that many sun protection products may not actually be performing as well as they claim.
They did tests with “73 lotions, sprays, sticks, and lip balms” to find out exactly how much UVA and UVB these products were able to ward off, and found that “24 tested at less than half their labeled SPF number.”
That means that some sunscreens may be labelled as SPF50, but actually only delivered a maximum of SPF24 when in use, sometimes a lot lesser than that.
There’s a clear difference between chemical and physical sunscreens
The Consumer Reports test also showed a clear distinction between sunscreens that used synthetic chemicals that protected against UV damage, and those that used ingredients that physically blocked the UV rays from reaching the skin.
How do you tell what is what? Take a look at the ingredients list!
If it contains ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate, then it’s most likely a chemical sunscreen. If, however, you see zinc oxide or titanium dioxide high up on the ingredients list, then it’s most probably a physical sunscreen.
Another way to tell the difference is in paying attention to how it sits on your skin. Chemical sunscreens tend to absorb quickly into the skin and nobody can tell that you’ve a sunscreen on. Physical sunscreens, however, sit like a layer on the skin (they are physically blocking the sun’s rays, after all) and can give your skin a white cast.
There have been environmental and safety concerns about chemical sunscreens, with Hawaii making recent waves for banning the sale of chemical sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate over concern that it would contribute to coral bleaching and may prove toxic to marine life.
There have been no human safety concerns over the use of chemical sunscreens, according to short-term research results.
People with sensitive or acne-prone skin may find physical sunscreens easier to use as it isn’t absorbed into the skin, and therefore irritates the skin a lot less. However, no physical sunscreen scored well enough on the Consumer Reports test to make it to its list of recommended sunscreens.
How to make sure you’re getting the best protection from your sunscreen
Aside from using sunscreens that have been tested and proven to deliver exactly the SPF it claims to give, you need to also make sure that you adhere to these sunscreen rules:
- Shake before use: According to Consumer Reports, this will help to re-distribute the active ingredients so that you’re getting an even amount when you dispense it on to your hand.
- Use a good amount: You should be applying at least one teaspoon’s worth of sunscreen for each area of your body: your face, head, neck, back of your neck, each arm, each leg, chest and abdomen, and back. If you’re using a spray sunscreen, use as much as can be rubbed in to each part of your body.
- Re-apply as often as possible: Sunscreens aren’t forever – re-apply them every two hours at least, or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Yes, we know, it all sounds very troublesome. But hey, “no pain no gain” is a maxim that applies the best in health and beauty.
Is your sunscreen on this recommended list?
Consumer Reports released a list of recommended sunscreens that scored at least 81% on their tests – this means that the sunscreen delivered at least 80% of its UVA and UVB protection claim. Is your sunscreen here?
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk
This is the fourth year in a row that La Roche-Posay has been warming up this coveted top spot, and no wonder. This was by far the best-performing sunscreen tested by Consumer Reports, scoring a cool 100% on both UVA and UVB protection.
This is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a SPF60 formula. Testers also rated this positively on the texture, feel, and scent of the product.
The La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk is not available in-stores in Singapore, but is available on Qoo10 (shipping fees apply). Alternatively, you can request for a traveler to buy it for you on AirFrov.
Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50
The Trader’s Joe Spray topped the spray sunscreen category in the Consumer Reports list of recommended sunscreens, eliminating the competition by achieving a near perfect score.
You can request for a traveler to buy it for you on AirFrov.
Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50
You may not recognise this brand because it isn’t available in-stores here in Singapore, but Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50 is actually a USD5 drugstore product available at Walmarts in the USA. It scored a nearly-perfect 99% on the Consumer Reports tests, coming in second place.
Who says high quality can only come at high prices?
Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray SPF 50+
Finally, here’s one that you can get from the comfort of our own local drugstores.
The Banana Boat Ultra Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50 protects your skin from both UVA and UVB to save you from sunburns, and visible signs of ageing. This sheer-feel spray is long-lasting and powerful in coverage, infused with soothing Aloe, and skin-nourishing Vitamin E.
Banana Boat Ultra Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50 retails for SGD22.90 at Watsons.
Bull Frog Quik Gel Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
You may be used to the idea of sunscreen lotions, but this American brand has come up with a quick-drying gel-type formula that would be a godsent for those who hate that greasy after-feel.
Best of all, it scored an excellent 95% on the Consumer Reports tests.
Coppertone Water Babies
Coppertone is a brand that most of us should be familiar with, having broken into the Singapore market decades ago.
This particular broad spectrum SPF50 sunscreen achieved a 95% result, making it not only effective but also safe for children and even the most sensitive of adult skins.
Coppertone Ultra Guard 70
The Coppertone Ultra Guard has a high marketed SPF of 70 and scored a result of 94% on Consumer Reports.
This super hydrating sunscreen also contains Vitamin E for added moisture (any kind of sun exposure would dry out your skin!), and also claims to be water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.