It used to be a matter of just slathering on whatever sunscreen had been packed in the beach bag, but with so many options and the plethora of conflicting information out there, choosing one has become tricky business. “There are two broad groups of sun-protect products available: chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens,” explains cosmetic chemist and founder of Synergie Skin, Terri Vinson. “Chemical sunscreens act by absorbing into the skin, and once inside the skin, they absorb UV light. After a period of time, these chemicals are broken down and taken up by the bloodstream.
“There’s a growing trend towards using physical (mineral-based) sunscreen due to their ability to physically reflect both UVA and B rays off the skin surface without being absorbed inside the body.” And thanks to advances in technology – scientists breaking down particles of mineral zinc oxide to be small enough to appear clear on the skin surface – we no longer need to worry about zinc oxide-based sunscreen leaving a ghostly white film on skin. While chemical sunscreens can cause problems for those with sensitive skin, zinc oxide on the other hand is an anti-inflammatory and calms inflamed, sensitive and acne-prone skin, explains Vinson.
The key thing to remember, however, is when you’re outside, sunscreen is not a panacea where skin protection is concerned. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is just one tool that you should have in your arsenal to protect yourself from sun damage. “It is important to strike a balance between sensible sun exposure and sun protection,” says Vinson. “Just 10 minutes of gentle early morning or late afternoon sunlight is sufficient to prevent vitamin D deficiency.”
Always take additional measures to keep your skin safe from the rays – covering up and seeking shade are vital. And while Vinson is a proponent of physical sunscreens, she says any form of sunscreen is better than none at all. “It is imperative to read labels and analyse your ingredients,” she says. But at the end of the day, staying out of the sun is your best protection. “Ultimately, the best sunscreen is four walls and a roof!”
TRY THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS
Aesop Sun Care Duet ($83)
Joyce Blok Everyday Sun Fitness SPF15+ ($45)
Synergie Skin ÜberZinc ($149)
Ultraceuticals SunActive Mineral Defence Face & Body Lotion ($69)