Ditch these 5 common misconceptions about sunscreen and shop our 10 SPF cream recommendations

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Sunscreen often needs to be reapplied after water exposure. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sunscreen often needs to be reapplied after water exposure. (Photo: Getty Images)
  • For eyes, face, and body, sunscreen is the ultimate cream we should all be prioritising in our daily skincare routine.
  • While summer is prevalent with the use of sunscreen, dermatologists across the country note that it is important to use sunscreen all through the year as UV rays in colder months can still cause damage to the skin. 
  • In addition to this advice, we bust a few common misconceptions about sunscreen. We've also recommended 10 of the best UVA/UVB protection creams. 

For many people, the scent of sunscreen is synonymous with summer. And with the dangers of UV rays more prominent than ever, the two should now be entirely inseparable. 

But while summer is prevalent with the use of sunscreen, dermatologists across the country note that it is important to use sunscreen all through the year as UV rays can still cause damage to the skin in colder months.

To further nip sunscreen myths in the bud, it's worth adding to this statement by clarifying that the use of UV protection creams is not just for when we're going to be outdoors in sweltering weather - they're for daily use, even when you're indoors.

More importantly, they're for every skin tone - us melanin folk shouldn't be skimping on SPF either. And lastly, while we're on melanin - contrary to the contentious, colourist belief that SPF creams help maintain light skin and prevents you from "getting darker" - that's not the purpose of sunscreen. 

Sunscreen has brightening properties. I repeat: brightening, not lightening. 

What this means is that it can help with the appearance of blemishes, hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, and dull skin. 

READ MORE: Hyperpigmentation still a leading skin concern among black women - but experts say it can be treated

So let's talk about these sunscreen misconceptions in a little more detail, as explained by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA). I mean, since we're not used to life outside anymore, we may as well go back to the basics of sun protection, right?

But first, a quick lesson in climate change:

Leading UV protection brand, Piz Buin, revealed that in 2010, NASA scientists discovered that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth’s surface had increased significantly over the previous thirty years. The reason for this increase was due to the decreasing levels of stratospheric ozone.

Essentially, the Earth is protected by a “natural sunscreen,” a colourless gas (also known as the ozone layer), which shields the Earth’s surface from damaging UV radiation. The emissions of ozone-depleting gasses, mass production around the world, wild fires and pollution gradually destroy the ozone layer, and have ultimately resulted in global warming. 

But what does this mean for our skin?

While sun exposure has always been dangerous, the increase in UV rays reaching the Earth’s surface means that our skin is in greater danger than it was 50 years ago. We need to be more cautious and consistent when it comes to applying an SPF, both to the face, and the body. 

And guess who invented SPF? Piz Buin - the brainchild of a couple who fused aesthetic expertise and chemistry.

Piz Buin was one of the first to make sun exposure safer by implementing the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) system in the 1960s. 

READ MORE: L'Oréal online sales boom is a first glimpse into cosmetic life after global lockdowns

After suffering overexposure to the sun while climbing the Piz Buin alpine peak in 1938, chemistry student, Franz Greiter, developed one of the world's first sun protection products in 1946, Piz Buin Gletscher Creme, or Glacier Cream.

Working with his wife, Marga - a trained beautician - they developed a specialist sun care brand dedicated to developing cutting edge sun protection with luxurious skincare for anyone who wanted to enjoy life in the sun. And so Piz Buin was born.  

Today - with products suitable for all skin types and tones - Piz Buin has earned its place as a favourite sun protection brand among those in the beauty industry, and consumers alike.  

Alright, so what does CANSA have to say about sunscreen?  

The use of sunscreen forms an integral part of taking care of your skin. While sunscreen protects us from the harmful sun, it is not a license to ‘bare all’ in the sun. Understanding the importance of sunscreen also requires an understanding of UV rays and how they can affect our skin. 

When ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) reaches the earth’s surface it can be very damaging to the skin. UVB rays can cause sunburn within 15 minutes of exposure to the sun which in turn can cause permanent damage to the skin and can play a key role in developing skin cancer. UVA rays can contribute to ageing the skin, wrinkles, a suppressed immune system and DNA damage.

Below, we share five common misconceptions around the use of sunscreen and understanding the truth about how we can use sunscreen correctly:  

1. Sunscreen is not always necessary

Many people believe that sunscreen is only necessary when the sun is out and is not necessary on cloudy days. This is not true. Anytime the skin is exposed to sunlight it is exposed to UV rays.

Covering all the exposed parts of your skin with sunscreen and wearing a hat helps to protect your skin against harmful UV rays and the early onset of skin cancer and unwanted pigmentation.  

2. People with dark skin do not need sunscreen 

As previously touched on earlier in this article, some people are of the notion that those with more melanin in their skin do not need to use sunscreen as melanin acts to diffuse UVB rays.

While darker people are more protected against the sun they should still use a full spectrum sunscreen as UVA damage is not blocked by melanin. Melanin does not protect the skin from extreme sun exposure and skin cancer (although those without it are more susceptible to sun damage). 

READ MORE: There’s a complex history of skin lighteners in Africa and beyond 

3. One application of sunscreen lasts the whole day 

Sunscreen breaks down in the light and in turn, loses its effectiveness over the course of the day as we sweat and as our skin rubs against surfaces.

One should apply sunscreen at least every 2 – 4 hours to stay protected throughout the day.  

4. All sunscreen is waterproof 

Sunscreen that has been labelled as waterproof or sweat resistant may appear to be waterproof, but may not provide 100 percent protection and will often need to be reapplied after water exposure.

When making use of waterproof sunscreen allow at least 10 - 15 minutes after application for the sunscreen to settle on the skin.  

5. Makeup contains SPF therefore it is not vital to wear sunscreen 

Makeup may provide a little protection from the sun, however, is it not enough to function as a replacement to sunscreen. Makeup should be an additional layer, but not the only layer of protection. 

Plus, 'Sun Smart' tips from CANSA:

• Remember to avoid direct sunlight between 10am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are the most dangerous. 

• Stay in the shade or under a UV protective umbrella as much as possible.

• UV rays reflect off cement, water, sand, glass and grass and can therefore cause sunburn even when sitting in the shade. Remember to wear UV protective clothing as UV radiation can penetrate through clothing. 

• Wear sunglasses with a UV protection rating of UV400 to protect the eyes.

• Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.

• Always apply a sunscreen, with a sun protection factor (SPF) between 20 and 50 depending on your skin type.

Now see our top sunscreen recommendations: 

Note: I've made sure to include several SPF50 and PA+++ options. The former is the highest protection against UVB - the rays that burn the skin, while PA+++  is very high protection against UVA, the rays that can cause permanent damage and accelerated ageing.

Additionally, I've suggested sunscreens that don't leave a grey film on darker skin tones.

Everysun SPF 50 

Everysun family sunscreen lotion SPF50 is specially made with VitaLock - an advanced complex of antioxidants, vitamins and UVA and UVB filters. It has a light, non-greasy formula that is also waterproof. 

For 100ml, it will cost you R99.99 at Clicks 

sunscreen misconceptions

Neostrata Enlighten Skin Brightener 

with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF35

This antioxidant-enriched moisturiser combines NeoGlucosamine, a gentle exfoliant with B-Resorcinol, a known brightening agent, to reduce the look of age spots and provide a more even skin tone.

With daily use, its Broad-Spectrum SPF 35 protects against UV-induced skin aging. Shown to diminish the appearance of dark spots and brighten overall skin tone while protecting skin against further signs of aging. 

Get yours for R845 at the Dermastore 

sunscreen misconceptions

Environ RAD SPF15

This SPF is a sun protection cream containing sun filters and reflectors to provide SPF 15 sun protection, along with antioxidants, titanium dioxide, beta-carotene and vitamin C and E which help to fight free radicals   

Get the 125ml RAD SPF15 for R391 on Deluxe Shop

sunscreens to buy this season

Optiphi Solar Spritz SPF30

Curb the effects of UV radiation, such as redness, sensitivity and photo-aging with this oil-free, mattifying and lightweight sun protection. The damaging effects of Infrared (IR) radiation are reduced by Thermus Thermophillus Ferment, which also boosts hyaluronic acid production. Skin texture, strength and hydration are improved, resulting in a firmer appearance of the skin. Strong antioxidant protection is provided by Tripeptide-33, which reduces the onset of photo-aging and minimises the damage caused by free radicals.

Heat Shock Proteins increase the skin’s ability to function under conditions of stress. This in turn balances the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, important anti-aging components. Both UVA and UVB rays are addressed by the broad spectrum UV Filters in the formulation. This invisible sun protection guards against the damaging properties of UV radiation, and further assists in limiting accelerated aging of the skin.

It's recommended that you apply this sunscreen (and any other) at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapply frequently, as required, as well as after perspiration, towel drying, swimming or other physical activities.

R468 on Optiphi's online store

SPF recommendations

READ MORE: Face time - Virtual facials are the latest beauty innovation in a time of Covid 

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Sun Defense for Face SPF50 PA+++ 

This lightweight, oil-free lotion helps protect your skin from sun exposure while hydrating for up to 8 hours. The powerful SPF 50 helps shield skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays that can cause sunburn, surface skin cell damage and premature signs of ageing.

Get yours for R385 on Takealot

SPF recommendations

Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart + DNA Enzyme Complex™ + Anti-Pollution + Antioxidants Broad Spectrum SPF 50 PA++++ Hydrating Shield 

Every day, in cities all over the world, the environment is visibly aging your skin; in fact, 80% of all signs of skin aging are due to the environment aggressors such as UV rays, pollution and smoke.

Recognising the global epidemic of pollution, Elizabeth Arden introduces the first-of-its-kind invisible skin shield to combine pollution and UV protection with our DNA Enzyme Complex™ to strengthen skin. Sheer, hydrating, invisible protection to help skin look younger, longer. 

This product defends against 98% of harmful UVB rays with a Broad Spectrum SPF 50 formula containing 100% micronised titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Shop it for R960 at Foschini Beauty counters

SPF recommendations

Nivea Sun Protect & Moisture Moisturising Sun Lotion

This lotion offers reliable UVA/UVB protection alongside intensive, long-lasting moisturisation for skin that feels soft and hydrated. The water resistant formula prevents damaging effects of UV rays on the skin including sunburn and premature skin aging whilst also reducing the risk of sun allergies. The new formula with Anti-Stain Formula helps UV filter induced stains to wash out more easily - compared to previous formulas. 

Currently marked down to R189.95 at Dis-Chem

SPF recommendations

READ MORE: How to deal with maskne when protective masks cause your skin to break out

Nuxe Sun Light Fluid High Protection SPF50  

This SPF liquid for the face protects skin from the sun’s rays and prevents cellular photo-ageing. Enriched with a Water Hyacinth extract, its water-resistant formula strengthens the skin barrier to protect from dehydration and enhance tanning. Its ultra-convenient pocket format is designed to be shaken before application to provide a light non-sticky texture with a “bare skin” effect. It is ideal for normal to combination skin. Its water-resistant formula is also a delight for the senses thanks to an irresistible scent with notes of Tiare and Vanilla.

Proven SPF 50 high protection from UVB and UVA rays due to a rigorous selection of just four sunscreens:

- Natural extracts of Rice, Rosemary and vitamin E: known for their anti-oxidising power, offer anti-ageing cellular protection for the skin.

- A Kau Pe Flower extract: known for its soothing properties, it calms sensations of overheating linked to sun exposure.

- A Water Hyacinth extract (patent FR) to protect skin from dehydration.

- Photostable and water-resistant formula.

This SPF will be launched at the end of October at a RSP of R495 at select Woolworths, Truworths, and Foschini stores.   

SPF recommendations

Gatineau Perfection Ultime™ Daily Urban UV Shield SPF50+ PA+++  

A lightweight daily shield to strengthen, defend and protect skin from the ageing effects of UV, pollution and blue light damage without clogging pores.

A broad-spectrum, antioxidant rich daily SPF50+ with a non-greasy, silky texture that feels weightless on the skin, and is suitable for all skin tones. The innovative smoothing formula forms a protective layer against the damaging rays of the sun and environmental aggressors. Skin is protected and hydrated, imperfections are blurred and the complexion appears brighter and more even. 

Available at select Woolworths, Truworths & Dis-Chem stores at a RRSP of R695 (30ml) 

SPF recommendations

Additional information and images provided by featured brands/outlets.

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