Sorry, but that ‘sunscreen leaves my face sweaty’ excuse isn’t going to cut it anymore. The best facial sunscreens are so good, you can apply them with abandon and still look bloody fabulous.
Need further convincing? If unwanted wrinkles are your concern, dermatologists rate it as the best anti-ageing product you can buy.
Why? Because only 20 per cent of the way you age is down to genetics. The rest is the result of environmental damage from the sun and pollution.
‘Suncream not only prevents future ageing but improves existing wrinkles and skin pigmentation,’ explains dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. ‘This is because when you free skin up from the distraction of needing to protect itself from UV rays, it gets down to the business of repair.’ In fact, one of the best hyperpigmentation treatment products is a great sunscreen.
Facial sunscreen vs SPF moisturisers
There’s a difference between a facial sunscreen and an SPF moisturiser. Your SPF moisturiser is exactly that – it’s your daily face cream with the added bonus of having an SPF in it. Your facial sunscreen is your proper sun protection. The SPF moisturiser is doing two jobs, the facial sunscreen is only there to protect your skin from UVA and UVB damage.
In Autumn and Winter, or when it’s a particularly overcast day and the sun is at its weakest, the best SPF moisturisers will suffice. But come Spring/Summer you need that extra level of protection. No ifs, no buts.
How to apply facial sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. The recommended amount is ½ teaspoon for your face but if you’re not sure how much that actually is, spread a layer you can see over areas of your skin that will be exposed to daylight.
- Sunscreen is always the final step in your daytime skincare routine. ‘Nothing should go over the top. Any skin care product you apply over a sunscreen dilutes and reduces its effectiveness,’ warns Paula Begoun, the Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice founder.
- Reapply every two hours. Sunscreen delivered via a gossamer fine mist, such as Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF50 is one of the best spf to apply over make-up.
Do you need a moisturiser under your sunscreen?
We would always err on the side of caution and double up. This of course completely depends on your skin type. If you have particularly dry skin, some facial sunscreens are just not going to cut it. You need something a lot more hydrating underneath.
What you should be doing is applying an antioxidant serum like Skinceuticals C E Ferulic before sunscreen. ‘Antioxidants help further shield skin from environmental factors that slowly chip away at its youthful appearance,’ says Begoun.
This is especially true if your serum contains multiple antioxidants as they target different free radicals and work synergistically. So the more you have on at one time, the stronger your defence.
Do I need to wear sunscreen even if I’m staying indoors?
Yes, you should wear some sort of SPF every day.
In the summer months, the best facial sunscreens are broad-spectrum to protect against both UVA (ageing rays) and UVB (burning rays).
‘UVB is blocked by glass, but UVA rays travel through it, deep into your skin,’ says dermatologist Dr Hiva Fassihi. ‘So if you’re sitting by the window or in the car, your skin is still at risk of sun damage.’
You’ll also want your facial sunscreen to be at least SPF 30 as this is clinically proven to be a sufficient amount of protection to reduce the adverse effects of sunlight.
In the cooler months, it’s acceptable to use one of the best SPF moisturisers instead of two separate products.
Mineral or chemical?
Another consideration is a mineral or chemical sunscreen. Both are equally effective, it’s simply a matter of preference.
Also known as ‘physical’ sunscreen, mineral versions contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. By definition, any mineral sunscreen is going to avoid riling sensitive skin.
‘Mineral sunscreen sits on the surface of the skin and deflects the sun’s rays,’ says dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams. ‘An added bonus is that you can go out straight after applying it.’
Chemical sunscreens – more accurately called ‘synthetic’ sunscreens – absorb into the top layers of skin, where they work in two ways. They scatter and deflect the sun’s harmful rays, and convert UV rays into heat in order to ‘deactivate’ them. (Sounds scary but you won’t feel a thing!).
Common synthetic sunscreen ingredients include octisalate and avobenzone.
The best facial sunscreens you’ll actually look forward to using
We couldn't have a roundup of the best suncare without including La Roche-Posay. This brand invests so much time and money into their suncare and this facial suncreen is one of the best. It's been reformulated to include the filter MEXORYL400, which adds extra protection against ultra-long UVA rays. It's a super lightweight texture that disappears when you apply.
This is a beautiful pink formula that blends in seamlessly. Ideal for darker skin tones who hate the white cast that some sunscreens can leave. It's really nourishing, so if you have oily skin, you won't need a moisturiser underneath. Gives excellent glow.
The brains behind Shiseido discovered that oily skin actually exaccerbates the damage caused by pollution. This is because pollutants adhere to the sebyum. So they developed this facial sunscreen that controls sebum and prevents damage. Alongside your UVA and UVB protection, this makes a great city protector.
Weightless, scentless and utterly undetectable – exactly what you want from a facial sunscreen. Plus it doubles up as a primer and deflects UV rays without suffocating your pores. Your face has never been so safe.
It boasts antioxidant vitamin E but also forms a shine-free film to prevent pollutants from entering pores. A city-skin saviour.
Decree is a brand that we are huge fans of here at MC. Created by Dr Anita Sturnham, it's a skincare range that's uncomplicated and effective. This easy-to-use SPF can be applied as the last step of your skincare routine OR after you've done your make-up. It can also be reapplied whenever throughout the day. It's not skipping on skincare benefits, with peptides to keep skin firm and supple. Nice.
For a mineral sunscreen to not leave behind a sweaty or chalky finish is nothing short of a miracle. If that weren't appealing enough, REN has also made sure its sun cream plays nicely with oily skin (thanks to mattifying rice starch) and is fully recyclable.
The tint makes it ideal for days when you feel like skipping foundation while the lack of alcohol, silicone and fragrance makes even sensitive skin purr with delight.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide deliver on UV protection, while polymers form an invisible film over your skin to prevent pollution entering your pores. Incredibly lightweight, this feels more like a tinted moisturiser than a sunscreen.
We already love the Skinceuticals UV Defense Sunscreen and now we love this mattifying version just as much. The broad spectrum SPF50 protects against future sun damage while a powerful duo of tranexamic acid and niacinamide helps to fade the pigmentation you already have. All you need to know is that you will end up with better-looking skin than you started out with. Works well if you have oily skin, but also works just as well if you're just a bit sweaty in the sun.
This is a jolly good all-rounder. Not only is it good at protecting from UV rays and blue light, it also creates a super lightweight film on your skin so that pollution toxins can't get through.
If you're after something that's invisible on the skin - both in looks and feeling then this is the one for you. It works on all skin types too.
A new study has shown that a tinted facial SPF is a better choice if you suffer from pigmentation. So not only does this formulation help tackle your existing dark spots, but it also stops it getting worse.
We mentioned her make-up setting SPF spray above, but the undisputed queen of Californian skin has also just released this cracker of an everyday sun protector. Packed full of ceramides, antioxidants and vitamin E, this will protect, whilst also improving the quality of your skin.