Seeing as the sun is the source of most aging evils, my plan is to avoid it like the plague in 2011. Who needs more than a daily allotment of the sunshine vitamin, when there so many excellent natural-looking sunless tanners and - thanks to TIA’s how-to video - applying bronzer is a breeze. I am as hell-bent on safeguarding my skin from the sun’s rays as Charlie Sheen is on convincing the world that he’s lost his marbles.Having grown up in Florida, I am no stranger to sunscreen. The problem is that the sun defense arsenal I rely on in the summer does not translate well to the winter, when the light is low, the face is bundled in hats and scarves, and the time spent outdoors is kept to a minimum. When Marta (who recently reviewed Sarah Chapman's eye cream)  enlisted me to try Sarah Chapman’s Skinesis Dynamic Defence SPF 15, I figured it would be the ideal sun-savvy companion to get me through the remainder of the rainy season. Sarah Chapman is an esthetician with her own Skinesis Clinic and skincare range based in London. Who could know how to protect pale skin from the sun on a dreary day better than a Brit?

Dynamic Defence is not your average daily sunscreen. Its description intones, “Advanced formula concentrate for skins already used to high-potency skincare and those with visible signs of aging.” The main selling points are heavy-hitting anti-agers like teprenone, matrixyl 3000, and coenzyme Q10. Teprenone (also marketed under the name Renovage) is believed to stabilize telomeres so that they won’t shorten, which happens every time a cell divides. Super short telomeres spell cell crisis, and ultimately, death. Matrixyl 3000 is one of our picks for the five best anti-aging ingredients for good reason, as it is one of the most potent peptides and long-term collagen synthesizers available in cosmetics. Also referred to as ubiquinone, coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes damaging free radicals and boosts skin regeneration.

Not too shabby for a sunscreen. There are a decent number of natural emollients, including glycerin, shea butter, squalane, mango butter, and omega-rich oils. These are joined by anti-oxidant rich vitamin E and oil-soluble vitamin C ester. A handful of plant extracts have also been tossed in for good measure. While some serve a clear purpose, like rumex occidentalis extract (which naturally reduces skin pigmentation), others botanical extras like jasmine, hyacinth, rose (a trifecta claimed to brighten skin), Indian gooseberry, and iris probably do no more than make the formula look pretty. Unfortunately, they are buried under a heap of chemical silicones, PEGs, and the most suspect of them all, phenoxyethanol.

More chemicals crop up in the formula’s active “o” sunscreen agents, which deliver broad-spectrum protection. Even though Sarah Chapman doesn’t have to answer to US cosmetic watchdogs, all sun blocker concentrations within her formula fall below the FDA’s recommended thresholds. However, they appear in some questionable combinations. Pairing octinoxate with avobenzone triggers degradation of the sunscreen agents (and therefore their power against UV rays), as reported in an American Society for Photobiology article. Even more egregious, oxybenzone is suspected of dangers such as triggering contact eczema, increasing the production of harmful free radicals, and partially explaining the rise in melanoma cases among sunscreen users. Studies have demonstrated that the body absorbs and stores oxybenzone, making it a red flag for children and adults alike.

The good news is that the risks associated with these chemical sunscreens are only a cause for concern when they are present in toxic concentrations, or when their use is pervasive. Sarah Chapman’s Dynamic Defence is neither. With just two minuscule squirts, I am able to cover my entire face. The lightly tinted cream blends in easily without residue, grease, or a pale cast. Its texture is too lightweight for it to hold its own flying solo on my dry skin during the wintertime. But over my base serum and moisturizer, it provides a completely inconspicuous sheer layer. My makeup settles happily on top. But is a chemical-laden sunscreen charged with proven anti-agers worth it, especially at £66 for 40 ml?

Once I start slathering on more sunscreen during the more tropical months, I will likely ditch Sarah Chapman in favor of something with a higher SPF and a more natural formula. I’d prefer a sunscreen with mineral blockers like zinc oxide, which has a much better safety profile than chemical sun blockers, even if it is micronized. And as my skin’s two archenemies - sweat and shine - begin to take up residence on my face, the chalky texture of mineral sunscreens will be an added advantage. Until then, my skin will make do with Sarah Chapman in small doses.

Active ingredients: octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate) 5%, octisalate (octyl salicylate) 5%, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) 3%, avobenzone (1-4-tert-butylphenyl-3-(4-methoxyphenyl) propane-1,3-dione) 2%.
Inactive ingredients: purified water, c12 -15 alkyl benzoate, dimethicone, caprylic / capric triglyceride, glycerine, rumex occidentalis extract, c14-22 alcohols, cetyl alcohol, crambe abyssinica seed oil, glyceryl stearate, peg-100 stearate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, arctostaphylow uva ursi leaf extract, teprenone, palmitoyl tetrapeptide 7, hydroxyethyl acrylate / sodium acryoydimethyl  taurate copolymer, butelene glycol, squalane, c 12 - 20 alkyl glucosides, polysorbate 60, sodium pca, lecithin, plankton extract, mangifera indica seed butter, butyrospermum parkii, nylon 12, yeast polysaccharadies, phyllanthus emblica fruit extract, retinyl palmitate, ubiquinone, tocopherol acetate, phenoxyehthanol, caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerine, hexylene glycol, cerus deodora wood oil, iris florentina root extract, rosa canina flower extract, jasminum officinale flower extract, disodium edta, hydroxydecyl ubiquinone, hyacinthus orientalis flower extract, jasminum grandiflorum flower wax, santalum album oil, diethylhexyl syringyldene malonate, pelargonium graveolens flower oil, rosa damascena flower oil.