Frankly, this month's heatwave was a bit of a shock.
Early April gave us beautiful weather - warm and sunny with a cool breeze. So warm in fact that I had to do a quick season-swap of my clothes - I went home at the beginning of April wearing leggings, fleece-lined Doc Martens and a winter coat; I came back a week later in light trousers, a thin t-shirt and plimsoles, which shows just how much the weather changed in a matter of days.
Naturally, all that sun was a shock for my skin. I sat in the garden for half an hour and came away with a neck the colour of strawberry ice cream. I needed to find a suncream, and fast.
Boots offered the usual brands, but a glance over their ingredients told me that my skin was likely to feel uncomfortable in even the 'sensitive' ranges. The local chemist proved to be my saviour. Avène's Very High Protection Cream SPF 50+ cost me £16 - significantly more than a bottle of Soltan - but it's proven to be worth every penny.
Avène is one of the 'French pharmacy brands', alongside La Roche Posay and Vichy, whose products all contain a high proportion of thermal spa water, an incredibly soothing ingredient. To be honest, I thought it was gimmicky until I tried it - what's so special about fancy water? But, as I found, thermal spa water is wonderfully calming on sore, red, irritated skin. The above brands all sell their own in portable spray cans too. The cans keep the water cool, making them an ideal aftersun or skin-refresher.
This suncream's soothing and moisturising properties are wonderful on dry, irritated, or sundamaged skin. However, it has two particularly brilliant features that put it above and beyond every other suncream I've tried:
1. It doesn't turn my face into a shiny greaseball as soon as I step out the door. I've used some suncreams that can't stand up to the summer heat, resulting in constant dabbing and heavy powdering to mask shininess. Despite its rich, moisturising texture this has a satin-matte finish.
2. It doesn't give skin a ghostly pallor, which some high SPF products can do. Although this is a white-coloured cream, it blends quickly and easily, leaving my skin looking and feeling like itself.
My makeup sits beautifully on top without my base bobbling and falling away like fluff on an old jumper. There's a slight tackiness at first which I think helps keep makeup where it's put. However, this isn't a primer - it's silicone free, meaning it doesn't give the smooth, laminated effect of a primer, and it isn't designed to even out skintone or blur pores.
A product that's waterproof and non-comodogenic can be difficult to find - the two are often mutually exclusive, and I certainly haven't had much luck in the past. Long-wear products tend to give me spots; products that allow my skin to breathe have a shorter lifespan. This inexplicably manages to do both.
This is a particularly useful product for makeup users, several of whom avoid suncream on a daily basis because its incompatible with their foundation. Until a few weeks ago this included me. I'd always mistakenly assumed that wearing a foundation containing SPF 15 meant that my skin was protected - until I read A Lesson in SPF by Rosie Green, which points out that in order to get the full sun-protecting benefits, I'd have to be piling on spoonfuls of it.
Avène Very High Protection Cream SPF 50+, £16 for 50ml.
Large branches of Boots which stock the French pharmacy brands are more likely to stock their suncare ranges. The branch on on Sedley Place, 361 Oxford Street, (turn right out of Bond Street station) is the best I've found.
Independent pharmacies often stock Avène products, but can be unreliable on which ones they stock!
Online from Boots, Escentual, and Feelunique.
Thanks for reading! x