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Sunscreens

Different types of sunscreens 

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Manufacturers are constantly innovating new ways of presenting products. Sunscreens such as roll-ons and sprays help make the experience easier and more comfortable for the user. This is important as it encourages us to reapply. In addition, there is a wide range of products which include additional benefits, such as water-resistant or longer-lasting protection.

Whatever sunscreen type we choose, we can be confident in using it because sunscreens are developed by scientists with expert suncare knowledge and are covered by strict safety laws. [see Confidence in sunscreens section]

Water-resistant sunscreen


Water-resistant sunscreens have been formulated to resist being washed off by water, for example during swimming, and have been thoroughly tested to make sure they work as labelled. However, no product is 100% resistant to being washed off with water, therefore no sunscreen can be completely ‘water-proof’. The laws that cover the manufacture of cosmetic products require that all claims made must be substantiated.

Extended-wear sunscreens


Dr Emma Meredith, Director of Science at CTPA,  explains how extended wear sunscreens are intended to be used


Products which offer extended-wear protection are formulated to stay on the skin longer while maintaining their sun protection. They are useful for people who can’t avoid extended sun exposure or who are not able to reapply as is normally recommended, for example walkers, people participating in outdoor sports and outdoor workers.

There are various ways in which these products are designed: 

  • some products incorporate ingredients that help the UV filters penetrate the upper layers of the skin where they are protected more from being rubbed-off 
  • some use active ingredients which adhere to the skin
  • others rely on the technique of binding the UV filter tightly to the skin, using water and abrasion-resistant material.

Whatever the technology, the end result is a product that can protect for many hours after application. If the product is also water-resistant then this will be labelled on-pack. Manufacturers of extended-wear sunscreens will comply with the same safety and claim substantiation requirements as for traditional sunscreens and will have carried out robust testing to ensure the product will provide the expected level of protection. 

As with all sunscreens, it is important to follow the instructions for application and use; and remember not to use sunscreen to stay longer in the sun. 

Creamy and clear formulations


Most sun creams are opaque, i.e. they look creamy. That is because they are emulsions. Emulsions are made by mixing oil-loving and water-loving ingredients together (which under normal circumstances would not mix together), and stabilising the mixture through the use of special materials called emulsifiers. UV filters are either water-soluble or oil-soluble and an emulsion will usually contain a combination of these filters. A transparent product can be achieved if the formulation does not include emulsification, because the ingredients are either only oil-loving or only water-loving ingredients. 

It is now also possible to formulate a transparent or clear sunscreen that is not only non-oily but also offers medium to very high protection. 

If you want to find out about different types of ingredients in your products, visit What's in my cosmetic? 

Moisturisers and foundations with SPF


Certain types of moisturisers and foundations contain added protection from UV rays to help combat the rays’ anti-ageing effects, because it’s well-known that being out and about in strong daylight - even when it’s not that sunny – can contribute to the ageing process. Such products are not intended to be used as primary sun protection: their main function is as a moisturiser or foundation and should be used in the same way you would use any other product of that type. If you're wearing these products and you're going to spend time in the sun, you still need to apply sunscreen.