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The Battle of the Sunscreens

In 1999, director and composer Baz Luhrman, (The Great Gastby, Moulin Rouge) created a soundtrack offering sunscreen as the only piece of healthcare worth acknowledging. The song, titled Everybody’s Free to wear sunscreen, was based on a poem penned two years earlier by journalist  ‎Mary Schmich for the Chicago Tribune intended to offer advice on how to live a happier life.

At the time of the song’s release, more concern was spared on the dawning of the new Millenium and the search for a music genre which didn’t include 5 boys and dance routine. Sadly, the message of sun protection was lost.

Jump forward 18 years and nothing is a more highly and widely discussed skincare topic than sunscreen. From Australia’s national Slip, Slap, Slop campaign to Nivea’s Sunslide waterslide for kids which dispensed sunscreen as they slid down a waterslide, global warning has projected a humble white cream from obscurity to front of shelf. To understand this meteoric rise, is to know what sun damage is. Lets take a look.

Three types of UV rays

Sunlight is the main source of Ultraviolet (UV) rays followed by tanning lamps and beds. Its a is a type of electromagnetic radiation transmitted in waves or particles at different wavelengths and frequencies. Its what makes posters glow in the dark, is responsible for summer tans and also kills living tissue. 

  1. UVA rays age skin cells, cause pigmentation and can damage their DNA. These rays are linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles and are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers. Most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA, which has been found to increase skin cancer risk.
  1. UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage skin cells’ DNA directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
  1. UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays, but they don’t get through our atmosphere and are not in sunlight. They are not normally a cause of skin cancer.

Sunburn, pigmentation and cancer

A suntan is a reaction to exposure to harmful UVB rays. In essence, a suntan results when the body’s natural defense system kicks in. A pigment called melanin is produced by cells in the skin called melanocytes. Melanin absorbs UV light and dissipates it as heat. When the body senses sun damage, it sends melanin into surrounding cells and tries to protect them from sustaining more damage thereby causing the skin to darken. Patches of pigmentation is thus a concentration of melanin in an area of the skin which has been most exposed to UVB rays. Melanin is a natural sunscreen but continued exposure to UV radiation can overwhelm the body's defencss. When this happens, a toxic reaction occurs resulting in sunburn.

Even though UV rays make up only 10% sun’s rays, they are still the primary cause of skin damage by adversely affecting the DNA of skin cells. The body senses this destruction and floods the area with blood to help with the healing process. Usually within half a day of overindulging in the sun a painful inflammation occurs; that characteristic red-lobster look of a sunburn.

Aging and skin cancer start when this damage affects the DNA of genes that control skin cell growth. The cells with DNA mutated by the sun's rays turn into problem cells that don't die but keep proliferating as cancers - hence cancer spreading.

What is SPF?

A sunscreen's efficacy is measured by its sun protection factor, or SPF. It isn’t an amount of sun protection per second.  Rather, it measures how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without the product. For instance, a person using an SPF 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen. An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93 percent of the sun's UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97 percent; and SPF 50, 98 percent.


Sunscreens we trust

Here at Langaro HQ, our range of sunscreen brands are not based on pretty packaging or kickbacks from reps. We’ve selected them for the benefit of your skin type, your daily activities and care for the whole family. Since both UVA and UVB are harmful, you need protection from both kinds of rays. To make sure you're getting effective UVA as well as UVB coverage, look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, plus some combination of the following UVA-screening ingredients: stabilized a avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. MexorylTM), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. You may see the phrases multi spectrum, broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection on sunscreen labels, and these all indicate that some UVA protection is provided.

Obagi Sun Shield SPF50 Matte

This elegant matte-finish sunscreen provides broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection in all skin types but the sheer finish makes it ideal for oily, acne-prone skins due to its mattifying effects. Especially suitable for dark skins as it does not leave a grey film on the skin after application.

Bio-Therapeutic SHADE SPF30

This full spectrum SPF 30, UVA/UVB sunscreen provides necessary protection from environmental hazards. It contains squalane, a lipid to help replenish dehydrated and dry skin and Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. This non-oily, soothing, and refreshing preparation makes it ideal for daily use and as an excellent makeup base. BT SHADE is PETA-approved, and suitable for all skin types including acne prone skin, and those using reacutin or other antibiotics. 


Dermalogica Ultra Sensitive Tint SPF30

This broad spectrum sunscreen with tinted earth minerals helps calm sensitised, reactive and recently resurfaced skin. This is an ideal staple for low maintenance, beauty as it combines the perks of makeup with sun protection. Add a lipgloss and mascara, and you’re good to glowingly go.

Dermalogica Protection 50 Sport SPF50 

This broad-spectrum sunscreen utilises lipid-rich Oleosomes that boost sun protection and antioxidants to help defend the skin. The formula includes a blend of essential oils to soothe irritation from UV exposure, while hyaluronic acid binds moisture to the skin without greasiness. This product is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and is a must-have for extreme sport enthusiasts who are frequently practicing and attending sporting events outside. Protection 50 Sport SPF50 can be used for both face and body, making sunscreen protection easy for busy people on-the-go.


The Coverderm range is hyper-allergenic, 60-80% waterproof, a 2-in-1 sunscreen and after soother, and available in a formula for kids. Dispensed from a pump-action bottle, this one is a firm family favourite. 


With so many options to choose from, we have no reason not to trust Baz Luhrman’s advice; everyone should be wearing sunscreen.