Sunscreens For Every Skin Type And Situation

by | Nov 21, 2023 | Skincare

The rules of sunscreen are like the words of the national anthem: we can recite some parts with our eyes closed. But there are those parts you are not altogether sure about. Like you know you should apply a broad-spectrum SPF each day, rain or shine, no matter your skin tone. But is it SPF 20 or 30? And if you’re in the shade, do you have to spread some? What if you’re dark-skinned?

“As Dermatologists, we are coming face-to-face with more and more patients with skin cancer. Skin cancer is growing at a disturbing rate and South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world,” says dermatologist Dr Derek Odendaal of the South African Society for Dermatological Surgery, and one of the founding members of the Skin Cancer Foundation of South Africa (SCFSA).

At least 20,000 South Africans are diagnosed annually with non-melanoma skin cancers, and approximately 1,500 are diagnosed with melanoma, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those who skipped sunscreen showed 24 percent more skin ageing than those who didn’t. Enough! We talked to women about their sunscreen routines, then some derms examined their skin regimen and dropped some wisdom… so you can start doing damage control.

Sunscreen Excuse #1: The SPF Skeptic

Mini Mkhonza is a beauty junkie (clarifying foams, masks and complexion creams), her routine lacks one key ingredient: sunscreen (outside her foundation she uses that contains SPF). “I have darker skin, so I never thought I needed it,” she explains. “Besides, SPFs leave greasy grey streaks.”

Diagnosis: Mini doesn’t have fine lines but she has uneven skin tone. The culprit: prior skin inflammation made worse by chronic unprotected sun exposure. As dermatologist Dr Julie Karen explains, any kind of skin injury (a scratch, a pimple) on a woman of colour tends to leave a dark spot in its wake—UV exposure deepens the hue and slows the rate at which spots fade.

Mini’s make-up-based SPF doesn’t cut it. “You’re using it only on certain areas, and rarely in the amount needed to provide the protection stated on the label,” says Karen. Plus, SPF refers only to UVB (read: sunburn) protection. This means that UVA rays are still “stimulating melanocytes to produce those spots,” (Look for the term broad spectrum, which indicates a shield against UVA and UVB.) Even though melanin naturally provides protection against the sun, that doesn’t mean skin cancer can’t strike. Plus, those with dark skin may not recognize cancers in their early stages.

SPF Solution: So, sunscreens “leave greasy streaks,” eh? Effective formulas are now ultra-light, thanks to micro-fine particles that look and feel sheer. Choose one labelled liquid or fluid; the thin consistency absorbs right away, with no pasty stripes. Try…

Clarins Dry Touch Facial Sun Care UVA/UVB 50+

Oooh, we love this one. A thin melting texture that leaves your skin velvety soft. This sunscreen has All the benefits of (very) high sun protection without the hassle: no streaking, easy to apply and it’s not sticky or greasy.

Eucerin Sun Gel-Cream Dry Touch Sensitive Protect SPF 50+

An ultra-light gel-cream sunscreen that offers superior protection from the sun, for all skin types. This ‘screen supports the skin’s own DNA repair mechanism. Absorbs quickly and leaves no residue.

Heliocare Ultra 90 Gel SPF 50+

A high-factor photoprotection gel that absorbs quickly, leaving no ashy cast or sticky residue on the skin. An ultra-lightweight gel formulated with very high sun protection (SPF 50+/90 UVA/UVB filters) and antioxidants.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Dermatologist-Approved SPF Tips That’ll Keep You From Getting Burnt This Summer

Sunscreen Excuse #2: The Outdoor Athlete

Thamar Houliston runs at least five to 10 kays with her dogs, three days a week in spring and summer. “I run early morning before sunrise around 6am and then at sunset mostly, except Sundays I run around 9am,” says Thamar. In winter she generally wears moisturiser with SPF 15 in. In summer slathers factor 50 always. But is this enough?

Diagnosis: Dr Suzan Obagi, a dermatologist, says a test of sun damage is to look at the inside of your arm and compare it to your face. The inside of Thamar’s arm is very fair, flawless with no freckles or blemishes, compared to her face, which has quite a lot of sun damage – thanks to high-altitude cycling and years of running and exercising outdoors. All that is the direct result of sun damage. Luckily Thamar has spent so many years wearing ’screen.

SPF Solution: To prevent your sunscreen from sweating off during outdoor workouts, use two times the protection. Start with something water-resistant on areas that need an extra force field (like dark spots or thin or wrinkly patches). Then follow with sunscreen lotions. Try…

Nivea Sun Protect & Moisture Trigger Spray 50+

Can you say “ideal all-rounder”? This one is for the whole family, with a handy trigger spray. It quick-applies and is water resistant as well as long-lasting.

Uriage Bariesun SPF50+ Mineral Cream

So you got a beach holiday planned? Try this mineral filtering complex, combined with vitamin E and a vitamin C derivative, offers very high protection against UVB, UVA and free radicals. It’s non-comedogenic, fragrance-free and water-resistant.

Everysun SPF50 Sunscreen Lotion

Specially made with VitaLock, an advanced complex of antioxidants, vitamins and UVA and UVB filters, to protect the whole family against the damaging effects of the sun. It has a light, non-greasy formula that is water-resistant for safe fun by the pool or at the beach.

READ MORE: The 18 Best Swimwear Pieces That’ll Flatter Every Figure

Sunscreen Excuse #3: The Accidental Sun Soaker

Razia Moorad uses sunblock everyday in summer and winter. “I was raised in Botswana where the sun literally burns you alive, so I have a habit of putting on sunblock everyday no matter what,” says Razia. At the beach, she slathers SPF on her bod, too, but doesn’t reapply often. “I’m not pedantic about it because I often wonder if this stuff works! Regardless of how much I put on.”  Though she never burns, she develops colour after a few hours. While reapplying isn’t a huge deal in her daily life, it becomes an issue on vacation. “A tan—any amount—is the body’s way of responding to injury by darkening to protect itself from further damage,” says Karen. “There is no such thing as a safe tan, no matter how light or how slowly you get it!”

Diagnosis: Razia has no real sunspots, and she’s just come to terms with the crow’s feet and lines that appear around her eyes and her smile. But these deeper lines where we have muscle movement are generally caused by expressions, but sun exposure thins the skin, sapping the elastin that keeps it smooth, says Karen.

SPF Solution: Doctors swear by zinc oxide-based ‘screens, which offer tried-and-true protection. They form a barrier against sun’s rays and are the only real way to prevent skin damage. Sunscreens with zinc start protecting you as soon as you put them on. Try…

Dermalogica Oil Free Matte SPF30

A sheer formula that provides defence against skin-ageing UV rays. The lightweight, ultra-sheer formula contains an advanced blend of zinc gluconate, caffeine, niacinamide and yeast extract. 

QMS Cellular Sun Shield SPF 50+ PA++++ Sunscreen

A lightweight formulation with balanced UVA and UVB protection that provides protection against sunburn and premature light-induced skin ageing. What we also love about this one is that it contains a DNA-Repair Complex that strengthens your skin’s immune system and stimulates the skin’s DNA repair mechanism. 

Avéne SPF50+ Mineral Cream

Sensitive skin? Try this mineral cream that has broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection for hypersensitive, fragile skin. No chemical filters. 100% mineral filters.

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