August 20, 2020 3 min read

We guide you through the process of how to choose a sunscreen. We all know how important it is to protect our loved ones against Australian’s maxi-harmful UV rays. But we probably all feel quite overwhelmed by the choices of sunscreens, and what to focus on for that important purchase decision. Here are our top hints on how to choose a sunscreen.

Choose high SPF and apply liberally.

The Australian sun is among the harshest on earth, and unprotected skin will be burnt and permanently damaged within as little as a few minutes.

SPF50+ and SPF30 both comply with the latest 2012 Australian standard which includes an increased level of UVA protection. SPF50+ means at least SPF60 and is doubling the protection compared to SPF30 when applied correctly.

Achieving the claimed SPF requires users to apply 5ml of sunscreen, or a teaspoon, on the face, back, front and each limb of an adult. That is 35ml per adult. A 100mL tube should last only 3 full-body applications. Remember to always apply sunscreen liberally.

SPF30+ complies with the older Australian standard finalised in 1998 when John Howard was still Prime Minister, and Steve Jobs just returned to Apple. A few things have changed since then.

Look at the Products Intended Application

Most sunscreens will provide you with an indication of its intended usage. A Face Sunscreen will generally be lighter with a nicer skin feel but lower protection while a Sports Sunscreen will tend to be thicker and have greater water resistance. There are also many all-around sunscreens which will strike a great balance and be perfect if you need one sunscreen to suit most requirements.

So before you buy think about where you are most likely to use the sunscreen and be guided by the labels.

Check the UV filters

All sunscreens contain approved UV filters (organic and/or inorganic) that will filter the harmful sun rays, and you can choose which one you put on your skin by just reading the labels.

And check the total percentage of actives: a quality sunscreen will need to contain a substantial load of UV filters to achieve SPF performance.

Check the Preservatives

In general, the number of people who have reactions to preservatives in sunscreens is very small, so it is important to not choose a poorer performing product simply because of preservative concerns.

Remember first that all sunscreen formulations containing water need to be preserved. A “preservative-free” sunscreen either contains no water, lots of ethanol (alcohol is natural preservative) or makes a questionable claim.

The trend for the paraben-free claim has little scientific backing as parabens are potent preservatives at very low dosage, and most parabens have been deemed safe by international regulatory bodies.

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is sometimes used instead of paraben, however, that preservative is now banned in Europe for any cream due to its high proven skin sensitisation. Stay away from MIT.

Phenoxyethanol, a mild preservative often used to replace parabens, can be toxic to the liver, and its usage is being limited in Europe.

Octanohydroxamic acid (also called caprylhydroxamic acid), an amino-acid having preservative efficacy, is a relatively new preservative and was cited as a possible cause of an epidemy of contact dermatitis in Finland.

If you are one of the rare people who does react to certain preservatives simply check the label. All sunscreens need to label the preservatives being used, making avoiding specific ones relatively easy.

Check the Perfumes

Almost all scented skin care products use perfumes to achieve that scent. Including that lovely coconut-smelling sunscreen.

Many allergic reactions will come from the perfumes used: several synthetic fragrance components, as well as many fragrant essential oils used to replace these synthetic fragrances, have been identified as a primary source of allergies or sensitivity.

Unlike preservatives (which have to be listed on the sunscreen label), it is impossible to know exactly what perfumes a particular sunscreen uses.

We generally recommend people with sensitive skin should use a fragrance-free sunscreen. Most sunscreen brands will offer one or more products that are fragrance-free and will mention this on the label. 

Check the Web

Do you feel like you’re being constantly bombarded by product claims, advertising messages and influencers’ endorsements and it is hard to know who and what to trust?

The good and bad news is that the internet is full of sunscreen information. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mistruths circulating related to sunscreens and their use. So be warned.

Our recommendation is to stick to reputable websites for information such as the list we have provided here…