Sun creams that leave a white cast are frustrating - these are the 5 best clear sun screens to help avoid any mishaps

Step forward invisible SPFs

Woman applying clear SPF
(Image credit: Murad)

These days, we all know the importance of applying sun protection daily - from the best SPF moisturisers to facial sunscreens - UV defence is key. The trouble is as we become a growing nation of informed sun protection pros, the number of different SPF formulas available seem to grow with us. This can make knowing which type of SPF is best for you increasingly difficult. From chemical and mineral, to sticks and serums, there have never been more options available. However, there is a growing category that I think will appeal to everyone: clear sunscreens.

If you’re wondering what exactly a clear sunscreen or SPF is, it does exactly what it says on the tin. While most SPFs come in a cream formula, often white in colour, clear SPFs are totally sheer offering an invisible layer of protection. This means that it won't leave behind a white cast, which will be a huge plus for anyone who’s been burned by traditional formulas that can leave a milky wash on the skin. 

How do these clear SPFs work and are they as effective as their non-invisible counterparts? To find out I spoke to doctor and skin cancer expert Dr Paul Banwell to get his take on the new style of sun protection. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know…

How do clear SPFs work? 

You're probably already aware of the two main types of sunscreen commonly available, mineral and chemical. These work in different ways to protect the skin from sun exposure. Most clear sunscreens currently on the market fall into the chemical camp which work “by absorbing UV rays and changing them into heat, “ says Banwell, “they then release that heat from the skin.” 

Is a clear SPF as effective as a traditional formula?

“Clear SPF should work the same as traditional sunscreen,” says Banwell. Rather than the formula, "the most important factor is making sure you find a sunscreen that works for you and that it’s a factor 50."

Shop the best clear SPFs

1. Murad Multi-Vitamin Clear Coat SPF50

Murad Multi-vitamin Clear Coat SPF50

(Image credit: SpaceNK)

Murad Multi-vitamin Clear Coat SPF50

Best clear sunscreen for oily skin

Reasons to buy

+
Broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection
+
Contains vitamin C to protect against free-radicals
+
Chia seed oil nourishes the skin barrier

Reasons to avoid

-
Matte finish may not suit everyone

Blending skincare and sun protection, Murad's clear SPF is packed with hardworking ingredients to hydrate and soothe skin as it protects. Alongside vitamin C, which brightens and protects from free radical damage, it also contains shielding clary sage and nourishing chia seed oil to keep skin looking its best. 

2. Allies of Skin The One SPF50 Invisible Sunscreen Gel

Allies of Skin The One SPF50 Invisible Sunscreen Gel

(Image credit: Allies of Skin)

Allies of Skin The One SPF50 Invisible Sunscreen Gel

Best clear sunscreen for darker skin tones

Reasons to buy

+
Broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection
+
Water resistant for 80 minutes
+
Doubles as a makeup primer

Reasons to avoid

-
Feels more like a primer than a gel
-
Keeps selling out

Allies of Skin's clear SPF took six years to develop so it had to be good. Bridging the gap between a primer and an SPF, it slips easily across the skin before sinking in to create a velvety base ideal for following with makeup. Be quick though as it only launched a couple of weeks ago and has sold out a few times already.

3. Paula's Choice Healthy Glow Invisible Sunscreen Oil

Paula's Choice Healthy Glow Invisible Sunscreen Oil

(Image credit: SpaceNK)

Paula's Choice Healthy Glow Invisible Sunscreen Oil

Best clear sunscreen for dry skin

Reasons to buy

+
Contains a Barrier Support Antioxidant Complex
+
Packed with hydrating sunflower seed oil

Reasons to avoid

-
Oil consistency may not suit all skin types

If you suffer from dry skin, Paula's Choice invisible SPF oil is the way to go. In terms of consistency, it's lightweight and non-greasy, meaning you won't feel uncomfortable applying it in the morning. Plus, it helps strengthen the skin barrier for a more even complexion too.  

4. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF30

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF30

(Image credit: Cult Beauty)

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF30

Best overall clear sunscreen

Reasons to buy

+
Protects from blue light too
+
Enriched with soothing frankincense

Reasons to avoid

-
Only available in SPF30 & SPF40

One of the original clear sunscreens, Supergoop's Unseen Screen is now cult within the SPF world thanks to it's hydrating gel-like consistency and undetectable finish. Alongside protecting skin from UV rays, it also defends against blue light damage for double the protection from each application.

5. Shiseido Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+

Shiseido Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+

(Image credit: Shiseido)

Shiseido Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+

Best clear sunscreen for on-the-go top ups

Reasons to buy

+
Ideal for travelling and on-the-go application
+
High SPF50 protection
+
Contains a botanical complex to fight wrinkles and dark spots

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to apply to some areas

Stick SPF's have gained traction on TikTok recently due to their easy application. Shiseido's clear formula is a step above any others I've tried, blending easily and giving skin a non-greasy sheen. 

What are the benefits of using a clear SPF?

The main benefit of clear SPFs is that they leave no white cast making them a great option for dark skin tones as well as those who want a quick fuss-free SPF application. “Clear SPFs are good for people who struggle with a white cast with traditional formulas,” adds Banwell. “They can also be easier to rub into the skin and feel more lightweight than traditional formulas.”

Alongside sun protection, many clear SPF formulas also offer added skin benefits too. From priming the skin for smoother make-up application to additional skincare-focused ingredients, many clear SPFs work extra hard meaning you can cut down steps in your morning routine by opting for one does-it-all formula. 

Which skin types will benefit most from a clear SPF?

“Finding a sunscreen that matches your skin type is important so that you can continue to wear SPF every day without irritation,” says Banwell. “Clear SPF can be great for people who worry about a white cast, however, if you are worried about skin sensitivities, you should check the ingredients in the sunscreen as some chemical sunscreens do have ingredients which you would want to avoid. If you do experience a reaction to sunscreen, I would urge you to find the cause rather than not using sunscreen [altogether].”

Those with sensitive skin should steer clear of things like fragrance, formaldehyde releasers, preservatives, and lanolin.

“Other ingredients that may cause reactions include benzophenones, cinnamates and dibenzoylmethane," Banwell adds. "Oxybenzone is another ingredient to avoid as it is easily absorbed by the skin and enters the bloodstream. It can disrupt your hormones as well as causing terrible harm to the environment.”

Are there any drawbacks to using a clear SPF?

While the great thing about clear SPF is that it’s practically invisible on skin, the lack of guide colour means it’s especially important to carefully apply your SPF. “You might miss certain areas if you do not pay attention to where you are applying the clear formula,” says Banwell, so take the time to ensure you’re applying an even layer all over. 

What’s most important however, is that you find an SPF you enjoy wearing so you’re more likely to reach for it regularly, “Regular application lessens the chance of developing skin cancer and can also slow the development of wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin,” says Banwell, so whether you opt for a clear formula or a traditional milky SPF, wear it daily and keep it topped up to ensure you stay protected. 

Jazzria Harris
Freelance Fashion & Beauty Writer

Jazzria Harris is a freelance fashion and beauty journalist with over 8 years experience working in the industry. At just 4ft 11, she’s an expert in petite dressing and previously wrote the column Jazz’s Short Stories giving tips and advice on dressing for petite proportions. Her wardrobe staples are a great black blazer, a hardworking slip skirt and of course a great pair of heels (for the extra inches, of course). Jazz has written for publications including ELLE UK, heat magazine, Eliza, Women & Home and more.