When it comes to skincare there are as many opinions as to what you should do as there are products. The one thing everyone agrees on is the importance of SPF; and applying it daily even if you’re not spending hours in the sun. Something I’ve noticed in personally asking and reading about their skincare routines, is that most women with good skin in their later years credit it to a religious habit of putting on face SPF every day.
When it comes to Face SPF, the biggest concern is that you don’t want something that is greasy or blocks your pores. You also don’t want anything that resembles the smell, feel or look (pasty skin) of any SPF that comes in a blue bottle. It needs to be a light feel, look like you’re wearing nothing; but still provide good coverage.
What does good coverage mean? To understand what to look for you first must understand what SPFs do and how they differ.
What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is the amount of time it takes you to get burnt without protection multiplied by the SPF number. For example, if it takes you 10 minutes to burn and you’re applying a SPF30 you will be protected in the sun for 300 minutes.
According to Shereene Idress, the New York based Dermatologist who does those brilliantly informative #PillowDermTalks, the 3 most important things when it comes to sun protection, after wearing SPF every day, are:
1. Find a sunscreen that you like and will wear. This is especially hard when it comes to finding a face SPF and which is why you need to look at SPFs specifically formulated for your face.
2. Broad spectrum is always a good idea. Make sure that when you buy a sunscreen it protects against both UVA and UVB. If it protects against only one, you’re wasting your money and time.
3. Choose between an SPF30 and SPF50. According to Idress, anything below may not be effective and anything above is gimmicky and won’t give you much added protection.
What is UV?
UV stands for ultraviolet light. It’s light we cannot see.
UVA is the light that causes aging. UVA penetrates deep within your skin causing aging and can also cause melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.
UVB is the light that burns you. This is the light responsible for your golden tan or burnt red skin. Aside from damaging your skin, UVB light can also lead to superficial skin cancers.
Therefore, it’s important to choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. You want protection against both the light that causes skin cancer and the light that cause aging and damage to your skin.
Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens vs Chemical Sunscreens
You get two types of sunscreens. Those using physical (mineral) blockers and those using chemical ones. Both work, but they work differently which means you need to know what the active ingredient is in the SPF so you can make sure you are using it correctly.
Physical or Mineral blockers
The most common ones contain either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide. Both Zinc and Titanium Oxide block for both UVA and UVB light, but Zinc is the stronger of the two. Physical blockers work by acting as a physical barrier that blocks the light from coming into your skin and reflecting it off. Physical blockers work immediately after applying.
The most common used ingredients are avobenzone, oxybenzone and dioxybenzone; but there are many more, so you need to read the ingredients. What you need to be careful with chemical sunscreens is that not all will block from UVA and UVB. If the label doesn’t say, you need to look at the ingredients and make sure they block for both. Chemical sunscreens act like a sponge. They absorb the light, convert it to heat and radiate it off. You need to wait 30 minutes after applying a chemical sunscreen before going outside for it to work.
No sunscreen is Waterproof
According to Idress no sunscreen is waterproof. Some may be water resistant for a set period BUT you need to reapply after working out or swimming. Even if it’s resistant, chances are you’ve wiped your face, wiping away the sun protection.
For years now I’ve been on the search for the perfect face SPF. A product that mimics a moisturiser but gives me proper coverage. Something I can wear alone or layered under makeup. The face SPF that will encourage a habit of daily use. I’ve found 7, all of which tick off my list of requirements.
They vary in price from R199 to R600. They all block for both UVA and UVB. They all feel good when applied, don’t make me look pasty and can be worn alone or under makeup. There are both physical (mineral) blockers and chemical blockers and each has a unique characteristic highlighted below to help you decide what it best for you.
One of the biggest ways they vary is the added ingredients. Face SPFs can act as more than a sunscreen; they can also give your skin added nutrients. The most common added ingredients you’ll notice is Vitamins, the ones rich in antioxidants. This is because antioxidants are good at repairing damage and when added to SPF, have the ability to stabilise the SPF which makes its sun protection last a bit longer. Other SPFs go beyond protecting you against UVA and UVB lights and protect against blue light, infrared radiation and visible light.
Oh Lief Natural Face Sunscreen SPF
Oh Lief is a local skincare range founded by two sisters. Their entire range is certified natural and organic, and all ingredients used are made from 100% natural and organic, raw ingredients, sourced locally. This Face Sunscreen SPF is one of their newer products and aside from being certified natural and organic; it is also vegetarian, part of beauty without cruelty and carries the Cansa seal of approval.
How it Works
This is a mineral/ physical sunscreen that uses Zinc Oxide to provide both UVA and UVB protection. It is one of the lowest SPFs I tried, but zinc is the stronger of the mineral SPF ingredients. It’s a great everyday sunscreen and can be worn alone or under makeup and it doesn’t clog pores. Despite it being a physical sunscreen, it is recommended to apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure, reapply every 2 hours and after swimming.
Zinc Oxide – This is the first ingredient listed. Ingredients are always listed from highest quantity to lowest, so I was happy to see it listed first especially given that it is on the lower SPF range. Zinc oxide as mentioned above is a mineral blocker that blocks against UVA and UVB damage.
Green Rooibos – this is powerful antioxidant said to be 200 times more effective than vitamin E when it comes to protecting the skin and repairing damage, which makes this SPF a double duty product. Antioxidants also improve the stability of sunscreens in sun and actually increase the time of safe sun exposure.
Look and Feel
The Oh Lief Face sunscreen comes in a simple white 50ml plastic tub that is recyclable. It is also the type of tub you can rinse when it’s empty and reuse easily. I love that it’s in a tub, making it great for travel, as it’s very unlike to open and spill everywhere. I would describe the scent as being unscented. It’s thick and creamy and feels similar to that of a body butter and needs to be rubbed in well so it doesn’t leave a faint white cast over your skin. It has a slight sheen to it when first applied, giving you a dewy look. It takes a few minutes to settle, so wait before applying makeup. It’s best for days you want to go makeup free (and like a subtle dew to your look) and I can see it being a great option in winter when your ski is drier.
Cost: R199 available here
Africology 100% Natural Essential Oils SPF 30
Africology is South Africa’s leading spa range, which began in the home kitchen of founder Renchia. Today, their products are found in over 350 5-star spas. Their products are all natural, eco-friendly, fair-trade and fragranced using essential oils. None of their products contain microplastics making them safe to wash into the water system.
How it Works
Africology 100% Natural Essential Oils SPF 30 is a mineral sunscreen best suited for those with sensitive skin as it’s light weight, non-chemical, naturally fragranced and contains calming herbal ingredients. They recommend reapplying every hour when you’re in direct sunlight; but a once daily application when you’re not is fine.
Zinc Oxide – the strongest mineral SPF which provides both UVA and UVB protection.
Look and Feel
It comes in a bronze 50ml tube which is recyclable. It’s fragranced with essential oils and I’d describe the main scent as Rooibos-like, but that fades as it settles you’re your skin. The cream is a pale beige that has a medium thick consistently. It dries on your face fast, so rub it in quickly. It has a matte look with a slightly tacky feeling making it a good base layer for makeup.
Cost: R250 available here
W Beauty Complete Shield SPF50
This is part of Woolworth’s store brand Beauty Products. They all bear the beauty without cruelty logo. Most of the products in the range (this sunscreen included) are vegan, approved by a toxicologist (aka non-toxic), hypo- allergenic, terminologically tested and natural.
How it works
The W Beauty Complete Shield SPF is a chemical sunscreen which uses 3 active ingredients to provide full spectrum sun protection. It also includes a bevy of Vitamins for added skincare. As it is chemical you do need to wait 30 minutes after applying before going into the sun. It has an SPF50 which is a high protection, good if you burn fast as it protects you for longer.
Octocrylene is a chemical filter used in SPFs. It absorbs UVB light and short-wave UVA light. When used together with other ingredients like avobenzone below, it has a broad photoprotection and stabilises the UVA filter Avobenzone.
Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane which is also known as Avobezone is an active ingredient used in chemical SPF products. It absorbs ultraviolet light over a wide range of wavelengths and then convert it to less damaging infrared radiation (heat). It protects against UVA
Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate – this reflects and scatters UV rays protecting the skin from sunburn aka UVB rays. It also helps cosmetics from deterioration against UV rays which allow them last longer in high UV conditions.
Vitamin Complex – this SPF contains a blend of vitamins to help it do more for your skin than just protect against the sun. It contains the following vitamins
Vitamin A with retinol – Retinol is a very popular anti-aging ingredient right now. It helps boost collagen which reduces fine lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin B3 with niacinamide – this helps boost your skins natural ceramides and elasticity while enhancing skin tone and texture.
Vitamin C – is an antioxidant which boost your skins defence system and hydrates it. Antioxidants also make SPFs more stable which means you get longer sun protection.
Vitamin E – another antioxidant t boosts and encourages cell regeneration and targets free radicals.
Vitamin C and E when used in in SPF work by neutralizing the sun’s rays on skin cells before the cells start to incur damage.
POLLUSHIELDTM An advanced shield polymer, scientifically engineered to provide a barrier against modern day environmental stresses.
Look and Feel
This comes in a white plastic 50ml tub with black accents, for a perfectly minimal aesthetic. The paper box is fully recyclable, but the plastic tube is currently not. It’s scent is a combination of sunscreen, summer and unscented skincare. While it’s a thick white cream it smooths on nicely, rubs in easily and dries down into a nice combination of matte with a subtle sheen. Makeup applies well on top and the sheen comes through a light layer of foundation giving the complexion a really nice glowy finish.
Cost: R220 get it here
Lamelle Helase 50+ Sunscreen
Lamelle is a South African biotechnology research company that produces highly advanced products for both the professional and consumer aesthetic skincare market. They’re known for their research backed innovative approach and being first-to-market with new innovative products.
How it works
Lamelle Helase 50+ Sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen that combines 6 different active ingredients – 3 UVA and 3 UVB SPFs to provide a full spectrum protection. In line with Lamelle’s reputation of creating innovative products it’s not only an SPF and boasts ingredients that stop-loss of immunity, Anti-inflammatory ingredients, ingredients that decrease damaging enzymes, ingredients that recover the skin’s immunity and Photolyase enzymes that correct recent indirect and direct DNA damage. You apply it in the morning over moisturiser and/or serum. You need to wait at least 15 minutes after applying before going into the sun. If you’re in the sun reapply every 2-4 hours.
What makes this unique is that it’s one of the few sunscreens that protect skin from the entire solar radiation spectrum (UVB, UVA1, UVA2, Visible Light and Infrared) and help repair damaged DNA.
UVB blockers: Octocrylene, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Benzophenone-3 – These all work together to block UVB rays. Octocrylene and Benzophenone-3 both also help block short UVA rays. They also help preserve ingredients to prevent deterioration in the sun.
UVA Blockers: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane which absorbs ultraviolet light over a wide range of wavelengths and then convert it to less damaging infrared radiation (heat).
UVA and UVB Blockers: Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol and Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine which are both broad spectrum and blocks both UVA and UVB
Pycnogenol – this is a super antioxidant which destroys harmful free radicals to decrease the number of harmful enzymes that cause thinning and sagging of the skin. It also decreases the damaging and ageing inflammation in the skin, while actively stopping the effects of aging on the skin and keeping the immunity of the skin intact when exposed to sunlight.
Look and Feel
It comes in a delightfully bright yellow and white 50ml tube that is recyclable. It has a slight peachy colour which is due to the addition of Pyconogel. It is not tinted. It has a very faint sunscreen like scent to it. Out of all the SPFs it’s the thickest and takes a while to rub in and settle, but it absorbs well without leaving you looking pasty. It has a slight sheen to it, and they’ve described that look as like that of a primer. You need to let it settle for a few minutes before applying makeup on top of it.
Cost: R525 available here
Optiphi Canvas Range Sun Protection Cream SPF30
Optiphi is a local skincare brand that offers both a skincare range and skin treatments. They also offer a unique Skin DNA test that allows them to tailor a skin care routine to your genetic makeup.
How it works
Optiphi Canvas Range Sun Protection Cream is both a mineral and chemical SPF which uses 3 active ingredients to provide full spectrum coverage. It also goes beyond protecting against just UV light and protects against infrared radiation and Blue Light. As it does contain titanium oxide it works immediately.
Chemical Blocker: Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate which blocks UVB rays and diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate which blocks UVA lights
Mineral Blockers: Titanium Oxide which blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Sunflower Sprout Extract and Caesalpinia Spinos Fruit Extract provide advanced protection against the free radical formation from Infrared Radiation (IR) and High Energy Visible (HEV) ‘Blue’ Light.
Chromanol and Tripeptide-33 which fight free radicals and protect against UV related oxidative stress
Lactic Acid which adds moisture and helps rejuvenate your skin
Look and Feel
This is the most luxurious looking SPF. It comes in white tub with silver accents and instead of squeezing it has a pump the SPF comes out of. This feature makes it easier to dispense the correct amount and is less likely to leak. The box and tube are recyclable. It is the lightest SPF and mimics the feel of a light moisturiser. It rubs in well and has a matte look to it. It has a very light pleasant smell to it that is not sunscreen like at all. It should be applied after moisturiser but before a primer or makeup.
Cost: R390 get it here
Skinceuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF 50+
Skinceuticals is a clinical skincare range dedicated to improving skin health and backed by science.
How it works
Skinceuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF 50+ is another SPF that combines both mineral and chemical compounds to provide a full spectrum UV protection. Its UV filters are state-of-the-art, which prevents UV-induced collagen breakdown. It can be applied immediately before sun exposure and the reapplied every few hours when you’re in the sun
Titanium oxide – this is a mineral SPF which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is a chemical SPF which blocks UVB rays
Drometrizole Trisiloxane is a chemical SPF which blocks both UVA and UVB rays
BIS-ethylhexyloxyphenol blocks both UVA and UVB rays
Hexyl Benzoate blocks UVA rays
Vitamin E and Glyceryl – these help with hydration and make it good for those with dry skin.
Look and Feel
This is the smallest of the SPF’s coming in a 30ml silver tube which can be recycled. Out of the squeeze tubes it’s a favourite because it has a very narrow tip which helps you control the amount you squeeze out. It’s unscented and has really nice creamy consistency but is very light. It rubs into your skin easily, leaving no white finish or greasy feel. It dries down quick matte to the touch but leaves a subtle sheen on the skin. It works very well under makeup.
Cost: R510 available here
Esse Organic SPF30
Esse is a probiotic skincare range. Each product is developed to create an environment on the skin that favours the growth of beneficial microbes. Without microbes, your skin can’t perform its basic functions and the rate of skin ageing increases sharply. All their products are certified organic, vegan and cruelty free.
How it works
Esse SPF30 is an organic mineral sunscreen specifically formulated for sensitive skin. It’s fragrance free biodegradable and won’t harm coral reefs. It uses coated Zinc Oxide (no nano-sized particles) to screen out both UVA and UVB rays. Like all Esse products it is certified organic and considers your microbiome. It ca be applied right before sun exposure and then every few hours.
Zinc Oxide – is a mineral blocker used to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Myrothamnus, Rooibos and Olive Leaf Extract – these act as antioxidants to to mop up the free radicals generated by sun exposure.
Look and Feel
It comes in the trademark Esse tinted brown glass pump bottle with silver lid, making it one of the most luxurious packaged SPFs. It’s 48 grams in size and both box and bottle are recyclable.
It’s unscented and has a slight tint, the colour resembles that of a light foundation. It is the thickest SPF and reminds me of a CC cream. It needs work to be rubbed in but will rub in clear, without leaving any marks. It gives you a dewy look and gives your skin a nice smooth finish, so you could skip foundation.
If you do get this one, don’t forget to peel of the little silver sticker you find in the inside of the box and stick it to their rewards card. You get them at Esse retailers and once you have 10 stickers you get a free product.
Cost: R650 available here
You’ve gotten burnt now what?
We all make mistakes, forget the sunscreen and spend too much time in the sun, leaving us red and sore. The first thing you want to do is hydrate by drinking loads of water. Often times when you get burnt, your skin and your body ends up dehydrated. You’ll then want to apply a good after sun lotion – a cream specially formulated to relieve the burn and start repairing the damage to your skin. You’ll also want to make sure to moisturize the burnt skin which prevents it from peeling.
Africology Sun Soothing Gel
How it works
The Africology Sun Soothing Gel helps soothe red hot skin. It contains Aloe Ferox and Marula oil to moisturise and heal the damaged skin. It should be used as soon after getting burnt as possible.
Look and Feel
It comes in the same packaging as the Face SPF and is free of any harmful ingredients. The consistency is a white opaque gel which is cooling and soothing. It dries down on the skin fast. It reminds me of a light and ungoopy version of the classic aloe gel from my childhood. It also has the same herbal scent of the SPF which transports you to a spa.
Get it here (R205)
Lamelle Nourish Rescue Repair Gel
How it works
Part of the nourish product range, the Lamelle Nourish Rescue Repair Gel works to both hydrate the skin and repair it. It contains Aloe Vera, to help soothe and rehydrate burnt skin. Like the Helase SPF it also contains Pycnogenol –which decreases the damaging and ageing inflammation in the skin.
It’s used on burnt skin and is a great option for people who spend a lot of time outdoors as an added step in their skincare to help repair any damage. It can also be used after having IPLS or laser treatments.
Look and Feel
The consistency is an orange opaque gel which feels both cooling and soothing. It leaves a slight tingle on the skin which is rejuvenating. The scent is what I would describe as a minty aloe, once it dries down (which is fast) the scent fades to a subtler tone.
Get it here (R445)
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.