SPF is a bit like flossing your teeth; you know it’s bad to skip it, but sometimes you can’t be bothered with the daily rigmarole. Even when you’re using the best sun cream, it can feel like a chore.
I’m here to tell you: please don’t give it a miss.
I say that as the daughter of someone currently battling stage 4 melanoma skin cancer. Trust me, it isn’t something you want to play Russian roulette with (the 16,200 new melanoma cases in the UK each year testify to that). Nor does it always manifest itself as moles on the skin that can simply be cut off. A malignant cell can travel to the brain, bones and your internal organs.
It can kill you. And yes, I am trying to scare you.
‘But sunscreen is so sticky and unpleasant,’ I hear you say. And you’d be right. Historically sunscreen had a bad reputation for being gloopy and leaving behind white smears, especially on dark skin tones.
But this summer that’s all about to change.
What Are The Best Sun Creams To Buy?
- Best Overall Sun Cream: Vichy Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water Hydrating SPF50
- Best Value Sun Cream: Sunbum Sunscreen Lotion SPF30
- Best Sunscreen For Kids: Evy Technology Kids Sunscreen Mousse SPF50
- Best Sun Cream For Dark Skin: Lancaster Sun Protective Water SPF50
- Best Facial Sunscreen: Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF30
- Best Sun Cream For Sensitive Skin: La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+
- Best Reef-Friendly Sun Cream: Caudalie Beautifying Sun Care Oil SPF30
- Best City Sun Cream: The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection Lotion SPF 50+
- Best Mineral Sun Cream: REN Clean Screen Mineral Mattifying Face Screen SPF30
- Best Sun Cream For Tanning: Ultrasun Body Tan Activator SPF30
Before we go into the individual merits of each sunscreen, let’s first talk new technology and nail down exactly how to prevent a slow burn.
The Latest SPF Waters
New technology means that the latest sunscreens are now genuinely invisible on application. I repeat, they are oh-so sheer that they glide over the skin as light as coconut water.
This is especially true of the latest SPF50 oil-in-water hybrids, which are as far from a traditional suncream as you can get.
The waters use the same bi-phase technology found in eye make-up removers.
‘You need to have oil in sunscreen as that’s where the high, broad-spectrum filters are embedded,’ says dermatologist Dr Hiva Fassihi. The water phase is where the hydrating and antioxidant ingredients sit.
Dispensed as a fine mist, those like La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+ and Vichy Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water Hydrating SPF50, are so lightweight, you could almost forget you were wearing sun cream altogether.
The bottom line? You’re more likely to want to use them every day.
By combining hyaluronic acid with mineral water and a high-factor SPF, you get the balance just right: your skin is hydrated and protected while the clear non-greasy formula suits all skin types and skin tones.
Use A Separate Suncreen For The Face
The sun protection ingredients for facial use aren’t necessarily different from those you apply elsewhere. You’ll just find the textures thinner, less pore clogging and designed to play nicely under make-up.
The best facial sunscreens are also flooded with skincare ingredients such as antioxidants to ward off sun-related issues such as wrinkles, pigmentation and dehydration.
Best Facial Suncream
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.
How To Choose The Best Sunscreen For Your Skin
There are several other factors that go into what makes a good sunscreen.
Scan The Label For Broad Spectrum: You’ll want your suncream to protect against both UVA (ageing rays) and UVB (burning rays). Look for the words ‘broadspectrum’ alongside the SPF rating. You’ll also want it 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.
‘There is a misconception in the UK that we don’t need to wear sunscreen as the sun isn’t as strong,’ says Fassihi.
‘The UV index measures the strength of sun-burning UV rays outside, ranging from 1 to a very high 11. When it reaches 3 you need to apply sunscreen. In the UK, the UV index can hit 6 or 7 in summer so a broadspectrum sun cream is essential.’
Best Sunscreen For Kids
The spray mousse dissolves evenly on the skin for a weightless finish so there’ll be no tears from too much rubbing. Thanks to the tactile nature of the foam, older infants will also love applying it themselves. Win-win.
Understand The PA Rating: To clarify, SPF tells you how high your protection from UVB is. Sometimes in addition to ‘broad spectrum’ a product may give the PA rating. This indicates how much your sunscreen will shield against UVA rays, which travel deeper into the skin where they can trigger pigmentation, wrinkles and loss of firmness. The higher the number of + after the PA the better (the highest rating is PA++++).
How To Use Sunscreen
Rub It In Well: Apply a tablespoon’s worth to the entre body and re-apply every two hours.
Sunscreen Can Expire: This makes it less effective. Check the bottle for the open jar symbol, which indicates a product’s shelf life after it’s been opened. For sun cream this is usually 12 months. So even if it hasn’t hit its expiration date, if it’s over a year old, it won’t be as effective. And remember to always store your sun cream in a cool, dry place.
Scroll down for more of our best sun cream choices…
Each year 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen pollute the oceans and end up in coral reefs worldwide. The main culprits? Filters such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are not easily biodegradable and cause fatal coral bleaching. But there is an alternative. French skincare house Caudalie uses filters that are biodegradable and non-toxic to the marine eco system. Also nice: this sunscreen is a dry oil and antioxidant-rich polyphenols from grape seeds add another layer of wrinkle-fighting protection.
Oil-capturing polymers keep grease at bay and provide higher water resistance while thermal spring water soothes sun sensitive skin.
High filters to thwart UV rays? Tick. Completely sheer coverage? Double tick. The fact that it can be applied to wet skin also deserves a mention. Those with dark skin tones can apply with abandon – there’s zero chance of this sunscreen leaving a grey cast behind.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with this sunscreen as red algae extract and antioxidant vitamin C also shield against the urban cocktail of pollution and UV.
You rarely see 'oil-free' and 'moisturising' in the same sentence when it comes to sunscreen. Sunbum is the exception. The cream may come out white but it goes on clear, absorbs fast and smells of a pina colada in a good way.
For a mineral sunscreen to not leave behind a sweaty or chalky finish is nothing short of a miracle. If that weren't juicy enough, REN has also made sure its sun cream plays nicely with oily skin (thanks to mattifying rice starch) and is fully recyclable. Two words: we love.
If the benefits of UV protection aren't enticing enough, then the addition of an ingredient to activate the tanning process should be. Prepare to get your glow on - the safe way.