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In this review we look at:

  1. Photodamage - what causes aging and cancer forming damage to the skin
  2. Sun protection products
  3. Sunblocks and sunscreens
  4. Water resistant sun protection
  5. Sun protection for the face
  6. Latest advances in sun protection technology
  7. Recommended products - and other popular products.



Research shows 90 percent of wrinkles are caused by the sun's longer wave ultraviolet [UVA] light and sun damage is the #1 cause of premature aging in women and men.

Even low-level exposures to UVA light break down collagen, which causes wrinkles. In addition, UVA reaches deep layers of the skin causing melanomas.

UVB radiation affects our topmost layer of skin, forming melanin. UVA radiation penetrates deeper down into the connective tissue of the skin, causing the skin to age prematurely.

The effect of the sun's rays depends on where we are, how strong the radiation is, and what type of skin we have. People of Celtic origin have more delicate skin types and an increased risk of sunburn. This is particularly important in countries near the poles, such as England and New Zealand, where there is less ozone protection.

The number of cases of skin cancer has doubled in the last 20 years, and health campaigns are advocating slip, slop slap. Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunblock and slap on a hat.

But if you are exposed to the sun longer than is desired for health purposes you need to understand the different characteristics of sunblocks and sunscreens. Sunblocks and sunscreen advertising can be extremely misleading, so get to know the ingredients, and how each works.

UV And Your Health



Sun protection products may be:

  • Topical - creams, lotions, gels, sticks all applied to the skin
  • Oral - sun protection capsules
  • Sun protection clothing - such as California North SPF 30 Jacket
  • Laundry Additives - giving added UV protection to clothing such as Rit Sun Guard Laundry Treatment UV Protectant
  • Eye Protection - UV block sunglasses and eye wink UVA protection lenses
  • Hair Protection - products designed to protect the hair

Topical Sun Protection Products

Different sun protection products work in different ways. They have either a chemical or a physical filter; some have a mixture of the two.

A chemical sun filter - acts by penetrating the skin and absorbing the sun's rays so that they do not reach down into the lower layers of skin to cause damage. Some chemical filters only provide protection against the UVB radiation, while others protect against both UVB and UVA radiation. These are known as sunscreens.

A physical filter – stays on the skin surface as a thin membrane to reflect the sun's rays. For example, zinc oxide is a physical filter. Physical sun filters protect against both the UVB and UVA rays. These are known as sun blocks.


Sunblocks vs Sunscreens

Most people use the terms sunblock and sunscreen interchangeably. As you can see from above, they are NOT the same. No product blocks all of the sun's rays. Even clothing lets some of the sun's rays reach your body. For example, a regular cotton T-shirt is comparable to only a SPF 5 sunscreen.


Sunblocks block both UVA rays and UVB rays. There are different ways to block the sun, using different ingredients. Many products labeled as being sunblocks are actually only sunscreens, so you need to know the effective sunblock ingredients and look for them on the product pack. Active sunblock ingredients include:

  • Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide - sunblocks with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide work well, but are messy and previously opaque, thus visible. These types of sunblocks are now available micronised, so are invisible.
  • Avobenzone and Benzophenone - both avobenzone [Parsol 1789] and benzophenone are good UVA blockers especially when formulated in conjunction with Helioplex.
  • Anthelios SX - also known as Mexoryl
  • Tinosorb - outside USA
  • Oxybenzone - a highly effective oil-soluble UVA and UVB absorber used to enhance SPF in sunscreens.
  • Menthyl Anthranitate
  • Antioxidants Vitamins A, E and C - whilst these added ingredients have no active UV blocking ability, antioxidants help to neutralize skin cell DNA damage.

Examples of pure sunblocks include:

NOTE: Current legal battles are ongoing against companies claiming products as sunblocks, based on the fact that no product can completely block all the suns UV rays.


Sunscreens are products that are commonly labelled Broad Spectrum UV Protection. Broad spectrum means it is effective in blocking both UVB and UVA radiation. Many sunscreens claiming to be broad spectrum are not, and do not block rays from the full UVA spectrum. Only sun protection with avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide as ingredients block UVA rays. Sunscreens with these ingredients are known as Combination Sunscreen and Sunblock. Typical examples include:

Best Sunscreen

Look for sunscreens that are:

  • broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
  • SPF of at least 15 to 30. [Many experts believe anything above SPF30 doesn’t provide any real additional protection]
  • water resistant – this protects against sweating as well as water.
  • hypoallergenic and fragrance free, especially for those with sensitive skin.
  • PABA free
  • in a form that is easy to use for the environment you are in. For example, if you are out playing golf or tennis you don’t want greasy hands so look for sunblock sticks.

Water-Proof & Water-Repellant Sun Protection

Another confusing characteristic of sunscreens and sunblocks is the difference between those which claim to be water-repellant or water-proof.

A water-repellant sunblock gives protection against two 20 minutes swims before being washed off. This only applies if you let yourself air-dry and do not dry yourself with a towel.

A water-proof sunblock cream withstands four 20 minutes swims without being washed off.
For best protection, it is recommended that you apply more cream after swimming.

In 2002, the FDA mandated that manufacturers change their labels from waterproof to "water resistant" or "very water resistant," since no product can be completely waterproof. Not all manufacturers have made this change.

Which Product Type To Use

For optimum protection, a sunblock with both UVB and UVA protection is best; whilst for those with allergic tendencies, the ingredients found in a typical physical filter are less irritating.

Sun protection products help reduce exposure to UV rays, but are not totally effective in preventing skin cancer. This is because it wears off and needs to be reapplied. If it is not applied often enough, a false sense of security leads to even more time in the sun.

The more damaging UVA radiation is less likely to cause noticeable sunburn symptoms. So it is best to use products that protect from both UVB and UVA rays.

Both avobenzone and benzophenone are good UVA blockers. For maximum benefits, sunscreen must be applied evenly to cool, dry skin 30 minutes before sun exposure. Waterproof and water-resistant sunscreens are best since effectiveness is not reduced by perspiration.

Sunblock using titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, is less irritating than avobenzone.


Sun Protection Products For The Face

Sun protection are for the face include:

  • SPF moisturizers
  • Basic sunscreens
  • Tinted moisturizers.

Facial cosmetic products containing sun protection, whatever the SPF are not as effective as standa alone sun protection products. This is because they are not applied as thoroughly to the skin as a sunscreen would be. Also make-up or moisturizers may be only be spot-applied.

To protect yourself on a daily basis, use a separate facial sun protection product at least 15 SPF on your face and neck every day, regardless of the weather. Using a moisturiser or foundation cream with SPF15 is a good option. If you intend to be outside for periods longer than 15 minutes at a time, then you need to supplement this with an SPF30 - 45 product.

NOTE: there are several sunscreens, which are very good moisturizing bases, and ideal for those with drier skin. For instance: Cellex-C Sun Care SPF 30+ and M.D. Forte Aftercare Environmental Protection Cream SPF 30.


Special Sun Protection Needs

Those with sun induced skin problems such as lupus, rosacea, transplant patients, post radiation patients, skin cancer patients, chemotherapy patients, or those status post laser skin resurfacing may also experience sensitivities to other forms of light. In this case a Total Block Clear SPF 65 containing 8 micronized physical blocker ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as well as visible light blocker iron oxide, is ideal.

Sunscreens for sensitive skins include:


Latest Advances In Sun Protection Products

  • Avobenzone - also known as Parsol 1789 is one of the best UVA absorbers but breaks down with exposure to sunlight after only one hour. More on avobenzone.
  • Oxybenzone - very good UVB absorber with some UVA absorbency.
  • Helioplex - Helioplex makes a commonly used chemical agent work more effectively. Helioplex stops Avobenzone from degrading and boost its UV protection ability providing high potency protection even after four to five hours of direct sun exposure. More on helioplex.
  • Mexoryl [Anthelios SX] - Anthelios SX, made by L’Oreal, protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 15. Anthelios SX contains a mix of three active ingredients: Ecamsule [marketed in Europe and Canada as Mexoryl SX since 1993], Avobenzone and Octocrylene. More on Anthelios SX

Sun Protection Product Frequently Asked Questions



For the ultimate in sun protection go for the latest technology products containing helioplex.

The recent Helioplex range includes:

These sun protection products afford maximum protection for much longer [4-5 hours] before they must be reapplied.



Oil-free sunscreens include:


Facial Sunscreens

Best Facial Moisturizer with SPF for Dry Skin

Best Facial Moisturizer with SPF for Oily Skin

Best Facial Moisturizer with SPF for All Skin Types

Best Tinted Moisturizers

Best Waterproof Sun Protection



Antiaging Cream Review | Antiwrinkle Cream Review | Cellulite Cream Review | Sun Protection Review


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