The best sunscreens under makeup & more - une femme d'un certain âge

The Friday Edit: my favorite sunscreen & more

Susan B's favorite sunscreens & best sunscreens under makeup. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Sunscreen update

I’ve received a few questions lately about sunscreens, so thought I’d update you on what I’ve been using and why. I’ve also had the opportunity to try some new ones, so will share my thoughts on those as well.

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High protection sunscreen

Le ne plus ultra

I’ve come back to CHANEL UV Essentiel as my daily facial sunscreen. It’s pricey, but is just the best I’ve found and a little goes a long way.

  • It’s mineral-based, with good percentages of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (the ingredients my dermatologist likes)
  • Doesn’t look ashy
  • Best sunscreen under makeup (mineral, high SPF)
  • Doesn’t pill or flake, or settle into lines
  • Looks good on its own, has a nice dewy finish
Mineral-based, high SPF

Elta MD UV Clear (SPF 46) is one of the sunscreens my dermatologist has recommended for years. It’s a good product that also goes on mostly clear. I find that it sometimes pills under makeup or gets a little cakey when the air is dry. But I do use on my neck and décoletté most days (as I don’t wear makeup there), so it isn’t an issue.

Moisturizing formula

Brian + MW Super Radiance Skin Protection SPF 50. If you prefer a non-mineral sunscreen, you should give this one a try.

  • Goes on completely clear
  • Soothing and moisturizing.
  • Great under makeup or on its own
  • Absorbs quickly

Moderate protection

For lower UV index days you may find that SPF 30 is as much as you need.

100% mineral formula

The nice folks at Maelove sent me a few of their skincare products to try, and this was one of them. I really like this sunscreen!

  • Zinc oxide is the only active ingredient, so it’s a good option for sensitive skin.
  • It’s very moisturizing and doesn’t pill.
  • There’s a slight whitish cast when first applied, but it seems to fade/absorb quickly.
  • Works beautifully under makeup
  • A budget-friendly option, less than $20 per 2 oz. tube
  • 30 SPF
  • No dyes or fragrance


Lightly tinted, 35 SPF

Versed Guards Up. This all-mineral sunscreen utilizes non-nano Zinc Oxide for sun protection.

  • Non-chalky finish, though slightly more matte IMO
  • Lightly tinted
  • Non-greasy formula
  • Recycled packaging
  • Also a more budget-friendly option

Reading list

Madame Fourcade's Secret War, a compelling portrait of one of the women leaders of the French Resistance. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I just finished Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson. I give it my highest recommendation! It’s an engrossing and gripping history of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade and the Alliance spy network, which was responsible for some of the most valuable intelligence against the Germans in France.

Due to post-war politics (and some bad old-fashioned sexism), for many years after the WWII, her contributions were overlooked. But she (and many women) were crucial to the Resistance and intelligence gathering effort.

All The Light We Cannot See cover. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Next up on my reading list is a novel, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This one was highly recommended by my BIL and SIL.

And I’m still slogging my way through The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel. I’m finding this one a tougher go than the first two books. It’s a bit more ponderous, padded with a lot of rumination and flashbacks. It’s such an interesting period in history though, so I’m inclined to keep at it and finish.

What are you reading these days?

Stay in touch.

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  1. Val
    January 29, 2021 / 3:24 am

    I love the Chanel and the Elta sunscreens. I use the Elta everyday and double up with the Chanel when I know I am going to outside a lot. Living in Florida and having a son who is a professional golfer, sun protection is a big must .

  2. Susan Lee
    January 29, 2021 / 5:02 am

    Loved All the Light You Cannot See.

    • LeeAnn
      January 29, 2021 / 5:11 am

      Me too. Fantastic book.

  3. January 29, 2021 / 5:13 am

    I also loved All the Light You Cannot See, just a beautiful read. You may especially enjoy the segments in France.

  4. Judy
    January 29, 2021 / 5:13 am

    Have you read A Gentleman in Moscow? It is one of my all time favorite books! Have read the first 2 on your list and agree completely! They were wonderful. Would love to read more suggestions.

    • Susan Blakey
      January 29, 2021 / 5:47 am

      Yes, I LOVED it!!

      • Sandra
        January 29, 2021 / 7:10 am

        You can listen to Amor Towles discussing his creative process and “A Gentleman…” at the American Library in Paris’ FB page. He recently lectured there (via Zoom). He’s coming out with another book in the fall.

  5. January 29, 2021 / 6:10 am

    I have been using Australian Gold sunscreen for several years now. It’s a non-greasy, mineral lotion that’s lightly tinted. It has a broad spectrum SPF 50, antioxidant rich protection. I do not believe that a certain dollar sign indicates the value of a product. This is a very affordable product and most days it gives me enough coverage that I don’t add more makeup. It doesn’t settle in my wrinkles and if I want to add more coverage it works as a great base.
    There are certain products that I love that I am willing to spend more on but when I find an excellent product at a reasonable price, that’s a win!

    • January 29, 2021 / 6:14 am

      Oh yes, I am just finishing The Language of Flowers. I have enjoyed this book!

  6. Susan
    January 29, 2021 / 6:12 am

    I loved All the light you cannot see .You might like 3Hours in Paris by Cara Black.She writes a series of murder mysteries taking place in Paris,but this one is a stand alone about Paris in WW2

    • Sue
      January 29, 2021 / 10:30 am

      I’d second 8 Hours in Paris. Great book.

  7. Lynn Brand
    January 29, 2021 / 6:17 am

    Madame Fourcade will go on my TBR list! Two more WWII books, “A woman of no importance “, by Sonia Purnell, a biography of Virginia Hall, who also led resistance work in France, the CIA now has a building named in her honor. Also “The only woman in the room” by Marie Benedict, a fiction account of Hedy Lamar. She was a very interesting woman. It’s amazing what we women have accomplished throughout history with no recognition. Happy reading!

  8. Kathy
    January 29, 2021 / 6:38 am

    Does the Chanel Sunscreen have a scent of fragrance? I’m very sensitive to scent especially on my face?
    I also Loved All The Light You Cannot See and loved it!

    • Susan Blakey
      January 29, 2021 / 6:49 am

      There is a very faint scent, but to me it just smells like sunscreen and not added fragrance. It dissipates almost immediately.

  9. Sandra
    January 29, 2021 / 7:13 am

    “Shuggie Bain” is an excellent book (it won the Man Booker prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Award). Very sad, but beautifully written.

  10. Deborah
    January 29, 2021 / 7:17 am

    Firefly Lane is great. The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a great mystery, I highly recommend . Rules of Civility is very good. By the author of The Gentleman of Moscow but totally different.

  11. Jeanne J
    January 29, 2021 / 7:45 am

    I like to use a tinted sunscreen that provides sheer coverage, and I avoid octinoxate (among other ingredients), so I’m intrigued by the Versed Guards Up. So hard to find the “right” facial sunscreen, and my current one was just discontinued. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Laura
    January 29, 2021 / 7:53 am

    Susan, I just want to say how much I enjoy your blog. Your style is beautiful and you have truly blossomed with your new coloring. Thank you for such a wonderful, quality blog!!

  13. Karen
    January 29, 2021 / 8:07 am

    I have been using Elta UV Clear every day for the past six years. Aside from the incredible sun protection it provides, I credit the fact that it includes niacinamide for the tremendous improvement to my rosacea prone skin. The trick to avoiding pilling of makeup is to allow a few minutes before applying makeup.

  14. Christine Jensen
    January 29, 2021 / 8:22 am

    I’ll add ‘Madame Fourcade’s Secret War’ to my TBR pile as it sounds like reliable history vs. historical fiction; I’ve sort of burned out on WWII historical fiction. You might be interested in ‘A Woman of No Importance’ by Sonia Purnell. “The untold story of the American Spy who helped win WWII”. Comparing the experiences of the two women will be interesting

  15. Nancy MK
    January 29, 2021 / 8:23 am

    A Gentleman never leaves my bedside table, a moral guide in these constrained times. He lead me to War and Peace, Anna Karenina (his favorite novel) and a study of basic Russian and the watching of several versions of W&P & AK.
    All the Light, very good.
    Versed, excellent.
    Not so much sunscreen needed with a mask, which furthermore covers any age-related mouth and jaw issues, much to my amusement.

  16. Linda
    January 29, 2021 / 8:25 am

    I also enjoyed Madame Fourcade’s Secret War. Another excellent read is: A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII. Several of the the agents mentioned in Madame Fourcade’s book where trained and sent to France by Vera Atkins. She searches post war Europe to find out what happened to all those who where unaccounted for. Two amazing books that highlight the work women did during the war that often wasn’t recognized until now.

  17. Alexis I
    January 29, 2021 / 8:52 am

    I use the Elta sunscreen – the UV Facial version. I also use the Australian Gold broad spectrum mineral lotion that your reader Jan mentioned, especially for arms and hands. My only regret is that I didn’t use sunscreen when I was young 🙂
    I love the book suggestions – I haven’t read either that you mentioned, but I will add them to my list. I did read Gentleman in Moscow and loved it. One positive thing about 2020 for me is that it was a great year for reading and discovering online bookclubs and author presentations!
    I’d like to recommend the “Remembering John Le Carré, British Spy Turned Best-Selling Novelist” interview on the NPR website, it was fascinating!

  18. Mary Ann
    January 29, 2021 / 9:10 am

    My dermatologist also recommends Elta MD UV Clear SPF46. I have a lot of sun damage on my face from too many years of exposing myself to the sun without sunscreen because there wasn’t any such thing in those days (remember Coppertone and Sea & Ski?!!). The problem that I have with the Elta product is that it makes my face have a somewhat oily appearance. Do you have any suggestions on how to combat this problem?

  19. Vive
    January 29, 2021 / 9:35 am

    If your appetite for female spies in France is not sated, you might try The Alice Network, based on the true story of a ring of spies during WWI. It’s not the great literature that All the Light is, but it’s interesting and engaging and at times I couldn’t put it down. A friend passed it on after she and her husband both devoured it.

    • January 29, 2021 / 11:06 am

      I’m reading The Alice Network now and loving it. I read The Light and Gentleman several years ago and loved both of them. Another good woman based WWII spy/mystery story is The Lost Girls of Paris.

  20. Bobbi ODonnell
    January 29, 2021 / 9:38 am

    Good morning Susan,

    I read the book ‘All the Light You Cannot See. a few years ago. Still remember some of the stunning metaphors. Achingly beautiful novel. Enjoy!

  21. Cindi
    January 29, 2021 / 10:58 am

    Thanks for the great recommendations for skin care. I also really like Supergoop Unseen too. For WWII I am also reading A Woman of No Importance right now. Fascinating background on intelligence during WWII. Loved ‘All the Light You Cannot See’ too. Another good read is ‘Beneath a Scarlet Sky’. Based on a true story, set in Italy about Pino Lela & his experience working with the Italian resistance. These books are all on Audible too. Have a great weekend!

  22. Kristi
    January 30, 2021 / 12:03 pm

    “All The Light…” is one of my favourite books. And was so lucky to visit St. Malo/Brittany last year (pre-pandemic) and walked through the old city, visiting many of the spots mentioned in the book.

    Beautiful novel. And highly recommend Brittany – je l’adore!

  23. McKlem
    January 31, 2021 / 2:27 pm

    I’ve been using Elta’s tinted sunscreen with SPF41 for several years. My skin is still pretty good so this tinted version serves as my foundation.

  24. Mel M
    January 31, 2021 / 2:45 pm

    Are all these mineral sunscreens purely mineral? I’m allergic to chemical sunscreen and I don’t want to risk my eyes swelling shut. Particularly the Elta due to Karen’s comment above about it being good for someone with roseacea.

    • Susan Blakey
      January 31, 2021 / 2:49 pm

      Hi Mel, Maelove has only mineral active ingredients.

  25. Lee Ann
    February 1, 2021 / 5:30 am

    Hello! Here’s another book rec (it may have already been mentioned, but if not …) “Code Name Helene” by Ariel Lawhon. Based on a true story. (Has anyone else noticed the profusion of WWII era books in the last two years??)

  26. Karen K Larsen
    February 2, 2021 / 12:46 pm

    “All the Light we cannot see” — what a wonderful book!

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