Thursday 19 September 2019

Ruth Griffin: Find your perfect sunscreen

The heat is on - so discover the right formula for your skin

Sunscreen is the first step in minding your skin
Sunscreen is the first step in minding your skin
Ruth Griffin

Ruth Griffin

By this stage, we have all gotten this message: not only does slathering on some sunscreen every day protect our skin from cancer, it can also stop the development of fine lines and sunspots. In my experience, Irish women are good at using SPF - and they are brilliant at encouraging their families to use it, too.

However, there are issues that can arise from using certain sun care products, such as stingy eyes and pimple outbreaks. So, in the hopes that the heatwave continues, today I'm outlining answers to the most common complaints, and giving my top tips to ensure you find the best sunscreen for your needs.

Problem: Sunscreen makes my eyes sting and water

The chemicals in some sunscreens can affect sensitive eyes, and also can migrate into the delicate eye area and create stingy, sore, watery eyes. I suffer from this very badly myself. La Roche-Posay has launched a brilliant new line of sunscreens - specifically created for common sun intolerances - which I've been road testing for the last few months. They have ditched 12 ingredients that were used in previous formulas, as well as all preservatives and parabens, in their Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream, SPF 30, €19, from pharmacies. The new formula creates a film on the skin that's ultra-resistant, so it won't migrate into your eye through contact or sweat. The skincare technology behind it is also safe for use around the delicate eye area. It works a treat!

Problem: My sunscreen sweats off when I play sport

This is a really common complaint from outdoorsy people. The trick is to use a water-resistant, non-greasy broad-spectrum sunscreen that remains effective in the water - even if you're not in it! Make sure to apply it at least half an hour before working out. Try P20 Continuous Spray, €30, from supermarkets and pharmacies. It doesn't contain any perfume, colourants or artificial preservatives, is transparent and leaves no messy white stripes. From pharmacies nationwide.

Problem: Sun cream causes my oily skin to break out

If your skin is prone to break-outs, you need to opt for a non-comedogenic, oil-free formula that is specifically made for blemish-prone skin. Try the new Eucerin Sun Gel-Cream Oil Control (Dry Touch) SPF 30/50+, €19.50, from pharmacies. The sebum-regulating 'oil control' technology gives skin an immediate dry-touch finish and a long-lasting anti-shine effect of up to eight hours. This also has glycyrrhetinic acid to help support your skin's own repair mechanism.

Problem: I have a lot of sunspots and dark patches on my skin

For mature skin with areas of hyperpigmentation, my gold star goes to La Roche-Posay's new Anthelios Pigmentation SPF50+, €20, from pharmacies nationwide. This has been formulated for those prone to melasma or hyperpigmentation/sunspots. The magic ingredient here for banishing sun spots is Procerad, which helps to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Note - this is a tinted formula. Another great product is Skin Ceuticals UV Mineral Defense, €37, from, and selected beauty salons nationwide

Problem: My sun cream causes my make-up to look white and blotchy

Protecting our skin from UV damage is a no-brainer during the our summer holidays, but can be tricky to fit into our normal day-to-day routine. Some sunscreens are ghostly white and chalky-feeling, and don't mix well with make-up. Try a high-factor, tinted SPF that you can use on its own or under your usual foundation. I absolutely love Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid, €21, from supermarkets and pharmacies. I use it under my usual foundation. For sunscreen top ups throughout the day, I dab on the Shiseido Clear Stick UV Protector Sunscreen Stick 50+, €37, from pharmacies and department stores. Dot on over foundation, and even powder, for sun protection and added glow. It's especially good for skin affected by hyperpigmentation, melasma and sunspots, and 'pregnancy mask'.

Problem: It's a nightmare applying sunscreen to my young children

Children rarely sit still long enough to thoroughly apply sunscreen, so you want a product that's fast-acting and quick-absorbing. Some parents swear by using sprays, but experts have stated that these can be inadvertently inhaled - and they are also the worst culprits for not using enough product and missing areas of skin. Try the new Nivea Sun Kids Caring Roll-On SPF30, €10. The handy roll-on is quick to apply, you can see exactly where you've applied, it and it's extra water-resistant. Always apply sunscreen on kids at least 20 minutes before hitting the sun. UV-filter hats and rash vests are great additional protectors for little ones. The Aveeno Baby range, from health food stores and pharmacies, is a brilliant natural based, high SPF range for really young kids.

Problem: I love to spend my holiday time in the pool - but my sunscreen washes off

Choose a water-resistant sunscreen - this will be clearly marked on the label - from the range you like to use. My personal pick, however, is the ground-breaking new Shiseido WetForce Protection, €36, from pharmacies and department stores. This is a total sunscreen game changer. How does it work? It uses water-ionic power to resist UV rays and actually increase sun protection in the water! A brilliant product.

Problem: Sun cream is too expensive

Your budget should not be a reason not to protect your skin - or to apply the product too sparingly to be effective. There are some good, budget-friendly sunscreens such as Aldi's Lacura range which has a five-star protection rating, but a low price point at €4.99. Boots' Soltan range is another very good quality broad spectrum sun care line worth checking out. Try Soltan Invisible Dry-Touch Suncare Spray, €8, from Boots nationwide.

Problem: Low factors don't protect my pale, Irish skin

There's a lot of controversy about super-high sunscreens. They can go up to 100+ SPF, but some experts state that anything over SPF 50 is useless. However, in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that, in real-world conditions (rather than a lab), SPF 100+ sunscreen was significantly more effective in protecting against sunburn than SPF 50+. If you want to try a super-high SPF, try actress Jennifer Garner's go-to sunscreen: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, €11.50 from Other options include Bioderma's Photoderm range and Aveeno SPF 70 Sunscreen, from pharmacies.

Problem: I break out in a heat rash in strong sun

Again, La Roche-Posay's new Anthelios Intolerance range is coming up trumps here. Specifically formulated for those with a sun allergy or extremely sun-sensitive skin that's prone to UV intolerance (which can display as itching, small bumps and rashes), this is an ultra-protective sun care solution. Anthelios Sun Intolerance Solar Allergies SPF 50+, €22, from pharmacies nationwide.

Problem: I am a keen diver and read that sunscreen can damage marine life

Unfortunately, the chemicals present in some sunscreens - oxybenzone and octinoxate being the main culprits - break down coral and disrupt the development of fish and marine life. So destructive are these chemicals, that you don't even have to get in the sea to cause harm - even showering after using them can cause the chemicals to end up in the ocean. Opt for mineral sunscreens (also known as 'physical' or chemical-free sunscreens). Try MooGoo Natural Sunscreen SPF 40, €16, from pharmacies and health food shops nationwide. Be sure to apply the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going in the water, which helps the SPF absorb into our skin, so less ends up in the ocean. Wear a rash vest as well.


Sunscreen science guide

● UV rays are found in sunlight and they are invisible to the human eye. There are different types of UV rays - UVA and UVB.

● UVA rays age the skin and affect its elasticity (i.e. cause wrinkles), and penetrate deeper into the skin. These rays pass through clouds and windows.

● UVB rays burn and make your skin turn red - these rays can also cause skin cancer.

● Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Dermatologists advise always choosing a broad-spectrum SPF that's also water resistant.

● Sunscreen can expire, meaning it degrades and becomes less effective. Older sunscreen may not work at all which is dangerous, so pay attention to the use-by date.

● Even if your bottle hasn't hit its expiration date, that date is only valid if the product is stored in a cool, dry place. In hot conditions, it may expire more quickly.

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