Which sunscreen should I use?


The most common skin type among Irish women is categorised in dermatology terms as Fitzpatrick’s type 1-2.  This is skin that burns easily in the sun, freckles and is light in colour.  Read more facts about irish skin  Choosing the right sunscreen can be quite challenging when faced with the vast array of products available, selecting the right one is very important so here are some very useful sunscreen guidelines.

We would like to thank Niamh Moran for kindly allowing us to post the information.


As little as 15 minutes over exposure to the sun increases the risk of skin cancer.   Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays, in Ireland 10,000 cases of skin cancer were diagnosed last year.  It is therefore extremely important that we protect our skin from these harmful rays by a) covering up & b) using appropriate sunscreens on exposed areas.

UV rays
The sun transmits UV radiation in three different wavelengths, namely A, B & C  but we only need to protect ourselves from UVA & UVB as UVC rays don’t reach the earth’s surface.

UVA  radiation penetrates & damages the deeper layers of the skin affecting it’s elasticity, promoting wrinkles, ageing & potentially leading to skin cancer.

UVB radiation damages the outer layers of the skin & is responsible for sunburn & skin cancers, especially malignant melanoma.


Sun Protection Factor(SPF) is related to the amount of UV radiation needed to burn the skin while using protective sunscreen.  A product with an SPF 15 will theoretically allow you stay in the sun 15 times longer before getting sunburnt compared to the time to sunburn without any protection e.g if your skin normally burns after 10mins of sun exposure, then with SPF 15 it would take 150mins.

SPF only measures protection against UVB

SPF 30 is NOT twice as protective as SPF 15
e.g. SPF 15 absorbs 93% UVB

SPF 30 absorbs 97% UVB,

SPF 50 absorbs 98% UVB

It is generally recommended to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 for good sun protection.


Sunscreens today should have a UVA star rating on the packaging, ranging from zero to five stars, where zero indicates no UVA protection, 4 stars indicates superior UVA protection & 5 stars indicates ultra UVA protection.  The stars indicate a ratio between the level of protection afforded by the UVA protection in comparison to the UVB protection in a product so BEWARE…a UVA 5 star rating on a product with a low SPF8 is NOT actually providing a high level of UVA protection!  In short, a high SPF30 with a 4 or 5 UVA star rating is best.


Sunscreens — typically chemicals which filter & absorb harmful UV rays, preventing them from causing damage to the skin.  The majority absorb UVB rays but in recent years newer chemical filters have come on the market which absorb UVA rays.

— more potential to cause allergies

— usually transparent

— a big range of ingredients

Sunblocks — just another word for physical sunscreens which form a physical barrier on the skins surface, bouncing the harmful UV rays away from it.

— naturally block both UVA & UVB

— less potential for allergies

–tend to remain visible on the skin & harder to wash off

— main ingredients are titanium dioxide & iron oxide

Most products on the market today contain a mix of both chemical & physical sunscreens/sunblocks.


Finding the right sunscreen can seem challenging when faced with the vast array of products lining the shelves of pharmacies & supermarkets as we approach the summer months.  Here are a few guidelines which might make the task easier.
Guidelines to choosing sunscreens

Look for a high SPF i.e minimum SPF30

Look for the words Broad Spectrum-this indicates a level of both UVA & UVB protection

Look for UVA star rating of 4 or 5 or the logo UVA enclosed in a circle which indicates a high percentage UVA protection relative to UVB protection

Look for the words Waterproof or Water resistant -this indicates the product will maintain much of it’s sun protection quality during short periods of water activity or sweating

Look for the word Photostable on the label-this indicates that the protective ingredients won’t breakdown in the sun & therefore lose effectiveness

Remember…expensive does NOT mean better


Once the above criteria have been met the choice of product is then down to personal preference or individual needs.  Below are a few guidelines that may help.

Lotions & Creams-more hydrating & moisturising-good for dry skin

-require a good bit of rubbing in to be absorbed

-easy to see so less likely to leave patches of skin

Sprays-very easy to apply, dry quickly & are less messy

-good for use on hairy areas

-more likely to use insufficient for adequate protection

-often contain high levels of alcohol which may irritate skin

-don’t spray directly on face as it may be inhaled or get into the eyes….spray on hands first, then use hands to apply to face

Sticks-goes on dry & won’t run-great for face especially around the eyes

-great for children’s school bags as sticks tend to be compact & easy to apply-no mess, no stinging eyes!

-many are wax or petroleum based so less likely to wear off in water or to be sweated off in the school yard

Gels-lightweight & dry in quickly

-good for use on hairy areas

-generally sweat resistant so good for sports enthusiasts

-a popular choice for men

-many have a high alcohol content so caution with sensitive skin


It is important to realise that these sunscreens have been tested under ideal conditions whereby appropriate quantities of the product have been applied liberally & regularly.  Unfortunately in the real world the majority of us don’t apply enough sunscreen, are liable to miss spots & may either sweat or towel off the sunscreen as the day goes on.  This leaves areas of skin exposed to UV rays for long periods of time & therefore to sunburn & sun damage.  For these reasons, it is advisable to reapply these long acting sunscreens on a more regular basis to reduce the risk of accidental sun exposure.

SKIN TYPE & SUNSCREEN-a guideline.
Dry skin—use a moisturising sunscreen i.e a cream or lotion.
Oily/Acne prone skin-use gels or sprays as these usually contain alcohol which has a drying affect.

Sensitive-allergy prone skin-look for the word Hypo-allergenic on the label.

-avoid products with fragrances.

-avoid the ingredients PABA (para aminobenzoic acid/parabens) & oxybenzone.

-if very sensitive, choose the physical sunscreen products, usually labelled as sunblocks & often in the baby/toddler range-contain zinc oxide & titanium dioxide.

Children’s skin– for babies & toddlers choose the physical sunscreens/sunblocks based on zinc oxide & titanium dioxide as their skin is very sensitive.
-older children can use the same products as adults using the same criteria but an SPF 30 is a must.


-Apply 30 minutes before exposure to allow full absorption.

-Apply liberally & carefully to ensure no unprotected patches.

-Don’t forget the ears & the lips!

-Reapply every 2 hours…or more often if sweating & also after swimming (even if waterproof) & after towelling.


Niamh Moran,  M.P.S.I. Pharmacist, Killarney, Co.Kerry

Less chemicals in your Sunscreen
We were asked about a chemical free sunblock so we did a bit of searching and found Elave the Irish based skincare company do a line in Chemical free sunblocks.

They were very helpful and sent us this statement.

 Elave skincare is manufactured in Ireland in a Pharmaceutical Grade facility

Many medical experts believe that over use of harsh products is linked to the rise in sensitive skin.  Exposing your skin to these chemicals can reduce moisture levels in your skin dramatically.  Our team of formulation scientists believes in skincare without unnecessary chemicals and with active hydrating ingredients to enhance all skin types even the most sensitive skin.

Our promise of absolute purity means no sulfates SLES/SLS, no parabens, no perfume, no formaldehyde, no methylisothiazolinone (MI), no alcohol, no soap, no colours & more.

For more information on the product just click on the information button

Sensitive Sun SPF30


Daily Skin Defence SPF 45


Daily Lip Defence SPF 20