As mamas, we’re always looking out for the best ways to protect our little ones, whether it’s from electrical sockets, sharp corners or open flames. But as the mercury rises, there’s one major item you have to add to the list — sun protection! It’s crucial to take care of skin from an early age (that means you too mama!), and that means slathering on the sunscreen to protect from harmful UV rays. Most mamas on-the-go pick up the first bottle we see on the supermarket shelf, without a second thought to the differences between various types, brands and SPF counts. If you’re planning on sweating it out on the beach or at the park with the kids during the summer months, it’s important to do your research and find a sunscreen that works best for you and your family!
One area that’s often misunderstood (if acknowledged at all!) is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb directly into the skin, so UV rays actually absorb into your skin as well (yikes!). The chemicals then take effect to counteract harmful rays and render the damage nil. Active ingredients usually include octolcrylene (protects against direct DNA sun damage), octinoxate and avobenzone (queen of UVA filters), and while most chemical sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays, the range of protection will vary depending on the active ingredients in the bottle! A good rule of thumb is to make sure that avobenzone is one of the primary ingredients in the list. When applying chemical sunscreens, you’ll want to slather on 20 minutes before sun exposure for effective protection. One downside is that the chemical content has potential to cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin (e.g. itchiness and redness).
On the other hand, physical sunscreens work through UV filters that deflect UVA and UVB rays. In other words, the cream simply acts as a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. When picking out physical creams, look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the two mineral UV filters that are most effective in protecting against the sun. The former protects against UVB rays and some UVA rays while the latter deflects the full spectrum of both. The simplicity of physical formulas and complete protection from UVA and UVB rays make it our go-to choice for kids of all ages. And if it’s good enough for the kiddies, it’s good enough for you too!
Sassy Mama Picks
For the sake of knowing what you rub on your skin and avoiding skin irritation (plus the benefit of totally deflecting harmful rays, rather than having them absorbed into the skin), we recommend physical sunscreens over their chemical counterparts.
Here are Sassy Mama’s top five picks for physical sunscreens:
1. SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50
Available at Feel Beautiful for $53
A brand hailed by dermatologists around the globe, it’s no surprise that this physical sunblock would be anything short of an all-round win: it’s water-resistant (great for kiddies who love splashing about), lightweight as can be, boosts skin’s natural radiance and contains plankton extract to give your skin (and your baby’s) a power-up in fighting off broad spectrum UV rays and heat stress.
2. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Faces Ultra Gentle Sunblock SPF 50+
Available at Amazon for $13.77
This affordable sunscreen is specially formulated for babies, so it’s an easy choice for a good all round family-friendly sunscreen. The gentle formula makes it good for protecting baby’s face, but we guarantee that you’ll be slathering it on your face as well. The non-greasy, water-resistant and fragrance-free elements make this a savvy choice for mamas everywhere. Beauty bonus: it doesn’t leave a sheer white cast on your face as many physical sunblocks do — so you and baby can be protected all day long, while looking great!
3. Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42 PA+++
Available at Amazon for $35
Shiseido brings yet another physical sunscreen to the table, specifically developed to counter harsh urban environments. Not only does it contain herbal extracts and mineral powders that conceal blemishes and pores (great for mama!) it also leaves a matte finish — a life-saver for grease- and acne-prone skin.
4. Sulwhasoo Age-Veil UV Protection Cream
Available at Amazon for $71
A cult-favourite beauty brand in Asia, Sulwhasoo’s anti-aging sunscreen is the only physical-chemical hybrid formula on our list. This cream protects against UVA and UVB rays, but also features Korean herbal medicine that promises to deliver a firm and radiant complexion — perfect for mamas who want to look their brightest!
5. Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF50
The titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in this dermatologist-recommended chemical-free formula protects against broad spectrum UVA and UVB rays, and it comes in a compact bottle for easy storage in your purse or beach tote. Got sensitive skin? This sunscreen is one step ahead: it’s infused with lavender, green tea and liquorice to soothe skin irritation before it happens, and is particularly gentle for little ones.
Born in Hong Kong, raised in Toronto, and educated in Montreal, Roseanne is now back in her hometown and taking it by storm. Under her belt are editorial stints in ELLE Canada’s beauty department and Beauty RSVP magazine. When she’s not scouting the latest beauty buzz, Roseanne’s out shopping, eating, sipping on G&Ts and dancing with her girlfriends – all in that order.