Shopping for sunscreen - great budget buys

Summer is here and there are a variety of sunscreens available to consumers.  But are the more expensive brands our safest option, or can we rely on the cheaper varieties to protect us? Skin cancer is on the rise and just a few sunburns can put you at risk. How can you ensure that the products you’re using are keeping you safe from dangerous UV radiation?

“A good sunscreen does not have to be expensive,” says dermatologist Dr Ean Schmidt. “Buy one that suits your budget, but ensure that it has UVA and UVB protection. Check that it has ingredients such as zinc oxide, mexoryl XL and titanium dioxide. Wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 daily.”

Pick the right sun block
When choosing sunscreen, pick one with a CANSA (The Cancer Association of South Africa) seal of approval. CANSA adheres to strict standards. For example, products must have a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 20, and must contain a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) or qualify for the new harmonized Colipa UVA protection claim. CANSA also ensures that products do not promote unsafe tanning and are lab tested for irritancy.

“There is no such thing as ‘the best sunscreen’”, says dermatologist Dr Dagmar Whitaker. “If you spend time in cold water you need a different base to someone getting hot and sweaty while going on a run or cycle. A woman wearing make-up should use an oil free base and so on. First and foremost use the highest factor possible because that protects you for longer.,”

The Moneybags team investigated the shelves at some of our local stores to find CANSA approved sunscreens at the best prices available. Our favourite range was the Clicks SUNprotect. Prices are reasonable and they include a sports range, a kiddie’s range and an ant-ageing range.

Here are our findings:

Protecting your children
Children’s sunscreen is generally more expensive than adults. The products manufactured for younger skins have less mineral content in the SPF and more natural ingredients. Try the CANSA approved home brands such as Clicks SUNprotect Kids, as well as the Everysun Kids Sunscreen Lotion (125ml) SPF 40 for R58.99. Our research showed that it works out cheaper to buy your sunscreen in bulk. “Bigger volume bottles are always better value than smaller volume tubes,” says Dr Whitaker.

For those who don’t have time to go to the shops, our team recommend this summer special on CANSA approved sunscreens from Kool-u-Sun: Purchase 200ml SPF 30 Lotion for R100, or two 100ml SPF 30 Sunblock Tubes only R100 – VAT and delivery included. Click here for more information.

Sun blocks from dermatologists – are they better?
Although they are no better or worse at protecting us from skin cancer, they do provide certain alternative requirements to meet the needs of your skin. “Sunscreens have different formulations which affect their texture: creams, fluids, lotions, gel, non-alcohol based sprays, alcohol based sprays etc.” says Dr Francois H. De Goede of Panorama Dermatology.

Most dermatologists stock the following brands: Bioderma, Uriage, Vichy, and Heliocare. Each of these brands caters to specific needs. “A golfer would like something non-sticky and easily absorbed, that covers their face and arms, such as Bioderma or Vichy,” says Dr De Goede. “A surfer’s sunblock must last a bit longer with a physical block (zinc & titanium) such as Uriage mineral block. For ladies [there are] non-sticky/non-shiny sunscreens that they could wear under make-up, such as the Heliocare gel.”

Before purchasing, make sure you get a few samples from your dermatologist. These sunscreens are more costly so it is important you make the right investment. “Feel the sunscreen on your skin before purchasing,” says Dr Schmidt. “You should feel comfortable with how it feels or you will not apply it regularly.

Sun care tips:
Sunscreen alone cannot keep you totally protected. Here are some tips to ensure you keep yourself and your children out of harm’s way:
1.    Wear sunscreen every day. Apply it 20 minutes before going outdoors.
2.    Follow the application instructions on the bottle – you may need to reapply frequently during the course of the day to maintain your protection.
3.    Reapply sunscreen religiously after swimming or perspiring – even if it is water-resistant.
4.    Make sure you wear UV protective clothing and stay out of direct sunlight between 10am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest.
5.    Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays – sun exposure can lead to cataracts, which are a major cause of blindness.
6.    Check your skin at the dermatologist regularly.
7.    Apply about 2mg of sunscreen per square centimetre of skin surface. It’s best to over-apply than under-apply.
8.    Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck and ears.
9.    Make sure your sunscreen has not expired – buy a new batch every summer.
10.    If you react to certain sunscreens, contact a dermatologist for a product with fewer chemicals, or try a children’s sunscreen.
11.    Wear a minimum of SPF 20 under your clothing as T-shirts, for example, provide only an SPF of around 3.
12.    You are not safe from UV rays when sitting in the shade. Make sure you wear sunscreen even when under an umbrella.

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*All prices correct at time of publication and subject to change thereafter.