Find Your Perfect Sunscreen

best spf sunscreen

A gentle reminder, now that we are moving into Summer Proper with its pub garden drinking sessions and impromptu al fresco lunches, to use a sunscreen. Whether you usually go in for a water resistant, pile-it-on-thick SPF 50 or something a little less robust, make sure that you use enough of it and reapply if you’re outside for longer periods of time.

I’ve thrown together a few sunscreen product recommendations below – these are here as a result of my most recent SPF-testing frenzy – but there are plenty more reviews and recommendations if you browse through my sunscreens categoryThere should hopefully be something interesting for everyone here, though I’m afraid this selection is a little light on the budget options – I’ll try and get a few cheaper recommendations for you soon. Though I always think that – when in doubt – Anthelios XL from La Roche-Posay is a great bet; SPF 50, lightweight and with no greasy residue, at £16.50 for 50ml it doesn’t break the bank. ( currently have it on offer – £11 here*.)

Some of the recommendations below aren’t your traditional, standalone sunscreen that you might apply before going to the beach or sitting outside for long periods of time, but they provide rather good sun care solutions if you’re out and about in the city, or need to add some protection to your usual makeup routine.

la roche-posay and filorga spf 50 mist

The Spary-On Sunscreen for Topping-Up

SPF mists are absolutely brilliant for topping up your protection “on the go”. You don’t need to remove all of your makeup and start again, just spray the sunscreen over the top and let it dry. I’ve been using both of the above mists – the Anthelios Invisible Fresh Mist SPF 50 from La Roche-Posay (£9.33 here*) and Filorga UV-Bronze Mist, also SPF50 (£29 here*) – and they are so convenient that I’ve made them a permanent handbag fixture.

But there’s a very important “NB” with these; I’d use them as a top-up only, over an initial base of fluid/cream sunscreen, and not as a standalone sunscreen, unless you’re just getting a bit of incidental sun exposure. Why? Well, as they’re mists they apply so finely and lightly that you’re never going to get a full whack of SPF 50. I mean, I tried to work out quite how much you’d have to apply, but spraying for ages and ages so that you’ve got a thick layer of sunscreen over your makeup rather than a light misting sort of defeats the whole point of these mists. So yes: I’m using them for quick top-ups during the day. And for that they are just perfect.

best spf sunscreen spf50

The Makeup Primer with Benefits

Armani Maestro UV Skin Defense Primer has a broad spectrum SPF 50, a  gorgeous, lightweight dry-oil feel (rather the same feel as the Maestro foundation, which I suppose isn’t a surprise considering its name!) and it leaves the skin perfectly prepped for makeup. It actually leaves the skin perfectly prepped full-stop; even without foundation it has a sort of ethereal glow to the finish. A pricey option but a beautiful one, especially if you want to make your foundation work that bit harder – Maestro UV is £40 here*.

darphin spf 50 intral review

The Lightweight Shield for Sensitive Skin

Darphin has added a sunscreen option to its highly-regarded Intral range, which is for sensitive skin. The Environmental Lightweight Shield SPF 50 has been formulated to be gentle and calming on angsty skin. You don’t really notice this fluid sunscreen at all and it doesn’t sting the eye area if you get it a little too close… I must compare this one to the very lightweight sunscreens from Clarins and Clinique, both of which I think I’ve reviewed before but deserve a recap. You can find Darphin’s Intral version here* – it’s £35. Shake it well before you use it and apply generously – it absorbs well and sits nicely beneath makeup.

effaclar blur spf

The Matte Sunscreens for Oily Skin

Two SPF products that are perfect for oily skin, now. In truth, they’re suitable for pretty much any skin, including skin that’s on the dry side, but for oilier skin they’re an absolute dream. Mine is dry, on the cheeks and forehead, and I don’t have a problem with these at all. On the flip side, I can get quite oily on the t-zone, especially in hot weather, so I’ve tested with the two extremes!

Firstly the Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF 50, which has absolutely no residue – you’d never guess you’d applied anything at all, after a minute or so. It’s exemplary. Heliocare recommend that you visit a clinic if you’re buying one of their products for the first time, so that your specific skincare needs can be met – they supply around 700 clinics in the UK, you can find your nearest here. The oil-free gel is available at a few authorised stockists online, including “Beauty and the Boutique“.

The other product for oily skin is a bit of an all-rounder, the Effaclar BB Blur from La Roche-Posay. (They do well with their products for oily skin!) Now I know that this isn’t a standalone sunscreen, but personally I do apply this BB quite generously due to its moussey texture and so I’m happy to recommend it if you’re out and about and getting the odd bit of sun. It’s not one to put on before the beach or what have you – personally I’d use a higher factor – but it’s a fantastic option if you need oil control and don’t want to layer a load of different products. It’s the ultimate all-in-one for oily or combination skin; a flawless finish, a weightless texture and just the right amount of clever light-bouncing to conceal minor imperfections. If you want to see before and after skin pictures then read my full review here – the downside is the ridiculously narrow shade range of – wait for it – two shades. If you think you might match one of them (fair/light or light/medium) then the excellent Effaclar BB Blur is £14 here*.

elemis marine cream spf 30

The Thirst-Quenching Creams with SPF 

The idea that moisturisers with broad spectrum SPF offer less protection than a standalone, dedicated sunscreen seems to be something of a myth: in the UK, all products with SPF are tested in the same way and offer the protection they state. (Though the amount of product applied to the skin is HUGE to get the stated SPF level. The mind boggles. Anyway, lots of resources available online if you fancy a look, but there’s an easy and quick info sheet here.)

When you start to take a close look at the names of SPF products on the market and compare their ingredients, some appear to be almost identical but are marketed in totally different ways. If you took two similar SPF 50 creams, one might be marketed as a moisturiser, with luxe-looking pampery sort of packaging, and the other as a sunscreen with beachy orange or sporty white packaging.

The rub, I suppose, is that people might apply a moisturiser less thoroughly or thickly than a sunscreen, so you wouldn’t get the protection stated on the label. Also, a dedicated sunscreen might be formulated to be water resistant, or longer-lasting, or might have a texture that lends itself to be more easily reapplied…

Two great daily sunscreens that provide a hefty dose of moisture for those with normal or drier skin; the first is surprisingly affordable and an old hero of mine, the second a new discovery.

Alpha-H Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF 50 is a makeup artists’ favourite – it acts as a primer beneath makeup thanks to its amazing skin-prepping qualities, and offers very high protection. I’ve used this as a moisturiser when I didn’t even need a sunscreen, the texture is so nice, but it’s also been a staple sunscreen for me when I’ve visited hot countries and fallen asleep on deckchairs at midday and all of that jazz. It’s just excellent. Keeps the skin hydrated but has a pleasingly matte finish, and it’s £29 (here*) which is far from dear when it comes to a high quality face cream.

A little added bit of information for you regarding the whole moisturiser/sunscreen issue; I asked Michelle Doherty from Alpha-H about how they formulate their Daily Essential Moisturiser and she said this…

“In Australia we’re governed very closely as to which ingredients are allowed to be put into an SPF moisturiser. Many ingredients are known to dilute the efficacy of the UV filters; the regulations are so strict in Australia that the ingredients we use are specifically chosen to support the efficacy of the UV protection at the same as providing powerful antioxidant and moisturising properties. For example in our Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF 50 we work with the mineral element Silica which is renowned for its ability to bring more moisture from the lower layers of the skin to the Epidermis as well as being able to attract more moisture from the atmosphere. The key to formulating moisturising SPF products is selecting ingredients that don’t interrupt the function of the UV filters.”

Very interesting – I’m going to do a bit more digging on the whole formulation issue, as I find it fascinating, but I need to work my way through about fifty other posts that need editing first, so bear with me!

Oh – the second moisturiser-with-SPF here is the Elemis Marine Cream SPF 30. I reviewed it in full here, but again, it’s a broad spectrum sunscreen, this time added to the bestselling Pro Collagen cream. Very, very pricey but if you’re a fan of the Marine Cream franchise then you’ll love this new launch.

Marine Cream and The Silky SPF…

The Power Player

Skinceuticals Ultra Facial Defense is an undetectable fluid that keeps the skin hydrated and offers very high broad spectrum protection. I really can’t think of anything I don’t like about this sunscreen – it’s quick to apply, leaves no residue, doesn’t have a white sheen and doesn’t interfere with makeup. It’s £36.75 for 30ml here

This has turned into the longest post in the world, so I’m going to leave it here and go and make some notes on high street/budget options to test out for you. I’d say that, out of all of the sunscreens here, the Alpha-H Daily Essential Moisturiser is the most adaptable, suit-all formula, so if you’re struggling to work out which one might be right for you then it’s a safe bet. Really well formulated and tested to the nth degree, as per the stricter Australian rules. It’s more creamy and moisturising than the Anthelios XL, so if you wanted something that you’d be happy to use every day and not just “for the beach” then it’s worth every penny. It’s widely available online, including  Cult Beauty* and Marks and Spencer*.

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