Sunscreens: our best bet against premature aging

The ‘Sunscreen Song’ by Baz Luhrmann tops my all-time favorite songs list. The lyrics are full to the brim with life advice, and the one that resonates most is to wear sunscreen.

As the UAE summers draw closer, I thought a post on sunscreens was mandatory. Read on to increase your IQ on sunscreens. I’ve also reviewed 5 sunscreens from 5 awesome brands just for you 🙂

the story of sunscreen. why we need it, how to choose SPF.


Sunscreens were designed to protect our skin from 2 major bad-guys; UVA and UVB. Given the depletion of the ozone layer, Earth is exposed to far more intense UV rays from the sun than ever before. These culprits are responsible for skin damage, premature aging and increasing the risk of skin cancers.

UVA penetrates deep into the skin’s layers and has the ability to cause wrinkles, skin sagging and skin cancers. UVB on the other hand causes sunburn.

UVA is responsible more most of the damage, but the scary part is it can all happen even before an actual sunburn is seen. Visible signs of skin damage are slow and cumulative. It is therefore a good idea to start using sunscreen as soon as possible.


Broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against both types of UV rays contain 3 key ingredients:

  1. PABA derivatives for UVB absorption
  2. Benzophenones for shorter-wavelength UVA protection
  3. Titanium or zinc oxide for the remaining UVA spectrum


Prevent Premature Aging: The New England Journal of Medicine has published a worrying example of Dermatoheliosis (also known as photo-aging caused by the sun) on their website. Below is a mug-shot of a 69 year-old truck driver. Over a span of 25 years, the left side of his face was more exposed to sunlight and has significantly aged as compared to the right.


Reduce the risk of skin cancer: Regular use of sunscreen also reduces the risk of skin cancer. UV radiation has been proven to cause damage to the DNA in the skin’s pigment cells, which in turn creates abnormal cancer cells.


Broad Spectrum: Ensure your sunscreen is broad-spectrum and protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

Fair of Skin: People with very fair skin are more susceptible to sun damage, and need a higher SPF. Darker skin is blessed with more melanin, the pigment giving the skin a darker tone. Higher amounts of melanin protects the skin from sun damage to a certain degree, and darker individuals can therefore make do with lower SPF levels.

How Much SPF? It’s simple mathematics; if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to turn red on a sunny day out, a sunscreen of SPF 15 will prolong the duration by 15 times (i.e. your skin will now be protected for 15 x 20 minutes = 5 hours). Dermatologist Dr. Hanan Taha recommends we use an SPF of 40 and above.

Reapply: sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2 hours to be effective.

Dosage: The recommended dosage for one application of sunscreen is 1 ounce (equivalent to a shot glass) for the entire body. Most of us are guilty of not even coming halfway up to this mark.

Waterproof it: If you are outdoors a lot and lead an active lifestyle, consider a waterproof sunscreen.

Indoor belles: a waterproof high SPF sunscreen also tends to be stickier and leaves an unsightly white tinge on the skin. This type of sunscreen also doesn’t work well with makeup. If you are mostly indoors, you can opt for a lower SPF.

Babies need SPF too: anyone and everyone over 6 months old should be wearing sunscreen.

Cloudy Days: We all need sunscreen every day, even if the sun isn’t out. On cloudy days, the sun’s rays still penetrate 40% of its UV rays onto Earth. Better be safe than sorry.

The Sun-Smart Mantra: For long durations out in the sun, remember to Slip (cover up with comfy clothing), Slop (rub on the sunscreen every 2 hours) and Slap (wear a hat).



Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF 100

bioderma photoderm max spf 100 review

Two things attracted me to this sunscreen: it’s Bioderma (love this brand!) and its SPF 100.

Ideal for: Outdoors. Sporty, sweaty people. UAE humidity. Sensitive skin.

Pros: with an SPF of 100, the cream provides optimal protection. It is waterproof, making it ideal for sports and the high humidity of peak UAE summers. It’s also fragrance-free which makes it ideal for sensitive skin.

Cons: Despite being SPF 100, it still needs to be reapplied every 2 hours.The texture is quite thick and greasy, and leaves a slight whitish tinge to the skin.

Price & Availability: A 40ml tube retails for AED 113. I bought 3 tubes at Boots Pharmacy during their ‘Buy 2 get 1 free’ scheme. Yes, I believe in stocking up!

Herbline Essentials Sun Screen SPF 40

herbline essentials spf 40 sunscreen lotion review

This is the very first product I’ve tried from the Herbline Essentials brand. I was attracted to the pretty packaging, and the fact that it is made in the UAE with holistic, natural ingredients that have been imported from the Himalayas.

Ideal for: sensitive skin, organic beauty fans, the entire family.

Pros: this sunscreen is light and easily absorbed by the skin. It does not leave any unsightly white residue, and works well under makeup. It is loaded with holistic, natural ingredients, one key ingredient being Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera has skin detoxifying and healing properties, and is also ideal for after-sun care. This sunscreen is also paraben, paraffin and cruelty-free. Given its natural ingredients, it is safe for use on young children.

Cons: it has a slight herbal scent I didn’t quite like on first application. However, it is very mild and does not last. Given all the other benefits of this sunscreen, a slight scent is easily negligible.

Price & Availability: a 120ml tube retails for AED 109, and is available for sales in all leading pharmacies across UAE and Kuwait.

No7 Anti-Ageing Sun Protection Spray SPF 30

no 7 anti aging sun protection spray review
Given we are supposed to rub in the sunscreen every 2 hours, the spray bottle this sunscreen comes in makes it exceptionally convenient to use.

The texture of this product is light, yet I find it a little too greasy for wearing under makeup.

Ideal for: the beach bag, travel. Anti-aging.

Pros: The spray bottle makes it very convenient to use. Being water-resistant, this product is ideal for the beach bag. Apart from being a sunscreen, it has a special antioxidant complex that gives the product space on the anti-aging shelf.

Cons: It only has an SPF of 30. An SPF of 40 and above is a better bet for the harsh UAE sun. It is also a little too greasy for my liking, and does not work well under makeup.

Price & Availability: a 200ml spray bottle costs AED 95, and is available at all Boots Pharmacies nationwide.

Murad Age Reform Perfecting Day Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 

Murad Perfecting Day Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Review Age Reform

Here is yet another sunscreen product that combines anti-aging with sun protection. Dr. Murad is a celebrity in the skincare world, and with his scientific background as a doctor, his formulations are hardcore advanced high-tech. I therefore had to give this cream a go.

Ideal for: anti-aging with sun protection, wearing under makeup.

Pros: this cream is luxuriously rich and creamy, and is perfect for normal to dry skin. It keeps the skin hydrated all day long, and absorbs well enough to work with makeup. It has an advanced formula for anti-aging, and makes the skin feel soft and supple on application.

Cons: The main disadvantage of this product is the price tag, but I guess you pay for quality and advanced skincare technology. It feels quite thick and sticky on first application, but absorbs into the skin quickly. I wouldn’t recommend this cream for oily skin-types. It also has a very ‘sunscreen’ scent, but this disappears fairly quickly after an hour or so.

Price & Availability: a 50ml tube retails for AED 230 and is available in leading beauty stores across the UAE, and can also be purchased online.

Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector SPF 50

kiehls activated sun protector spf 50 review

Kiehl’s reputation for high-quality skincare spans over 160 years, having been founded in 1851 in New York as an old-world apothecary. This particular sunscreen from their range is for the body, and has a lovely light floral summery scent.

Ideal for: the beach bag, keeping the body moisturized.

Pros: Highly moisturizing without being greasy. Includes an antioxidant complex Goji Berry and Vitamin E to help neutralize skin-damaging free radicals. Leaves the skin feeling moisturized and refreshed. I quite like the light, floral scent. This sunscreen is also sweat and water resistant making it ideal for a day out in the hot UAE summer sun.

Cons: It is only for the body. You need another sunscreen for the face. When first applied, it leaves a white sheen on the skin. However, the whiteness is gone within a minute or two.

Price & Availability: a 150ml bottle retails for AED 118 and is available in all Kiehl’s outlets nationwide.