Sunscreen overview and reviews: what works and what doesn’t

Perhaps this time of year is the best for reviewing SPF’s, in particular for rosacea skin. In the UK the weather has been very sunny and warm for the past few weeks. Especially for rosacea skin, this can potentially be the worst time of year. I am aware that not every rosacea sufferer’s skin reacts badly to the sun itself, perhaps the excess heat is the issue most of the time. I personally have pale/sensitive skin and burn relatively easily. Factor 50 sun cream has always been the choice for me. Even before I got rosacea I used to go for the highest protection as I’m quite pale. My rosacea doesn’t react to the rays themselves as much as the building up of heat that my skin goes through. Because of this, I try to find shade every so often to somewhat regulate the temperature of my skin. Please note that what works for me might be different to what works for you.

Sunscreen basic knowledge

Now before I get into this collective review of all the sun creams I have tried lately, I need to go over a few basic things. First of all, why do we ALL have to use sunscreen? I have had this debate with some colleagues of mine that are of different ethnic backgrounds, them claiming that because they have dark skin, they don’t have to use sunscreen. Wrong! Just because you have a darker complexion, it does not mean you are immune to the UVB and especially UVA rays. The first causes the superficial burns  of your skin, while the latter is responsible for the deeper level destruction of your skin causing aging, wrinkles, pigmentation and is a major contributor to skin cancers. UVA rays penetrate through clouds and glass, which is why is so dangerous for anyone to go without protection. So when you buy sun protection of any kind, please make sure it protects against both rays. The other thing is the factor number. Many people don’t know what it means. The number on the bottle indicates the time in minutes that you can sit in the sun without burning. So a factor 50 will give you 50 minutes in the sun after which you will need to reapply to give you another 50 minutes and so on.

Reapplication is very important that many of us forget. Now I do realize that when it comes to physical sunscreens this reapplication can be a mess. Why? Because most widely available sunscreens are quite greasy and reapplication can leave you sticky. I have encountered this problem myself, but there is a solution for it. I carry make up wipes or even baby wipes with me whenever I’m out and wipe most of the already applied cream from my skin, before reapplying it. In this way, you can prevent accumulation of product which can lead to spots in certain parts of your body, such as neck, chest back and upper arms.

However, if you are prone to acne, you might want to skip the physical sunscreens altogether and go for the chemical ones. Chemical sunscreens are huge is Asia. Women there take care of their skin like no one else. They recognize that the biggest contributor to aging is sun damage. I have come across some Asian youtubers who mentioned these types of sunscreens and I was compelled to try them. First of all because they do not leave a greasy film on your skin and particularly Japanese sunscreens are considered to be one of the highest quality in the world. So I tried 4 of them and here is the verdict: they work!! I am amazed that finally I have found a sunscreen I can use on it’s own as well as under make-up that does not break me out and does not irritate my rosacea skin. Before I tried Japanese sunscreens I used to use a Vichy one, but not even that lived up to expectations. So without further ado, here are the reviews of all the sunscreens I have tried relatively recently.

Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive advanced Protecting and hydrating face mist SPF 50 & Protection Lotion Ultra Hydrating SPF 30

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I have tried the mist recently while I was at the seaside. I have to say that I would not use this for my face, even though it is for the face. I wanted an easy to apply product for my body, that doesn’t necessarily need to be applied with hands. It does protect the skin quite well, but perhaps because it dries invisible, it’s hard to tell which areas you have covered and which ones you’ve missed. I used it on my legs and unfortunately I have burnt in 4 places as a result. It is not greasy but I have noticed that upon spraying this, I felt my skin was somewhat  tacky and powdery. It absorbs relatively quickly. It says it can be applied over make up but as I haven’t used it on my face I can’t tell what that would look like. Word of advice though: when you are out in the sun for long periods of time, don’t use make up. Overloading the skin while in 30+ degrees is not a good idea. This product is also scented, so if you have rosacea and are sensitive to perfume in products, this might not be the best. It has 75 ml.

The Protection lotion is a travel size one, I bought for trying out as to not waste money. The first thing that hits you is the strong scent. Again not ideal for sensitive skin. It says it is not greasy, which is true, but you can still feel it on your skin and as it contains shea butter, it feels a bit heavy. Again, I was reluctant to put this on my face, plus it’s only SPF 30 so it will need more frequent reapplication. This one is water resistant but  still reapply after swimming, as it is not waterproof (there’s a difference). The texture of this is milky and absorbs fairly quickly. It comes in a 50 ml tube. Both of these sunscreens have UVA and UVB protection.

Next up:

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Vichy Ideal Soleil SPF 50 mattifying face fluid. This is one I have tried on my face, and it was the last physical sunscreen I have ever used on it. It has a milky consistency and has perfume in it as usual. Not as strong as the previous two but still, you can smell it straight away. Protects against both UVB and UVA rays and claims to be mattifying. Now for sure it didn’t give me a greasy face to begin with but as the day went by, my make up (I used it under just to test the mattifying claim) started breaking up. By the end of the day my forehead shined like a disco ball. It didn’t bother my rosacea but I felt that prolonged usage might break me out. It comes in a 50 ml tube. It’s one of the more expensive sunscreens out there and I don’t think it’s worth it. Especially for the amount you get.But then you might argue it is only for the face…so how much should it contain really…

Avene very high protection emulsion. This one I no longer have as I have thrown it away, but I remember this being straight up greasy. It cost way too much and although I like Avene products in general, perhaps they need to step up their sunscreen game. This was a total fail. Even though it is water resistant and has all the broad spectrum protection you need, plus great upside down pump packaging, it is not great. I remember this sitting in my skincare drawer for a long time and not using it as it didn’t feel good on the skin. I could tell it was on. The white cast with this was awful, even though I’m quite pale. So this is a no for me.

Sun Sense ultra SPF 50. This is a brand that tests it’s products in Australia and it is pretty good for the body. Again, I didn’t like this on my face, felt too heavy plus there was an obvious white cast as with all physical sunscreens. It is quite runny in texture so application is easier than with all of the above although none of them are thick in texture. I really liked this for my body. Did not burn while I have used this. It is also water resistant. I would use this again, but only on my body.

And finally, the stars of the show. Chemical sunscreens.

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Bioré Aqua Rich Watery essence SPF 50 + PA++++  & Bioré Watery gel SPF 50+ PA++++. Asian sunscreens have a different classification for sunscreens than the European ones and the PA++++ indicates the highest protection that they can produce. Both of these are great quality. The consistency is a light gel with the Watery essence whereas the Watery gel reminds me of a very watery yogurt with tiny milky white particles that sink and disappear into the skin upon application. Chemical sunscreens do not leave white casts. These two I would give 4 and a half stars as I feel there is a slight greasy sheen on the skin at the end of the day with them, but nothing compared to the physical sunscreens I have used before. They also have a very light citrus smell which doesn’t bother me. I bought these from Amazon. The Watery gel has 90 ml and it is in a bottle packaging and the Watery essence comes in a 50 ml tube. I didn’t burn at all but I haven’t got a tan either. Ideal if you are not a tan fan.

Shiseido Senka aging care UV sunscreen SPF 50+PA++++. This is the one in the yellow tube and it has 50 ml. Amazing! It is not perfumed and has the lightest milky fluid texture. Sinks in instantly, so you can put make up on over it straight away. Not greasy and has added anti aging benefits, so great for ageing skin. No burning again and no tan. Shiseido makes amazing products and this will be in my skincare drawer forever.

Shiseido Senka mineral UV gel SPF 50 Pa+++. “Only” 3 pluses but don’t let that deter you from trying this one out. One major advantage with this one over all the others is that this keeps the skin matte. No shine or sheen of any kind not even after all day wear. Under make up it depends on the foundation how shiny you get but it isn’t this sunscreen. Worn alone with no make up I had no shine or grease on my forehead for 12 hours. This comes in a 40 ml blue bottle and it has the wateriest consistency out of all the chemical sunscreens that I have tried. Goes on like a dream! Also this is the only Japanese sunscreen that I have tried that has a plastic ball in the bottle, so when you shake it you can hear it rattling. Shaking will make sure that the components of the product do not get stuck on the inside wall of the packaging. Perhaps Shiseido should consider including this in all their sunscreen bottles. No scent with this whatsoever.

And that concludes my rather lengthy review. The Shiseido ones are the best quality in my opinion. Once I used up the Bioré ones, which are still very good, I’m going to stick to Shiseido as I don’t see the point in having so many sunscreens, only keeping the best of the best. One point I need to make with chemical sunscreens is this: they work by transforming the UV rays into heat and then releasing it from the skin. Apparently this should be the worst thing for rosacea as it creates unnecessary heat, but this is not my observation. Even if it does that, I wasn’t any redder in my cheeks as I normally am. Believe it or not it actually works better than any physical sunscreen. None of these sting or burn whatsoever and didn’t break out my acne prone skin.  Please be aware that with chemical sunscreens you need to apply them 20 minutes before exposure so it has time to work it’s magic.

And finally one thing that applies for all sunscreens: once you opened it do not use for longer than a year. So that means last year’s sunscreen needs to hit the bin. It loses it’s efficiency and the risk of burning will increase as the components become more unstable after a period of time. Be sun safe!

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