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The best sunscreen you'll ever use

Sunday 13 July 2014

Somehow, this was the best picture of the bunch. It's not great.

I've always believed that if you suffer one bad sunburn in your life, you will do everything in your power to never let it happen again.

Mine happened in San Diego, in 2003. We had gone to the beach for the day, and by the time we navigated the city bus, the sky was cloudy and overcast. It was still pretty warm though, so we spread out on our towels and relaxed. A few times, I took a dip in the sea, only to be savaged by the waves, which pulled me under every few seconds. We half-heartedly threw a bit of spf15 on, without bothering to reapply.

When we headed back to the city later on, we went to the mall opposite our hostel (we were 18 - this trip was filled with malls, Jamba Juice and excitement over hot butter on tap at the cinema). We were in American Eagle when a shop assistant brushed my inch of exposed belly (see: 2003) and said

"Whoa! You got a bit of colour there!"

I looked in the mirror and saw that my flesh had turned an eerie shade of maroon. I looked at my friend, who seemed to be getting redder by the second.


That night was spent lying wide awake on a bunk bed, trying not to move an inch, lest the sheets rub our agonised skin. I think we both threw up that night. Maybe even in the bathroom of Moose McGillycuddy's.

A few days later, in LA, I was seriously worried that I had permanently damaged by skin, which was blistering on my chest and becoming Jordan-style pigmented on my cheeks. A pharmacist didn't share my concern, but sold me some vitamin e oil. There was a picture of Noah Wyle on the wall.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that once you get burned like that, you're not to keen on it happening again.

Of course, I'm only human. And a pink/white toned one at that, who blushes and burns with ferocity. I'm diligent with sunscreen, but sometimes a burn slips through the net.

This year, I wanted to try the pinnacle of 'once a day' sunscreens, p20. Unlike other so-called once a day applications, this stays put for 8 hours, including 80 minutes in the water. I lose my mind when I see a sunscreen that claims to be waterproof, only to say in the small print that it must be reapplied once you've been in the water. People don't read the small print, they just read the front. Not cool.

Using p20 isn't as easy as dashing it on while you're on a sun lounger. It has to be applied dutifully all over, and then dry for 20 minutes inside. This means that you have to flap around naked for a while - no sitting down, no dressing. If you're on holiday with people uncomfortable with nudity, you're out of luck.

But once you're dry, you're done. Protected for the day. Obviously, you're not going to boil yourself in the midday sun (between 11am - 2pm) but if you apply it correctly, you won't burn.

I used the spf30 in the Caribbean, and didn't burn. I will say this - the higher spf versions all come in spray form, which I hate. Most of it misses your body, and you can't keep track of how much you're using. The spf20 I used in France, where the temperatures pushed 29c some days. And I didn't burn.

I also have super sensitive skin, and didn't suffer at all with it. There's a bit of a chemically/alcohol smell off of it, but it fades as soon as it's dry. It's also great under make up - it's often used on film sets because it doesn't have a shine, and works as a great base for foundation.

The only downside? It is expensive. But so is most sunscreen, and because you're not constantly reapplying, you don't get through as much. One 100ml bottle lasted me around 5 days on average. Which brings me to another highlight - the 100ml bottles go through your hand luggage liquids allowance. Hurrah! If you want the bigger bottles, buy in the duty free section of most airports.

I also landed on a bit of a bargain - while whizzing through Primark in Liverpool, I spotted the range by the till for £6.60 a bottle. In Boots, it's usually around the €14 mark. You can also buy online at

The range comes in spf 15, 20, 30 and 50. Only the 20 comes in liquid form, which I preferred. But there's nothing stopping you from unscrewing the spray lid or decanting into another bottle.

I can safely say it's the only sunscreen I'll ever use again.



  1. Replies
    1. It is pricey. But I think that it works out, considering how often you have to reapply regular sunscreen, especially if you're getting in and out of the water. Have a look online - I found it cheaper at

  2. That night was spent lying wide conscious on a cot, doing whatever it takes not to move an inch, or the sheets rub our anguished skin. I think we both hurled that night. Possibly in the lavatory of Moose McGillycuddy's.

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