Need help in finding the right sunscreen? Here’s everything you need to know about sun protectors and the best ones for your skin type.
Hands up if you’re guilty of starting a sunscreen routine too late, or if you’ve (gasp!) never found a need for it. Skincare diehard or not, it’s time to take this wonder product seriously. Not only does it decrease the risk of skin cancer, it also helps to prevent premature ageing, pigmentation and blotchiness. But if you’re baffled by the many labels, don’t fret. We break down everything you need to know about sunscreen, including SPF, PA and the difference between physical and chemical sunblocks.
Sunscreens, sunblocks and suntan lotions
First of all, avoid anything called ‘suntan lotion’ like the plague – these have a poor SPF (that’s Sun Protection Factor) and are oils, which don’t shield you from the sun. Both sunscreens and sunblocks are good sun protectants. Expect the latter to have a thicker, chalky consistency due to the use of titanium oxide or zinc oxide as active ingredients.
How high should your SPF be?
SPF measures how well a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays (the cause of sunburn). A minimum of SPF30 is best recommended as it blocks 97% of UV-B rays, though SPF50 is ideal as it blocks 98% of UVB rays. Any higher is said to be false advertising.
Look for broad spectrum
Most sunscreens only protect you from UVB rays – ideally, they should also shield you from UVA rays (these penetrate deep into the skin and can cause premature ageing).
What is PA?
Simply put, PA indicates the level of protection from UVA rays. This is based on the Persistent Pigmentation Darkening Test (PPD), which measures how much UVA skin can be exposed to before darkening. The more plus signs on your PA (this ranges from PA+ to PA+++), the more protection you’ll receive. It’s the reason why Korean sunscreens are regarded as more effective as they often come with these labels.
What’s the deal with chemical or physical blockers?
It’s not just the issue of SPF that’s rucking up controversy. A major topic of debate is the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens. As its name suggests, chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone, octylcrylen, avobenzone and octinoxate. These work by absorbing UV rays – they enter the skin, get absorbed, and are released as heat.
Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, contain active mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They work as reflectors to deflect UV rays from entering the skin.
The case for chemical blockers
It’s hard to say what’s better for you, as the effects are different for each skin type. Chemical sunscreens are the popular option on the market. These are thinner in consistency and blend easily on the skin, sitting well under makeup. Their formulas are also receptive to the inclusion of other ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, to moisturise skin. Also, they don’t give the notorious white cast of zinc-based sunscreens.
But as the skin absorbs UV rays, it can become overheated, which results in irritation or worsening of dark spots. It’s even said to penetrate your bloodstream – something to think about if you’re not fond of chemicals lingering in your body.
Chemical sunscreens are also not recommended for water sports. Hawaii is banning oxybenzone and octinoxate in 2021 as these are harmful to corals and contribute to coral bleaching.
The case for physical blockers
With natural ingredients and the ability to simply deflect UV rays without absorbing, physical sunscreens are gentler on the skin and less likely to cause skin irritation. The ingredients of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also naturally broad spectrum, protecting you from UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, they don’t spread as easily and may leave a white cast on skin. But with the beauty industry working fast, physical sunscreens that are as light and blendable as moisturiser already exist in the market.
Apply at the last stage of your skincare routine and you’ll find that it could work well even as a primer. Chemical sunscreens should be applied 20 minutes before stepping outside, while physical ones are absorbed immediately. It’s recommended for you to reapply every two hours if you’re outdoors. Apply two tablespoons per application for optimal protection.
Bema Cosmetici Solartea High Protection Sun Cream SPF50
This natural product works a treat for plenty of skin types. It’s suitable for sensitive skin, as well as for those with very fair skin tones. Its mineral filters protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays without blocking natural perspiration. It’s also rich in antioxidants, concentrated Vitamin C, and minerals to boost skin hydration and health.
Bema Cosmetici Solartea High Protection Sun Cream SPF50, $50, available online.
AHC Natural Perfection Moist Sun Cream
AHC’s Natural Perfection Moist Sun Cream provides the ultimate protection against UV rays with its hydrating and soothing formula made with Tahiti vanilla extract and triple hyaluronic acid. It also leaves a transparent finish so you can reapply multiple times throughout the day without having to worry about a pesky white cast.
AHC Natural Perfection Moist Sun Cream, $31, available at Watsons, Lazada and Shopee.
Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk
You can’t have a sunscreen roundup without Japan’s bestseller. This SPF 50 pa++++ sunscreen is packed with chemical and physical blockers (minus parabens and other irritants), so you get the best of both worlds. We like how it glides on our skin nicely without feeling too greasy. Aside from providing adequate UV protection, it’s also super moisturising.
Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk, $32, available at Watsons, Shopee and Amazon SG
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Shaka tinted fluid SPF50+
A firm favourite amongst sunscreen devotees, this seriously lightweight sunscreen coats skin with SPF 50+ protection, thanks to its combination of Mexoplex (a blend of ingredients that gives increased UVA/UVB protection and does not cause skin irritation) and anti-oxidising thermal spring water. Fragrance and paraben-free, it helps to prevent sun-induced pigment spots.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Shaka tinted fluid SPF50+, $46.90, various locations islandwide including Guardian and Watsons, also available online.
Sigi Skin Morning Glow Physical Sunscreen
We all know that natural blockers = white cast, but Sigi Skin might have hit the jackpot with its sunscreen. It doesn’t leave an oily sheen, there’s no white cast (our brown skin writer can attest!) and it’s completely vegan. It contains avocado and acai extract (both rich in vitamin E and fatty acids), as well as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to protect from UVA and UVB rays. It’s so hydrating, you can even skip your moisturiser and use this instead.
Sigi Skin Morning Glow Physical Sunscreen, $58, available online.
Sunplay Skin Aqua Tone Up UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++ (Lavender)
First things first, can we talk about the mermaid-esque packaging? That purple hue has us squealing in delight – and it takes the colour of the sunscreen too! The blue and pink tints actually act as a colour corrector for your skin. Pair that with an iridescent strobe pearl powder and hydrating vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, and you’ve got that goddess glow. Also works for medium to olive skin tones.
Sunplay Skin Aqua Tone Up UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++ (Lavender), $27.90, available at Guardian, Shopee and Watsons
D-UV Clear White Solution SPF50+ PA++++
Gone are the days where the sole purpose of sunscreen is to guard yourself against UV rays. Just try Astalift’s mighty product and you’ll see what we mean. A cocktail of D-UV Guard+ and Stretch UV-Shield formula blocks even the longest wavelength of UVA1. Oh, and this works well as a primer too.
D-UV Clear White Solution SPF50+ PA++++, $72, available online and at various locations including Nex, JEM and Plaza Singapura
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturiser SPF40
This is one heck of a powerful sunscreen. For starters, it contains colloidal oatmeal, plus butters and oils to nourish the skin. It’s also got a botanically rich antioxidant booster to combat environmental aggressors. Despite the physical blockers in its formula, it has a lightweight texture that absorbs with zero white cast while giving skin high-level UVA and UVB protection.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturiser SPF40, $53, available at Sephora and online.
Just Herbs No Sun Jojoba-Wheatgerm Moisturising Sun Protection Gel
This Goop-approved sunscreen does double duty: it moisturises and protects. Made from jojoba, wheat germ and grape seed oil, it hydrates and heals skin while providing protection from UV rays. It even relieves clogged pores and defends against skin ageing.
Just Herbs No Sun Jojoba-Wheatgerm Moisturising Sun Protection Gel, $20, available at Sephora.
Face Mineral Sunscreen Matte Finish SPF 30 Cucumber
If you’ve ever wanted your face to smell like cucumbers, this is it. The antioxidant-infused formula has a light cucumber scent and gives skin UVA/UVB as well as environmental protection. Bonus: calming evening primrose and flaxseed oils give skin abundant omega-3 and gamma-linolenic acid to boost elasticity and help skin retain moisture.
Face Mineral Sunscreen Matte Finish SPF 30 Cucumber, $65, shop online or at The Naturally Better Company, #02-46, Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039596
Aesop Protective Facial Lotion SPF25
The heavens must have heard our cries when we longed for an Aesop sunscreen. The hydrator is packed full of antioxidants, thanks to green tea and tocopherol (vitamin E), plus skin-soothing panthenol. Much like the rest of its range, it smells like a spa and has a lightweight, non-sticky texture.
Aesop Protective Facial Lotion SPF25, $77, available at Aesop stores islandwide.
SuperGoop! Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50
First of all, we love that SuperGoop’s Everyday Sunscreen comes in a massive 532ml size (the largest out of three sizes) so you can slather it all over your body. It’s touted as oil-free and water-resistant, though those with oily skin may find it too greasy especially along the T-zone area. Some primer before makeup will help with that. We also like that it doesn’t have your typical smell of sunscreen – there are citrus, basil and bois de rose extracts in this.
SuperGoop! Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50, $69 for 532ml, available at Sephora and online.
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF 50 PA+++
This Kiehl’s bestseller is extremely lightweight and feels like you’re wearing nothing even after you’ve got all your skincare on. It’s also great for sensitive skin as it’s fragrance-free, non-comodogenic and contains rosa gallica to soothe skin.
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF 50 PA+++, $56, available at various Kiehl’s stores including ION Orchard.
Est. Lab Sunshield SPF50 ***
SPF50+++ protection. Check. Vitamins C and E with anti-ageing and antioxidants properties. Check. An anti-blue light technology that protects your skin against blue light from screens and outdoor light. Check. Yup, this handy multi-tasker does it all. It also doubles up as a tinted moisturiser (for lighter skin tones) for that natural ‘no makeup, makeup’ look.
Est. Lab Sunshield SPF50 ***, $96, available online
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF50++
No surprises why Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Sunscreen has such a huge fanbase. It absorbs instantly and leaves skin with an invisible finish. Best of all, it’s oil-free and leaves skin with a matte finish – perfect for everyday wear. Take your pick of sun protection from SPF 30 to 100.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF50++, $15.73 for 88ml, Available at Iherb, Guardian and Watsons stores islandwide.
Biore UV Perfect Face Milk SPF50++/PA++++
This Biore bestseller completely overturned all our misconceptions about sunscreens. It mattifies the oiliest of skin thanks to its sebum-absorbing powder and applies lightweight despite its ominous creamy texture.
Biore UV Perfect Face Milk SPF50++/PA++++, $14.10, available at Shopee and Guardian and Watsons stores.