According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over 65 percent of melanomas are caused by the sun while Cancer Research UK cites long term sun exposure as the leading cause of all other skin cancers. If that wasn’t reason enough to invest in high quality sun protection, then consider this: research undertaken by Olay dermatologist, Dr Siân Morris concluded that 80 percent of premature ageing – lines, wrinkles and brown spots – is the result of too much sun. While the majority of suncare brands use chemical based formulations, mineral sunscreens based on UVA blocking zinc are becoming increasingly popular. Other beauty companies – Korres springs to mind – are creating products that are paraben, petroleum and phthalate free and include majority organic ingredients. So which are worth splashing out on? The Ecologist’s ultra-pale Green Living Editor, Ruth Styles, put some to the test.
Putting a sunscreen on trial while on a trip to Namibia probably isn’t quite fair, but since the people at Ultrasun had assured me that their SPF50 was effective enough for anything, you can’t say they weren’t warned. With temperatures hitting 35 degrees, I was a bit reluctant to risk my lily white skin with a new product, so compromised by putting Ultrasun on one arm and my regular (conventional) La Roche Posay sunscreen elsewhere. I was pleasantly surprised by the smell and loved the Swiss brand’s ultra moisturising consistency – my right arm remained soft and shower-fresh long after the rest of me. After a morning spent hiking up a 264-foot sand dune, my nose and cheeks were a veritable freckle fest and my left arm was looking decidedly pink. My right arm, on the other hand, was just as pale as when I started. Needless to say, it was Ultrasun all the way after that.
Ultra Sun Ultra Sensitive SPF50, £19 at Ultrasun.co.uk
The blurb accompanying Korres’ Yoghurt Sunscreen Face-Body Emulsion listed no fewer than 15 different ingredients – including mineral oils, parabens and animal products – that aren’t in it. So what’s doing the protecting? Zinc oxide is the answer, along with lots of moisturising organic yoghurt. By far the most gorgeous smelling of the sunscreens I tried, so good does it smell, when I spritzed it on at my desk in Ecologist HQ, everyone asked what my lovely new perfume was. Fab fragrance aside, the gentle formula means it’s perfect for sensitive skin and it also doubles up as an after-sun, thanks to the cooling properties of yoghurt.
Korres Yoghurt Sunscreen Face-Body Emulsion SFF30, £19, available nationwide
A real beauty editor’s favourite, Institut Esthederm makes the sort of skincare that the French are famous for – simple, gimmick-free and highly effective. While the point of the Adaptasun Sensitive Tanning Face Cream is to protect you while you catch some rays, its mineral formula is equally effective for everyday use and it doubles as a moisturiser. It’s not a total sunblock and doesn’t display an SPF protection rating but it did stop me from burning during a sunny lunch break. I spent 30 minutes outside in direct sun – normally more than enough to leave me lobster red if unprotected – and came in as pale as ever. According to Institut Esthederm, total sunblock can make matters worse, as the skin ‘forgets’ how to defend itself. Their version is supposed to boost the skin’s natural defences as well as protect it in the here and now. While I can’t speculate on how much better my skin’s natural defences now are, it certainly did enough to keep my skin safe.
Institut Esthederm Adaptasun Sensitive Tanning Face Cream, £38 at Beauty Expert
82 percent organic and packed with skin-boosting avocado, edelweiss and green tea, Green People’s sun lotion does more than just protect. Although it claims to be fragrance-free, there’s a distinct, but not unpleasant, whiff of My Little Pony to it and it’s very, very thick. Despite the doughy consistency, it absorbed quickly and left my skin beautifully soft. While the factor 15 wasn’t quite high enough to prevent my nose from getting pink, it would work well for medium and dark skins. Luckily for pale people, it also comes in SPF25. A good budget buy, the large tube and thick lotion means it lasts for ages.
Green People Sun Lotion SPF15, £16.95 at So Organic
A fashion industry favourite, Invisible Zinc is the sunscreen of choice for the A-List, including the ever-youthful Elle Macpherson and Nicole Kidman. Like Ultrasun and Korres, zinc is the protective ingredient, and works by creating a physical barrier between the skin and UVA/B rays, precluding the need for chemicals. Like most Aussie suncare products, its no frills but highly effective, as I discovered during a weekend spent galloping around the country, smothered in the stuff. The protection is perfect, as is the not-too-thick consistency. The main downside is the time it takes to absorb.
Invisible Zinc Environmental Skin Protector SPF30, £17.95 at Cult Beauty
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