Baffling would be one way to describe what is perhaps the season's most necessary beauty purchase. SPF comes in a multitude of forms, shapes, and sizes: oils, sticks, balms, BB creams, and the traditional lotion, all piled together in an indiscernible riot of UV ratings, adjectives, and inevitably yellow packaging. With awareness rising, wearing SPF every day is touted by both beauty editors and dermatologists alike as the only truly effective way to prevent skin from ageing and reduce the risk of skin cancer; and whilst doing so may seem unnecessary in youth, it will do more for your skin than any amount of 'wrinkle-filling' serums will do further down the line, when it really is too late to make a difference.
These days it's widely and readily accepted that there are no excuses for being the lame, outmoded idiot who values a tan over the importance of protecting against lethal skin cancers, so if you do one thing this summer, pick up a bottle of SPF and use it, please, for sun protection is a classic case of prevention > treatment that extends well beyond bikini season.
In the first of a two-part series dedicated to all things SPF I'm delving into the world of facial sun protection. I can easily understand the universal reluctance to apply facial SPF. You're in either one of two camps; one wary of breakouts, and the other who wants a tan face [in which case buy the SPF and Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster]. Granted, you may have had less than pleasant prior experiences; you're either used to SPF inciting an oil-slick or a mass breakout, or you find that it causes such annoyances as foundation bobbling, watery eyes, chalky skin, and migrating makeup. However, in recent years brands have really upped their sun protection game [indeed many primers, concealers, and foundations now contain SPF - albeit not enough for prolonged sun exposure] and have addressed the concerns identified by those who are keen to embrace [yet have struggled] to adopt a necessary and virtuous approach to skincare. And yes, I have worn a different sunscreen on my face for the past five weeks so that you don't have to.
I love La Roche-Posay skincare in general, it's a brand that takes skin very seriously, without feeling the need to rack up extortionate prices, and their sun protection range is one of the best I've used [as well as being widely and readily available]. This weightless formula is specifically designed to offer high protection to sensitive skin; moisturising without being greasy, it absorbs quickly, leaving even the most shine-prone of T-zones relatively unscathed. Although it presents a rather unsettling shade of stark white when you first apply it, be reassured that as soon as you rub it in it blends instantly and, as the name suggests, it's insanely lightweight [when I say insanely lightweight I mean you cannot feel it].
Family favourite Vichy can be found reasonably priced in Boots [or cheaper if your summer travels are taking you over the channel]. The Ideal Soleil range encompasses formulations and textures designed to suit a fast variety of skin types, all infused with Thermal Spa Water and hyaluronic acid. Expect a luxuriously smooth texture that deeply hydrates the skin without clogging it up or making it feel heavy, and provides a subtle, healthy radiance via a universally flattering shade. The fact that it's tinted means there's no white cast so if you're blessed with good skin then this would be a great daily/perennial base option if you don't seek a tonne of coverage.
While it is on the expensive side, this gives good coverage and a little goes a very long way. Mimicking an efficient non-greasy moisturiser, you can easily sub it in for your day cream without loosing out on any essential moisturising properties; the formula contains Vitamins C and B in order to encourage collagen growth and brighten pigmentation, and will keep even severely dry and dehydrated skin comfortable. It's refreshingly odourless, and the dry texture and oil-free formula allow it to go unnoticed in consequent makeup application. At £70 it is insane money, but a product well worth the insanity [and if you're going to splurge in any area of beauty, it should be here].
The ability to double-duty as a makeup primer comes highly valued in a sunscreen and is one of the easiest ways to introduce SPF into your daily routine without adding an extra step. This lotion is fresh, light, and easily absorbed, as well as being delicate enough for the under-eye and brow-bone [which are always neglected despite being the most delicate and easily damaged areas of the face]. It also contains diamond powder, which claims and aims to brighten the skin and blur imperfections [I can vouch for both and often apply this in lieu of base makeup on low maintenance days].
I was initially sceptical about this one, purely because to me, Soap & Glory [whilst a beloved brand] are more about vibrantly scented body products and wittily named lip gloss than serious skincare. I have been proven quite wrong however, for this option is one of the best I've used [as well as being the cheapest]. Like a luxury moisturiser it has a silky consistency that sinks in fast and imparts a subtle glowy finish - you wouldn't even know you were wearing it but your skin looks that little bit brighter. I usually apply it before a run, as even after 10km it hasn't disappeared, run into my eyes, or transformed my face into an oil slick.
busting the jargon
- SPF is an acronym for 'sun protection factor' and refers to protection from UVB rays only. UVA rays are indicated by a separate 'star' rating.
- UVB rays are the cause of sunburn and redness, they damage skin cells on the periphery of the epidermis and are capable of causing skin cancer.
- UVA rays penetrate deep within the skin and generate free radicals, the cause of irreversible skin damage and 'ageing' [wrinkling, sagging, and leathering]. These count for 95% of the radiation reaching the skin's surface.
- SPF15 is the very lowest rating recommended by the NHS [The British Association of Dermatologists recommends no less than SPF30]. Roughly, SPF15 keeps out 93% of UVB rays and SPF50 keeps out 98%.
- 'Star' ratings range from 1 to 5. The lowest recommended is 4 [ defined on most products as medium or high.
- For more details see this incredibly helpful cheat sheet.
Next week I'll be sharing my favourite SPFs for the body, but in the meantime, what sunscreens are you slathering on your face this summer?