Ab Fab the movie
Ab Fab the movie

Since the sun’s finally getting out a bit more, the annual sunscreen debate gets its airing, writes Vicci Bentley. Do you really need a special one for your face? And the big one – aren’t SPFs in moisturisers and makeup enough? Hmm. A couple of weeks ago, a feature in The Daily Wail put SPF makeup to the UV test and found the vast majority of products missed the mark.

So let’s unpick this. First the ugly news. Upwards of 13,500 cases of deadly malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK each year, but let’s park that stat for now. Brands put sunscreens in day creams and makeup so they can claim to be ‘anti-ageing’ – at least 80% of lines, wrinkles and sagging is caused by UV damage, studies tell us. The problem is – and studies have shown this too – that even though we know the risks, we seldom apply enough sunscreen on our bodies, let alone our faces. The reason? Too much product, too little skin, I reckon.

Some Of My Favourite Summer Essentials The Facial SPFs That You'll Actually Want To Wear
Photo: London Beauty Queen

Experts say we need to apply at least two milligrams per square centimetre of skin to reach the SPF level on the tube. In old money, that’s a full teaspoon for your face – and who uses that amount of moisturiser, let alone foundation? Experts also say – and this one’s really counter-intuitive – that no matter how high the SPF, we need to reapply it every two hours. So in the real world, we’ll either be dripping like greaseballs, caking it like clowns and spending lost hours in the loo re-grouting our slap. Clearly, some streamlining is called for.


Thankfully, specialist suncare brands have taken the greaseball issue on board and formulated low fat, high protection facial formulas which double as moisturisers and even foundations. No messing about, I’m going as high as I can (SPF50 is the new SPF30, darlings) in the hope that once I’ve blended the stuff nicely, I’ll probably get around SPF40 in reality. I’m also using products with high UVA protection to screen my pale, Celtic skin from the most deeply penetrating, dangerously ageing rays (SPFs only protect against ‘burning’ UVB, remember?) This combination will, I hope, prevent my age spots from darkening and my actinic keratoses from turning arsy. Because make no mistake, by the time we’re 50, many of us will have accumulated dodgy cells which need serious monitoring.


What am I using? Loving La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Dry Touch Gel SPF50+, £18, (available HERE) which feels a bit thick at first, but settles to a lovely no-shine finish that, with a light dusting of powder, behaves itself all day. (You see, I don’t have time to reapply, either!). Then, if you’re a luxe-bunny with slightly dry skin, Sisley’s Super Soin Solaire Tinted Sun Care, SPF30, £103 comes in four of their best-selling foundation shades and smells fabulously of sage and marjoram (available HERE). If you prefer to use sun protection under your regular makeup or over serum for a weekend, bare skin look, two low-fat stunners appeared this year. Bioderma Photoderm Aquafluid, SPF50+/UVA24, £13.50 (available HERE) and SkinCeuticals Mineral Matte UV Defense, SPF30, £39 (available HERE) both contain matte-finish, oil-absorbing powders that blur wrinkles, too. Safe skin, no sweat, I’m saying…
















24 thoughts on “Can SPFs save your skin, no sweat?

  1. Yep it’s 50+ all the way for me. As an Aussie ex-pat I know the drill where melanoma & aging skin is concerned. I’m pretty sure the damage is done when we are young, it’s more of a preventative issue. However it is never too late to protect yourself so it’s probably a good idea to have this debate every Summer.
    Can’t wait for the Ab Fab movie sweetie darling 😉

  2. Not to be a stick-in-the-mud, but I wish these women in the photo weren’t smoking. It’s not glamorous at all.

  3. Higher SPF , by that I mean over 30, can be counter productive. Many have such a concentration of highly allergenic barrier chemicals that they actually encourage sun sensitivity . You need to be careful choosing one. I took a severe and scary reaction to a Boots SPF 50 sun cream a few years ago and now am permanently committed to spending loads on expensive hypo allergenic brands ( I like the sun) . My medic friend assures me SPF30 plus a hat and sitting in the shade with a cold margarita is just the ticket! Ps Alison, you’d love Iceland, and the sun is shining!

  4. Two years ago I developed a weird allergic reaction on my face (dairy? stress? make-up? who knew?). It has now gone into remission, but at that time my dermatologist introduced me to a great sunscreen, which I still use: MD Solar Sciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30. I’m a fair ginger, so “tinted” moisturizers can leave me looking Trump Orange, but this one is subtle & I think would work on a variety of fair skins. It dries to a nice matte finish, as well. Don’t know if available in the UK, but I recommend this product. Cheers!

  5. Was just having this conversation with a dermatologist this morning… 🙂 I use the Skinceuticals 50 SPF and then a NARS tinted moisturizer (30 SPF) on top of that. Both contain a nice percentage of the barrier sunscreens (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) that my derm likes. Still need to work on that reapplication bit tho….

  6. Firstly, I’m going to find a way to work “dripping like greaseballs, caking it like clowns” into a conversation. That may be the funniest thing I’ve read in years. Secondly, hailing from blue-eyed Cornish redheads, I’ve been slathering myself in sunblock since the only available was doctor-provided PABA, despite being dark eyed/headed. Thankfully, formulas have come a long way in my 48 years. I’m a fan of LaRoche Posay’s formula but will use whatever is around if I run out. Living in Arizona the past few years, I’ve become a master at applying SPF and always have my annual skin cancer check. Invasive, but I’d rather be embarrassed than sorry. BTW, love the shot of Patsy and Edina!

  7. Love Camilla’s comment ‘Trump orange’ I hope it makes it’s way onto a paint colour chart sometime soon

  8. Utterly genius quotes in there – which sadly means my colleagues can tell I am not reading work-stuff, especially love the idea if regrouting our slap- sadly so true

  9. Bioderma Cicabio Soothing Repairing Care SPF 50+ 30ml. Great under make-up and does what it says on the label. Much cheaper to buy it in France,of course; but available here online.

  10. Love the descriptive comments and from an Australian – ‘slip, slop, slap’ – Government advertisements, I agree wholeheartedly. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. Annual skin checks are a must now too – I had a skin cancer diagnosed where the sun has never shone! So sunscreen is a must for me although have had allergic reactions to some and now have a favourite wore daily. Sam

  11. Blue Lizard from Australia is a good brand of SPF as well and I also use hats and SPF shirts now. What I found is that chemical SPF’s oxidize almost immediately when they hit the air. Therefore I only use titanium and zinc based SPF’s. La Roche Posay makes a good mineral based sunscreen. I think you have to look at the labels (not just for the zinc and titanium ingredients) for the words ‘mineral based’ and/or ‘physical barrier’. I’m from Scottish stock and I’ve already had a skin cancer on my leg and on my forearm.

  12. I’ve always heard that most sun damage is done early in life. However, I can attest that sunscreen is still needed at our age. My hairstyle, up until I was 48, included bangs (fringe to you UK friends). When I decided to grow my hair out, my forehead was like a newborn babes butt. I always use foundation with sunscreen, but didn’t need to use it on my forehead and didn’t consider I was letting the sun do it’s evil deed. It only took a few months for the brown spots to show up, and I do not spend much time outside! As a side note… I believe smoking does more damage to skin than the sun.

  13. Thanks for this informative post. I had skin cancer on my face of all places. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise because of all the times I sat out in the sun with baby oil, iodine and a reflector–not to mention a sun lamp! I had MOHS surgery and was told beforehand that the surgery would take anywhere from an hour up to the entire day. I was lucky and was out in an hour and a half.
    Since then, I’ve been obsessive about sun protection.
    When we are at the pool and the beach (and believe me, I’m the only one that is over-protected when we are on the French beaches), I apply my SPF 50 lotion, I apply Zinc Oxide on my face, I put my hair up and in a wide brimmed had and I sit under an umbrella.
    Since I DO want to look a bit on the tanned side, I get a spray tan (My humorous post): https://atypical60.com/2016/06/15/oh-bonaparte-i-didnt-get-spayed-i-got-sprayed/
    PS. Thanks for the pic of Patsy and Edina. They ARE my icons–in both fashun, beverages, and life in general!

  14. Thank you for another wonderful post and lots of great comments. Being a pale 58 year old female (Irish descent), I am also very aware of sun exposure.
    I am just wondering how everyone balances the risk of sun exposure with the many health benefits of sunlight? I prefer not to take Vitamin D supplements so I do allow some sunlight to “hit my body” (mostly arms – legs). I live in Vancouver so there are many weeks with minimal sun so once in a while I think some exposure is beneficial. I think the completely covering up trend probably is not the best option for many people. There is lots of information online about sunlight benefits for those who want to find an acceptable “everything in moderation” approach.

  15. Great picture of Eddie and Patsy. So looking forward to the movie, and I have refrained from the temptation of watching the movie trailer so I can enjoy every second at the pictures. I have lots of skin damage from lying in the Australian sun for hours in the 70’s with Hawaiian Tropic oil and I would still love to do that every summer. The best sunscreen moisturiser I have found is an Australian brand called Ultraceuticals which I use on my upper body. Korean women are extremely protective of their porcelain skin and often wear very large, old fashioned sun shades and carry umbrellas against the sun’s rays. I always wear the Lancome UV Expert GN Shield SPF 50 which is tested on Asian skins. This acts like a BB cream with a protective layer over the skin.

  16. Aging issues aside though, I can’t help but wonder, how come a few decades ago nobody even heard of SPF, yet melanoma wasn’t the epidemic it is nowadays. Could it be all the crap we eat, inhale, surround ourselves with and slap on our bodies and faces (including sunscreens)? Cancer rates are on the rise in general and I’m pretty sure the cause is our toxic modern environment. Given proper nourishment, a human body is a wonderfully self-regulatory masterpiece by Mother Nature. Yet, all we do is try to fix what’s not broken till it breaks, from the early age. Granted there are things we can’t control, at least not individually, like the the quality of the air we breathe or the water we use. But we make it worse by eating chemical laden “low-calorie-fat-gluten-sugar-whatever-free” processed junk, thinking that it’s healthy; we slather ourselves with full of toxic ingredients cosmetics that promise eternal youth and mess with our hormonal-reproductive-neurological-you-name-it functions along the way; we try to avoid aging and melanoma with the help of sunscreens (also chemical laden by the way) and then wonder why we have a vitamin D deficiency and cancer (yes, some sunscreen ingredients are known to throw logs into that fire too)…
    I’m not trying to argue your point. I’m just voicing my doubts. I’m still skeptical about SPF. At least the conventional kind, with questionable ingredients. I might try some natural homemade mix eventually (there are plenty of recipes online) But how effective can it be if the conventional stuff is only good in ungodly amounts and only for a couple of hours? It’s possible that I’m this skeptical because I’m only 40 (almost) and haven’t had any melanoma scares. But am I the only one with doubts? Or is this a wrong blog to advocate natural ways of living? Should I go find myself some crunchy mama blog to voice my doubts instead? 🙂
    …Just saying…

  17. As a life long California beach girl, I have the brown spots to prove it. Even worse, my arms and legs have developed white spots, something about the melanin all used up. Now I avoid open sun exposure from 10 to 4, easier than constantly lathering on sunscreen.

  18. To Olga,
    There are natural sunscreens out there. Here’s one: Cover Fx ” Squalane and natural sesame extract nourish, soften, and moisturize the skin, while antioxidants from tomato extract help boost the skin’s ability to defend itself against free radicals, sun damage, pollution, and other environmental aggressors. With consistent daily use, skin appears brighter, healthier, and more youthfully resilient. It’s infusion of UVA/UVB protection and potent antioxidants help prevent the signs of sun damage, including discoloration, redness, premature wrinkles, and dullness. Paraben free. This product is free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, fragrance, toluene, gluten, DBP (dibutyl phthlate), mineral oil, camphor, and talc.”

  19. Don’t forget the delicate decollete area and hands too! We spend lots of money on our faces; botox, lasers, fillers, surgery, creams, serums and peels only to sometimes forget the importance of the chest and hands which are also in need of coverage. Nothing worse than a leathery chest and spotted hands.

  20. Brilliant post . I was staggered to think of a teaspoon of gunk on the face. Will definitely buy one of your suggestions in preparation for the sun ever coming out – it will come out eventually, won’t it?

  21. Not normally a fan of compacts as skin v dry but recently got gift of Eau Thermale Avene tinted compact factor 50 and finding it very good. Just need some sunshine in gloomy Dublin now!

  22. Knowing many women that had basil cell cancer removed from their faces, because of sun exposure, I, for one, take this seriously and use sun screen daily. I do not have a favorite. My dermatologist recommended sun screens with zinc so I always read the label and be sure I have the zinc component.

  23. Hi Alyson,
    Off topic, but not sure how to send you this otherwise. Here is an Indian woman’s way of promoting confidence for women over 50

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