Beauty Files: Sunscreens with superpowers

Dec 19 2017, 11:12 pm

Summer is coming, and despite what your friendly neighbourhood yogawear retailer tells you, the sun’s rays are really bad for your skin and health.

UVA rays cause ageing – they’re more damaging than any other external factor, including smoking – while UVB rays cause burning, and both can lead to skin cancer. During the summer months, you need to be wearing sunscreen all the time – and that means a separate product, not just a protective moisturizer.

What to look for: SPF measures the ability of a sunscreen to protect you from UVB rays – the higher the SPF, the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. SPF20 is probably enough for everyday wear; SPF30 or more for days when you’re going to be outdoors. The sunscreen also needs to block UVA rays – look for the terms ‘PA+++’ or ‘broad spectrum’. Chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays to prevent them doing damage. They can be irritating and make your eyes sting. Physical sunscreens use ingredients to create a physical barrier that bounces away UV rays. They’re generally better for sensitive skin, but can leave you with a white tint. Remember to use enough: the perfect amount to cover your face and neck is a thick line the length of both your index and middle fingers. And don’t think you’re safe just because you’re indoors – UVA rays can penetrate windows, which means you’re vulnerable in the car or office too.

The ones listed here are a mixture of chemical and physical. All offer broad-spectrum protection. And because you might as well be doing something good for your skin as you protect it, they all have other tricks, from acting as makeup primer or makeup, to giving you a safe sunless tan.

Shiseido Ultra Sun Protection Cream SPF50+

This is one of the biggest innovations in sunscreen for years. It’s not just water-resistant: when it gets wet, UV protection actually gets stronger. This is due to ionic technology – negative ions in the sunscreen that bond with positive ions in water or sweat to create a strong shield against UV rays. The sunscreen also has antioxidant skincare ingredients and is long-wearing. It’s perfect for swimmers, watersports fans or outdoor-lovers, but because of its light, non-sticky, residue-free texture, it makes a good everyday sunscreen too.

$48, at The Bay, Sears, Murale, select Shoppers Drug Mart locations, Sephora and London Drugs.


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Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF30

Lotions, creams and sticks are fine for topping up your sunscreen if you don’t wear makeup, but a non-starter if you do. Powder sunscreens are fantastic, but many can be drying or make skin look and feel overloaded. This has an extremely fine, lightweight texture and its attached brush applicator means it’s easy to get perfect, even coverage. As a physical sunscreen, there’s also less chance of irritation. There are two versions: SPF30 and SPF50. They all have slight tints, but the SPF50 offers more sheer coverage so tends to be more suitable for men.

$70.50, at Pacific Dermaesthetics (1970-1111 West Georgia Street)


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Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Protect Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen PA+++

U.S. brand Laura Mercier is famous for foundation primers – products that make your foundation go on more smoothly and last longer. This one offers a high level of sun protection too. It also has a fantastic texture – more like a moisturizer than a sunscreen –has no fragrance, and contains antioxidants that offer more protection from the sun and environmental pollutants.

$40, at Sephora and


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Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging Skintone Matching Makeup SPF20

Colour-adjusting foundations like this one go on white, then gradually darken as you massage them into skin. It’s a cool trick, though I’m skeptical (how does makeup psychically ‘know’ what shade my skin is?). Alchemy aside, this has a fantastic texture and offers very natural coverage (more like a BB cream than a foundation). That means you can pile it on without it looking mask-like, so you can apply a sufficient amount to get your sun protection. It also has hydrating and anti-ageing ingredients. I would wear this even if it had no colour-changing tricks or sun protective powers because it makes my skin look great.

$16.95, in three shades (Light, Light/Medium, and Medium) at drug and mass retailers nationwide.

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Jergens Natural Glow Face SPF20

If you like to look tanned, but want to keep your skin healthy, you’ve no doubt tried self tanner. Most have big flaws. They give too dramatic an effect – pale as milk one day, brown as a nut the next, are tricky to use, and often turn you a colour that no human has ever been. This one lets you gradually build up your tan over a few days, so it’s virtually idiot-proof and you can stop way before you reach carrot colour. It also has broad-spectrum SPF20.

$12.99, in two shades (Fair to Medium and Medium to Tan) at drug and mass retailers nationwide.

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Elizabeth Arden Prevage Triple Defense Shield SPF50

According to Elizabeth Arden, UVA and UVB rays aren’t the only sources of sun damage. Infrared-A (IRA) rays are said to be just as damaging, and can penetrate more deeply – right to the dermis, where collagen is made. To counteract IRA rays, this sunscreen contains Idebenone, the super-oxidant ingredient that’s in all the Prevage range. It also has a cocktail of chemical sunscreens, plus anti-ageing ingredients. It comes with a brush applicator that makes it easier to apply the product evenly and without mess. Buttock-clenchingly expensive, but that’s the price you pay for the research and ingredients involved.

$95, at Elizabeth Arden counters and online at


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Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Defense Sunscreen Stick SPF50

Obviously we all know that sunscreen won’t last us for a full day in the sun, but most products don’t make it easy to top up. This comes in a stick format, which makes reapplication simple and mess free, and has a light and non-greasy texture. It’s ideal to stash in your car or sports bag, and for quickly protecting often-neglected spots like the backs of your hands and the tops of your ears.

$31, exclusively at Sephora and


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Skinceuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF50

Skinceuticals is a fantastic brand with lots of extremely effective, dermatologist-endorsed skincare – its CE Ferulic serum is probably the best anti-ageing serum you can buy. It might seem extravagant to buy a sunscreen specifically for the eye area but don’t be too quick to judge. The skin there is thin, delicate and damage-prone, so it needs extra protection, but many sunscreens make eyes sting. This uses physical sunscreen only, so it’s already less irritating, and has a formulation that won’t migrate into the eyes. You can use it on the under-eye and eyelid, and it’s a brilliant eye makeup primer too.

$37, stockists listed at



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