Product watch: Sun Protection

We can blame Coco Chanel for making sun-kissed skin fashionable. But there are safe options for achieving that glow while staying UV-protected, says Rachel Marie Walsh.

Product watch: Sun Protection

Clearly many of us are already sold on the idea that fair complexions are a drag,

or somehow less attractive than the cafe-au-lait-to-copper look produced by the Maillard Reaction when we expose skin to dihydroxyacetone.

But how did that happen and why, now that we know that a real tan’s healthful associations are bogus, does it persist?

Blame it on Coco Chanel, at least historically.

The designer made a post-Cannes tan part of her influential look in the Twenties, beginning the colour’s well-established links with both pleasure and outdoor activity.

Fair skin, previously prized by the well-to-do, was soon eclipsed by colour that indicated you had money to travel.

Faking it through sunbeds may have fallen from fashion’s favour but cosmetics keep these associations alive.

Honestly, I am guilty of writing about tinted products that give skin a “healthy glow” without also stressing that that glow comes not from brown pigment but the flaw-blurring, light-reflecting particles it so often accompanies.

A truly healthy glow is what your skin gets when you’ve been working out, skipping sugar (which latches onto proteins in the bloodstream to form dulling advanced glycation end-products) and sleeping well.

This can be mimicked or enhanced without colour.

Ultrasun is a Swiss UV protection brand that combines filters with interesting makeup, anti-redness and anti-ageing formulas.

Their Glimmer Sensitive Skin Sun Protection SPF50+, €26.40 at, has the most potent possible broad-spectrum protection and a flattering champagne-coloured shimmer.

The formula suits all skin types and includes a range of antioxidants.

Abundant among them is superoxide dismutase, an enzyme with free-radical fighting powers comparable to retinol’s but without a similar risk of irritation for sensitive types. The nice thing about this lotion’s subtle sheen is that you can reapply as frequently as desired without looking Goldfinger-ed.

It can only benefit your skin.

Note that much of Ultrasun’s range is labelled “once a day,” a claim contradicted by the results of a 2016 Which? group test showing that after six to eight hours of wear the average sun protection factor of sun creams which claim to require a single application falls by 74%.

This is the equivalent of the protection offered by a SPF30 sunscreen dropping to SPF8, so do regularly reapply products marked as such if spending extended periods in the sun.

When less isn’t more

Colour on the body does have concealing benefits that complement summer clothes well, though a spritz of options like Sally Hansen’s filmy Airbrush Legs (clubbing classic though it is) would not provide adequate cover even if it did contain UV protection.

NARS offers a broad spectrum SPF-enhanced liquid version of their hit ‘Laguna’ bronzer from this month.

NARS Laguna Body Tint SPF30, €41, imparts its namesake powder’s pretty shade and dries to a transfer-resistant finish.

It contains a smattering of antioxidant oils and smells mildly of Monoi de Tahiti essence.

Moisturising well ensures a smooth finish but key to the tint’s efficacy is adequate application.

The European Cosmetic and Perfumery Association, Cosmetics Europe, suggests one teaspoon of sun protection for each limb and one each for your front and back as a rough guide.

Colour Conflicts

Colour cosmetics for lips and cheeks seldom contain sun protection stronger than SPF15 (i.e. UVB only), as filters typically have a white-ish cast that alters shade and intensity. BareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Cream Eye Shadow, €20.50, is a lovely example of broad spectrum protection in makeup that suits even sensitive eyes.

The shade range of nudes and delicate pastels is universally flattering.

It is best to work quickly with the doe’s foot applicator as, while the formula doesn’t crease, it does set fast.

Clinique High Impact Lip Colour SPF15, €22.50, is not as long-wearing as promised but frequent touch-ups are no bad thing, given the moderate level of protection.

Foundation-skincare hybrids with broad-spectrum cover are fab (particularly Dior Skin Star Foundation SPF30, €51).

But again, you really need to apply a lot (and avoid applicators like BeautyBlenders, which sheer them out) to take full advantage of their UV filters.

Using a substantial layer of Urban Decay Urban Defence Complexion, €28, as the final step in your skincare regime.

This silky gel glides over pores and dries quickly.

The look is radiant matte and completely clear, so protects without affecting your makeup’s shade.

The formula suits sensitive skin and provides gentle oil control.

Drier types may prefer Emma Hardie Amazing Face Protect & Prime SPF30, €55.20 at, a wonderfully emollient blend that includes Vitamin E and mongongo oils and temporarily fine lines.

It has a radiant finish and creates a beautiful base for makeup. Oxybenzone, which can irritate sensitive types, forms part of its sun protection.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up