4 things you should (but don't) know about sun protection.


In case you couldn’t tell from the ominous clouds, ongoing rain, cold wind and need for pants and jackets, we’ve just hit summer!

Now, while this is great news for mood levels, showing off pedicures and The Association for Impressive Sandcastle Construction, all of that sun (use your imagination) can be hazardous for your skin. And if there’s one thing I love getting yelly about, it’s sun protection! Because despite all of the terrific and exciting benefits skin cancer offers, and the delights of premature ageing, sometimes a lady chooses to keep her skin protected, and youthful, and healthy instead. (Of course, sometimes she doesn’t, like the dingus pictured at left.)

Note: What I’ve detailed below is for everyday, incidental sun exposure. If you know you’re going to be outdoors for an extended length of time, at the beach or park, (EVEN IF IT’S CLOUDY – that’s often when the UV is worst), you need to use Proper, Full Strength Sunscreens, not ones concerned with cosmetic benefits. I like the Banana Boat or Neutrogena sprays for my body, and Clinique Sun Face Cream SPF 30+ on my – wait for it – face.


1. You must be protected from UVA and UVB rays.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist

While UVA are the  AGEING (wrinkly) rays, UVB are the BURNING (skin cancer-ery) rays. Most sun protection will take care of UVB, but you need to ensure you’ve covered from UVA, too. Ordinarily I would just say look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ on your prodz, but like the word ‘organic’ it is increasingly being used incorrectly, so what you want to do is have a quick peek at your ingredients.

If you see ‘Avobenzone’ or ‘Zinc Oxide’, then you’re UVA safe.  Avobenzone has a bad rep for being unstable (disintegrating after a couple of hours) but the clever folk at Neutrogena have added oxybenzone to it, which lessens the break down, meaning you are protected better, for longer. They call this (very highly regarded) technology ‘Helioplex’ which you will see on many Neutrogena products, and which is a terrific reason to buy them.

2. Wear higher SPF for longer protection, not stronger.

SPF doesn’t refer to the strength of your protection it refers to the time. So, if you’re using SPF 10, you will get 10 times the amount of time in the sun it would usually take for you to burn. If you use SPF 30, you will get 30 times. So, assuming it takes my skin 10 minutes to burn with no protection, using SPF 30 I have 300 minutes protection from that application. But guess what: As soon as I swim or sweat, I need to re-apply, or I am back to zero protection. And guess what else: I don’t get another 300 minutes, I just pick up where I left off when I jumped into the pool.

Also, you must use enough product! Otherwise it all becomes a waste! Roughly one teaspoon a limb is required for your SPF to be able to do its job at the strength indicated on the bottle. (So if you use too little product, your SPF 15 could come down to an SPF 4.)


Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula SPF 15 Lotion

3. The right application for the right product

There are two kinds of sun protection: chemical (sunscreen) and physical (sunblock.) Physical blockers – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – tend to be more stable and are chemical free, making them ideal for people with sensitive skin or who are post-laser. However, they are thicker (it’s zinc, after all, just like the stuff cricketers wear on their lips and noses) and a lot of people prefer the cosmetic feel of chemical sunscreen, which are more common.


Physical blockers are fine to be worn on top of your skincare, and even makeup. (Or as your makeup – good quality mineral makeup is chockers with zinc oxide) They are the TOP LAYER.

But chemical sunscreens need to be applied FIRST, after cleansing, and before all other skin care and makeup. Look, the best way to get around all of that palaver is to just wear a daily moisturiser with SPF 30+ UVA/UVB protection each day. I thoroughly recommend Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch, (with Helioplex!) or Nivea Light Feel Daily Face Veil, or Sunsense Daily Face. Take it all the way down to your chest, for as anyone who has read Amazing Face knows “your face stops at your boobs.”

Organic sun care generally falls into the ‘physical’ camp as they tend to be brimming with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Think of them as the mineral makeup of sun care

** Don’t forget the body, you turkey! It needs protection day-to-day, too. I use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula SPF 15 Lotion as an everyday cloak from that spiteful wench in the sky and her evil rays.

4. Top it up throughout the day.
While what you put on under your makeup will do a decent job of protecting you on a Regular Day with incidental sun exposure (walking to the train station, stepping out to buy Toobs for little lunch), if you’re planning to have an outdoor lunch or walk along a pier romantically with a hunk, you need to re-apply.

DermaQuest On The Go Finishing Powder SPF 30

Now, HOW you do this once you’re already wearing makeup can be quite the conundrum, but this is where mineral powder foundations become extremely fabulous – with their high zinc oxide and titanium dioxide content, they protect the skin marvellously and won’t mess up your slap. Try Bare Minerals, Jane Iredale and ELES. For a liquid/crème version, I adore the Shiseido sun protection stick (which comes in two shades, plus a clear.) For those dames disinterested in makeup, you’re gonna love the cleverness of the DermaQuest On The Go Finishing Powder SPF 30, which is a translucent powder and brush in a teeny tube you can chuck in your handbag for touch-ups, stopping shine, and most crucially, adding a lovely layer of protection to your mug. So clever.


Should you have accidentally managed to get burned (I promise to pretend I’m not judging) then you need to get antioxidants onto that skin superquick. Think skin care with Vitamin E, C and green tea, and slather that stuff on. This will help neutralise the free radicals currently attacking your skin, and prevent the premature ageing that those free radicals cause. Also, keep going for a few nights: free radicals can keep at it for up to 72 hours.

If you didn’t get burned (your prize is in the mail) focus on removing all that thick sun protection you applied, because it can really build up and clog up those pores. Up the facial exfoliation to 3-4 times a week, and use a body polish. (Body polishes are more gentle than body scrubs, which makes them terrific if you are using self –tanner, because they won’t take off the colour, but will do enough deep cleansing to allow subsequent moisturisers to penetrate properly.)

Man. I’m sizzlefopped. Bullying and lecturing is tiring, you know.

From your favourite sun of a beach,


Zoe Foster is an author and columnist and Contributing Editor for Mamamia. She has previously been the beauty director for both Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR magazines, and the Editor at Large of Primped.com.au. Zoe has published four books; Air Kisses, Textbook Romance (which she wrote with Hamish Blake), Playing The Field and Amazing Face. You can follow Zoe’s tumblr here and her Twitter here. You can and should buy Amazing Face here.