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Slathering on the best sunscreen for your face might not be the most glamorous part of your beauty regime, but trust us when we say it’s the step that’ll make the biggest difference.
It’s a phrase we hear time and time again, but prevention really is better than cure, and wearing the best sun cream (opens in new tab) will not only reduce the chances of developing sunburn (opens in new tab) and skin cancer symptoms, but keep premature ageing at bay. That means less liver spots and skin pigmentation, fewer fine lines and an all-round brighter complexion.
“SPF is the one universal item that every dermatologist worth their salt will agree needs to be part of your daily skincare routine,” says Dr Anjali Mahto (opens in new tab), Consultant Dermatologist at 55 Harley Street. “Sunscreen protects against solar radiation, in particular UVA and UVB. There are other forms of radiation, including infrared and high-energy visible light, and some sunscreens will also provide additional protection against these.”
The best sunscreen formulas for your face have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. They’re no longer gloopy and paint-like in texture with a tell-tale white cast, but lightweight, comfortable and a joy to wear.
How we tested the best sunscreen for your face:
We've looked at the ingredient list, checked the prices and SPF, then considered our thoughts on the application and how well it absorbs. This is in addition to considering other skin factors too, like products being non-comedogenic (won't block pores), anti-aging and moisture-adding. For our final test step, we consulted the experts - a team of trusted dermatologists - who looked at all the science and signed off on the products pros and cons. The list you see below is a rigorously compiled list that takes all of these into account, ranked in star order.
- How to choose the best sunscreen for your face - Mineral v Chemical – what’s the difference? - When to apply your face sunscreen? - Is SPF30 or SPF50 better for face? - Is the SPF in my moisturiser enough? - Should you wear sunscreen on your face everyday?
The best sunscreens for your face:
1. Dr. Dennis Gross All Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense SPF30
Best sunscreen for face for most skin types
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Mineral | SPF: 30 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Works for all skin types ✅ Oil and fragrance free ✅Rubs in easily ✅ Has active anti-ageing ingredients||❌ A little pricey considering cost to quantity ratio ❌ Not water resistant|
As we've already touched upon, mineral sunscreens have previously had a bad reputation for being thick, difficult to rub in and leaving a white cast. Luckily Dr Dennis is debunking all those myths for us, having created a mineral sunscreen that’s easily-absorbed and suitable for all skin tones. We were concerned that a high factor, mineral sunscreen would result in spring break outs, but there were no spots to be found, even on typically oily areas across the T-zone. As an added benefit, it's packed with antioxidants like bearberry, sea buckthorn, lingonberry and ferulic acid. And these work behind the scenes to banish the pesky free radicals which can speed up the ageing process.
Dermatologist verdict: "It's a physical sunscreen suitable for all skin types but especially dry skin," Dr Anton Alexandroff, a Doctify-reviewed (opens in new tab) dermatologist explains. "It's also non comedogenic which means it's safe for acne prone skin too. Plus it is made by an experienced dermatologist and is very hydrating."
2. Heliocare 360° Oil Free Gel SPF50
Best sunscreen for oily skin
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Non-greasy application ✅ Vegan friendly ✅ Alcohol free ✅ Contains anti-oxidants for skin health||❌ Expensive ❌ Not water resistant|
SPF and oily skin don’t tend to play nicely together. And if you’re anything like me, you’re more likely to bring home a face full of tiny white heads from your holiday than a glowing tan. Enter Heliocare (opens in new tab). The oil-free formula glides onto skin before becoming quickly dry to the touch. Once on, we found it sits nicely under make-up, and doesn’t contribute to the dreaded 3pm shine. It didn't block our pores either, leaving skin clear and fresh. The colour is ever-so-slightly tinted, which makes it a great all-rounder for all skin tones.
Dermatologist verdict: "I’m a huge fan of Heliocare 360 as the range genuinely offers something for everyone and their preference e.g. spray, cream, gel etc," says consultant dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth (opens in new tab). "It features Fernblock, a unique ingredient which harnesses natural plant power to defend skin cells from damage caused by the sun and protecting our skin cell DNA, alongside a Bioshield system that protects skin against visible light - like our own melanin, but much more powerful."
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream SPF 50+
Best high protection sunscreen for face
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Quick absorption ✅ Ultra moisturising - great for dry skin ✅ Paraben, colourant & fragrance free||❌ Thick formula - not good for oily skin ❌ Not water resistant|
For high-quality facial sun cream, La Roche Posay's SPF 50+ Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream is one of the best out there. Although it comes with a higher price tag, it's worth investing in if you really struggle with dry skin due to it's added hydrating powers. The ingredients create a lightweight cream which provides a spectrum of defence against harmful UVA, UVB and infrared radiation, while also moisturising the skin and helping to create a healthy complexion.
Dermatologist verdict: This is a great sunscreen that provides protection against infrared, UVA, UVB radiation which helps protect against skin cancers as well as photoaging," Dr Suchitra Chinthapalli tells us, consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic (opens in new tab). "It's hydrating and applies easily. It's particularly useful if you have dry skin."
4. PIZ BUIN Allergy Sun Sensitive Face Cream SPF30 50ml
Best water-resistant sunscreen for face
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Mineral | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: Yes
|✅ Water resistant ✅ Nice texture - non-sticky ✅ Water resistant ✅ Protects against prickly heat||❌ It's 50ml size means you don't get a huge amount for your money, but it's a handy handbag size|
We love Piz Buin's facial sun cream as it was designed alongside dermatologists, with sensitive skin in mind. This means that it's really effective in preventing prickly sensations and blotchiness caused by UV rays on the skin. It offers sun protection along with the brand's unique anti-irritant shield, helping our skin to become more resistant to the sun in the long term. Plus it's both water and sweat resistant, making it a good contender for hotter days.
Dermatologist verdict: "This is designed for sunsensitive skin, and also sensitive and itchy skin making it a good pick overall," says dermatologist Dr Anton Alexandroff. "Water and sweat resistant, it contains powerful antioxidants to protect against UVB and UVA damage."
5. Ultrasun UV Face & Scalp Mist SPF50
Best sunscreen for all skin tones
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Mixed | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: Yes
|✅ Vegan friendly ✅ Water resistant ✅ Kind to sensitive skin ✅ Suitable for face and scalp||❌ Sticky if overapplied|
Be honest, do you really take your sun cream all the way to your hairline, or does the prospect of greasy hair cause you to stop half way up your forehead? If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. In fact, according to Ultrasun MD Abi Cleeve, this is one of the sites where skin cancer is becoming most prevalent. To help you ensure you’re getting the best possible protection, without compromising on your roots, this lightweight spray has been designed as an extra step. Abi adds that it's a mix of between mineral and chemical sunscreen to reap the most rewards: "At Ultrasun we look for an optimal balance between the two, so we look at smaller particles of titanium and zinc that will physically stop the sun’s rays, combined with chemical absorbers in a quantity and a level that the skin can cope with."
We've been keeping one in our bag, and one on our desks, for fuss-free top-ups whenever and wherever necessary. It’s completely transparent, so won’t leave you with tell-tale white dots on your skin.
Dermatologist verdict: "This contains InfraGuard which combines organic sunflower shoots and powerful antioxidants from the tara tree," Dr Anton tells us. "This means it protects from both infrared and visible blue light. A quick drying transparent spray which can be worn over or under cosmetics."
6. Eucerin Actinic Control Fluid SPF100
Best sunscreen for pale skin
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 100 | Water resistant: Yes
|✅ Protects against development of skin cancers ✅ Very high SPF factor ✅ Water resistant||❌ It's 80ml size means you don't get a huge amount for your money, but it's a handy handbag size|
Released in 2021, this is Eucerin’s first medical SPF and boy does it pack a punch. Instead of simply protecting skin against UVA and UVB damage, it has been specifically formulated to prevent non-melanoma skin cancers including actinic keratosis too. Actinic Keratosis appears on the skin as dry, scaly spots and is often clay-like in colour. It can become malignant if left untreated. Remember to check your skin regularly for any changes, and visit your GP if you’re concerned. As for the formula, we found it to be impressively lightweight for an SPF 100. The yellow-ish colour absorbs quickly with no white cast.
Dermatologist Verdict: "The highly effective combination of high UVA/UVB protection and broad-spectrum filters offers our consumers maximum sun protection," explains Dr. Gitta Neufang, Chief Innovation and Medical Officer at Beiersdorf. "As intensive protection is important in particular for skin, which is already damaged, we also tested its skin tolerance on patients with skin which is sensitive to the sun and with actinic keratosis."
7. Garnier Ambre Solaire Anti-Dryness Super UV SPF50+
Best sunscreen for dry skin
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Affordable ✅ No added fragrance ✅ Hydrating||❌ Not water resistant ❌ Slightly slippery consistency|
If you’re on a budget, Garnier Ambre Solaire Anti-Dryness Super UV is a real bargain. It’s suitable for all skin types, but really earns its keep when used on skin that’s sensitive, dry or easily irked. There’s no added fragrance and it won’t sting if some does end up near your eyes. As for the texture, we found it was slippery, but not greasy, and so you don’t need a huge amount to get a decent layer of coverage. The addition of glycerin helps skin to hold onto moisture, even in warm, drying conditions.
Dermatologist verdict: "It's an affordable synthetic sun cream that's great for dry skin as it hydrates skin and makes skin smooth," dermatologist Dr Anton Alexandroff summarises.
8. NIVEA SUN UV Face Suncream SPF 50 Shine Control 50ml
Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: No
|✅ No residue ✅ Absorbs excess oil ✅ Kind to eyes||❌ Some might not like the mousse consistency ❌ Not water resistant|
Nivea's specialist face sun cream is another great option! Especially formulated to create a long-lasting, mattifying effect, meaning that you can wear it under makeup and avoid the classic greasy shine that many suncreams create. It's lightweight and immediately absorbs excess oils from the surface of your skin, meaning that it's one of the best sunscreens for your face if prone to acne.
Dermatologist verdict: "I tend to use ‘Nivea for Kids’ but will be giving this a try," says Dr Adam Friedmann, a consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics (opens in new tab). "My criteria for use is that it is a high SPF, so 30 or above, it has a high UVA star rating, it goes on easy with no ghosting/whiteness, it lasts well in water and doesn’t sting the eyes too much."
9. Coola Full Spectrum 360 Sun Silk Drops SPF30
Best sunscreen for your face for everyday
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 30 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Light consistency ✅ 70% organic ✅ Protects against infrared, pollution and blue light||❌ Very expensive - over £40 ❌ May give a shiny finish ❌ Not water resistant|
We love a product that does just as it says on the bottle, and this SPF really does deliver on a silk-like consistency. It’s lovely and light, and feels cool on the skin, which is a welcome treat on warm days. The finish is quite luminous, which might not suit all tastes, but definitely gave our lacklustre skin a pick-me-up. Use the built-in pipette to easily dispense a few drops onto the back of your hand before liberally massaging in. It pays to use extra on your hands too, as these can be one of the first places to show signs of ageing.
Dermatologist verdict: Dr Anton Alexandroff likes the fact that this "contains plant stem cells and antioxidants" which boost skin health and growth. He adds: "This has BlueScreen Digital De-Stress technology to protect against high energy visible blue light plus infrared light as well as UVB and UVA." Aka the more pollutant protection the better.
10. Murad Invisiblur Perfecting Shield SPF30
Best sunscreen for face under make-up
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 30 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Light, luxury texture ✅ Anti-aging activators ✅ Non-comedogenic||❌ Very expensive - over £50 ❌ Not water resistant|
We have tried a lot of sunscreens over the years, but none deliver quite like Murad. The Invisiblur Perfecting Shield is a real favourite of the GoodTo team, mainly as it doesn’t feel at all like sunscreen. It has a luxurious, velvety texture and creates such a smooth canvas that it doubles as a primer as well. We like wearing it on no-make-up days too to take the edge off of large pores and other imperfections. If that’s not enough to sway you, the skincare benefits might. Mushroom peptides and cucumber extracts work behind the scenes to restore firmness and moisture.
Dermatologist verdict: Though "expensive" Dr Anton recommends this for "all skin but especially combination because it primes skin and minimises pores and fine lines. It's ideal before make up."
11. Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF50 Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray
Best sunscreen for face over make-up
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: Yes
|✅ Cruelty free ✅ Invisable application ✅ Sets make-up||❌ Expensive - over £30 ❌ Mattifying - not recommended for dry skin|
Can’t face the idea of adding another step to your beauty regime? This two-in-one make-up setting spray and SPF might just be the best facial sunscreen for you. It’s pricey, but we think it's a treat to use, flexing an expensive-feeling mist action that evenly dispenses product across your face and neck. It looks good too, with light-diffusing silicones leaving skin looking like it’s been graced by a soft-focus filter. It is quite mattifying, which works well for oily and combination skin, but may give too flat a finish if your complexion is naturally dry.
Dermatologist verdict: "It's a mineral suncreen and this makes it a good fit for those with sensitive skin. I also like that it is water resistant for up to 80 minutes," says dermatologist Dr Anton.
12. ZitSticka Megashade
Best sunscreen for sensitive and spot-prone skin
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Mixed | SPF: 50 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Protects and prevents dark spots ✅ Anti-inflammatory ingredients ✅ Non-comedogenic||❌ Expensive - over £30 ❌ Not water resistant|
The brand that brought us their game-changing, spot-reducing stickers are at it again, this time formulating a gentle sunscreen especially for those with sensitive or breakout-prone complexions. Going one step further than being simply non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t block your pores) it also contains tea tree oil, a natural anti-inflammatory with anti-bacterial properties. The formula contains a mix of both mineral and chemical filters, creating a physical barrier to UV whilst absorbing additional and turning it into heat instead. Word of warning - it appears shockingly white when it comes out of the pipette, but quickly dials down to a transparent finish as you rub it in. It’s lightweight, and doesn’t make your face feel hot or caked in product. The finish is smooth and silky with a subtle glow. The ideal base for make-up.
Dermatologist verdict: Dr Anton Alexandroff likes this mineral-chemical hybrid for it's added spot fighting powers. "It helps to treat spots, hydrates skin, lightens dark spots and protects against new dark spots." Win win.
13. La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Aquagel SPF30
Best sunscreen for dehydrated skin
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 30 | Water resistant: No
|✅ Contians Hyaluronic Acid ✅ Anti-aging ✅ Non-comedogenic||❌ Expensive - over £30|
Hyaluronic acid is a hero hydrator that can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water. It occurs naturally in the skin, but stocks deplete as we age, so doubling down with skincare will only make your complexion feel plumper. This SPF is full of the good stuff, and for that reason left our skin skin feeling fresh and glowy quicker than you can say “all inclusive”. A little goes a long way, so apply slowly, you can always add more. Because of the added skincare benefits, there’s no need to layer over a moisturiser or serum unless you think your skin needs it.
Dermatologist verdict: "I recommend any of the sunscreens listed by La Roche Posay," says Dr Abha Gulati, a consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics (opens in new tab). "They are effective and are developed to suit patients with and without skin sensitivities or problems. For example, the range includes products for acne-prone skin, atopic dermatitis, pigmentation and some contain anti-aging compounds."
How to choose the best sunscreen for your face
The best sunscreen for your face is dependent on your skin tones, as people with different colourings have differing needs and requirements. “The Fitzpatrick scale classifies skin colour and its ability to tan into six skin types ranging from type 1 skin (fair skinned, blonde/red headed) to type 6 skin (black African/Caribbean skin),” says Dr Adam Fridmann (opens in new tab), Consultant Dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic.
“Those at the lower end with paler skin will only ever burn, or tan minimally, however, those people with darker skin at the mid or higher end of the scale have a natural ability to produce melanin to protect the skin and tan easily. SPF 15 is fine for those with olive or darker skin types and SPF 30 for most white, Caucasian skin. Very fair pale skin could benefit from increasing the SPF to 50."
Unfortunately, not all sunscreen manufacturers have cottoned on to the importance of suitable shades for all skin tones. For that reason, if you’re at the higher end of the Fitzpatrick scale, you may find that some sunscreens for face leave you with a white cast. Formulas that are lightweight, or describe themselves as “invisible” or “suitable for all skin tones” are the best options here.
Mineral v Chemical - what's the difference?
- Mineral (also known as physical) - these REFLECT UV rays. You'll know if a sunscreen is mineral as it will contains the ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These are better suited to sensitive and acne-prone skin, though they can leave a white cast.
- Chemical - these ABSORB UV rays, convert them into heat and flushes this from the body. These tend to be lighter and rub in easier. Some chemical sun screens contain the ingredient oxybenzone and whilst safe for humans this can have a devastating effect on marine life and coral.
Ultimately, it’s down to personal preference. Don’t be afraid to play around with different formulas until you find the right one.
Dermatologist Dr Abha Gulati gives us her verdict: "I have tried both chemical and mineral suncreams on myself and my kids. I find the chemical ones easier to blend into the skin," she tells us. "However, I have to be quite careful as they often flare my hayfever (opens in new tab) causing burning and stinging of my eyes and itchy skin on my kids who have eczema (opens in new tab).
"The mineral based ones are less irritating but most current formulations don’t blend in well and can have a pastey feeling. I am looking forward to the new formulations in development which are expected to be easier to use and less irritating for sensitive skin.”
When to apply your face sunscreen?
The general consensus from the experts is to apply before heading out into the sun. You should then remember to re-apply, especially if it's an extra-hot day or you're engaging in physical exercise.
"The best is to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure to at least 10 minutes for the sunscreen to get absorbed into the skin," dermatologist Dr Anton Alexandroff tells us. "It should be applied every 2-3 hours and after swimming or physical activity which makes you sweat like jogging or playing volleyball."
One 2018 study by the University of Copenhagen (opens in new tab) goes one step further and advises a "double application of sunscreen before sun exposure". Their reasoning? It reduces the risk of any skin having missed sunscreen and ensures a generous quantity to fight the rays.
Is SPF30 or SPF50 better for your face?
An SPF 30 will protect you from 97 per cent of UVB rays. That number rises to 98 percent protection with SPF 50, according to dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross. If you find SPF50’s too heavy, you may be less likely to apply liberally and regularly. In which case, the loss of 1 percent protection by switching to an SPF30 is outweighed by the level of coverage your skin is getting.
SPF stands for sun protection factor, and the number indicates how many minutes you can spend in the sun before burning from UVB rays. UVB rays vary in intensity depending on the weather, and you’re most at risk during spring and summer, when the sun is highest in the sky. What SPF doesn’t take into account is UVA. These pesky rays are present all year round, and can penetrate through clouds and glass. While over-exposure to them won’t necessarily leave you burnt and sore, they do travel deeper into the skin’s layers and speed up the ageing process.For this reason, it’s really important to select a broad spectrum sunscreen for the face that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.
Good application is also vital for adequate protection. “It’s important to bear in mind that we need to apply over half a teaspoon of SPF sunscreen to the face, neck and backs of ears,” says Dr Adam Freidmann, Consultant dermatologist for Stratum Dermatology Clinics (opens in new tab). “Applying less will reduce the protection to a higher degree than is proportionate – for example, only applying half the required amount can actually reduce the protection by as much as two thirds.” Pay special attention to easy-to-miss spots like the top of your ears and temples.
Is the SPF in my moisturiser enough?
The short answer is no. Some foundations and moisturisers may claim to offer SPF, but unfortunately they don’t offer the same high level of protection as “pure” SPF.
“SPF moisturisers are useful for short bursts of sun exposure but not suitable for longer stints outside as they may not give sufficient protection,” explains Dr Adam Fridmann. “This is because they are applied first thing in the morning, rather than being reapplied every two hours as recommended for an SPF and are often applied in a much thinner layer meaning that the SPF level may not be what is promoted on the bottle.”
Should you wear sunscreen on your face everyday?
Yes, you should wear facial sun cream everyday. Experts stress that sunscreen for the face is an all-year-round requirement, not just for the summer months. Due to our latitude in the UK, we get very very little UVB between October and March – this is the sun’s ray often associated with burning. In the spring and summer, however, it is worthwhile switching to a separate sunscreen to be used after your regular moisturiser.
However, this isn’t a case of one size fits all and some common sense also needs to be employed. Dr Anjali Mahto told us, " If you are regularly using exfoliating products during the winter such as AHAs and BHAs, you are better off with a separate regular sunscreen. Similarly, if you participate in outdoor sports or work and are likely to be outside for longer than twenty minutes or so at a time you should wear daily sun protection. The same applies if you live in a sunny climate or close to the equator; wearing a regular daily sunscreen throughout the year is strongly advised.”
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