Why sunscreen is your number one summer beauty essential

Why sunscreen is your number one summer beauty essential

Nikki Parkinson Beauty 22 Comments

I’ve long been an advocate and supporter of sunscreen use. 

Sunscreen is your number one summer beauty essential AND correct use can help to prevent skin cancer.

I’m fast heading towards the big 5-0 and one of the things people most comment on is my skin.

Yes, I’ve got a great skincare routine happening – and have done so since I was 18 – but a big reason why my skin looks like it does is that I’ve applied sunscreen religiously since my childhood.

What is routine for kids today, was not so back in the ’70s and ’80s.

My late mum was on to something though and would slather us in zinc and Coppertone (boy did that sting) before we were allowed anywhere near the beach or pool.

Trust me, this was not considered cool at the time but my 30 and 40-year-old self were very thankful my mum bucked the trend.

I was speaking to a group of young women recently, explaining about sunscreens and how far they’ve come. That there were sunscreen oils with an SPF of 4 … almost like a “why bother” for the likes of my fair skin.

Let alone the girls who would slather themselves in baby oil to tan/burn faster.

These days my son has a no-hat, no-play policy at school (and home) and I have a sunscreen beauty kit for the every day and specific outdoor activities. 

And you should have such a kit too.

Physical vs chemical sunscreens

A lot of the talk around sunscreens of late has been based around the types of sunscreens and how they work.

In short, physical sunscreens reflect the sun using minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and alter their damaging effect.

Generally speaking physical sunscreens are considered more natural and can be less irritating on the skin.

I say generally as my skin reacts to physical sunscreens – with daily use I come out in an red, itchy rash.

When it comes to physical versus chemical sunscreens, I suggest you do your own research and trial a bunch of different products to find out what works for your skin.

If using a chemical sunscreen, it should go on the skin first (before moisturisers and makeup). If using a physical, you can moisturise then apply and then apply your makeup.

How to choose a sunscreen

1. Day-to-day sun exposure differs for each person. Think about your regular days and how much you are out in the sun. If you you are only outside for short times, then a combination of sunscreen in your makeup and a light moisturising sunscreen will keep you protected.

2. Find a daily face sunscreen that feels great to wear every day under your makeup or on its own.

3. If you spend time outdoors, for work or playing sport/exercising, then you’ll need to look for a hard-working sunscreen designed for sports or water activities.

4. For those who live at the beach or in their pool each summer, then invest in a large dispenser of sunscreen that is easy to apply (and re-apply), offers maximum protection and is water resistant.

5. Don’t just rely on your clothing or sunscreen to prevent sun damage. Most clothing would not be UPF 50+ rated so avoid the sun during peak UV times and add a hat or parasol to your outfit.

6. Make sure you apply sunscreen correctly – and use enough of it. SunSmart has these tips. Follow them!

7. Just do it. Find something that works for you and your lifestyle and make sunscreen a habit.

5 sunscreens I’m loving right now

Why sunscreen is your number one summer beauty essential

From left to right: Hamilton Sensitive SPF 50+ (ideal for skin that’s easily irritated) | Cancer Council Active Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF50+ (if you’re an outdoors kind of girl, this one is for you) | Banana Boat SunComfort SPF 50+ (your summer beach bag essential – sand will not stick to it) | Ultraceuticals Mattifying Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser 50+ (my fave for on my face every day – the mattifying formula works a treat for summer)  | NIVEA Sun Protect & Moisture SPF 50+ (a great all rounder – we keep this one handy near the pool)

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is something that is also become a hot topic. Vitamin D is in foods but our best natural source comes from the sun.

My son was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency a couple of years ago. I’d taken him to the doctors because he was super tired in the morning – strange for an active eight-year-old. He started supplements but his GP also advised that an early morning walk for 15 minutes without sun protection would help his levels get back on track. They have.

The key his GP stressed was getting that balance right – sun protection is still very important, particularly in Queensland, but some sun was still needed.

In states like Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria advises that from May to August, sun protection is not recommended. (More HERE)

Talk to your GP about your specific lifestyle to work out what’s best for your but, importantly, don’t let Vitamin D stop you from protecting your skin from the sun where and when it’s necessary. 

The Cancer Council recommends sunscreens of SPF 30 and over.

So tell me, did you wear sunscreen as a child? What sunscreens do you love right now?

  • Emma

    I religiously apply sunscreen and have done since I was a teenager as I was on Roaccutane for my skin which made me more susceptible to sunburn. Despite this I have had a number of basal cell carcinoma’s, and a squamous cell carcinoma removed as well as a nasty invasive one that has left a Harry Potteresque scar on my forehead. I continue to apply sunscreen before I leave the house in the morning and try to stay in the shade where possible.

  • kate

    Thanks for the review. I live in Western Qld and the sun is harsh, proper harsh! We live on a property and I find it hard to get a good sunscreen that will last while mustering but that the dust doesn’t stick to, when smoko comes and you get off your bike take of your sunnies and you look like a raccoon! But I would rather the layer of dust than the sunburn.

  • Robyn

    Thanks for this great post Nikki. I’ll try my best to make this a short comment but I do have something I’d like to say. Three months ago I had a “melanoma in situ” removed from my mid upper arm. It was located just about where a short sleeve would normally end. It wasn’t a black, blue or dark brown spot but a light coloured, blotchy thing that looked like a freckle about 1cm wide. The take home here ladies is that melanomas come in many disguises! I’m fair skinned, grew up in Brisbane (with a backyard pool), walked to and from school every day and had the odd sunburn through adolescence. As an adult I’ve been meticulous in my sun protection…. long sleeved shirts and big hats all through Summer and always sunblock. If in doubt get your spots and moles checked and get a biopsy! Now back to the topic at hand – my new fave sunblock is Sunsense Sensitive Invisible SPF50.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Robyn – we need to hear more of these stories as it’s so easy to dismiss things that pop up on our skin as something else.

  • Thankfully, having pale skinned parents from the northern hemisphere, they were well aware of the dangers of the southern hemisphere sun and thickly coated me in sunscreen. Hats were not negotiable if playing outside from spring through to autumn. I used to hate the unfashionable white zinc being plastered across my face, but am thankful for it now. Autumn & winter I use an spf 15 daily on my face & chest, then increase to spf 85 on those areas for spring and summer. The 50+ nivea sun high protected has recently been restocked and will be used daily on the body when ever out in the sun, until autumn arrives. I to can remember the days of friends covering in oil and roasted themselves, and wishing I could to, but in reflection I’m glad my parents stood firm on that one. The teen son has been away on an outdoors camp this week, and I can rest assured that he will have slapped on the sunscreen and worn a hat, and won’t be coming back this evening all red and blistered from the sun. They have so much more knowledge about the dangers of the sun these days.

    • Not all northern hemisphere people get it Jenni so you were very lucky! Most don’t understand how harsher the sun is down here! Glad your teenage son is on board with sun protection – he’ll thank-you for that later too!

  • Sharon

    I do so enjoy your annual sunscreen post. Thank you. Always good to read about sunscreen products I may not be aware of. I’ve long been a fan of Hamilton sunscreen. I cannot source the Hamilton range of sunscreens in my town anymore so will try to pick some up whilst away on holiday. Currently I’m using Banana Boat, it’s long been a trusted stand by brand for me.

    I have made applying sunscreen part of my morning routine. I stand in front of the mirror and apply it carefully and with the same attitude I’d have applying a luscious body moisturiser. I went so long without any skin damage being diagnosed but as soon as I entered my 50s, out they came. So far I’ve had 5 minor surgical procedures to remove basal cell carcinomas from my arm and face. All credit to the surgeons for minimising the scars on my face.

    • I like how you’ve described how you apply your sunscreen in the morning – that’s a great way for us all to think about how much we need.

  • Im a sunscreen addict too! in saying that I do know the feeling of trying to get the balance right for enough Vitamin D. My MS means I am automatically low on Vitamin D and try to get it naturally but at the same time I burn and freckle easily so I need to be ultra careful… such a fine line!

    • Yes, me too re the Vitamin D – my thyroid meds now include it in with it so that’s a bonus. It is such a fine line to walk.

  • lovestodance

    Great timley post! I too confess that as kids we used baby oil. Not really recommended North Queensland, and spending every fine summer day on the beach as we all did! Later on it was good old Hawaiian Tropic, ooh, that coconut smell still brings back memories of beach barbecues and surf club dances. The result of all this is that most women of my age from NQ have some sun damage – I have paler spots on my forearms and legs, which show even with fake tan. Fortunately, my mother insisted that I wore a hat, all the time, so my face is fine, and I was an early adopter of SPF 30+, now 50, so the disaster wasn’t as bad as it could have been! I am a big fan of the Nivea product Nikki recommends, and use the Hamilton one on my face underneath everything in summer, it is really gentle and doesn’t cause breakouts.

    Re Vitamin D – well said Nikki! Living in Canberra, I don’t use sunscreen in the winter. In the spring and summer, if I’m out walking before 9am, I only put it on my face and neck. This gives me enough sun, and then the high SPF goes on.

    • Love your sunscreen story! And yes Hawaiian Tropic was addictive – I would buy it in the 15+ in the early ’90s (when that was the highest!). Yay for your mum and hats, I say. And great policy now you’re in Canberra.

  • Kelly

    Oh my goodness Coppertone sunscreen – we used to have this as kids too. The smell of it brings back so many happy memories. I recently found a bottle in a little shop somewhere and bought it and now regret not buying the whole lot that shop had as I can’t find it anywhere!!

  • Being very fair myself, I was always covering up in the sun when I was younger (although I do recall getting a number of bad sunburns) & I know my parents were conscious of keeping me sun protected. As I got older, I suppose sunscreen fell by the wayside because I thought it was too greasy….cut a long story short, I’ve had 2 non-melanomas removed from my face this year, one of which required surgery. The sideways H scar I have in the middle of my forehead is enough to remind me to “slip slop slap” when I’m outside now, as well as the sun damage I’ve acquired. I’m currently using the sensitive sunscreen from The Cancer Council & it’s a good mix of physical & chemical.

    • Oh Shell, thanks for sharing your story – that is an important reminder to us all.

  • Jacqueline Mitrovits

    Very important information – thanks!!! Hamiltons is a great choice as I (and the kids) have had rashes & problems with sunscreen in the past but never with Hamiltons. xx

    • That’s great to hear. It’s funny how it can be one little ingredient that can trigger sensitivities and irritations.

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Great post Nikki, I used to lay in the sun with babyoil on in the backyard and get my tan every summer,now it comes from a bottle and has done for many many years!
    Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise I was only talking to my daughter about it the other day,she is a preschool teacher and they have so many children that need to sit in the early morning sun with shoes and socks off.
    I got a mole removed yesterday under my breast hopefully it will be all ok Xx

    • I hope the mole results came in ok, Lisa? And yes the babyoil days were scary ones in hindsight. That’s super interesting about your daughter and having the kids take off their shoes and socks for some sun each morning.

  • Kathryn

    I never wore sunscreen until I was in my 20s, because I had young children I had educated myself about sun safety. My parents loved the sun, they have been more careful in the last 20 years or so, but before that Mum lay in the sun, and walked for hours on the beach without any protection. I do have some sun damage, especially my chest and face. I have wised up, I wear sunscreen religiously now. I took the Neutrogena spray and Mecca To Save Face to Bali, my friends are surprised how pale I am, they all thought I would come back brown. I wore a big hat everywhere too. My tan comes from a bottle, has done for years. Not a fan of spray tans. Must try that Banana Boat spray. Have a great weekend x

    • Love your sunscreen story Kathryn – it would be similar to many here. So glad those sunscreens were ideal for you in Bali!