How to Choose the Sunscreen That’s Right For You
From using sunscreen to protecting your skin with your daily moisturizing routine, we take a look at a variety of ways you can protect your skin from the sun. Photo: Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa/Getty Images
The sun has finally come out and she is here to stay, but that ball of fire that feeds us all the goodness of vitamin D can also be our skin’s worst enemy. Too much of a good thing can easily turn bad.
According to the Government of Canada, about one third of all cancers in our country are skin cancers. Considering that your skin is also your body’s largest organ, it’s a fairly substantial playing field for free radicals to have their way with it. Your skin also acts as a shield against everything from pollution to dehydration to bacterial infections. But with prolonged exposure, ultraviolet radiation, or UV rays, are the culprits that zone in on the skin’s DNA and chip away at it, causing damage, which then could lead to skin cancer.
Medications, too, can weaken the skin’s ability to protect you from the sun. The Canada.ca sun safety page recommends to check with your health practitioner or pharmacist to see if any of the medications you are taking could be harmful to you if you are exposed to UV rays.
And the best way to find skin cancer in its early stages is to examine your skin often. So take a look in a full-length mirror, often, in your birthday suit, and see your doctor right away if you notice any of the following:
- Abnormally dark or discoloured patches or spots
- Bleeding, crusting or a change in the colour, size or shape of a mole
The good news is that most skin cancers are preventable. You just have to take a few steps to reduce the risk. The Canada.ca sun safety page advises the following:
- Cover up. When the UV Index is 3 or higher, protect your skin as much as possible. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat made from breathable fabric. When you buy sunglasses, make sure they provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Limit your time in the sun. Keep out of the sun and heat between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The UV index in Canada can be 3 or higher during those times. When your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is very strong. Look for places with lots of shade, like a park with big trees, partial roofs, awnings, umbrellas or gazebo tents. Always take an umbrella to the beach.
- Use the UV Index forecast. Tune in to local radio and TV stations or check online for the UV index forecast in your area. When the UV index is 3 or higher, wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy.
- Drink plenty of cool liquids (especially water) before you feel thirsty. If sunny days are also hot and humid, stay cool and hydrated to avoid heat illness. Dehydration (not having enough fluids in your body) is dangerous, and thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration.
- Avoid using tanning equipment. There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan. Using tanning equipment damages your skin and increases your risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
And, of course, put sunscreen on when the UV index is 3 or higher. Use sunscreen labelled “broad spectrum” and “water resistant” with an SPF of at least 30.
Zoomer’s guide to the latest in sun care is in line with the above recommendations. And the bonus? Many also address fine lines and wrinkles, another side-effect of too much of that sunshine-y good thing.
Mineral Sunscreens: Sensitive Skin Savers
1. Aveeno Sensitive Skin SPF 50. This mineral sunscreen stick — it’s a solid, sort of like your deodorant stick — is a great alternative for those that don’t like the feel of a liquid or fear getting the product in their eyes when working out or swimming. The active ingredient here is Zinc Oxide.
2. Bioderma Laboratoire Dermatologique Photoderm Compact SPF 50+ Sensitive Skin. This fragrance-free cream compact promises very high protection, comes with an applicator sponge (just like a cream blush) and its powdery finish gives a hint of glow to the face, as well. It’s also non-comedogenic, so won’t clog pores and comes in light or dark tones. The active ingredients are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.
3. Pro-Derm Daytime Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 30. From the new line by Montreal dermatologist Andrée Mathieu Serrat, it’s packed with 98 per cent natural ingredients to soothe and protect skin. The active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Brightening Sunscreens: Skin Sparklers
1. Institut Esthederm Paris Sun Expert Cream Brightening Sun Care SPF 50+. This cream helps protect your skin and at the same time helps to brighten the skin by visibly reducing the appearance of dark spots and even out the complexion. The active ingredients are Octinoxate, Octisalate, Homosalate and Avobenzone.
2. Coppertone Glow Brilliant Lotion with Shimmer SPF 30. Coppertone babies will love this paraben-free, easy-to-apply lotion (not as thick as a cream), along with the light sheen it adds to skin for a sun-kissed glow without spending a whole day in the sun. The active ingredients are Homosalate, Octocrylene, Octisalate and Avobenzone.
Face Forward Sunscreens: For Your Visage Only
1. La Roche-Posay Laboratoire Dermatologique Anthelios SPF 50+. This extremely popular sun care product — rumour has it a bottle is purchased every minute somewhere in the world — has now lightened up its classic formula. Suitable for sensitive skin, the non-comedogenic ultra fluid provides an invisible finish and is recognized as sun protection by the Canadian Dermatology Association. The active ingredients are Mexoryl XL (patented by La Roche-Posay), Bemotrizinol, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Homosalate and Ensulizole.
2. Vivier Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30. This made-in-Canada lotion is recommended by physicians, ideal for daily use, and can be applied under makeup. Use it on the face, neck and chest — don’t forget the decollete! — to protect your skin from the signs of aging caused by the sun. The active ingredients are Octinoxate, Avobenzone and Ensulizole.
Sheer Sunscreens: The Invisibles
1. Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF 30. The skincare company’s new weightless lotion blends easily on the skin without leaving behind the dreaded thick, white residue. Mushroom complex helps to hydrate and soothe dry skin, and green tea’s antioxidant properties help protect from environmental stressors. The active (the label actually reads “medicinal”) non-nano Zinc Oxide.
2. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen SPF 45. Like most Neutrogena suncare products, this one is powered by Helioplex, the company’s photostable broad spectrum skin protector. It’s also ultra-light, non greasy and it gets better: Its FullReach design includes a spray handle that allows you to even reach your back. For my short T-Rex arms, this is the best thing since sliced bread. The active ingredients are Homosalate, Oxybenzone, Octisalate, Avobenzone and Octocrylene.
Keeping that Glow Before and After the Sun
There are a few skin care companies working on the idea that preparing your skin in advance of exposure to the sun with proper skin care — and not a tanning bed or faux bronzer! — can also heighten its natural level of protection. So, if you choose to venture out from under that beach umbrella or shady tree, add these to your sun-care routine.
Canada’s Laboratoire Dr Renaud and France’s Institut Esthederm Paris are two such advocates. These skincare companies both work under the belief that it’s not just enough to use SPF: skin protects itself through tanning, so why not fortify the skin to adapt to the sun by reinforcing its natural capacity to do so? So prep and protect before sun exposure, say two weeks before you head out on that Caribbean vacation, and in conjunction with your sunscreen, 20 minutes before heading out under our bright summer sky.
1. Laboratoire Dr Renaud Cell Defense Tan Enhancing Veil Face & Body. Its moisturizing formula helps to strengthen the skin’s natural barrier, as well as preventing photo-induced signs of aging. It also promotes firmness and elasticity to the skin.
2. Institut Esthederm Paris Bronz Impulse Face and Body Spray. With the use of precious oils and a global cellular protection patent, this spray is said to prepare skin in advance, stimulate during exposure and prolong that glow after the sun is gone.