What you really need to look for in a sunscreen.

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There’s a reason dermatologists wax lyrical about sunscreen. It is probably the most effective skincare product in the fight against sun damage, melanoma and premature ageing.

But do you really know what to look for in a sunscreen? Chances are, if you’ve ever been sunburnt or feel greasy or sticky, you need to look for something new. Something that’s going to protect you from both the harmful UVB and ageing UVA rays so that your skin is protected for hours on end, without clogging pores or leaving a greasy film on your skin.

So what is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? UVA rays account for up to 95 per cent of the UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, and can penetrate clouds and glass. These UVA rays are the ones linked to photo-ageing like hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, loss of collagen and elastin, and a change in skin tone.

UVB rays are the rays that burn you. They too can lead to premature ageing and both UVA and UVB rays have the potential to cause skin cancer. Bottom line: you need to protect your skin against them both.

Slip, slop, slap.


While the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a good gauge of how effective your sunscreen is in protecting your skin against UV rays, it only measures the amount of UVB radiation transmitted to the skin before and after sunscreen. So, an SPF 50 simply means that sunscreen is giving your skin 50 times more protection from UVB rays than if you weren't wearing anything at all. This is great, but what about UVA rays?


Enter stage left: complete UVAUVB sunscreen ingredients. Broad-spectrum is a measurement of a sunscreen's effectiveness against UVA rays and it's these sunscreens that guard your skin against both types of UV radiation. In order to be deemed broad-spectrum, a sunscreen needs to absorb 90% of UVA and UVB rays up to a critical wavelength of UV radiation, but may not cover the entire UVAUVB spectrum.

Complete UVAUVB spectrum sunscreen ingredients provide UV protection across the entire UVAUVB spectrum. This can be enhanced thanks to a mix of antioxidants like caffeine, ferulic acid and vitamin E, which hydrate and provide more protection.

So a sunscreen with high SPF, complete UVAUVB sunscreens and antioxidants is key. But there are a few other elements that are crucial to getting sunscreen right. First up, water-resistance.

In a culture that lives and breathes the beach it's important that your sunscreen protects you in the water. Or when you're jogging outside and working up a sweat. Ideally, you want the maximum amount of four hours of water resistance, but remember to always reapply if you've towel-dried yourself or are at the beach all day long.

Remember to always reapply if you're at the beach all day long.


Secondly, it's all about texture and fast-dry technology. Because who has time to wait around?


Finally, it's important to look at the chemical load. Finding the balance with a sunscreen that gives serious protection without packing too many chemicals onto your skin is key, so always check the ingredients list on the packaging.

Looking for options? These two tick all these boxes and more:

Ultraceuticals SPF50+ Mineral Defence Face & Body Cream, $59, is a 100 per cent mineral complete UVA/UVB spectrum sunscreen to protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays. It contains advanced antioxidants like caffeine, which reportedly help protect the skin from solar induced free radical damage. Regular use may assist in preventing solar keratosis, sun spots and reducing the risk of some skin cancers. Ideal for skin post-procedure, sensitive skin or skin intolerant of chemical sunscreens.

Ultraceuticals SPF 50+ Clear Body Spray, $59, is designed for an active lifestyle. This fast-drying, lightweight completely clear sunscreen contains complete spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen actives and provides very high protection SPF 50+. It contains advanced antioxidants reported to help protect the skin from solar induced free radical damage. Regular use may assist in preventing solar keratosis, sun spots and reducing the risk of some skin cancers and it has a low chemical sunscreen load, too.

Do you have the right sunscreen for the summer?