(Photographed at Sri Panwa on Phuket, Thailand.)
I have that most annoying of English skin: milky white, with a delightful blue tinge, that only needs to have a sunray glint in its direction to turn the most lobster shade of scarlet. Throw in a tendency to rosacea, eczema and dehydration and it’s just really all the skin-related joy around here.
I spent my childhood, teens and most of my twenties on beach holidays under an umbrella, swathed in sarongs and with a giant hat shielding me from any dangerous sunshine. My skin would also have a delightful blinding snow-white cast from the hardcore sunscreen I invariably used.
Back in the day, to be really effective, any high SPF contained whopping amounts of zinc oxide which always looks white on the skin, however hard one rubs it in. But newer suncare formulations are far more advanced and, if you choose carefully, you can still have the blessed trinity of waterproof, non-white and high SPF suncream.
For me, I’ve found that La Roche Posay’s Anthelios XL range is the business. I love the brand’s everyday skincare with a deep and desperate passion because I know it really, really works. It helps that I have spent many summers just a few kilometres down the road from LRP, a tiny French spa town in la France Profonde, populated by a seemingly endless stream of French patients referred there by their equivalent of NHS dermatologists with all manner of hardcore skin complaints to be treated with the local thermal spring waters.
I’ve had many treatments in Melusine, the beauty spa there, all using the efficacious thermal water, and my skin is always radiant afterwards.
I first bought the Anthelios SPF 50+ ultra light face cream there a few years ago from a pharmacy, and it has become my everyday summer sunblock, as it is non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t block pores), and is light enough to act as a base under my foundation. On days when my rosacea flushes aren’t so bad, I use the excellent tinted version alone.
It’s also paraben-free, with a reduced amount of chemical filters, and non-perfumed. Anthelios products all have a high PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) factor to help prevent sunspots and age spots, and the brand was also the first laboratory to use Mexoryl XL and Mexoryl SX, which are widely recommended by dermatologists as the most effective sunscreens against UVB and, crucially, UVA.
I bought the entire SPF 50+ arsenal with me here to Thailand, and it has been invaluable. I use the giant tube of lovely moisturising La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Smooth Body Lotion SPF50+ 300ml each morning to anoint my body, top to toe, and under my swimsuit to provide start up protection. (It’s very important to apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.) I’ve found the really big tube (£25) contains exactly the right amount for around twenty days, used once a day very generously.
Do bear in mind that the recommended amount each day is one ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, which dermatologists consider the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body, applied every two hours. (Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied, depending on body size).
The La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Face Ultra-Light Fluid SPF50+ 50ml I use on my face, neck and back of hands under my tinted face cream.
Then I take the easy application La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Spray SPF50+ 200ml version and the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Face Comfort Cream SPF50+ 50ml down to the beach to apply as needed. All the products are marked as Very Waterproof, and I can attest that this is indeed the case. But with skin like mine you can never be too careful. If I’m not on the beach, or by a pool then I use the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Protective Oil SPF50+ 200ml which makes my limbs look all glossy – but it is sadly a sand magnet otherwise.
They aren’t bog standard cheap, falling somewhere between basic Boots and the luxe cosmetic brands, at around £15 a pop, which seems pretty good value to me.
Crucially, I haven’t had any sunburn this trip and I am a lovely golden colour (also helped by self tanner). It’s a complete fallacy that you won’t tan with a high SPF – the figure refers to how long you can stay in the sun without burning whilst wearing the product.
The most impressive result of using all these every single day of this trip is that my skin feels heavenly. My face, which always ALWAYS get horrid blocked pores and whiteheads from using sunblock every day has been smooth and blemish free all holiday and I really cannot say more than that. Miracle products, really.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Face Ultra-Light Fluid SPF50+ 50ml
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Protective Oil SPF50+ 200ml
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XLSpray SPF50+ 200ml
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Smooth Body Lotion SPF50+ 300ml
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Smooth Body Lotion SPF50+ 100ml
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Face Comfort Cream SPF50+ 50ml