How to decide what sunscreen is best for you. This sodden summer might destroy your barbecue plans, but there is a bright side – it’s good for your skin. As your dermatologist will tell you, there’s no safe level of sun exposure. UVA and UVB rays are carcinogens: every one you soak up increases your cancer risk.
UVB rays – which torch skin – are strongest when the sun feels hot. Their UVA partners add years to your appearance (think ‘A’ for age, ‘B’ for burn) and, because they’ve got a longer wavelength, aren’t blocked by little things like cloud, or the fact that it’s close to freezing. This means smearing sun cream on when you’re by the pool isn’t enough; you need to protect your skin year-round.
A decent SPF blocks rays and nourishes your skin. Zinc oxide covers the former, says Steven O’Neill, founder of The Grooming Clinic. “It’s a powdered mineral that sits on top of the skin and reflects UVA and UVB rays, preventing sunburn and some of the ageing effects of the sun.” For the latter, look for ethyl ascorbic acid – “it’s a powerful antioxidant derived from vitamin C, so it helps to protect against cellular damage” – and glycerin, a natural humectant which rehydrates sun-ravaged skin.
Most important, you need a product you’ll bother to use. Smearing on an SPF every day can reduce signs of ageing by a quarter, according to research in Annals of Internal Medicine. You’ll also drop your skin cancer risk by half, according to a study conducted in Australia. It’s time to pick your anti-poison.
Best For: Picking Up In The Airport
For your skin, a week on the sun lounger is like taking a week off work to chain smoke. But if you must lose your shirt in the sun, cover up in other ways. “If you do insist in basking in the heat, use factor 50 protection and don’t ever let the skin burn,” says O’Neill.
Neutrogena’s CoolDry Sport sees off UVA and UVB rays and, thanks to MicroMesh technology, wicks away perspiration, rather than sweating off your skin. So you’re covered, however hot things get.
Best For: The Tan, Without The Damage
“A healthy glow always looks good,” says O’Neill. “But it doesn’t have to come from the sun.”
Today’s fakes are near-indistinguishable from the real deal – only you won’t have skin like Death Valley in 20 years. Germaine de Capuccini bestows a natural glow that belies its SPF50. But its benefits go deep, with moisturising glycerin and STM-Cell, which repairs cells to slow ageing and fix dark spots.
Best For: Everyday Protection
Overcast skies won’t keep skin looking young. Neither will that SPF15 moisturiser. You get the label promise with half a teaspoon of cream – more than any man needs.
So make sure yours is like Natio For Men’s 30+ Daily Moisturiser, which packs all-day protection along with skin-smoothing vitamin E and aloe vera. The smart man reapplies at lunch.
Best For: Acne-Prone Skin
Your body can handle heavier creams than your face. “The skin is thinner, more expressive, and susceptible to damage,” says O’Neill.
If you’re unlucky enough to have skin that’s particularly susceptible to both sun and zits, you need a high SPF and a light cream that won’t block pores. Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Moisturiser offers both, and even plays nice with sensitive skin types.
Best For: All-Round Protection
Smearing on Heliocare’s 360°ree; Gel is like donning an invisible boiler suit. Alongside full-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, it counters the much more prevalent infrared rays that dermatologists increasingly believe cause premature skin ageing.
“It offers the best protection I’ve ever seen, is non-greasy and perfectly compatible with the rest of your skincare regime,” says O’Neill.
Best For: Undoing The Damage
The best laid plans go awry when you add combine alcohol, sun and late nights. Your mate’s may laugh, but lobster skin is no joke.
“Burn on the surface means there’s deeper damage,” says O’Neill. You need to kill the heat and add moisture – first, a cold shower for as long as you can stand. Then, head to fridge. “Layer on natural yoghurt, leave for 15 minutes, wipe off and start again.”
Finally, call in the big guns. CV Skin Labs’ Body Repair Lotion deploys aloe vera, calendula and mushroom extract to add moisture, undo sun damage and soothe that up-all-night itch.