I’ve been hard at work trying a variety of sunscreen I received towards the end of last year. Given that we still have a good few months of hot, sunny weather, I thought a post highlighting my favourites for face, body and kids was in order.

While we need to be cognizant of the dangers of UVA & UVB exposure, the sun has many health benefits too. Exposure to sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D, which is vital for healthy bone structure and density, and gives our skin a healthy glow, which we see outside and feel inside – and that’s because sunlight also promotes the natural production of serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone.

Understanding your skin type – in order to protect it correctly

Thanks to our rich cultural heritage, South African skin tones and hues range from very pale to very dark. Dermatologists have defined the different hues/shades into skin types. This is not referring to whether your skin is oily or dry, but rather using the Fitzpatrick scale, which ranges from Type 1 to Type 6.

Type 1 – 2 is an extremely pale skin, blue or lighter eyes, sun burns quickly (usually after 5-10 minutes without sun protection), and red or very blonde hair. An example of a type 1 would be Julianne Moore & Amy Adams. Charlize Theron & Gwyneth Paltrow.

Type 3 has fair skin & medium to dark hair. Sometimes burns and tans gradually. I’m a good example of a 3 as is Jennifer Aniston & Sandra Bullock

Type 4 has olive skin, even without a tan, dark hair and brown eyes, they can be exposed to the sun for longer periods of time with no protection (tans after 20-30 minutes of unprotected time in the sun). Good examples are Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez.

Type 5 & 6 has dark olive, brown, or very brown (type 6) skin. Usually tans after 30 – 40 minutes of unprotected time in the sun. Dark brown hair and brown eyes. Examples of a 5 are Beyonce, Rihanna, while Lupita Nyongo is a good example of a 6.

Which SPF should I choose?

If you are Skin Type 1, 2 or 3, you have very little natural protection and burn easily, therefore choose a formula with a protection of SPF 50 and use this on all exposed areas of your face and body, whenever you are in the sun. Use every day, even on cloudy days. If you are Skin Type 4 to 6, you have some natural sun protection, but it is not enough. By applying a formula with an SPF20, you’ll get the necessary sun protection you need.

How much sunscreen should I use?

An adult would need 2-3 tablespoons of sunscreen to sufficiently cover the body. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, toweling or sweating.

Did You Know?

80% of wrinkles are caused by UVA rays

Up to 90% of skin cancer is caused by sun exposure

Too much sun exposure leads to pigmentation problems, such as dark marks and unevenness.

90% of UV rays can even penetrate light clouds

Best High-End Sunscreen

Institut Esthederm Adaptasun Sea & Tropics Protective Body Lotion Strong Sun R1000.00 for a 200ml (BUY)

This sun lotion stimulates natural tanning for faster, more intense and longer-lasting results. It prevents photo-ageing and dark spots by protecting the skin’s DNA, thus preventing cell damage. It works by activating the natural pigmentation process for a luminous, intense and long-lasting tan (still don’t fully understand this…)

It’s best suited to sun-tolerant skin (anything from type 3 upwards) that easily tans and rarely gets sunburned. It’s ideal for using when exposing your skin to strong sun (high mountains, tropics, on the water, long exposure).

The texture is exceptional and feels beautiful on the skin, leaving it with a soft & silky texture. I found my skin tanned really well when using this, and while I had to reapply twice during a 6-hour period, I didn’t burn at all.

Institut Esthederm Adaptasun Protective Face Care R700.00 for a 50ml (BUY)

This sunscreen for the face works to prevent photo-aging and dark spots by neutralizing free radicals and protecting cellular DNA. It also prevents the appearance of wrinkles by fighting collagen-damaging factors. It protects and improves skin resistance to sunlight. It has a lovely creamy texture, absorbs really quickly and leaves skin feeling hydrated. It has a very subtle, light scent.

A word about the no SPF listing on the Esthederm products:

I really like Esthederm products (their Hyaluronic acid serum is one of the best I’ve tried – see HERE), but I won’t lie, I’m HELLA confused by their sunscreens!

I was wondering where the SPF was, so asked the PR. This is what she sent me:

 “SPF only ‘covers’ UVB rays. Esthederm’s sun products have pioneering, innovative technology with ingredients that offer higher protection against ALL UV rays and also offers protection against wrinkles and dark spots by helping your skin adapt to the sun and protect itself, rather than blocking out UV rays.”

While I still don’t fully understand the above (& if I don’t, I very much doubt you do #JustSaying), what I can tell you is that I used both these products extensively over December (both poolside & at the beach) and really like them.

Best for Kids

 Children’s skin is especially at risk of sun damage, because its natural protection is not yet fully developed. It is more delicate than adult skin, as it does not gain its full thickness or ability to pigment until the teenage years. The frequency of sunburns in childhood is related to skin cancer at a later age – so it’s important to keep young skin sufficiently protected from harmful UV rays when children are outside having fun in the sun.

Nivea Sun Kids Sensitive Protect & Care SPF50+ Trigger Spray R209.99 for a 300ml bottle

Children’s skin can sometimes be very sensitive and prone to skin irritation or allergic reactions from the sun. The new NIVEA Sun Kids Sensitive Protect & Play (paediatrically tested) SPF50+ Trigger Spray is formulated for young skin that’s especially delicate. It offers high-level sun protection, and a unique unfragranced formula which soothes children’s sensitive skin and protects it from sun-induced irritations. The high UVA protection reduces the risk of sun- induced allergies. Skin compatibility is pediatrician approved and has an extra water-resistant formula – so kids can enjoy swimming and splashing. The trigger spray makes application easier and quicker. Remember to reapply at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating and towelling to maintain protection.

Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Care Coloured Roll-On SPF 50+ R94.99

Who says sunscreen can’t be fun? The new NIVEA Sun Kids Protect & Play SPF 50+ coloured roll-ons are available in green and pink. They have very high SPF (50+) and extra water resistance, with one more added ingredient: fun!

Roll-ons are particularly easy and enjoyable for children to use when they are self- applying sunscreen – and seeing the colourful sunscreen appear on their skin makes ‘sunscreen time’ a whole lot more attractive. The gentle formula, with colour that disappears after distribution, ensures even coverage and reliable protection.

Best Eco-Friendly Formula for Sensitive Skin

Avene Eau Thermale Lotion SPF 50+ R310 (BUY)

This is currently my favourite sunscreen. You can read a full post I previously wrote HERE. In a nutshell, I love it because it offers optimal sun protection while minimizing environmental impact. Avène sun care products are developed to minimize impact on marine ecosystems. These gentle eco-friendly formulas contain no silicones, no water-soluble filters, are free of controversial filters like octocrylene, octinoxate, oxybenzone & homosalate. The brand is constantly improving the performance of their sun care to be more efficacious and optimally tolerant for even the MOST sensitive skins. The formula contains a Sunsitive Triple Combination consists of extremely broad and photo stable UVA-UVB sun filters, and a unique antioxidant complex for complete cellular protection. It is also rich in the soothing & softening iconic Avène Thermal Spring Water. It’s so effective that over the holidays, my family & I sent a full day at the beach, with no umbrella. We were in the direct sun for a good 4 hours. We all covered ourselves (face included) and not one of us got sunburned. In fact, not even one of us even got any colour. This sunscreen is so effective & I recommend it to everyone with sensitive skin, who wants to spend the day outdoors.

Best Budget

Nivea Sun Protect & Moisture SPF 20 R99.99

I love this sunscreen that not only provides effective and immediate UVA and UVB protection but is water resistant too. The formula contains moisturising ingredients that hydrate while protecting the skin, and the lightweight, non- greasy formula and won’t leave any white residue, even if your skin is very dark. Judging by how many people I saw using this on the beach (every second person), it’s a favourite.

Best Clean Sunscreen

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 R660 (BUY)

If you battle with oily skin and want a chemical free sunscreen, this this one by REN. My daughter who is 16 & has oily skin absolutely loves it. It has Non-Nano Zinc Oxide that effectively blocks & reflects UVA, UVB & Blue light rays, preventing ageing & pigmentation. It also boasts yellow passion fruit seed extract that has antioxidant properties helping protect skin from pollution & environmental aggressors. Rice starch has been added to absorb oil, control shine, minimize the appearance of pores all while soothing any irritation. The texture is amazing, and it absorbs within seconds, leaving skin matte & silky.

Best Budget for Sensitive Skin

It isn’t clear why certain people develop sun allergies while others don’t, but really, anyone can experience sun allergies and it’s also more likely to occur with lighter skin types (A&B). Sensitive skin is usually characterised by uncomfortable symptoms like tightness, itching, burning, scaly skin and redness. Sun allergies in particular are caused by changes that take place in skin when it’s exposed to the sun.

Nivea Sun Sensitive Protect SPF 50+ R189.99 for a 200ml bottle

This formula not only protects skin from harmful UV rays, it also helps protects skin from sun allergies and sun-induced irritations. An SPF of 50+ protects the skin from both UVA & UVB rays while Aloe Vera, Panthenol & Licorice Extract (a powerful antioxidant) reduce skin irritations while protecting it from environmental aggressors such as sun. The formula is fragrance free (fragrance is the biggest irritant in skincare), has a light, non-greasy texture and great spread ability.

Best Tinted formulas for Everyday Protection for the Face

The most important sunscreen is the one you use daily on your face – no matter what the season. These sunscreens should perform well under makeup, or even take the place of a foundation, thereby performing a dual action: coverage & protection. These are my current four favourite’s.

Dermaceutic Derma Defense Daily Defense Cream SPF 50 R520 (BUY)

I just LOVE this tinted sunscreen and been using it daily for the past month. Essentially, this is a 3-in-1 tinted day cream with an SPF 50 that hydrates & protects the skin against environmental damage. It contains Xylitol, an anti-dehydration agent that promotes hydration, licorice extract to inhibit any pigmentation formation, vitamin E to neutralize skin-damaging free radicals and mineral filters to protect against UVA & UVB rays. It feels beautiful on the skin, is not oily at all and a little goes a long way. It’s available in Light (appropriate for type 1 & 2 skin tones) & Medium (best for type 3 & 4 skin tones. I use the medium).

Heliocare 360 Cushion Compact SPF50+ R520 (BUY)

This is another sunscreen / foundation hybrid that I can’t rave enough about!

The cushion compact contains a sponge soaked in revolutionary UVA, UVB & free radical protection with a lightweight, oil-free, tinted formulation that covers any uneven skin tone or blemishes extremely well. Think of it as complete sun protection with sheer coverage foundation that’s well tolerated by sensitive skin types, is water resistant and offers a matte finish. The formula combines Fernblock – a brilliant antioxidant that protects against photo ageing while also repairing past sun damage – with Ferulic & caffeic acids & Vitamins C & E. There is also a bio shield that protects against visible & infrared lights. It’s available in 3 shades (bronze, pearl & beige – I’m beige) and is just brilliant; just ensure you get it in the correct shade.

Neostrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50 R523 (BUY)

I love Neostrata as a brand and have yet to try a product from them I haven’t loved. And love this sunscreen I do! It has an ultra-sheer universal tint that blends with the skin’s natural tone on application, leaving a matte finish. With its broad-spectrum SPF 50 it protects from both UV radiation & DNA damage. It’s also suitable for all skin types, including sensitive. It contains incredibly effective ingredients like titanium & zinc oxide, green tea extract and Lactobionic acid & Vitamin E to neutralize free radicals & help preserve healthy DNA. It’s also fragrance free, oil free, non-acnegenic & developed by a derm.

Dermaceutic Sun Ceutic 50+ R670 (BUY)

This is another favourite option from Dermaceutic and is one of the brands best sellers. It has now been updated to include a universal tint that doesn’t leave an ashy or white residue and works on skin tones up to a type 4 on the Fitzpatrick scale. This physical sunscreen (works by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin) has zinc & Titanium dioxide to create a stable, non-chemical barrier against UVA & UVB rays. Hyaluronic acid has been added to boost moisture in the skin, while Aloe Vera works to reduce inflammation. There is also a Stem Cell Stimulator that smoothes out the appearance of wrinkles. The formula is both fragrance & paraben free, so even really sensitive skin types can use this. It has a creamy texture that spreads well and is absorbed very quickly. One absorbed you can’t see a tint. It leaves the skin with a matte finish. This sunscreen is often recommended by dermatologists after aesthetic procedures as it optimizes their results, and it’s so gentle, even a compromised skin barrier can deal with the formulation.

Is there a sunscreen you love that I haven’t mentioned?

If so, please leave me a comment in the comments section below, telling me about why you enjoy using it.

6 comments

Which of the Heliocare cushion compacts would Type 4 skin use?

Definitely the bronze, Kirsten Bate du Toit. The beige is quite light & I find in summer (when I have a bit of a tan) I need to give it extra colour with a bronzer. In winter, it’s a perfect match to my skin tone.

Such an informative post!

Glad you enjoyed it Simone Cameron

Thank you for such a thorough review!!! Going to get that Avenue one x

Pleasure, Nicole. It’s my favourite & REALLY does a fantastic job of protecting skin in strong sun. Also love how eco-friendly it is. Sunscreen chemicals are SO bad for the environment & it’s great to see some brands reformulating.

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