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Stay protected this season with one of these eight sunscreen picks
The best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually reach for time and time again. We all know by now that UV rays damage our skin and that we need to apply (and reapply) sunscreen in order to protect ourselves from burning, cellular damage and even cancer.
When the UV Index is three or higher (on a scale zero to 11+), everyone should be wearing sunscreen and limit their unprotected exposure between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when UV rays are at a peak. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that last year, 8,000 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, resulting in 1,300 deaths—a tragedy given that the many of these cases could have been prevented by simply using sunscreen.
For some, it’s the texture of sunscreen that makes this a hard habit to stick to. Some find the sensory experience of layering on thick lotions really uncomfortable. While lotions remain the most popular and most readily available texture available, other options such as powders, sprays and sticks can provide UV protection without the stickiness.
In general, body sunscreens are simply heavier in texture than facial sunscreens. However, you can absolutely use facial chemical and mineral sunscreens on your body; they’ll most likely be more comfortable and even easier to reapply since they’re often smaller, and thus more convenient to carry around.This option can get expensive though as you need to apply approximately the equivalent of a shot glass to adequately protect your entire body, so try some of these body sunscreens first to see if one might be the right fit for your lifestyle.
A great option, particularly for quick spot protection: shoulders, tops of feet, chest. It glides on smoothly and—while it has a slightly tacky finish—it’s not sticky, so it feels comfortable on the skin. The active sunscreen ingredient is 100 percent zinc oxide, meaning it’s an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin. It’s resistant to sweat and water (up to 80 minutes), and is hypoallergenic, and phthalate-, paraben- and fragrance-free although some may find its inherent sunscreen-y scent noticeable. And, like all sunscreens, you’ll need to thoroughly remove this at the end of the day, preferably with an oil cleanser.Available online
While this shouldn’t be used as your base sunscreen, this powder is brilliant for topping up on the go. Housed in a tube with a brush applicator, the powder dispenses smoothly, making it easy to dust quickly over shoulders, chest, arms, hands and even the top of your head. It’s sweat-resistant and while it claims to be invisible—because its active ingredient is 100 percent zinc oxide—you’re going to see it. It looks fine on many skin tones, but those with darker complexions should temper expectations on this claim. Available online
This non-aerosol spray was developed by dermatologists and delivers excellent broad-spectrum UV protection. Avène is a French pharmacy brand that’s literally found in pharmacies all around France because it’s so popular and so effective… at a great price point. If you’ve ever had a reaction to chemical sunscreens and still can’t tolerate the texture of mineral sunscreens, give this one a try.Available online
This is a broad spectrum lightweight lotion that’s delivered through a non-aerosol spray. It makes quick work of application: just spray liberally, then massage into skin to ensure even coverage. It comes in a slim bottle, making it incredibly portable and convenient for top-ups throughout the day. It can get a little slippery and the aerosol does require mechanical force to dispense, so try to keep one hand free of product while spraying until the very end. Available online
Babies—with their tender, fragile skin—absolutely need protection from UV rays. Parents should consult with their pediatrician before using any sunscreen on a child younger than six months. But for children older than six months, this is a water-resistant (up to 80 minutes) mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) that will provide head-to-toe protection to keep little ones safe. Adults can use this as well, and it’s a particularly good formula for anyone with sensitive skin. Blue Lizard was born in Australia, where extreme UV rays have made sun protection and advanced sunscreen development a true priority. This sunscreen is a medium-weight lotion that spreads very easily and dries to a smooth finish. To minimize white cast, apply using long smooth strokes, rather than rubbing vigorously. Like many Blue Lizard products, this features their “smart bottle and smart cap technology,” where the bottle and tube cap change colour when exposed to UV light, so you always have a visual reminder to apply (and reapply) your sunscreen.Available online
This new formulation from French pharmacy brand La Roche Posay now features their NetLock technology, a unique combination of invisible, ultra-resistant protection developed for sensitive skin. It’s still lightweight and still offers ultra-high UVA and UVB protection through Mexoryl XL. It truly is a fluid, almost watery in texture, and dries down to a comfortable velvet finish, not greasy in the least. This is an excellent choice if you’re worried about potentially transferring to clothes, as it’s cosmetically elegant and sets beautifully once dry.Available online
This is a very liquid-y, gel lotion that’s tinted a beige/peach colour. It applies smoothly and quickly, drying down to a clear, non-sticky finish. It features Shiseido’s WetForce and HeatForce technologies, which make this sunscreen even stronger when exposed to water and heat, respectively. It’s a really great choice if you’re in the water frequently, or sweating a lot or just generally in a humid climate (requires reapplication after 80 minutes of water/sweat exposure). While there’s currently no industry definition for “reef safe” sunscreens, Shiseido states theirs are ocean-friendly because they comply with Hawaii’s current legislation, which bans oxybenzone and octinoxate.Available online
Everybody needs a workhorse sunscreen, one with flawless (Mexoryl) UV filters, spreads easily, doesn’t leave a white cast, can be used liberally everywhere (hypoallergenic), and doesn’t cost a fortune. This is it! Those with dry skin will especially appreciate the highly moisturizing formula, which makes this a great hand cream (a part of the body often overlooked when applying sunscreen).Available online