Are You Wearing The Right Sunscreen For Your Skin Type?


Women's Health |

Join the block party this summer.

The rules of sunscreen are like the words of the national anthem: we can recite some parts with our eyes closed. But there are some parts we’re not all together sure about. Like you know you should apply a broad-spectrum SPF each day, rain or shine, no matter your skin tone. But, SPF20 or 30? And if you’re in the shade do you have to spread some? What if you’re dark-skinned? What if it makes you break out?!

“As dermatologists, we are coming face-to-face with more and more patients with skin cancer. The numbers are increasing at an alarming rate and South Africa has the second-highest incidence of skin cancer in the world,” says Dr Derek Odendaal, of the South African Society for Dermatological Surgery, and one of the founding members of the Skin Cancer Foundation of South Africa (SCFSA).

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those who skipped sunscreen showed 24 percent more skin ageing than those who didn’t. And the scary part: melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has jumped 3.8 percent every year among women since 1995, says the Melanoma Foundation. Enough! Here’s how you can start doing some damage control (minus the pimples and blocked pores).

If you’ve got pigmentation

The problem: Prior skin inflammation made worse by chronic unprotected sun exposure. As dermatologist Dr Julie Karen explains, any kind of skin injury (a scratch, a pimple) on a woman of colour tends to leave a dark spot in its wake – and UV exposure deepens the hue and slows the rate at which spots fade.

vichy sunscreen

The solution: So sunscreens “leave greasy streaks” eh? New, effective formulas are now ultralight, thanks to micro-fine particles that look and feel sheer. Choose one that’s labelled liquid or fluid; the thin consistency absorbs right away, with no pasty stripes. Try Vichy Ideal Soleil Bronze SPF 50+ (R199).

If you get sweaty

The problem: Exercise outdoors (yeah, runners we’re talking to you)? Dr Suzan Obagi, an associate professor of dermatology and plastic surgery, says a test of sun damage is to look at the inside of your arm and compare it to your face. If you’ve got flawless skin on your arm but lots of freckles on your face it can indicated sun damage. Even though you might apply an SPF before your run, you’re more than likely just sweating it off.

Nivea and Clinique sunscreen

The solution: To prevent your sunscreen from sweating off during outdoor workouts, use twice the amount of protection. Start with something water-resistant on areas that need an extra force field (like dark spots or thin or wrinkly patches). Try Nivea Sun Protect & Refresh 50 High (R132). Follow with sunscreen lotion – Obagi suggests high- SPF mineral ones, which degrade more slowly than many chemical ingredients – on the face, neck and ears. Try Clinique SPF50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid For Face (R335). If you choose formulas like these that are free from oils, paraffin wax and liquid paraffin, you shouldn’t break out.

If you tan easily

The problem: You use SPF when you hit the beach or pool, but never reapply it. Why should you, it’s not like you’re burning? Newsflash: “A tan – any amount – is the body’s way of responding to injury by darkening to protect itself from further damage,” says Karen. “There is no such thing as a safe tan, no matter how light or how slowly you get it!”

Badger and Piz Buin sunscreen

The solution: Doctors swear by zinc oxide- based sunscreens, which offer tried-and-true protection They form a barrier against the sun’s rays, and are the only real way to prevent skin damage and premature ageing. Sunscreens with zinc start protecting you as soon as you put them on. Try Badger Damascus Rose With Lavender & Chamomile Broad Spectrum SPF25 Sheer Tint (R379). When it comes to getting full body coverage, sprays are certainly the most convenient formula. Try Piz Buin In Sun Ultra Light Sun Spray SPF 15 (R220).

If SPF leaves you looking ‘ashy’

The problem: You’ve always avoided sunscreen because they are thick, chalky and leave you feeling like you’re wearing a mask. In years gone by, physical SPF formula’s used to contain a serious amount of ingredients that would just ‘sit’ on your skin.

Eucerin sunscreen

The solution: Lucky for us there have been some major advances in SPF technology. Reach for a light, tinted, oil-free emulsion or cream mattifier which protects without making you look grey. Try Eucerin SPF50 (R195).

If you’re a water baby

The problem: The waves literally wash it right off!

dermalogica sunscreen

The solution: Make water-resistant formulas your BBF (beach best friend). They’re ideal for sports enthusiasts who divid their time between sand and sea. Formula’s like dermalogica Protection 50 Sport SPF50 (R595) defend skin against the sun’s damaging rays while keeping skin hydrated.

Looking for more info on SPF and the effects of the sun? Here are the top SPF myths – busted! Plus, three serious signs that you could have heat stroke

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