Wednesday, 24 August 2016

SPF: the post-holiday breakdown

After the recent City SPF video I had quite a few questions about what products I would use to actually sit on a beach/go on a sunny holiday, so just before we left for the airport, I fired off these pictures of our lineup.

A few notes on my experience/surroundings:
  • We went to Greece for one week. Me, the Mr, Ava and Max. Four people of varying sizes and skin gradings on the Fitzpatrick scale. I would say Jim is a 3, Max is between a 3 and 4, Ava is a 4 and although I would identify as a 4, I tan like a 5 due to my background.
For your reference
  • I reapplied at least every hour, on myself and Max. Ava took care of herself and reapplied more often as she was in water 90% of the time.
  • The temperature was between 26 and 30 degrees daily (85 fahrenheit approx)

Left to right:

Vichy Ideal Soleil SPF 50 (spray) - this was Ava's favourite by far for the body. It was empty by around Day 4. Very good. She's extremely sporty and wanted a spray for ease. I supervised the first few applications to make sure she wasn't cutting corners and after that she was fine. She didn't burn on her body and I would definitely repurchase/recommend.
Available from and

Sisley Super Soin Solaire Facial Sun Care SPF 30 - rather excruciatingly, this was Ava's favourite for face. In the spirit of fully disclosing, Sisley sent this to me for review, and although it is absolutely beautiful, I winced at the price tag. If you can afford it, it's lovely, if you can't, don't sweat it. (See what I did there?)
Absolutely no burn, no sting and great texture.

Available from Liberty and John Lewis

Clarins has been my choice of SPF for nearly 20 years. The smell of it alone reminds me of holidays and puts me in a good mood. I used the 50 spray on top of the 30 cream in some hard-to-reach areas and we all used the SPF50 (not pictured) for face for the first few days (we used it up) and then moved to the 30 around Day 4. The body products were similarly good, the spray being very handy for the kids and Jim and I both found it helpful for backs of legs, feet etc. The 50 spray was mainly used on Max, who had no complaints and did not burn at all.

Available from John Lewis and Nordstrom

Clinique make brilliant SPF products that are also fragrance-free. We had an issue with the packaging though. The lids on the larger body bottles kept popping open in transit. Luckily I am anal and pack SPF in ziplock bags so when we arrived to find one had opened and spilled out, it was just a case of cleaning the other bottles, not all our clothes. It did it again in our bags when we were out in the town, meaning we ended up only using it poolside because it couldn't be trusted.

Having said that, the SPF in the bottles is so good that I would still recommend. Jim would only use the 'little white one' on his face and we had three body, which all got used. Brilliant, brilliant SPF with packaging that you need to sellotape. :)

Available in the UK from and then for other countries. The new mineral sunscreens that we used seem to be sold out in a lot of places - you may have to hunt around for them.

Hair-wise, I've used Phtyo Plage since I was first trained in it in SpaceNK twenty years ago. Some old habits die hard. :) I gave Ava the one on the left, I used the one for ultra dry hair. Sprayed on hair liberally, although I generally only reapplied once more during the day, usually after lunch.

Available from Sephora and

I found the next three in Greece. I've loved Hei Poa ever since I first found it in Paris years ago, but this was the first time I bought the SPF. I loved it. The smell, the texture, not too oily, absorbs nicely and is not extortionate. Available on Amazon so probably in most countries.

You can't talk about SPF without mentioning Lancaster. Lancaster has an almost iconic status in SPF land (certainly in Europe), but their distribution in the UK has never been organised very well and between pulling out of the country altogether years ago and then coming back far too quietly (I'd have been screaming it to the press), they have kind of slipped off the radar. Not in Europe however, every pharmacy in Paris carries pretty much the whole range and in super sizes (how rude).
The Dry Touch Gel SPF20 won 'Best Packaging' hands down on this trip. Soft touch tube, pump dispenser, no mess anywhere, and not runny. Excellent product, excellent packaging. The SPF15 Silky Milk Sublime Tan was used the last couple of days on holiday and although great as an SPF, it's incredibly runny and the opening at the top is too large for the texture of the formula, leading to a lot of (entertaining) incidents with Mr Hirons swearing and asking us if we needed anymore SPF as he had half the contents of his bottle in his hand. Great product, annoying packaging.

Available on Amazon

After Sun:
Mixed results and reactions with these. The Clarins Creams were more popular than the Gel, and the Clinique Rescue Balm was easiest the nicest one to use. Calming, soothing and hydrating. The Clarins Facial After Sun stung at the end of the day so we switched to La Roche Posay Toleraine which I had luckily thrown into the case at the last minute.
The Toleraine was pretty much the perfect after sun. Used in the evenings before bed, the skin was left hydrated and nourished with no spots the next day. Also obviously a brilliant moisturiser for dry skins...

Clarins After Suns are available from John Lewis and Nordstrom
La Roche Posay Toleraine Ultra Nuit is available from Look Fantastic

*For those of you already asking - it all went in Max's suitcase. He's small, he only packs shorts and vests and even WITH the sun creams his case was 8kg. :))

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The views expressed on this site are the author's own and are provided for informational purposes only. The author makes no warranties about the suitability of any product or treatment referenced or reviewed here for any person other than herself and any reliance placed on these reviews or references by you is done so solely at your own risk. Nothing on this site shall be construed as providing dermatological, medical or other such advice and you are always advised to seek the advice of a suitable professional should you have any such concerns.


  1. Toleriane Ultra Nuit is literally the only thing I can put round my eyes apart from Vaseline when they're red and irritated (from using Retinol I think). It also saved my skin last month on holiday-almost didn't take it! It's like anti-histamine in a bottle (for me).

    Sorry to go off-topic but is there any chance of a post on makeup that is almost absolutely guaranteed not to clog oily skin? I find the new Effaclar foundation, No7 match made concealer and Lily Lolo mineral foundation are almost there but I suspect still cause some clogging. But in particular, I have tried loads of blushes and contour powders and everything seems to cause blackheads, despite washing my brushes after every use.

  2. This is such an interesting post, especially because you pretty much all have different skintones! It's been a long time since I last did a beach holiday but I will make sure to go back to this post next time I do, especially for the Aftersun and Hair Sun protection part (I'm really good at reapplying sunscreens throughout the day but I always forget about my hair and something to soothe my skin afterwards)!

  3. Recently bought the clarins after sun in the jumbo size. The smell. The smell!!!!!!!! Gonna be using it daily as a moisturiser because it makes me super happy!

  4. You must try the new La Roche sun protectant for your face, it is incredible!

  5. I used to love the Clinique sun cream but the last few years it hasn't agreed with me at all, makes me come out in spots. I switched to La Roche Posay and it has been great. I have level 1 - 2 skin according to the chart. Body wise, I usually use Nivea without any problems. My hair Phyto, and have done for 20 years, after living in the Middle East with bleached blond highlights - it is without a doubt the best. I've never used After Sun every though, what do they do?

  6. Ah, great idea to have different products and applications. I packed an oil and cream spf when I went on a beach holiday earlier this month, but ended up buying more spf and different types when out there. I really liked the spray ones as they're nice and easy to apply in between sea swims. If it's too tricky/messy I'm likely to not apply often enough, which is naughty.

    Strangely, my fella reacted badly to sunscreen for the first time - red puffy eyes, headache, streaming nose. Has anybody had the same reaction and found a product that works for you? I lent him my Exuviance face spf 50 which worked great but would cost a heck load to use all over!

  7. I used Lancaster once. It did a good job, but I hated HATED the smell. Like strawberry milk, that has gone off.
    I get rashes from most sunscreens on my face. Mineralbased ones in general and most chemicals. Strangely the cheapest fragrance free one from the drugstore is currently the only one I can use.

  8. I have so much trouble with SPF and breakouts! I have tried everything from drug store to the highest of the high end and it ALL breaks me out. The one and (only sunscreen) that I am using at the moment is in my foundation, which is the Lancome Teint Idole Ultra 24hr. It is literally the only thing that includes sunscreen that doesn't cause my face to explode in spots! I wish I could find something else that would work or a tinted spf for "school-run" days because living in Hawaii I like having something lighter because it is quite warm and humid (all the time). Any suggestions for sunscreen for the peeps that have trouble with it? Much Aloha and Mahalo!

  9. Thank you as ever for being so informative and helpful. And that scale is fab, I've never seen anything say it so clearly. I'm a saddo, I like a good picture telling me what what. xx

  10. Thank you Caroline, I love these brands too.
    I also love to use the spray SPF50 from Biotherm and the LRP brand.
    About Hei Poa, they make a wonderful, I mean wonderful-great-gorgeous body oil with a refreshing scent of green grapefruit. It is "sublime". If you can find it, go for it. If not, just tell me and I can ship you one.

  11. Such a variety of skin tones in one family! We are pretty much all a II, but the kids are too small to tell quite yet.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  12. I wonder, now that so many (like myself) are of mixed race, what value the Fitzpatrick scale will have in the future. I have, quite literally, been burned by following the advice of well-intentioned sales clerks who recommended various sunscreens according to what they thought I needed based on this scale. I am Irish and African American, and I would say that my skin tone is somewhere between that of Beyonce and Kerry Washington. HOWEVER, I burn exactly like a redhead with skin the color of skim milk. Yes, I apparently hit the genetic jackpot! :) I cannot take the sun. Sad, really, because I love the beach and grew up on the water. My mother made me wear a hat, long-sleeved t-shirt, and zinc oxide on my face. I hated it and looked utterly absurd, but I am so grateful now. My sister, OTOH, has fair skin and used to tan quite easily -- back in the days when we didn't know any better. Now we both wear some version of my childhood beach getup, but thankfully, the Japanese have come to our rescue with sunscreens that don't look ridiculous on brown skin. We use those on our faces and LRP or Clarins everywhere else. If any of your readers are of color, PLEASE don't listen to anyone who says you don't need sunscreen or who tries to sell you SPF15. Melanoma is an equal-opportunity cancer. Sadly,we learned this the hard way.

  13. Dear Caroline,

    Thank you very much for the amount of good (and pretty entertaining) reading your blog has given me in the last couple of weeks!

    Regarding SPF, I would like to present you a brand that I'm not sure if it's selling in the UK. It is called Heliocare 360 (from the IFC Group) and it is easily the best SPF I've ever found. The gel is formulated with both chemical and phisical filters to provide SPF 50+ protection agains UVA, UVB, IF and Visible Light radiations. It is also loaded with anti oxidants such as Vit C, Vit E, Ferulic Acid, Caiffein and Green Tea Extract. (plus, it works great as a moisturizer after acid toning)
    The gel version leaves a beautiful glowy complexion and there's also an oil free version which I would recommend for very hot and humid climates.
    It's produced by a Spanish Lab but it's also available in Portugal. I would not mind to send you one if you'd like to test it for your self! :)

    Thank you very much

  14. Dear Caroline,

    Thanks for super informative post! I live in a hot country (has it's blessings i know) and this has wrecked havoc with my skin over the years - especially hyperpigmentation. I must admit I was not so careful growing up with my sunscreen, however I'm trying to salvage what i can these days. I would like to ask you if you could recommend a spray on sunscreen that i can reapply throughout the day over my make up?

    Rona :) x

  15. Hi Caroline, what are your thoughts on Altruist sunscreen? It is one of the best selling on Amazon UK, developed by a 'skin cancer specialist' and seems to be very affordable. Thank you! Vicky

  16. I'm just back from a city break to Madrid. I decided to break away from my usual Piz Buin Allergy and use Garnier factor 50 for sensitive skin. I have had the worst reaction. My skin looks so bad and I've no idea how to get it back to normal :(
    Thankfully I stuck to Clinique city block on my face so although my skin looks dehydrated it hasn't reacted.
    Lesson learnt - never limit yourself by taking hand luggage only as the restrictions on liquids is a killer (and the guy at Madrid airport tried to confiscate the Clinique Take Off The Day balm I'd bought on the way out as it was 125ml.I pleaded with him and said that I didn't realise a balm was a liquid (total lie, I knew damn well it was) and he let me off, phew)
    Anyway, lots of useful suggestions here for good lotions if I ever decide to stray away from Piz Buin again.
    Have a great bank holiday peeps x

  17. Hi Caroline, thank you for the post!!! I have a quick question, I am moving from England to Dubai and would like to know what kind of SPF I should use? will the post about the city SPFs apply to me? I am a little worried as Dubai is so hot and sunny all year round and whilst I won't be spending the whole day out I will be in and out of the office most of the time

  18. I'm prepping for hols so this is very useful. Question Caroline...did you put a serum under the LRP at night? If so what pls? Never quite know if it's best to keep it very simple on hols....especially as I normally cone out in spots with the humidity and suncream. Thanks!

  19. Dear Caroline, what time do you arrive to the beach and what time you are usually back? Pardon my bad english mistakes

  20. Any good Tintoretto powder sod to go over makeup?i live in a hot climate so up to 50spf is good.thank you.

  21. Dear Caroline, how would you compare LRP with Avène Tolérance Extrême Emulsion?