Sunscreen reviews: it’s been a while. Mainly because (until recently) I hadn’t been anywhere hot for almost four years. And to properly test out sun protection, to really get to grips with the texture and the effectiveness and the pros and the cons of a particular product, you need a good long stint of testing time somewhere hot enough to actually want to sit out in your swimwear.
Face sunscreens are easy enough to trial – even on the cloudy day in the UK you can wang them on and find out whether or not they feel chalky or greasy or whether they sit nicely under makeup or make you burst out into a thousand pustulous spots. But body sunscreens are a testing no-go unless you’re somewhere warm – because who in their right mind is going to spend their time basting themselves in a white, potentially sticky SPF lotion if they’re not going to be lying on a lounger in Greece/Cyprus/St Kitts listening to kids screaming/piped muzak and periodically dozing off with their face stuck to the front cover of an airport novel?
Nope, I find that I need at least a week of reliable sun to give body sunscreens a thorough appraisal, which is precisely what I managed to get at the wonderful Domes of Elounda* resort in Crete. Apparently the week before we arrived had been very cold and windy, so I was overjoyed to luck out and get seven full days of sunshine.
At a minimum it was twenty-one degrees, which isn’t even that hot (we used to go to Greece in peak season when it was thirty-five to forty!) but our private patio, which was sheltered from any breeze and made of stone, was broiling. Whoever built it must have basically copied the design for a pizza oven, because you only needed a couple of hours next to the pool (between one and three, which was when the babies went to sleep!) and you were as baked as a fiorentina. Two fried eggs on top.
I took half a dozen sunscreens with me to test and all of them were great, but the new Vichy Ideal Soleil Tan Enhancing Protective Solar Water was just outstanding. It felt so luxurious – really silky and smooth on the skin, almost like a dry oil – but was one of the easiest, quickest sunscreens I’ve ever applied. Just like spraying on water. Which is probably why it’s called Solar Water.
Now look; I’ve been a bit dubious in the past about sunscreen mists and waters and spritzes. Fine as a top-up or for a quick blast when you’re maybe-or-maybe-not going to be in the great outdoors at some point and want some sort of protection against incidental exposure. But as a standalone, full protection option? I don’t know. I just felt that creams and lotions seemed more robust. (Although P20 is liquidy and does the job like no other. So long as you don’t mind smelling like a petrol station. Another post, perhaps.)
The Vichy Protective Solar Water SPF30 proved to be every bit as robust as a lotion, although I did find myself wanting to reapply it more frequently because of my mist-and-spritz trust issues. Or perhaps because it was so ridiculously easy to reapply – minimal hand-to-skin contact, which is good when you’re sweaty and hot, and a nice cooling sensation from the spray. I was topping up on an almost hourly basis.
And there’s another side to this sunscreen, too; enriched with beta-carotene, it’s supposed to promote an “enhanced tan”. Which I thought, at first, meant that there was a bit of fake tanning stuff in the formula. It looked like the sort of product that might have some sort of glow or self-tan added, just as a little colour boost, and after the first two days I was so bronzed that I was convinced that it was giving me a helping hand – a bit of a sneaky holiday cheat.
But no. If it’s anything doing the helping it’s the antioxidants, promoting a more even and golden colour. Whether there’s enough of that in the bottle to do such a thing is anybody’s guess, but I most definitely got a faster and more even tan on the side I used it on (my infamous half-and-half body-basting test).
And I know that “tanning” is virtually a dirty word, now, but for me it happens naturally if I go out in the sun. It’s an unavoidable process if I’m outdoors, even with sunscreen on. And anyway, let’s be absolutely honest: I didn’t traipse all the way to Greece to sit indoors with my head under a blanket. If I was to take the hardcore approach to sun safety, I would recommend that nobody had any sun exposure at all, ever, but that would make me a hypocrite. There is nothing – and I mean nothing – on this planet that I find as restorative as a week in the sunshine. The vitamin D boost makes me feel almost Godlike, in terms of energy and mood, and the beautiful light raises my spirits no end. I lie there like a giant pebble, soaking up the warmth until I’m toasty to the core. Bliss. I always wear sun protection and wear a large hat, limit my time in the sun, but there you have it: I like to sunbathe. Just a little bit, these days, and I’m like a paranoid maniac when it comes to the kids, who are basted top to toe in thick white SPF and are only allowed out when the sun starts to go down – ha! – but the sun on my body is one of my favourite things ever. I should live somewhere warmer, really.
Anyway, sun politics and the world’s longest disclaimer aside, Vichy’s Tan Enhancing Solar Water is a glorious sunscreen formula; a cinch to apply and that wonderful silky finish. Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, SPF30, no oily residue on clothes and a pleasant fragrance that’s not at all overwhelming. It feels far more expensive than it actually is – £19, though Escentual have it cheaper here* – and is something that you really want to reapply, rather than dread reapplying. Which is a huge bonus in my books.
You can find the Vichy Ideal Soleil Tan Enhancing Protective Solar Water SPF30 (if you haven’t died of exhaustion from reading the product name) at Escentual.com here* for £16.15. RRP £19.
Oooh – separate post on this coming up, but the swimming costume I’m wearing is a Miraclesuit. Have you heard of these? They have this intense tummy-control part so it’s sort of like spanx for swimming in. To be fair, I couldn’t handle the squeezing sensation so kept the size 12 rather than the 10, but it still worked marvels in the oversized torso region. I don’t know where it squashed the excess body to, but I was massively smoothed-out. I hadn’t eaten for about three days thanks to a stomach bug, but still – really good buy. I bought mine from Figleaves here*.