Hands down, no arguing, no doubting … sunblock is 007. It is the single best anti-aging product on the market because damage from the sun is the biggest damager of our skin. Sun exposure is what causes premature aging, lines, wrinkles and pigmentation — all the things we spend lots of money on products trying to fix!
I know, it’s not very sexy, it’s not so lovely to put on, and it does not bring us self-care joy but in reality we should be singing love songs in the mirror while applying sunblock 😊.
It is the most important product in your skincare range, far more important than anything I sell. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people consider it part of their skincare routine, let alone make it a priority. But it should be. I wish I had started it years before I did.
I don't make it, I don't sell it, and I am not going to recommend any particular brands here, but I will include some helpful places to look for information.
Sunblock the real secret to anti-aging
In the skincare industry there's lots of marketing around anti-aging — much of it misleading. So many products promise you the fountain of youth but fail to deliver. Sunblock is the one product that doesn't seem to promise anti-aging but it's the very thing that will do that.
But you have to find one you love, because you’re not going to use it every day if you hate it or if it breaks you out in spots, or if it’s so thick you look like a surfer, or if it melts and runs into your eyes (all the problems I have had when finding the few I like). So, you may have to try a few before you land on one that works but most brands sell trial sizes these days.
There are brands that advise you wear sunblock indoors because of the UV that gets through windows, but I don’t think this is very practical and so my focus is on wearing it when most damage is done, outdoors.
Of course, protecting your skin from aging is not all down to just wearing sunblock. You can take other precautions too by covering up, wearing a hat, sunglasses, and staying in the shade when you can.
Will sunblock stop Vitamin D?
A lot of people tell me they don’t like using sunblock because they need their Vitamin D and absolutely Vitamin D is super-important for our physical and mental health but if you get out in the morning before 10 o'clock you can get your dose without too much damage. And really don't need much sunlight to stimulate Vitamin D production. And my best piece of advice here is that you never need to expose you face to get your Vitamin D dose, you will get the best result through exposing your larger skin areas such as your arms and legs. It’s smarter, faster and cheaper way to get your Vitamin D kick because the money we spend on skincare is 99% dedicated to our faces.
Hats and SPF are critical when out in the sun: don't rely on sunblock alone. Cover up, wear a hat and don't get red.
Always buy a dedicated sunblock.
Do not use a sunblock that's built-in to your face cream or make-up. One of the main reasons for this is that you will not be able to apply enough to get the coverage that's required to protect you from the sun. Generally, you need to apply more sunblock than you think and you will never put that much face cream or make-up on — unless you want to end up looking like one of the Derry Girls!
And sunblock is recommended to be reapplied every 2-3 hours. No-one reapplies their make-up or skincare throughout the day. And the labels of these products often don't instruct you to do that.
Having your sunblock built-in to your make-up also gives you a false sense of security that you're going out protected. Even the best sunblocks protect you for only a few hours.
Use a broad spectrum sunblock
There are all sorts of confusing bits of information to understand about sunblock such the difference between UVA and UVB rays.
A good way to think about UV is this: with UVA, the A stands for aging. That's the radiation that damages your skin, making it look older. With UVB think of the B as standing for "Bad" as this is the radiation that can cause cancer. You don’t want either so to protect against both by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Make sure your sunblock works!
You need to make sure you have a sunblock that's scientifically tested and certified to work. That certification will be on the packaging.
Until now (September 2022) a big problem in New Zealand was that sunblock was classified as a cosmetic and every year there was a list of products that were substandard but still on the shelves for sale.
But as of September 8, 2022, the Sunscreen (Product Safety Standard) Act comes into law, which means companies will have to comply with certification, testing and labelling before selling here which is great for us consumers. However, companies that currently sell in New Zealand have 18 months to get that right, so keep checking those labels for a wee while longer.
The latest review of brands that didn't perform to the level they said on their packaging, especially around the level of SPF was earlier this year. This article from the Herald will help identify brands to avoid.
And to you on your journey to a great sunblock, Stuff had this story on eight products you’ll actually use
Have a great spring and summer, stay safe and use sunblock, your future self will thank-you.