It’s easy to forget, but sunscreen is without a doubt the most important step in our skincare routines. Going far beyond preventing sunburn, it reduces exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays which accelerate the signs of ageing – think fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin. Thankfully, this is preventable with a good face SPF and these days formulas are so advanced they come with a whole host of other skincare benefits, too.
When should I apply face sunscreen?
The general rule with layering skincare is the thinnest products with the most active ingredients should go on first. Face SPF should always be applied last in your skincare routine and before your makeup. It can feel unnecessary 90% of the time in the UK, but experts say you should be using at least factor 30 every day – even if you’re inside – and make sure to apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun.
The best face sunscreens to shop this summer
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense SPF50, £40, Kiehl’s
Lightweight and fast-absorbing, Kiehl’s face sunscreen is perfect for everyday wear as it’s invisible under makeup. Non-comedogenic and fragrance-free, it’s suitable for even the most sensitive skin and won’t cause you to break out.
Top review: “This is the best spf moisturiser I’ve used. It is light and easily absorbs into my skin. I have combination oily skin that is sensitive and prone to breakouts but this moisturiser isn’t heavily perfumed and doesn’t congest my skin.”
Best for sensitive skin
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF50+, £14.50, Lookfantastic
Developed with sensitive skin in mind, this sunscreen contains the kind of minimalist ingredients you’d expect from La Roche-Posay. But it doesn’t compromise on protection, going above Europe’s recommended guidelines. Customers say it absorbs quickly and has impressive staying power.
Top review: “This sun cream just glides on the skin, it’s perfect for the whole family, it rubs in so easily and gives fantastic protection. I can’t fault it and won’t use any other sun protection. Superb for skin that can be easily irritated. A wonderful product.”
Best for hydrating
Malin + Goetz SPF 30 High Protection Sunscreen, £32, Space NK
If your eyes tend to get irritated from a face SPF, try this new mineral sunscreen from Malin + Goetz. It has a brightening and hydrating gel cream formula that’s fast-absorbing, too.
Top review: “I’ve searched for a while for a good mineral sunscreen to replace a brilliant one that SpaceNK sadly no longer stocks. A sunscreen that is photo-stable and effective without chemical active ingredients that may be hormone disrupting, reef attacking or irritating to my sensitive skin. This is moisturising and sinks into the skin well without the white cast of other mineral screens; I don’t find it tacky or too heavy. The slightly lemony colour actually helps mask my red rosacea prone cheeks too. Plus it plays nicely with make-up and looks natural.”
Best for being lightweight
Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen SPF30, £20, Glossier
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Glossier’s sunscreen and for good reason. The face SPF has a non-greasy water-gel formula which feels like a lightweight serum. It’s totally transparent so even darker skin tones won’t be left with a white cast, and it doesn’t budge all day.
Top review: “I have tried multiple sunscreens over the years and this one is by far the lightest and most refreshing. The smell is really nice and I enjoy the texture of the product, it is perfect for layering with other products. The first sunscreen I’ve had that leaves no white cast and provides me solid protection.”
Best for being affordable
Garnier Ambre Solaire Super UV Face Fluid SPF50+, £8, Boots
Enriched with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, this face SPF from Garnier isn’t just super affordable, it’s hydrating, too. Reviews say it has a perfect consistency, with the ultra-light formula leaving no greasy residue.
Top review: “I love this suncream. Applies really nicely after my serums and moisturiser, soaks it very quickly with no pilling. I have combination acne-prone skin, doesn’t cause my skin to break out and no stinging my eyes. Overall great product, I am definitely buying this again.”
Best for added glow
Tan-Luxe Super Glow Face Serum SPF30, £25.20, Lookfantastic
The beauty industry went wild when Tan-Luxe launched the hyaluronic acid-enriched Super Glow serum in 2019 – cue a sell-out. Later, the gradual tan serum was improved on with the addition of sun protection (SPF30 to be exact), cementing its place as a must-have in your skincare routine.
Top review: “I’ve been using this for a few months now. It smells amazing, gives such a gorgeous glow, most of the time I use it I feel like I don’t need to wear any makeup (maybe mascara) just because it makes my skin look so healthy! It is a wonder product that I’d recommend to anyone.”
Best for the beach or pool
Shiseido Expert Sun Protector Face & Body Lotion SPF50+, £31, FeelUnique
Shiseido’s face sunscreen is perfect for extra hot days at the beach or by the pool. Thanks to its clever patented formula, it’s designed to work even harder to protect your skin when it comes into contact with water and perspiration.
Top review: “This product is amazing! I bought it recently and it’s such a lightweight product. It doesn’t leave a white cast and doesn’t feel sticky on your face. Love it so much!”
Best for mattifying
Bondi Sands Sunny Daze SPF 50 moisturiser, £12.99, Boots
Bondi Sands’ new moisturiser not only contains an impressive SPF 50, it’s enriched with Vitamin E, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Fruit Extract and Zinc Oxide to leave your skin healthy and hydrated. Reviews say it’s mattifying too, making it perfect for oily skin types.
Top review: “Oh how happy I am that I bit the bullet and tried this! I have oily skin that reacts badly to practically all sun creams. This sinks in straight away without sitting on my skin, leaves a beautiful matte finish and lasts all day…. And I am so pale that I normally burn in light cloud. I even plastered it over my eyelids and it didn’t sting in the slightest. And for the price you cannot go wrong. New staple product!”
Best for anti-redness
Bioderma Photoderm Anti-Redness SPF50+, £17, FeelUnique
If you have sensitive, rosacea-prone skin, Bioderma’s anti-redness SPF offers soothing, fragrance-free protection and has a slight tint to cover any redness.
Top review: “The best sunscreen I’ve used for my red sensitive skin. It goes on smoothly and evens out my redness without shine and irritation. Just glowing and evened out.”
Best for mature skin
Sisley Sunleÿa G.E. Age Minimising SPF50+, £198, Space NK
Sisley’s luxurious face sunscreen has a light and silky texture. As well as containing high sun protection, it’s also hydrating and firming, making it particularly good for dry or mature skin. One worth investing in.
Top review: “I am using this product for the second summer running and I could not do without it. I wear it every day if there is any sun whatsoever. It is very comfortable to use, non-greasy and leaves no shine on the face or whiteness. It feels reassuringly thick but not too heavy on the skin – does not feel claustrophobic – and is perfect as a base if you want to wear foundation.”
Best for pollution protection
Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50, £60, LookFantastic
If you live in a city, this Murad sunscreen will work to protect against pollution as well as UV rays. The mineral SPF absorbs quickly and includes Vitamin C to leave your skin looking brighter.
Top review: “I’ve been trying to find a high SPF for my face that isn’t greasy as my skin is already oily and that doesn’t have a white sheen as I’ve got a medium skin tone. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ve noticed my complexion overall has improved since using this. You can put makeup on over the top with no issues. It is expensive but 100% worth the money.”
Best for brightening
L’Occitane Reine Blanche Illuminating UV Shield SPF50, £40, L’OCCITANE
For a face sunscreen that’s illuminating too, try this one from L’Occitane. As well as SPF50, it contains salicylic acid to get rid of dead skin cells and leave your skin glowing.
Top review: “This is a brilliant find for me and has become an everyday staple. It’s one I’ll continue to buy despite the inclusion of fragrance and essential oils which I tend to avoid in skincare. It’s not tinted which I love and just feels like putting on a nice light moisturiser. I also love the bit of translucent almost milky effect/coverage it gives like an instant skin brightening effect, especially great for Asian/south Asian skin tones. Love this product, would absolutely recommend!”
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