Whether you’re going on holiday, the weather’s starting to warm up or you’ve realised that you need to be wearing SPF every day, we’ve tried and tested dozens of face sunscreens to find out which sunscreen is best for different skin types and budgets
Buying face sunscreen is different from buying regular sunscreen because the skin on your face is exposed to the sun all day every day.
It also tends to be less tolerant than the skin elsewhere on your body and, for some reason, costs a lot more.
This means that you not only have to choose a sunscreen and SPF rating that suits your phototype – we explain more about this here – but you also need to factor in your overall skin type. If you don’t know your skin type, check out our What skin type do I have? guide.
As we explain in our What is SPF? guide, it’s vital that even if you spend the majority of time indoors you need to be wearing SPF all day, every day.
The easiest way to do this is by finding a sunscreen for your face that can be used as part of your wider skincare or makeup routine.
We’ve tested dozens of sunscreens and they vary in performance, texture and price so to make it easier, we’ve handpicked the best face sunscreens for dry, oily, sensitive and mature skin, which should suit most budgets.
Note: You can use a normal sunscreen for your face; you don’t have to buy a separate face sunscreen. However, in our experience, dedicated face sunscreens are easier to incorporate into our everyday routine and have caused our skin fewer problems.
@victoria_woolly_web Replying to @Sycwin Cabreros here are the best sunscreens I’ve tried for dry skin, oily skin, under makeup, on their own and hopefully to suit most budgets 👌all have SPF50, all are broad spectrum and none leave a white cast. let me know if there’s any I should be testing #mamabella #bestsunscreen #bestsunscreen2023 #bestsunscreenforoilyskin #bestsunscreenfordryskin #spf50 #spf50pa➕➕➕ #BeUnbxd ♬ Countless – Official Sound Studio
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£21 | Buy now
We’ve tried a lot of sunscreens over the years and our favourite by far is the Isntree Watery Sun Gel.
This is why it tops our best face sunscreen list.
Not only is it lightweight and hydrating – thanks to the addition of eight different types of hyaluronic acid – but it does so while offering broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
In addition to hyaluronic acid, this face sunscreen also contains a K-beauty staple called Centella asiatica extract.
This is known for being soothing on the skin and it has anti-inflammatory properties meaning it can help calm redness.
Consistency-wise, the Isntree Watery Sun Gel has a non-greasy, non-sticky finish.
It does leave the skin looking a little shiny but this creates a dewy glow rather than an oily shine and it doesn’t create a white cast.
This sunscreen is ideal for all skin types, even sensitive, and can be easily worn with or without makeup.
In fact, when we’re in a rush we wear this sunscreen as both a moisturiser and SPF.
£12 | Buy now
The Garnier UV Face Fluid offers SPF 50 as well as broad-spectrum protection in a lightweight formula designed for the face. Yet it costs just £12.
In fact, if you buy it from Boots using your Advantage Card, you can even get it for £8.
It’s called UV Face Fluid because it has been developed for the more sensitive face and delicate eye area and is fast-absorbing.
It doesn’t sit on the skin, or pill when it’s used with other skincare or makeup products.
Garnier claims its performance comes from the fact it contains something called intelligent polymer technology.
This technology traps oil and UV filters in microcrystals to create a “flexible protective film and optimal UV filter distribution” which, in simple terms, means it creates an invisible shield against all UV rays and leaves your face protected.
It’s also packed full of hyaluronic acid and glycerin to keep the skin hydrated.
Garnier claims this hydration will last 24 hours but in our experience, our skin only looks hydrated and plump for a few hours.
£21 | Buy now
If you haven’t heard of Japanese skincare giant Hada Labo, you’re missing out. It sells an incredible range of super-hydrating serums that make your skin look plump and youthful and all of which are packed full of skincare benefits.
The Hada Labo Sun Face Cream is no exception. Yes, it offers SPF 50 and protects your face and neck from both UVA and UVB rays, but that’s not even its biggest selling point.
It contains a host of skincare favourites including hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C and E.
Both are antioxidants meaning they protect the skin from free radical damage caused by pollution, sun damage, and stress.
Vitamin C then additionally helps brighten and even skin tone, helping to remove any pigmentation caused by age or previous sun damage.
The Hada Labo Sun Face Cream is suitable for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin and it’s rare because it leaves a matte finish.
So few face sunscreens we’ve tested mattify the skin, instead, they tend to make them dewy.
If you have naturally oily skin this can put you off, or mean you have to powder your face to control the glow. With the Hada Labo Sun Face Cream, you don’t need to.
Elsewhere, it’s free from fragrance, alcohol, and mineral oil, which can often cause irritation or breakouts. It’s also water-resistant and long-lasting, making it ideal for outdoor activities or extended periods of sun exposure.
£20 | Buy now
The Hado Labo Face Sun Cream is a good sunscreen option for oily skin but, in our experience, the Thank You Farmer Sun Protect Water Sun Cream is the best face sunscreen for oily skin because it’s lighter and is better at balancing the skin.
It has a water-based formula that contains natural ingredients including aloe vera and chamomile extract, both of which soothe and hydrate the skin without weighing it down or causing clogged pores.
These also help refresh and cool the skin, even on hot and humid days.
It then contains a blend of five different plant extracts that work together to protect the skin from environmental stressors such as pollution and free radicals.
It doesn’t quite offer the matte finish of the Hada Labo version but its finish is closer to sheer than dewy, which tones down the shine a little.
It also doesn’t leave a white cast, making it suitable for all skin tones.
This sunscreen is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin and it’s particularly good if you have rosacea or other irritation.
It’s not what we’d call a cheap face sunscreen, but it’s not as expensive as others on this list and is worth the extra money in our opinion.
£9.80 | Buy now
The Altruist face sunscreen is probably the closest in consistency to a regular sun cream because it’s thicker than others in this list.
However, this makes it the best face sunscreen for dry skin that we’ve ever tried.
It’s light enough to be used on the face and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitives.
It’s also suitable for use all over your body and is even gentle enough to use on your kids’ skin too thanks to the fact it’s hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.
As the name suggests, the Altruist Sunscreen was developed with, and approved by, dermatologists and, as a result, it offers five-star UVA protection and uses a range of photostable UV filters, including Tinosorb A2B.
Like all UV filters, Tinosorb A2B works by absorbing UV radiation and converting it into heat to prevent it from entering your skin, however, not all UV filters are created equal and some offer more protection than others.
Tinosorb A2B is known for its high performance, and high photostability, meaning it remains effective even after long exposure to sunlight.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep topping up your protection but if you forget or delay it, this sunscreen will potentially protect you for a little longer than others.
You can buy this face sunscreen in SPF 30 or SPF 50 and you can also get it in spray form.
£34 | Buy now
The Ultra Violette Supreme Screen Sunscreen doesn’t come cheap – far from it – but it offers a number of key features that make it worth the investment.
Firstly, Ultra Violette is an Australian brand and sunscreen in Australia is much more regulated than in a lot of other countries.
For starters, in Australia, any products that come with an SPF rating are categorised as either “therapeutic” or “cosmetic sunscreens.”
Therapeutic sunscreens are those whose primary aim is to protect your skin and they’re treated in the same way as medication and drugs.
This means they have to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, or TGA.
The TGA’s standards and approval process is notoriously rigorous and to be awarded a specific SPF, or a broad-spectrum rating, the sunscreen has to pass a number of human tests.
What’s more, if a sunscreen from Australia claims to offer SPF 50 and promises four-hour water resistance, it means that it has to still provide SPF 50 after those four hours.
By comparison, in the EU a sunscreen can drop to SPF 25 after being submerged in water but it’s still allowed to be marketed as SPF 50.
Note: the EU also has some of the strictest sunscreen rules in the world, but this is just one example of where the regions differ slightly.
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Secondly, Ultra Violette’s Supreme Screen Sunscreen – and all Ultra Violette products for that matter – are designed to work well with other beauty products.
This is because the brand takes a skincare-led approach to formulation, as opposed to a purely sun protective one. So much so, the Supreme Screen Sunscreen can be used as an SPF, a moisturiser and a primer in one.
And thirdly, this sunscreen offers blue-light protection as well as protection from UVA and UVB rays. It’s a great all-rounder, a three-in-one product that protects as promised and leaves the skin looking satin-smooth.
£18 | Buy now
If you’re not a fan of regular sunscreen, or you don’t like wearing it with your regular foundation then we recommend buying tinted sunscreen.
Sunscreen with tint is great if you want coverage for blemishes or uneven skin tone. It’s particularly great at balancing everything out while offering protection from the sun, in a much more effective way than wearing foundation with SPF.
The best tinted sunscreen we’ve used is the Bioderma Photoderm Anti-Redness Tinted Sunscreen SPF50+. As its name suggests, it has factor 50 protection.
It’s waterproof and photostable and the tinted cream contains a patented ingredient called Rosactiv that helps even out the appearance of skin and acts directly on the main factors of skin redness that cause dilation and the weakening of skin capillaries.
Elsewhere, the brand claims it uses something called Cellular Bioprotection to activate the skin’s natural defences and protect against premature ageing.
We love it because it provides natural coverage and doesn’t sit too heavy on the skin. It’s also great for sensitive skin and is very calming on skin that’s been exposed to UV rays.
£17 | Buy now
One of the biggest issues when factoring SPF products into your skincare routine – particularly if you have oily or acne-prone skin – is that it can take a long time to get the balance of all your different lotions and potions just right.
Even a single ingredient can throw this balance out of whack and, while you may be able to pin it on the sunscreen, it’s not always simple to know which product is causing the problem.
With this in mind, we highly recommend Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen with SPF 30.
It’s been specifically designed to be universally flattering, and effective, for all skin types and complexions. It’s not greasy and it absorbs super quickly.
As its name suggests, it also doesn’t have the white film that is so common with suntan lotions and SPF products, but it still manages to protect against harmful UV rays. All while being non-comedogenic, which means it’s unlikely to cause breakouts. Or at the least, it shouldn’t make breakouts worse.
Elsewhere, it’s free from alcohol, parabens and artificial fragrance. It’s sweat and water-resistant and costs a relatively cheap £17 for 15ml. The only downside is that it’s SPF 30. This may not be suitable if you have a low phototype. Alternatively, just make sure you’re reapplying regularly.
£26.50 | Buy now
All skin types should be wearing sunscreen regularly, but mature skin tends to need something a little different from the rest. This is because it’s naturally more prone to age spots and pigmentation than younger skin types.
It requires more than just hydration and if you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, your skin will be going through wild shifts almost on a daily basis. One day your skin can feel oily, the next it’s dry and irritated.
To help account for these changes, and protect your skin from sun damage and pigmentation, all while targeting the signs of ageing we cannot recommend the Heliocare 360 face sunscreen enough.
Its oil-free gel is mattifying enough for oily skin, but smoothing enough for dry skin. It doesn’t clog your pores, and it contains what the company calls its Fernblock technology.
This technology comes from the fern Polypodium leucotomos, which has been proven to help protect your skin from the damaging effects of sun and daylight exposure. All while protecting your fibroblasts – the cells that produce collagen and elastin.
This is what makes Heliocare 360 a great anti-ageing cream as well.
FURTHER READING: How to prevent wrinkles
Below we list what you need to consider when buying a face sunscreen, and below that we explain more about phototypes and why it matters.
If you’re late to the SPF party, or you’re looking to prevent/get rid of hyperpigmentation, skin specialist Bianca Estelle told mamabella: “Ideally, you should use an SPF with a treatment ingredient like Alpha Arbutin which is a pigment suppressant.” She recommends the bea Skin Care Solar Defence SPF 50. “It’s also worth looking at active ingredients that are designed to brighten the skin as these suppress Tyrosine.”
Tyrosine is an enzyme that helps our bodies produce melanin so blocking it means you’ll be less reactive to UV damage.
Ultimately though, as Dr Natalia Spierings explains: “The best sunscreen is the one you like to use and is affordable to you. What is more important than SPF level is that enough volume is applied – so 2.5 ml for the entire face/neck/ears is the usual standard, which is a lot.”
Dr Spierings suggests SPF 50 as “you are more likely to achieve this level of protection even if you apply too little which most people do.”
We always recommend buying sunscreen with the highest SPF you can afford. However, the level of SPF protection you get depends on your phototype.
All skin types are categorised on what’s known as the Fitzpatrick scale. This scale refers to the pigment of skin, and how likely you are to tan and burn, which in turn can determine your cancer risk.
You can then use this type to determine which SPF you need.
Say you’re a Type I/Type II phototype. This means your skin burns easily – after around 10 minutes of sun exposure. If you choose a sunscreen with SPF 15, it will take you 15 times longer than normal for your skin to burn.
If you then multiply the time it takes for your skin to burn with the SPF rating number, which in our example is 15 x 10 = 150, you know that an SPF 15 face sunscreen will protect you for 150 minutes, or two and a half hours. If you burn much slower, the same SPF cream will protect you for longer.
We should also note that if you use combine SPF products with different ratings the protection is only as good as the highest-rated product. For example, if you wear sunscreen with SPF30 under a foundation with SPF15, you can’t add the ratings together to give you a protection rating of SPF45. Your protection will max out at SPF 30 in this example.
You typically need two milligrams per square centimetre of skin but this can be difficult to determine.
According to the experts at Eucerin, this equates to a thick, hand’s-length amount of sunscreen for every part of your body. This means measuring from the tip of your middle finger down to where your palm meets your wrist.
You then need to apply this amount to your face until it’s absorbed before repeating for each arm, chest, each leg and more.
Other experts suggest applying three fingers’ worth of cream per body, while some suggest measuring it using teaspoons. Dr Spierings suggests 2.5ml for face, neck and ears.
Whatever method you use, chances are that it will seem like more than you need because very few people apply the ideal coverage of sunscreen.
This also means that when it’s time to reapply, you have to apply the same, large volume to maintain protection.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget