pale skinned redhead on the beach

How I Protect My Super-Pale Skin in 100 degree Heat

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When you’re as pale-skinned as I am, a good facial sunscreen is the Holy Grail of skincare, basically. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter how good your skin is, or how skilled you are at applying makeup: if you have to slather on a ton of thick, white, grease – which, let’s face it, is what most high SPF sunscreens are like – before leaving the house every day, well, you may as well just skip the makeup altogether, stick a bag over your head and call it day, no? And there have been times when I’ve been tempted, trust me.

Actually, these days I mostly DO just skip the makeup when I’m travelling somewhere hot. There was a time – I think of it as my Crazy Time – when I used to get up and diligently apply a full-face of foundation, plus three different shades of eye-shadow, just to walk to the bottom of the driveway and back, but not only do I no longer have the time (Or, let’s face it, the energy…) for those kind of shenanigans, the very thought of covering my face in layers of STUFF when it’s super-hot makes me feel a bit like I’m suffocating slowly. Instead, I now get eyelash extensions before I travel anywhere, and then all I need is a touch of blusher, a quick swipe of lipstick (I can’t go without those, unfortunately, or people start trying to resuscitate me…), and a facial sunscreen that won’t make me look like a very, very shiny version of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

That might sound simple, but trust me: it really isn’t, so, before our trip to Florida last month, I did a bit of research into the best facial sunscreen to allow me to protect my skin without making it even paler than it is already. One brand I kept seeing recommended was La Roche-Posay, so I stocked up on three of their products – two for me, and one for Max – and off we went…

Our visit to Florida just-so-happened to coincide with one of the hottest Mays on record there: we didn’t see a drop of rain the entire time we were there, and while it wasn’t quite as humid as it can get in the height of summer, the temperature was in the mid-to-high nineties most days, and just over 100 degrees at times over Memorial Day weekend. This was just fine by me: despite having skin like a ghost, I LOVE being in the sun, but, of course, those super-high temperatures did make sun protection even more important, so, in addition to the products I mentioned in my previous post (Which, yes, I did stock up on to bring home with me), I also used two separate sunscreens for my face…
Black and white retro polka dot swimsuit
yellow umbrellas on Cocoa Beach
Mum and baby in the water at Cocoa Beach, Florida
The pier at Cocoa Beach, Florida
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Mattifying Gel Sunscreen SPF 50+

First up, I used the snappily-named La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Non-Perfumed Mattifying Gel Cream, in SPF 50+. I’ve spent most of my summer holidays closely resembling an oil slick (I should add here that I don’t have particularly greasy skin: it’s just that most sunscreens make it look that way!), so I was most interested in the mattifying claims made by this product, which I assumed from the name would be a clear gel, which wouldn’t leave that horrible white cast you get from so many high-protection creams. Well, I thought wrong on that count: this is definitely more of a cream than a gel, and it IS white, too, so, the first time I used it, I was a little bit disappointed at first – especially when I walked out of the bathroom, and my mum immediately came over to rub a large white streak off my face.

So, to answer the ‘white cast’ question, YES: this does go on white, and it does have to be blended in carefully. As my skin is so pale anyway, the whiteness isn’t particularly noticeable (Unless you’re my mum, obviously, who’s spent a lifetime rubbing stray marks off my face, and is therefore primed for them…), but if you have darker skin, you may well notice a bit of a cast to it, I’m not sure. In its defence, though, while it’s definitely more of a cream than a gel, it’s not nearly as thick or gloopy as most other facial sunscreens I’ve tried, so it’s easy enough to apply. Best of all, though – and the reason I’ve already repurchased it – is the fact that, once you’ve applied it, it basically just disappears into the skin, as if it was never there to start with. Seriously, it makes your skin feel … well, like SKIN, basically: normal, human skin, that hasn’t been smothered in product: imagine!

For that reason, this is definitely the most comfortable facial sunscreen I’ve ever used, and while I didn’t attempt to use foundation, or much other makeup, over it, the fact that it has such a natural finish gives me high hopes that it would make a decent base, too. While it’s certainly mattifying, meanwhile, it’s not so much as to make your skin look unnatural: I might not look like an oil slick when I use this, but you can still see a bit of shine on the t-zone, which I actually prefer than a totally-matte look, which doesn’t look very natural.

(Oh, and the reason I’ve repurchased it isn’t because I went through an entire tube in two weeks, by the way: it was because I got home and realised I’d somehow managed to leave my existing tube in Florida, and didn’t want to be without it. Er, even although it’s rained constantly ever since we’ve been back, and I’m already starting to forget what the sun actually feels like…)

pale skin with freckles and how to protect it

As with any sunscreen, you obviously need to re-apply this regularly to avoid burning. Now, I’m pretty good at reapplying sunscreen to the rest of my body, but I have to confess to being a bit lazy about reapplying the stuff on my face – especially on days when I’m wearing a bit of makeup, and don’t fancy rubbing cream on top of it. To combat this, I also got some of La Roche-Posay’s Refreshing Mattifying Facial Spray, which also contains SPF 50, but which comes in an aerosol can which allows you to lightly mist your face (Or any other part of your body) with it, even over the top of makeup.

La Roche-Posay sunscreen review I took this everywhere with me on holiday, and although I got it for myself, I also found it useful for Max: not so much for his face, obviously (He’s a bit too young to know to close his eyes when you spray something near him!), but it was really handy to be able to just quickly spray his arms and legs for a quick top-up between applications of his usual sunscreen.

Speaking of Max, La Roche-Posay also do a sunscreen for babies – Anthelios Dermo Pediatrics – which I used on his face every day. As with the adult version, this a is a white cream, which was occasionally visible on his skin if I hadn’t been able to rub it in well enough (As I’ve said before, putting sunscreen on a toddler is definitely harder than nuclear physics, so, you know…), but it did absorb quickly, and didn’t irritate his skin in any way, so I’d happily use it again. Obviously with babies and toddlers, your first line of defence it to keep them out of the sun altogether during the hottest hours of the day, and we also made sure he was covered up as much as possible, especially at the pool or beach: all of his swimsuits have long sleeves and built-in sun protection, and, while the Battle of the Hat raged on for the duration of our trip, we refused to give in, and generally found that, as long as he was sufficiently distracted, he’d keep it on until he suddenly remembered to throw it into the sea again. Small victories, people: small victories…

happy Max at the beach
Me and Max at the beach
La Roche-Posay sunscreen review
Max and Terry at the beach
the best non-greasy sunscreen for pale skin

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  • Just in case you were interested, I have dark skin, and I tried the La Roche Posay Anthelios gel while away in Italy a few weeks ago (mainly because I was flying hand luggage only, and while I’m totally loyal to the Altruist dry oil sunscreen, it’s only available in 200ml cans which you can’t take in hand luggage…) and it does indeed leave a horrible white cast on dark skin. I left my tube behind in Italy, but unlike you, it was on purpose…

    June 5, 2019
  • Mary Katherine


    What a refreshing change to see it’s reasonably priced, too! I just expect any skin care product I see on a blog or IG post to cost at least $50. Glad to know there are good products out there for the common folk….

    June 5, 2019
  • Alice


    I use the matte facial one and on pale skin it’s absolutely fine under makeup.

    Boots used to do one that was much cheaper but for some reason stopped making it.

    June 5, 2019
  • The La Roche Posey line is on my list to try for this summer – I might not go to Florida, but doing a Camper van tip to Sweden means being outdoors a lot, and then we will go to France in August, so I guess I will get plenty of opportunities to test it.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    June 6, 2019
  • Miss Kitty


    I have quite pale, oily skin, and finding a sunscreen for my face that didn’t make me breakout was a nightmare. After much trial & error, I have found Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Clear Face sunscreen works the best. Rubs right in, doesn’t leave my skin feeling like an oil slick, doesn’t make me break out, and is fine under makeup. And most importantly, after using it all this past summer (I’m in NZ), it does its job of stopping my skin burning! I use the SPF 30+, I believe you can get an SPF 50+ but I don’t really see the point. SPF 30 is 95% protection and SPF 50 is 98% (or something like that), so not a lot of difference.

    June 6, 2019