Whether it’s a short burst in the sun or a full-on day in the water, sun protection is a must in your daily skincare routine. But with so many sun care brands on the market, it’s hard to know which sun protection products are right for your skin. So what do you need to factor in when choosing a sunscreen this summer? Consider this article your go-to guide to getting your precious skin the sun protection it deserves. Why does our skin need protection from the sun? Exposure to UV radiation produced by the sun can result in skin damage, wrinkles, premature ageing, problems with melanin production sunburn and even skin cancer.

Physical vs chemical sunscreens – what’s the difference, and how do different formulations work?

-   Physical (aka mineral) sunscreens deliver broad-spectrum protection, and act by blocking and reflecting UV radiation away from your skin using minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients.

-   Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients that absorb UV rays before your skin can.

How to choose the right sunscreen? 

Here are our 5 recommendations.


Consider the SPF – most dermatologists recommend using a SPF 30 or higher, as 30+ blocks out approximately 97% of UVB rays and 50+ will block up to 98%.


Check the active ingredients –  physical/mineral sunscreens will have formulas that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. And in chemical sunscreens you should be looking for ingredients such as octinoxate, octocrylene, oxybenzone and avodenzone. Ingredients to avoid are aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate. If you’re taking a dip in the ocean, opt for a physical/mineral formulation, which is safer for swimming near precious coral reef ecosystems.


Check the label for ‘Broad Spectrum’ – this ensures your skin is protected from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays age your skin cells (causing wrinkles and sagging) and can cause indirect damage to their DNA, as well as potentially playing a role in some skin cancers. UVB rays penetrate and damage skin’s upper layers, causing suntan, sunburn and, in extreme cases, blistering. Both UVA and UVB are also known carcinogens.


Pick your sun protection format – consider which SPF format will give the look and feel you’re after on your skin.

-   Spray: perfect for the hard-to-reach places, those on the go, children & easy reapplication. Another bonus – great for hairy body parts.

-   Physical/Mineral lotion: Good for sensitive or acne skin types and children, and suitable for both face and body. Some formulations can look and feel a bit chalky, so if this is the case, we recommend a tinted lotion, especially for darker skin tones.

-   Chemical lotion: these lotions don’t leave a visible film layer on the skin, making them easier to wear on most skin tones. They have greater absorption and don’t leave the skin feeling sticky or greasy making them easier to apply and wear (especially under makeup). Rest assured, all Ultraceuticals chemical SPF lotions are non-toxic and free from nasties (or we wouldn’t sell them).


Consider your sun exposure – factor in how long you’ll be exposed to the sun, at what time of the day, if you’ll be getting wet or sweaty, how easy it will be to reapply etc. The sun in New Zealand and Australia is particularly harsh, so err on the side of sun care caution.

- Sports/swimming: choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum 30 SPF, and reapply every at least every hour. This is where a spray might come in handy for ease of application.
- Outdoors (especially between 10am and 4pm): again, a minimum of SPF 30 is essential, and you’ll need to reapply every hour you’re in the sun.
- Every day (i.e. wear to work or while driving): a lightweight chemical SPF might be the best option here, to sit nicely under makeup.