Best Used: Twice a dayCaution: Use correctlyBest for: Everyone & everything
Comments: The absolute foundation of skin careMode of action: Protects against UV radiationScience Score: *****


What is the skin science behind sunscreens?

The absolute cornerstone of any skin care routine revolves around sunscreens. UV rays account for over 90% of skin ageing, also known as photoaging. This is especially true in Queensland, Australia. Not only does UV exposure cause cosmetic issues including melasma, pigmentation & wrinkles, it can also cause skin cancer. Yes, it is true that 2 out of every 3 Australians will develop either sunspots or skin cancer by the age of 55. 

Finding the best sunscreens for you can be perplexing as there are so many brands & formulations, hopefully this page will give you a guide. Here’s everything you need to know to find the best SPF, as recommended by Davin Lim. 

*What do I know about sunscreens? I spent my registrar training in the subspecialty of photobiology & photodermatology in the UK, Scotland & Ireland. I have authored a few papers on sunscreens & have been fortunate enough to have had clinical training by world renowned bosses in these countries. Blessed!

What’s the difference between mineral & chemical sunscreens?

Mineral and chemical sunscreens are  effective at protecting you from ultraviolet radiation, however they work in different ways. 

Sunscreen TypeIngredientsComments
Physical or MineralZn or Ti, Iron oxidesBest for sensitive skin
Chemical Avobenzone, oxybenzone


Rarely found in isolation
HybridCombination of aboveMost common sunscreens


Chemical sunscreens with ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate) absorb and change UV radiation into heat, which doesn’t cause much damage to the deep layers of skin. Recent science suggests that mineral sunscreens may do this too, in addition to reflecting UV & visible rays.

Mineral sunscreens or physical blockers contain zinc oxides, titanium dioxide as well as iron oxides. (Iron oxide sunscreens are not available in Australia, however can be sourced overseas) For many decades mineral sunscreens were thought to reflect UV radiation, however studies in the past five years have shown they act much like chemical sunscreens, with reflection accounting for only 5% of their activity in the UV spectrum, but accounting for the majority of attenuation in the visible spectrum.

Most new formulations are hybrid sunscreens, combining both physical & chemical blockers. The majority of dermatologists will advise hybrids, patients with super sensitive skin, for example rosacea, dermatitis, eczema often prefer 100% physical blockers such as Invisible Zinc. Chemical sunscreens may cause more irritation, however allergic & photoallergic reactions are extremely rare. If you fall in the later category, your medical dermatologist may undertake patch & photopatch testing. Avobenzone is the most common, but extremely rare allergen. (*Though I have authored many papers on sunscreens, I have no professional interest in contact dermatitis & photopatch testing)

As reinforced throughout this website & my numerous social media posts, don’t fuss over the brands, get into the habit of using sunscreens properly before worrying about the finer details. 

So what is the best sunscreen for me?

The best sunscreen is the one that you are going to apply every single day, in fact twice a day. My top 3 formulations are Melan 130 (very expensive but nice), La Roche Posay Anthelios (light, affordable) & Invisible Zinc (cost effective, high protection). Obviously the feel of a sunscreen is a subjective POV. 

Remember this checklist when choosing the right formulation for your skin type-

  1. You need it every single day. You’re still exposed to UV rays when it’s cloudy & most importantly forming a habit so that you are not caught out when the weather changes. So it’s important not just to find a sunblock you’ll wear on trips to the beach, but also to find the best daily face sunscreen for your skin. 
  2. You do need TWO types of sunscreen one as a daily (as above) the other if you are into outdoor activities including contact with water. This ‘active’ sunscreen should be waterproof & last 2, preferably 4 hours. Ego Sport or Neutrogena make really gooey sticky, stuff that sticks. They are also cheap, so lather it on. 
  3. Reapply– just putting sunscreen on once in the morning isn’t always enough, especially if you’re going to be out in the sun for a few hours. You should be reapplying at midday, or just before your daily commute home. If you apply in the morning under your makeup, and then you’re inside at work all day, you’re probably good keeping in mind that you’ll have to reapply at some point.
  4. Price point– go for feel, not cost. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s better. In fact for sunscreens, the more expensive the product, the less application amount and frequency. So pick a sunscreen that suits your budget. 
  5. Skin of color still needs sunscreen. Even if you do not burn, sunscreen is super important to project your dermis and collagen. More importantly a high factor SPF can prevent pigmentation changes such as melasma & post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 

Ultimately, there are a ton of sunscreens out there and they can feel different to different people. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t like one—just keep trying. A try before you buy policy is not just Asian mentality, but it should be applied to your sunscreen purchases. 

Davin’s Viewpoint on the use of Sunscreens

I think everyone is trying to make things so much more complex than it needs to be. Here is my take- buy something you are going to actually like using. Buy it, use it daily. If you have a skin condition that you want to improve, for example, melasma, pigmentation, fine lines, you do need to use it at least twice a day. You do need a sticky gluey sunscreen if you run outside or you are in the water. You can not expect your daily to stick. Buy a sport formulation & use it alot, not sparingly. Once you get this down pat, then sure you can look at the finer things such as UVA vs UVB protection, HEV- visible light protection, chemicals, photostability, photoallergic potential etc.. and geek out. Until then, start with the basics. End of discussion. 


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