There can’t be many of us who don’t take sun protection seriously.
And multiply that to the power of ten when kids are involved – Factor 50, rash guard swim suits, beach tents – you name it, we’ve tried it. No pressure parents, but the majority of skin damage you get later in life is as a result of those childhood / teen holidays when you got badly sunburned.
So while I personally feel much better with a tan, I have also learned that a natural tan is actually damaged skin. On hot holidays and warmer days in the UK, I up the ante on the SPF and apply often.
Now, I’m not a skin care expert, but I look after my skin and that of my children when we’re out in the sunshine. Plus, I’ve read enough to know what I should be doing. But for a really brilliant cheat sheet on SPF and sunscreen, check out this piece by skincare guru Caroline Hirons. That woman knows her stuff.
As a brief overview, sunscreens were created to protect skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation, which both factor in the development of skin cancer. The SPF number indicates the amount of protection the cream offers against UVB, which is the main cause of sunburn, while UVA has been linked to premature ageing of the skin.
It’s common sense, but as a rule of thumb it is always better to apply too much sunscreen than too little. So as an example, a standard 200ml bottle of sunscreen should last for around six full-body applications.
And NEVER keep a bottle of sunscreen – it degrades and will not be as effective if you take it away with you the following year. Buy new.
But with SO many products out there in the market – at a huge variation in price points – how can you even begin to know which are worth buying?
A good place to start is with an unbiased consumer tester, such as Which?
Their 2015 SPF and UVA tests rated M&S Sun Smart – beating many well known sun care brands in the process.
So I teamed up with M&S Sun Smart during my recent trip to Greece to test how well they did on my skin, which is easy to tan and doesn’t burn easily.
Neatly colour coded, yellow bottles are the SPF 15, while sensitive skin high protection factors 30 and 50 are in white. After-sun containers are clearly identified in blue. Categories include Moisture Protect, Sensitive, Clear, Baby and Kids. And there’s a whole host of different applicator formats to choose from too, including sun spray, 360 degree mist and lotion.
I was impressed by the 360 degree Moisture Protect Mist in SPF 30, which was a doddle to use (it can even be used upside down) and covered brilliantly. I just got a bit carried away with the spritzing, left a slick on my hotel room floor and then went flying on it. Whoops.
The one I took out with me that morning to the beach was the Moisture Protect Sun Spray in SPF 30, which I liked, as the white cream allowed me to see how much I was putting on there. The coconutty smell was an instant reminder that I was on holiday too – lovely.
On my face I used Sensitive Moisture Protect Sun Lotion in SPF 50 as I personally prefer to use a creamy, high factor cream there and this was in a more traditional squeezy bottle rather than a spray. Despite the high factor, it was light and didn’t feel remotely greasy. Plus I used the Moisture Protect Sun Stick in SPF 50 on my nose. This has also been a great one for the kids ears and noses.
I also loved the smaller 50ml travel bottles, especially the Sensitive Moisture Protect Sun Lotion SPF 30 which were perfect for chucking in a bag during a day of sight-seeing.
The After-Sun is a cooling and hydrating formula that’s enriched with skin happy Aloe Vera and Vitamin E. It left my skin feeling really soft, without any of that tight feeling you get after a day in the sun. The lovely shower-fresh scent meant I didn’t need to wear perfume. I used the Moisture Protect Creme Gel, which felt instantly moisturising, although I really loved the concept behind the Moisture Protect Balm, which contains something fabulous called ‘Tanositol’ that minimises peeling and prolongs your natural tan.
Back home, hot days have meant obsessively dousing the kids before they put their uniforms on every day and my go-to has been the Sensitive Moisture Protect Coloured Sun Spray SPF 50.
It has a pale green spray so you can see where you’ve missed – and the spritz action is easy to direct, or – as I have been doing – spraying onto your hands and then rubbing on them.
For their faces I used the 50ml Baby Sensitive Moisture Protect Sun Lotion SPF 50, which just gave a bit more flexibility in terms of application. Plus, the size meant I could pop it in their school bags easily.
All the Marks & Spencer Sun Smart range has 50% off the price until the beginning of September, so the holiday expense doesn’t have to be reflected in your essential skincare.
And the products are dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic and have no animal testing. Sensitive, kids and baby ranges are fragrance-free.