5 Sunscreens You'll Actually Want To Put On Your Face

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Sunscreen is having a real moment in the sun and I love it. (But not as much as I love that epic sun pun! Kudos to me.) Around the time I turned 22, I finally accepted that the only tan I’ll ever get will come from a bottle – or a nice lady with a spray tan gun (booth optional). While liberating, it was a heartbreaking time. I would never naturally achieve that golden glow – I could achieve an aggressive red, but it’s not quite as attractive.

Since then, sunscreen has been my best friend. We had become good friends when I got that blister on my nose in ‘01, but it was at 22 that we became BEST friends – I’m talking BBF4L, can’t live without each other, slumber parties, the whole shebang. I finally acknowledged that my best bet not to get sunburnt/get skin cancer/turn into a human tomato was dousing myself in sunscreen head to toe whenever I’m allowed in sunlight (that sounds stupid now, but at the time it was groundbreaking). Plus, it’s not just my Ghosper-like appearance, I also use active ingredients in my skincare regime which means it’s crucial to wear sunscreen or else I’m basically say “sun, shrivel me up and age 101 years!” (Note: AHA’s are active ingredients and if you use them you MUST wear sunscreen – I mean it.)

However, I did hit roadblock – or you could say I hit a SUNblock. (Gosh, I crack me up!) There are a lot of sunscreens that give my face a rash. (It happened really badly in Thailand once – my face started burning and I jumped in the pool hoping it would go away. Instead it made the rash flare up and my eyes started burning too. Funny now, very ouchy then.) But the point is, I’ve been around the block – is another sunblock pun too much? – when it comes to finding the right sunscreen. I’ve tried many a cream, some real bad ones too, which is why I can guarantee all the sunscreens listed below work A++ with my sensitive skin. (You might be different, as everyone is, but hopefully one of these works for you too.)

But before we get started, let’s cover some sun-care basics.

What is “SPF”?

SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’. In short, it means the level of Ultra Violet B (UVB) protection a product contains, ranging from 1 ‒ 90. Essentially, SPF indicates the length of time your skin is protected from sunburn, however there are so many factors at play, including skin type and tone etc, that there isn’t one flat time rule.

Products labelled SPF 50, have the highest UVB protection as well as added Ultra Violet A (UVA protection). According to the Cancer Council, “UVB is the major cause of sunburn and increased skin cancer risk, while UVA contributes to ageing of the skin, as well as higher skin cancer risk.”

It’s important to note that no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays, however the higher the SPF, the higher the percentage.

In Australia, we have a very strict and in-depth process for labelling and approving sunscreen. You won’t see any products on shelves above SPF 50, even though you might overseas, but you can rest assured that it’s not selling you false promises.

So, what do the numbers mean?

The number is the length of time the sunscreen works. The higher the SPF number, the longer your skin is protected from the sun. SPFs are broken down into four levels:

  • Low (4, 6, 8, 10)

  • Medium or Moderate (15, 20, 25)

  • High (30, 40, 50)

  • Very high (50+)

Nivea explain it like this:

If you start getting sunburned after five minutes in the sun without any sunscreen, applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 would protect you for 30 x five minutes (or 150 minutes) before you begin to burn.

Depending on your skin type, location and the time of year, the time it takes for you to begin getting burned is between five to 30 minutes, on average.

There are some other factors that will also affect your level of protection, such as:

  • How much sunscreen you apply

  • The weather conditions

  • How much you sweat

  • How long you swim and how well you dry off afterwards

  • Your skin type

I personally wouldn’t go out in the sun with anything less than SPF 30. However, if I was simply only going outside to get the bus to work and sit in an office all day, SPF 15 might be fine. During summer though, even when just going to work, I wear a minimum of 30. Of course, everyone is different but you don’t really want to be going any lower than SPF 15 in Australia.

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend reading the Cancer Council website or the Nivea website – they’ve both got some great info.

Why you should wear sunscreen everyday?

  1. It’s the best way to prevent ageing and sun damage

  2. It protects you from getting melanoma and skin cancer

  3. Because your skin is your largest organ and you need to look after it (you only get one skin – sure it sheds approximately a zillion times throughout your life, but you get the point)

  4. It comes in really cute tubes these days

  5. Surely you don’t need another reason!

Some common myths:

“But I have a base tan”

Yeah, that’s a myth. Sun damage is sun damage. You would have damaged your skin to get the base tan. As explained earlier, skin tone is a factor. Obviously darker skin tones take much longer to burn, however ageing and sun damage can still occur, not matter your skin tone.

“But I wear fake tan”

I’ve had this argument with girlfriends before – unless your fake tan has SPF, you can still get burnt through fake tan. You will certainly get sun damage. Fake tan does not protect your skin for the sun – it just makes you look like you’ve been in the sun.

“I have foundation on”

Same as fake tan – if it doesn’t have SPF, it ain’t protecting you. It might be an extra barrier for the sun to get through ‒ but it certainly won’t stop it and it certainly isn’t protection.

OK, now that that’s done, let’s chat through my top 5 sunscreens. Well, I’ll chat. You read. (You can leave a comment at the bottom though!)

P.S. I’m going to be doing a ‘Insta 5-TO-TRY’ week, which means each day Monday‒ Friday I’ll try one of the sunscreens in my Instagram stories to show you what it’s like. You should defs check it out – it’s like try before you buy, except I’m trying it and I’ve often bought it… but you get it.

1. Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Sunscreen SPF 30 +, $38

Available: in Australia only

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This sunscreen has changed my life. It’s the best primer I’ve ever used. It’s light, protecting, hydrating, not-sticky, smooth, and feels completely un-sunscreen like (which is exactly what you want from a sunscreen).

If you don’t love sunscreen, this is the one I recommend you try as it won’t feel like you’re wearing sunscreen – it’ll just feel like an amazing primer or lightweight moisturiser, except that you’re doing the best thing for your skin ever.

Hot tip: If you don’t want to commit to the $38, you can try the mini for $15. The mini’s are always near the cash register.

 

2. Nivea Sun UV Face Sunscreen, $12.99

Available: in Australia and internationally

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Turns out Nivea have great sunscreen information AND great sunscreen. They know their stuff, which is probably why they make great sunscreen. Plus, at $12.99 a pop (currently on sale at Priceline for $9.09 – link via the button below), you don’t really have an excuse not to protect your face. (And you should protect that face, girl – you’re worth it.)

I’m being a bit of a cheat and including two Nivea’s as one. Basically, the Nivea Sun UV Face sunscreens are brill and they have two: a BB-cream and a regular sunscreen. BUT I can’t decide which I like more! One day it’s the BB, one day it’s not. So I would like to give you the option but still count it as one item. (Am I pushing the friendship?)

 

3. Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear SPF 30, $32

Available: in Australia only

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This is my summer-at-the-beach sunscreen – it’s thick and no UV is getting through that. (OK, well as mentioned, it can’t block all UVB but you get the point.)

If you’re pasty like me, I strongly recommend trying a zinc. After the nose-blister incident of ‘01, regular sunscreen just didn’t cut it for my poor little nose (seriously, I looked like Rudolph for two summers) so I turned to zinc. Then someone got me onto tinted zinc, and I’ve never looked back. (Unless I’ve needed to look back for safety reasons, ice cream etc.)

So what is zinc? Zinc is an inert mineral that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and offers broad spectrum protection. It’s heavier than sunscreen, but it is one of, if the not the, best sun protection ingredient there is.

I’ve no doubt all this talk of zinc makes you think of thick white or neon stripes across your nose. But you don’t have to look like the boys from Bondi Rescue, or a my much-dread show: the cricket, zinc is much more sophisticated than that these days. Invisible Tinted Daywear Zinc is completely unnoticeable – it’s just like a BB cream or tinted moisturiser.

It’s heavier than regular sunscreen, but if you’re going to be spending extended time in the sun, I aggressively suggest that you try Invisible Tinted Daywear Zinc, particularly as I’m not nearly as aggressive as the sun is on a scorching 34 degree day. (That’s celsius by the way ‒ just to be super clear.)

 

4. Bondi Sands SPF 50+ Coconut Beach Sunscreen Lotion

Available: in Australia and internationally

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Bondi Sands is becoming (or it may even be) a much-loved Aussie brand. (I hear their fake tan is like no other.) Plus I thought I’d include a sunscreen that you can wear on your face AND your body. (Lots of sunscreens that you’d wear on your body, aren’t gentle enough for your face, but this one is.) And holy smokes, does this sunscreen smell good! That’s coconut for ya.

It’s SPF 50+, it’s not smooth, non-sticky, doesn’t leave you looking whiter than when you started, and it comes in a handy spray bottle.

If you just want one sunscreen that does it all, this is your guy.

 

5. Sundaze C-Shells SPF 30 Daily Sunscreen

Available: USA only

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This is a cute little sunscreen brand that I found on Instagram. I love that the creator, Aoxue, had skin issues in mind when she developed her product. (She had oily skin which was why she avoided sunscreen like the plague.)

Sundaze C-Shells is a non-sticky, light weight sunscreen and it’s cute to boot!

Unfortunately this is only currently available in the USA, but given that was had some Australia only, I thought it evened things out.

 

Are there any other sunscreens you love?

And if you try any of the sunscreens mentioned, please let me know! (I love it when I help people find a product they love!)