The Great Sunscreen Search - Sigourney's Edit

I spent much of this summer on a quest to find the perfect sunscreen. They are so often too sticky or stinky, thick or loaded with chemicals. But there's no doubt what an important part of our beauty routine they are. In a bid to understand why it’s so hard to find the perfect sunscreen, I called cosmetic chemist and founder of Synergie Skin, Terri Vinson, who cracked that her favourite sunscreen is "four walls and a roof". But when you have to go outside, she says she prefers wearing physical blockers by way of mineral makeup - which does make sense. But first let me explain…
 

in spain, where we shot these images the sun was in full force.  Hats are mandatory.

in spain, where we shot these images the sun was in full force.  Hats are mandatory.


You’ve probably heard about the two types of sunscreen – physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens, which contain tiny particles of the minerals Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide are still my preference. They literally form a barrier on the skin and prevent the sun from burning AND ageing you. Sunscreens that use these two ingredients tend to be much simpler and contain fewer ingredients as they naturally protect you against a broader spectrum of light. The downside is they are often thicker, and you have to make sure you’re covering every inch of your skin. Also - hands off your face. "You have to remember that this is a physical barrier, so if you think you've touched your face, you might have rubbed it off and you will need to reapply," warns Terri. 

Bikini Zimmermann, hat vintage

Bikini Zimmermann, hat vintage

 

On the other hand you have your chemical sunscreens (weirdly they’re also known as organic as they are carbon based). The problem is that, to get a ‘broad spectrum’ rating, they need a lot more ingredients – including stacks of chemicals, some of which have question marks around their safety and sensitivity – including oxybenzone and avobenzone. That said, some sunscreen is always better than no sunscreen, so, while it’s not ideal, if it’s all you’ve got to hand, then it’s not going to kill you. The worry with questionable ingredients is that they build up in your system over time, so it’s more about decreasing your chemical load, rather than avoiding them completely.

 
hats are the best protection against the suns rays, but wear sunscreen when you're at the beach to be safe

hats are the best protection against the suns rays, but wear sunscreen when you're at the beach to be safe

 

The other thing you need to remember is that SPF only applies to UVB rays (the ones which burn) not UVA rays (the ones that age you and cause skin cancer). And that SPF is only an equation. "Sun Protection Factor is just a number that says how long it takes for a person to burn with the sunscreen on, divided by how long it takes the person to burn without sunscreen on," explains Terri. "For example, SPF15 means that it takes 15 times longer than a person to burn with that particular product on. But it only protects against about about 93% of the UVB rays, whereas an SPF of 60, protects you from 98%. So it’s only an extra 5% protection - not four times the protection, as you might think," says Terri, adding that people are often led into a false sense of security with SPF ratings. "You’re better off using an SPF 15 and reapplying it after a couple of hours rather than SPF 100, staying out in the sun all day, and getting melanoma."

 
Work out the type of sunscreen based on your activity levels and skin type

Work out the type of sunscreen based on your activity levels and skin type

 

The upshot? For the sunscreen I’m using every day, I want it contain the least amount of chemicals possible, so where possible – like Terri - I go for minerals and physical blocks. However if I’m going to be outdoors for more than an hour in the day then I’ll choose a nice, light chemical formula that suits whatever I’m doing – because it’s more likely to stay put in my skin, or be easy to apply. Here’s my round up of the best I’ve tried and what occasions they suit…

 

Best for: swimming or sport

When you’re going to be perspiring or getting wet you need to look for a broadspectrum, water resistant formula. Chemical formulas need to be applied to clean skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. 

Sun Bum Premium Moisturising Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

Sun Bum Premium Moisturising Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

Aspect Envirostat High Protection Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Aspect Envirostat High Protection Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Hamilton Active Family SPF 50+  

Hamilton Active Family SPF 50+


 

 

Best for: the family 

It’s hard pinning kids down to get sunscreen on them. I find sprays or fun roll ons a good way to get them involved. Chemical are usually easier to spread but physical is better for younger babies.

 

Milk Baby Protect Me + SPF 30+ Sunscreen

Milk Baby Protect Me + SPF 30+ Sunscreen

Invisible Zinc Junior Clip On Sunscreen SPF 50 UVA UVB

Invisible Zinc Junior Clip On Sunscreen SPF 50 UVA UVB

Sun Bum Baby Bum Premium Natural Sunscreen Stick

Sun Bum Baby Bum Premium Natural Sunscreen Stick

 

Best for: daily face 

If I’m not going to be in the sun for more than 10 minutes at a time I don’t wear any sunscreen (shocking, I know, but I do wear hats). For incidental exposure, I like mineral makeup or physical blocks like these...

Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear SPF 30+

Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear SPF 30+

Synergie Minerals Mineral Whip

Synergie Minerals Mineral Whip

  Dermaquest Skin Therapy On-The-Go Finishing Powder SPF 30

 

Dermaquest Skin Therapy On-The-Go Finishing Powder SPF 30

 

Best for: occasional face 

These are heavy duty sunscreens that I would use if I was going to the beach or going to be out in the sun all day.  They contain chemical sunscreens but are generally nice, light formulations that can work well with foundation.

 

Alpha H Protection Plus Daily SPF 50+

Alpha H Protection Plus Daily SPF 50+

Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser SPF 30

Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser SPF 30

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Fluid SPF 50

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Fluid SPF 50

 

Best for: social occasions

These are the nice-smelling, beautifully packaged sunscreens that you’ll enjoy pulling out of your handbag. Perfect for brandishing at a barbecue or arranging in a flat lay by the pool. 

Aèsop Protective Body Lotion SPF 50

Aèsop Protective Body Lotion SPF 50

Mecca Cosmetica To SaveFace Sunscreen SPF 50+

Mecca Cosmetica To SaveFace Sunscreen SPF 50+

Jurlique Sun Lotion SPF 30+

Jurlique Sun Lotion SPF 30+

 
Credits: Photography by Ana Lui; Makeup by Lianne Claire; Hair by By Bekka; Produced by Kristie Rogers