SPF: hardly the sexiest of skincare topics but indisputably the most important. Yep, it’s another step in your skincare routine but sun protection is one you can't afford to skip. There's no point investing money and time in expensive and elaborate routines if you're not going to follow the most basic principle. It's true that 90% of skin ageing is caused by UV exposure, and false that you're exempt from daily SPF just because you live on a small, rainy island. Luckily there are lots of new breed formulas. Now, that phrase is thrown around a lot - every summer to be precise, but the beauty industry innovates at breakneck speed, so while you may roll your eyes, it is indeed true. First, a refresher on why, what and how.
The sun, as you're likely aware, emits two types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB. A for ageing and B for burning. “UVA rays age the skin, deplete collagen leading to fine lines, wrinkles and increase in skin discolouration. UVB burns the skin leading to cell deformities and the development of skin cancers like Melanomas,” says aesthetician Dija Ayodele.
You want a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, i.e. something called broad spectrum protection. The SPF factor (skin experts suggest minimum of 30) refers only to the product's ability to protect your skin against UVB rays so also check its UVA rating too. There are two types of formulas: chemical and physical, which you may also know as mineral. The former uses UV filters to convert the rays while the latter blocks the rays from entering entirely. Generally, chemical formulas feel lighter on the face but their physical counterparts have come a long way from the unctuous, white paints of the past. Much like different skin types need different moisturisers, they also demand different SPFs. Oily or blemish-prone skin should look for non-comedogenic options while drier skin, unsurprisingly, needs more hydration.
The general rule is you should apply two fingers worth, after skincare and before makeup. Ideally, leave your sun protection some time to settle in (three minutes or so) before applying your makeup.
‘But there’s SPF in my foundation!’ we hear you cry. Sadly this isn’t sufficient. Often SPF-enhanced bases are just a clever marketing tactic from makeup brands. “You won't use enough of this product to ensure full coverage,” Ayodele confirms. Plus, as suncare products are hard to formulate with makeup, the SPF in foundation doesn’t often have full UVA and UVB protection. Instead, it’s better to just wear a proper layer of SPF protection and then apply makeup.
On a winter’s day in England, probably not. Especially considering new-gen SPFs are built to last. However, if you’re out in the sun all day and sweating some of it off (it’s inevitable), then it’s recommended. The best on-the-go option is a lightweight spray. These can be spritzed over makeup and even in the hairline (a burnt scalp is never a good look).
Suncare is nothing like it used to be. Forget heavy, clogging products that leave a white cast, newer face SPF formulas feel just like the other products in your skincare routine. Suitable for all skin tones, including dark skin, these lightweight creams absorb fast and make a great base for makeup. Plus, many come with other skin benefits such as brightening antioxidants like Vitamin C or hydrating ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid.
This cooling gel formula feels fresh on skin. Packed with hyaluronic acid and antioxidants, it plumps and brightens while offering full-spectrum protection.
This US brand has just launched in the UK and this formula particularly has the attention of beauty editors. With a primer-like texture and glowy finish, it works a treat under makeup.
Just landed at Space NK is cool Aussie brand Ultra Violette. This factor 50 feels super lightweight and leaves no trace at all.
A powerful sun protector meets primer, this protects against UV rays and also defends against blue light, the prime suspect in causing hyper-pigmentation.
If you’re looking for a mineral sunscreen that is both featherlight and hydrating, then this from New Zealand export Emma Lewisham is just the ticket. Bonus points for the 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
This fine formula offers the highest level of sun protection without causing any irritation – even the most sensitive of skin.
Suncare experts Ultrasun have delivered the goods once again with this transparent, ultra-absorbent spray. Keep it close by for on-the-go top-ups, even over make-up.
This may not be new, but it's a purse-friendly option we couldn’t not include. The ultra-lightweight formula is suitable for sensitive skin and includes hyaluronic acid and vitamin E.