Choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type

The best sunscreens and tips for dry, sensitive, darker, young or mature skin.

The best sunscreens and tips for dry, sensitive, darker, young or mature skin

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

This article was originally published July 6, 2018. 

That summer sunshine. The precursor to packed patios, our favourite poolside accessory, and the enabler of crop tops and short shorts. But sun seekers be warned, Health Canada recommends using a generous amount of broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. The Canadian Cancer Society says the average adult requires approximately two to three tablespoons of lotion-formulated sunscreen to cover the whole body, and a teaspoon to cover the face and neck. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen for your skin type. Remember these products are just suggestions and ultimately there might be a better sunscreen out there for you.

Dry skin

Most mineral of physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide or a combination of zinc oxide and titanium oxide.These sunscreens are preferred by many who prefer a non-chemical sunscreen, because they sit on the skin and reflect or scatter the sun's rays rather than absorbing into your skin. While excellent for sun protection, zinc oxide has been known to dry out the skin. Be sure to look for sunscreens that include ingredients like glycerin, oils, aloe and lanolin. Sprays or gels contain alcohol which can be super drying; so it's best to avoid them, whether you're going for chemical or physical sunscreens.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30, $42, sephora.ca

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 50, $16.58, amazon.ca

Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF 50, $99, dermalogica.ca

Darker skin

Health Canada reminds us that damaging UV rays can penetrate all skin tones. That means regardless of what you've been told, even people with dark skin need sunscreen. Look for broad spectrum sunscreen formulas that are lightweight, invisible and fast absorbing. With a little trial and error you'll find that it is possible to get sun protection without the dreaded white or grey cast.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Eventone SPF 50 Suncare Stick, $16.76, amazon.ca

Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid, $35, thebay.com

Lancome Bienfait UV SPF 50+ Face Sunscreen, $40, lancome.ca

Sensitive skin

These days, even those of us with acne-prone skin can find a compatible sunscreen. According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, people intolerant to sunscreens should look for products like those natural sunscreens we mentioned, labelled "chemical‐free". The zinc in them is actually a remedy for acne. Fragrance-free, oil free and non-comedogenic sunscreens are your best friends this summer if you have sensitive skin in general.

Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60 For Acne Prone Skin, $14.27, amazon.ca

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 60, $29, beautyboutique.ca

Shiseido Ultra Sun Protection Lotion For Sensitive Skin, $49, thebay.com

Mature skin

It's important to remember that if a sunscreen doesn't have "broad spectrum" protection, it's not as effective against the effects of UV rays including premature aging from sun damage. That according to Health Canada! For mature skin, also look for sunscreens with antioxidants and active ingredients that can repair signs of sun damage and guard against sun-induced age spots.

Clarins 50+ SPF Sunscreen For Face Wrinkle Control Cream, $34, sephora.ca

Vichy Ideal Soleil Sheer Lotion Bare Skin Feel SPF 60, $29.95, vichy.ca

Paula's Choice Resist Super Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30, $45.42, nordstrom.com

Young skin

The Save Your Skin Foundation says before the age of three, sunscreen does not provide adequate protection for developing skin and the best protection is to keep sun exposure to a minimum. Dermatologists don't encourage spray sunscreens for kids as they often do not provide a uniform coating on the skin. Instead, reach for broad spectrum sunscreen lotion so that you can better control distribution. Young skin is typically sensitive and prone to reactions, so you should also look for fragrance-free, paraben-free, and dye-free sunscreens. Health Canada suggests checking for an allergic reaction before using any product on your child. Apply the sunscreen to a small patch of skin for several days in a row and observe. When in doubt contact your pediatrician.

Boo Bamboo Baby & Kids Natural Sunscreen, $23.99, well.ca

Banana Boat Kids Tear Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60, $6.99, amazon.ca

Aveeno Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $13.97, walmart.ca


Nneka Elliott (@nnekaelliott) is a lifestyle blogger, host and actor. She shares her adventures with fashion and beauty in her pursuit of a gutsy life. nnekaelliott.com

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