How to choose the best sunscreen for your skin and your needs

December 18, 2018

I could cringe when I think about all those years spent lying in the sun, with baby oil, thinking that a tan was “healthy”. Now, I am peppered with sun spots that need checking annually, and my pigmentation is testament to never having worn sunscreen daily until a few years ago.

I will also write on sun safety, especially where kids are concerned, and if one just person applies a high-factor sunscreen to their faces daily, or slathers their child with protection, despite the protests (my eight-year-old does just that) after reading these posts, then that’s a potential skin- and life-saver.

I asked Charize Neill, product manager at Eau Thermale Avène, some suncare-related questions. If you haven’t heard of them, Eau Thermale Avène is a legendary French beauty brand, whose products cover skin- and bodycare. You can find their products at Clicks and DisChem. Some of the range has new formulation, and the sun line includes: new SPF50+ Cream, new SPF50+ fluid, new SPF50+ Cleanance (in a pump bottle), SPF50+ Anti-Aging Sunscreen, SPF50+ Mineral Sunscreen, SPF50+ Spray, SPF50+ Chldren’s Spray and SPF50+ Lotion.

Here’s what I asked Charize:

What factor SPF should one be using for sun protection?

At least an SPF30 for daily use and an SPF50+ when out in the sun for longer periods. Remember to look for something that is photostable and protects against both UVA & UVB

Is tanning with sunscreen on still safe?

We really do not encourage tanning as you expose yourself to the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays. This includes premature ageing, risk of skin cancer, sun spots and Melasma. If you do insist on tanning, it is of course better to do so with a sunscreen.  

What are the best sun products for babies and kids, and why?

As far as possible, try to keep infants and young babies away from direct sunlight. For extra protection a Mineral Sunscreen like Eau Thermale Avène SPF50+ Mineral Cream is ideal for babies as it contains no parabens, fragrance or chemical filters, making it suitable for the very sensitive skins of babies.

From the age of 2 years, you can apply a children’s spray like the Eau Thermale Avène SPF50+ Spray for Children (paraben and fragrance free) that offers broad-spectrum UVB and UVA protection, is photostable and water resistant . Try to avoid sunscreens with controversial filters like Octocryline.

How often should sunscreen be applied?

When out in the sun, re-apply your sunscreen at least every two hours or after sweating or swimming.

If one can afford it, is more expensive sunscreen better, and if so, why?

The most important items in a sunscreen to look out for is that it offers broadspectrum UVA & UVB protection, is photostable (the SPF won’t deteriorate over time), is well tolerated and contains an anti-oxidant (to protect against free radicals). Cheaper sunscreens may not tick all of these boxes. A dermo-cosmetic sunscreen like those from Eau Thermale Avène offer all of these benefits plus you will end up applying less often as it is more photostable.

I’ve come across a truth/myth that black people don’t need sunscreen. Is this true?

This is definitely not true. Although darker skin tones may not burn as fast, the UVA rays still penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, causing dark spots, skin cancer and premature ageing.

We know everyone “should” be wearing sunscreen, but why isn’t everyone doing it?

Some of the main reasons why people don’t apply sunscreen:

  • They may feel that they can’t afford the extra expense.
  • It may be considered an inconvenience or people claim to not have the time.
  • Many sunscreens have unpleasant textures and smells. Not everybody wants to smell like a coconut all day 😊
  • Many sunscreens aren’t adapted to your specific skin type, for example, if you have oily/blemish-prone skin you will not use a sunscreen that leaves your skin even more oily.
  • Many sunscreens are not suitable for sensitive skins, causing skin reactions.

Do people and kids still need to apply sunscreen even when there’s no sun, but they’re still outdoors?

Definitely. As mentioned before, the UVA rays still reach the skin (even through glass if you are next to a window) When it is not as sunny, you also don’t feel the burning which can result in more severe sunburn. So it is still important to apply your sunscreen on cloudy days, in winter and even indoors.

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  • Megan Keith

    Such helpful information here! Thanks for sharing these tips. I’ll definitely keep them in mind when shopping for sunblock again. Megan. X

    December 18, 2018 at 1:07 pm Reply
  • stephanie videira

    Always wondered what sunscreen to go for so many on the market gets a bit confusing

    December 19, 2018 at 7:31 pm Reply
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