As we head (fingers crossed) into the warmer months, it's time to re-evaluate our sun protection regime. Just like your mum always told you, the benefits of wearing high factor sunscreen are manifold, and for those of us that are fair (read: pale and freckled) of complexion, SPF50 is a sensible choice.
Thankfully, formulations have come a long way from the chalky-white, comodogenic creams of our childhoods: enter a new guard of lightweight facial sunscreens promising high factor, broad spectrum protection against harmful rays, while offering serious skincare benefits or doubling up as a flawless make-up base...
Why use SPF50?
SPF stands for sun protection factor, and refers to the amount of protection which a product offers against damaging UVB rays. 'These are responsible for burning and reddening of the skin,' explains Dr Susan Mayou, Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. 'When choosing an SPF sunscreen, the higher the factor, the more protection you will receive.'
If correctly applied, sunscreen with SPF30 will block 95 percent of UVB rays, while SPF50 blocks 98 percent, but no sunscreen will offer you 100 percent protection. If you think you can just slap on some Factor 50 in the morning and then bask in the sun’s rays all day, though, you’re wrong. It’s crucial to remember to re-apply your sunscreen at regular intervals throughout the day, especially if you’ve been swimming or are sweating it out in hot weather. Dr Mayou recommends applying it liberally every four hours: 'a minimum of 3 tablespoons for an adult with each application is recommended.'
It's important to choose a product that also blocks UVA rays. 'UVA rays have a longer wavelength and penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVB rays,' explains Dr Mayou. 'They reach the deeper dermis, and are responsible for ageing and wrinkling of the skin.' Look out for products offering broad spectrum protection, with the five star rating.
Experts suggest that SPF50 is the highest level of protection to offer discernible protection benefits: above 50, the added protection is minimal, which is why you’ll rarely see products advertising protection higher than 50 or 60.
Who should use SPF50?
If you have a fair complexion with freckles and tend to burn quickly in the warmer weather, it's sensible to opt for a high factor cream in the summer months, especially if you're jetting off to warmer climes or lounging around in parks or pub garden. If you have an olive complexion or a darker skin tone, however, a lower factor (like SPF15 to 30) will suffice.
The best face creams with SPF50
Whatever your skin type or complexion woes, you'll find a broad spectrum sunscreen that works for you in our edit below...
1. Clarins UV Plus Anti Pollution SPF50 Day Cream
At 30ml, Clarins' lightweight sunscreen is perfectly sized to drop into your handbag during the summer months. The ultra-fine formula sinks easily into the skin, won't cause your make-up to fall off come mid-day and doesn't promote excess shine (making it a strong option for oilier complexions. Plus, plant extracts like cantaloupe melon and organic Alpine sanicle (both of which are powerful antioxidants) give an anti-ageing boost (which we're certainly on board with).
2. Alpha-H Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF50
They're best known for cult favourite Liquid Gold, but Alpha-H's super-charged skincare range also features broad spectrum sun protection in the form of the Daily Essential Moisturiser. Perfect for skin that's prone to dehydration throughout the day thanks to the nourishing additions of mango seed butter and pomegranate nectar (both natural UV absorbers), it also doubles up as a primer.
3. Darphin Intral Shield SPF50
With broad spectrum protection against damaging UVA and UVB rays, Darphin's new launch is also suitable for use on sensitive skin. Wheat proteins create a protective barrier to block out pollutants (which can also exacerbate sensitivity), while the lightweight formula won't pill or flake throughout the day, and will sit happily under make-up.
4. Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream Plus SPF50
Perfect for city-dwellers, Shiseido's light Protection Cream sinks into the skin without leaving the shiny residue or chalkiness that lesser sunscreens all too often offer, while guarding the skin against the adverse effects of atmospheric pollutants, too. It's suitable for use on the face and the body, too.
5. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Sun Defence for Face SPF50
A broad spectrum SPF 50 with all the nourishing skincare benefits of Elizabeth Arden's much-loved product, this protective version of the Eight Hour Cream comes packaged in sunshine yellow and acts as a great base for make-up. Plus, it's small enough to fit into your carry-on allowance.
6. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Face Ultra-Light Fluid SPF50
In Anthelios, La Roche-Posay wield one of, if not the most extensive sun care ranges on the high street. The Ultra-Light Fluid is, as its name would suggest, perfect for those with combination complexions, who find that wearing heavier, conventionally formulated suncreams make them prone to oiliness and break outs.
7. Sisley Paris Super Soin Solaire Facial Youth Protector
Yes, it's pricey, but think of Sisley's cult favourite sun screen as an investment in your skin, future-proofing it against premature damage. As with all Sisley products, this feels immediately luxurious, with Vitamin E, shea butter and mango providing an added moisture boost.
Foundations with SPF50: are they as protective as sunscreens?
Foundations with high SPF seem like multi-taskers, protecting you from the sun while perfecting the complexion, without adding another step to your beauty regime. As Dr Mayou points out, though, while 'moisturiser or cosmetics with SPF are better than those without, they are not as good at protecting againt UV rays as a sunscreen of the same SPF - it is like tea with sugar versus the sugar alone.'
'UV rays can pentrate the skin on cloudy days and throughout winter months,' she adds, 'so using moisturiser or foundation with SPF is advisable all year round. Make sure that all areas that are exposed to the sun are included - don't forget the ears, neck, décolletage and ensure you apply right up to the hairline.'
It's worth noting, too, that high SPF foundations don't always tend to photograph well. If you've ever looked back through your Instagram tags only to note your ghostly pallor, it's likely the effect of the SPF in your make-up reflecting the flash back at the camera. Scan the ingredient list and doing a test run ahead of a major, photo-heavy event like a wedding: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two common sunblock ingredients that are notorious for this 'flashback' effect.
Perhaps it's for this reason that it's rare you'll find a foundation or base product that offers SPF as high as 50 (most tend to stop around SPF30). Newly launched in the UK (and available from QVC.com) are IT Cosmetics, a US brand whose Full Coverage CC Cream has SPF50+ and garners rave reviews in the blogosphere. it's currently available in a limited range of shades for £35 from QVC. If you're after less coverage, Kiehl's Actively Correcting & Beautifying BB Cream (£24.50, www.spacenk.com) could be your new go-to.
Dr Susan Mayou is Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. www.cadoganclinic.com