A Dermatologist Guide to Sunscreen
Dr Justine Kluk helps us figure out which sunscreen we should be using
With so many sunscreen options available, picking sunscreen can feel overwhelming. We know that the ideal sunscreen should give broad spectrum UVA/ UVB protection and have an SPF of 30 or higher, but ticking those boxes doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will love how the product looks and feels. Here are my top tips to help you choose the right sunscreen for you.
What to look for when buying sunscreen?
Basic Safety Credentials
Ideally look out for a broad spectrum sunscreen that will protect you against UVA and UVB, with an SPF of 30 minimum. Consider the following to help identify how your sunscreen can protect you.
- UVA - Fights Aging and prevents hyperpigmentation
- UVB - Prevents Burning
- Visible Light - This is what you see when it’s sunny outside. Visible light can make dark marks on the skin even darker, e.g. sun spots, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or melasma so it might be worth looking for protection against this as well as UV rays in a facial sunscreen.
Top tip: tinted SPF can filter visible light rays which is always an added bonus!
Have a think about what textures you generally like to wear, and what is most comfortable for you to wear all day.
- Creams: Thicker creams, although very nourishing, may feel stickier on the skin, take longer to dry or have less shine control. Because they are more hydrating, these are often favoured by those with dry skin types.
- Gel creams, gels or fluids: These are less heavy, sticky and dry more rapidly. Sunscreens with chemical filters tend also to be lighter and easier to spread. They are often clearer and therefore less visible on the skin, perfect for those with a dark complexion wanting to avoid any white cast.
Sunscreen shelf life
Check the shelf life of the product - I’d extend this to all skincare products too. We’ve all been guilty of keeping a big bottle of sunscreen from a holiday or rare sunny spell during the British Summer-time, and then digging it out of the bathroom cupboard again the following year. The problem is that using a product past its best before date may mean that we are not effectively protected in the sun..
- Period after opening: The little open jar icon is the PAO (or Period After Opening) symbol, which tells you how long the product will stay good after the package is opened .
- Best before end date: Any product that has a lifespan of less than 30 months has a “Best Before End of” date, symbolised by the hourglass or egg timer.
Treatment for skin concerns
As a Dermatologist who specialises in treating acne, I see many people who question sunscreen because they’re worried about it making their skin oilier or increasing breakouts. This shouldn't have to be a concern. Here are some things to look out for in your sunscreen if you want a product that will complement your skin type or goals:
- Fragrance free - best for sensitive skins as fragranced formulas can cause irritation and in some cases allergy
Renude recommends: SVR Sun Secure Fluide SPF 50
- Mineral - useful for those with an impaired skin barrier e.g. eczema or prone to redness e.g. rosacea
Renude recommends: Eucerin Anti-redness concealing day cream
- Oil Free - great for oily skin types and acne prone skin
Renude recommends: Heliocare Gel Oil Free SPF 50
- Non-comedogenic - great for congested skin as it won't block pores
Renude recommends: Bioderma Photoderm Max Aqua Fluid SPF 50
Deciding between a chemical or mineral sunscreen
Chemical filters absorb UV rays, breaking them down and releasing them as heat, while mineral or physical filters act as a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting UV light away. This is a simplification and there may be some crossover in the mechanisms. Both protect the skin well and whilst most people can use either chemical or mineral sunscreens, those with very sensitive skin, redness, rosacea, eczema or an impaired skin barrier from any other cause may find the mineral sunscreens easier to tolerate.
Which sunscreen is best for my skin tone?
Those with darker skin tones will probably have experienced the dreaded white cast from sunscreen before. Two physical/ mineral filters; zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are silvery white in colour, which is why mineral sunscreens can often give an ashy appearance on the skin.
Sunscreens with chemical filters are less likely to do this as a rule of thumb. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, and some chemical sunscreen filters can leave a white cast, and some formulas combining chemical and mineral filters can work well on all skin tones.
What sunscreen is best for hyperpigmentation (dark marks)?
Hyperpigmentation of the skin is extremely common. It can be hormonal in nature (known as melasma) or the result of an injury or acne. Whatever the cause, these dark marks can be exacerbated by exposure to UV light, as well as High Energy Visible Light (HEV), e.g. blue light.
Contrary to popular opinion, the main source of HEV light comes from the sun, not your phone or computer screen. In order to protect your skin against light within both the UV and HEV parts of the spectrum, opt for a sunscreen formula that has either been specifically tested for this, or one which contains iron oxides.
These richly coloured pigments offer natural protection against HEV and will be present in any tinted sunscreen or powder, so you might want to consider choosing a tinted sunscreen, or applying a tinted powder as an additional step over an untinted sunscreen undern
How do I choose sunscreen for sensitive eyes and skin?
Some people struggle to pick a sunscreen because their skin reacts to specific ingredients in skincare, or because their skin is sensitive in general.
Certain chemical UV filters in sunscreens can sometimes cause sensitivity of the skin (itching, stinging, redness etc.), or sting the eyes when applied around that area. It is also possible to be allergic to ingredients in your sunscreen, whether that is a UV filter or fragrance or even a preservative.
The term “hypoallergenic” is often used to indicate that a product causes fewer reactions, however use of this term is not regulated so it doesn’t always follow that the product in question will be well tolerated by users with sensitive skin or eyes.
As a general rule, if sensitivity tends to be a problem for you, consider opting for a formula with mineral filters as these are generally better suited to more sensitive skin types. However, there are also plenty of formulas on the market containing chemical filters that are specifically tested on sensitive skin. Eucerin, Bioderma and SVR Laboratories are some examples of brands that do this type of tolerance testing.
Remember: some reactions are allergic in nature so if your problem is persistent or severe, do make sure to discuss this with your doctor who can refer you for patch testing.
My daily essentials to manage sun, heat and exposure this summer.
- A top up product: I very much like an SPF mist over my makeup or an SPF compact that I can pat onto my skin on the go. Keeping an SPF in your handbag this summer should be an absolute must. A spray such as the Heliocare Invisible Mist SPF 50 is great for make-up free days!
- SPF lip balm: We often forget our lips, despite reapplying sunscreen to the rest of our face and body. The skin on our lips should be looked after in the summer too. An SPF 50 lip balm is great for this, and also useful in the winter sun e.g. if you are skiing
- Sunglasses and a sun hat - SPF is not a suit of armour, and shouldn’t be relied on solely for sun protection. I’ll be keeping a sunhat and sunglasses close by this Summer, if not to complete an outfit then to absolutely protect against the harsh rays.
Renude Approved Sunscreens
- Heliocare Advanced Sun Screen Gel SPF 50: Great for Oil Free or Non-comodegenic
Heliocare’s 360 range is especially unique, as the full range offers broad spectrum protection from UVA/UVB and Visible light rays. Their range is great for anyone with hyperpigmentation and they also have mineral , oil free and anti-redness options. We especially love the Advanced Sun Screen Gel SPF 50.
- Eucerin Pigment Control SPF 50: Great for for Hyperpigmentation
If you are looking for a sunscreen to help beat dark marks, Eucerin Pigment Control SPF 50 is my most recommended. It is invisible on application, leaves no white cast and includes Eucerin's own patented Thiamidol , making it great for those with hyperpigmentation. I think it’s also a great base for make-up application, it's scent free and doesn’t block pores!
- Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Screen SPF 50: Great for hydration
Thank you Farmer have a great range of sun screens if you are keen for an invisible finish. They spread well and do not leave a white cast, whilst leavy a rather dewy complexion. I’d recommend this range for normal, or combination skin types. We recommend the Project Water Sun Screen SPF 50
- EVY Technology Daily Defense Face Mousse SPF50: Great for Anti-ageing
The texture of the Daily Defense Face Mousse is not only fun but purposeful. Every bottle outlines how much mousse to apply, which is great for knowing you're using enough to be fully protected. The texture is lightweight, invisible on the skin and sinks into the skin rapidly. Although quick drying, I always feel very hydrated, and it is another great base for makeup.
Sunscreen explained by a dermatologist (britishskinfoundation.org.uk)
Here's What 10 Symbols on Cosmetics Labels Mean | Mental Floss
Sunscreen and Your Morning Routine | Johns Hopkins Medicine
What is Thiamidol and How Does it Work? | Eucerin UK