Sunblock: your anti-aging secret agent

Sunblock is the single best anti-aging product on the market.

I talk a lot about the importance of wearing sunblock but the more I talk about, the more young people tell me they just don't wear it. This is quite alarming, but they tell they don't like the feeling of sunblock, they find it breaks them out in spots and a lot of them say they like to have tanned skin.

Sadly I think this is a trend that will come back to hurt them in later years when their youthful skin turns prematurely aged and wrinkled.

I don't make sunblock, I don't sell it and I am not going to recommend any particular brands here. But I am telling you that it is the single most important product in your skincare range.

Many people don't seem to think about sunblock as part of their skincare product, let alone make it a priority. But I'm here to tell you it should be.

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 promise anti-aging but it's the very thing that will do that.

It's taken me a while to do this but I sunblock all the time, whether it's sunny, cloudy, summer or winter. But I've also struggled over the years to find the brand that works best for my skin. I've tried heaps of them and I too had suffered detrimental effect on my skin in terms of breakouts but I've now found one that works for me so it's really worth the effort of trying a few.

Some sunblock rules

Sun does the most damage to your skin
Hats and SPF are critical when out in the sun: don't rely on sunblock alone. Remember to cover up, wear a hat and don't get burned.

Always buy a dedicated sunblock.

Do not rely on a sunblock that's built in to your face cream or make-up. One of the reasons for this is that sunblock is recommended to be reapplied every 2-3 hours. No-one reapplies their make-up or skincare that frequently. And the labels of these products don't instruct you to do that.

Having your sunblock built into your make-up gives you a false sense of security that you're going out protected all day. Even the best sunblocks protect you for only a few hours.

Also, 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 what's in your make-up or face cream won't be enough.

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 and tired. With UVB think of the B as standing for "Bad" as this is the radiation that can cause cancer. To protect against both, use 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 should be on the packaging.

A big problem in New Zealand is that sunblock is classified as a cosmetic. I can't believe this: it should be classified as therapeutic.

If it was a therapeutic product it would have to comply with the NZ and Australian sunscreen standard (AS/NZS 2604). That's mandatory in Australia but voluntary here. With no requirement for regular testing, I would avoid any product that hasn't been tested. It's too easy for people to think they've done the right thing but if it's not been independently verified don't take a chance ... your health is too important to risk it.

And some smaller brands will tell you that they can't afford to get their products tested. Don't buy these. They will say they've done the testing themselves but I wouldn't risk it, just buy something that's tested.

There was some recent publicity about brands that didn't perform to the level they said on their packaging, especially around the level of SPF. This story from Stuff  will help identify brands to avoid. But note that this was a year ago and there may have been updates since.

From the perspective of testing, Siouxsie Wiles wrote this informative for The Spinoff Slip slop scrap: On the Cancer Society vs Consumer NZ sunscreen fight
in which she explains what the SPF numbers mean and why its so important they are tested.


Use a sunblock with SPF 30+

Wear an SPF 30+ sunblock every day and reapply as recommended regardless of the weather.

And finally, it's absolutely essential to find one you like, that doesn't break you out in spots or make your skin feel bad. You may have to try a few to find the one you like but it's worth doing. Because it's such an important part of your skincare routine it is important to invest some time in it.

And I found a great article by Juliet Dale titled Eco-friendly sunscreens - what you need to know.

She looked at a whole bunch of factors around sunblocks: the different types, what the numbers mean certification, sustainability, packaging and pricing. And she tried a range of natural products to give you an idea what they're like. Some of these didn't suit my skin at all, so do your homework.

Have a great summer, stay safe and use sunblock, your future self will thank-you.