There are many different types of sunscreens on the market and I think making the correct choice for your age and skin type more difficult.
Therefore I’m going to try and clarify the matter and give recommendations for different age groups and skin types.
Infants & Young Children
In babies up to 3 months of age, I would not recommend using sunscreens, but rather to avoid the sun completely and to wear the appropriate clothing. Some manufacturers will recommend their products from 3 months of age whereas other manufacturers recommend it from 6 months of age. These products will generally follow a minimalist formulation ie. have fewer ingredients and therefore carry a reduced risk of irritation and allergy to the skin. Manufacturers will often use fewer chemical filters and rather favour mineral or physical filters which reflect ultraviolet light.
From Early Teenager until Late 20’s
With the onset of puberty in girls as well as guys, the skin becomes more oily and prone to blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Therefore, the sunscreens they use should be of a lighter formulation that do not clog the pores. These sunscreens will generally have a matte or dry-touch finish.
From mid to late 20’s, women of this age who are either pregnant or on the oral contraceptive pill will be more prone to pigmentation or melasma. Visible light has been shown to make pigmentation worse, therefore these patients should have a sunscreen that covers UVB / UVA as well as Visible Light (often expressed as High Energy Visible Light o4 HElvs). The VL blocker is usually Iron Oxide, and this results in the sunscreen having a slight tint, which is often beneficial in disguising the pigmentation as well.
Late 20’s to late 40’s
At these ages, people are mainly concerned with the ageing effects of the sun. As one gets older, one’s skin generally gets drier, so you might want to use a sunscreen with a more creamy formulation. People working in crowded cities are generally exposed to more air pollution, and here one would want a sunscreen that blocks UVB / UVA / Visible Light as well as contain proven antioxidants that would help protect against pollution. Additionally, recent studies have shown that infrared radiation emitted by artificial light sources such cell phones, tv’s and tablets can also contribute to accelerated skin ageing and free radical damage, so the role of antioxidants in sunscreens in becoming even more important.
50’s and Onwards
Signs of ageing, as well as pre-cancer and skin cancers, will appear especially in people with fair skin living in South Africa. Here the sunscreen I would recommend would have a creamy base and should cover UVB / UVA / VL / Infrared and at this stage to have chemicals to help repair DNA ie. help reverse some of the damage to the DNA in skin cells, and therefore reduce the risk of skin cancer.
People who Play Sport
Many athletes, in general, complain about sunscreen running into their eyes when they play a sport. So for these people, one needs to look for safe, eye tech sunscreens that have been specially formulated to limit stinging. Such sunscreens are the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Shaka Fluid SPF50 or Heliocare 360 Water-Gel. For people who play watersports, they should look to a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a good water-resistance. Contrary to what is often marketed and referenced, no sunscreen is completely waterproof, therefore reapplication every 2 hours is crucial if you’re in and out of the water.