Every skincare routine starts with the basics, and using one of the best sunscreens (or best sun creams) is a must all year round. But with summer fully underway, heatwaves are expected to come one after another, and stocking up on SPF products is that much more important. So whether you're planning a beachside holiday in Mauritius or if you're planning to stick around, shielding your skin from all kinds of harmful UV rays to minimise the chance of burning should be your priority. And yes, you most definitely need a separate sunscreen for your face and one for your body.
But as you would expect with most skincare products nowadays, there are several factors that you'll need to take into account before settling on a particular SPF. This includes your skin type, your personal preference (whether you're after a mineral sunscreen or a chemical one), your budget and how you see it fitting into your overall skincare routine.
Thankfully, gone are the days of old-school sticky and chalky sun creams that left behind a white cast, clogged our pores and caused our skin to feel greasy and heavy. In recent years, most of the newer sun creams have started to cater to all skin types, making wearing sun block on a daily basis much, much less of a hassle than it used to be.
Best sun creams at a glance – our top picks:
- Best sun cream overall: La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF50+ Sun Cream, £19.90, LookFantastic
- Best sun cream for tanning: Garnier Ambre Solaire SPF 50+ Sensitive Advanced Dry Mist Sun Spray, £8, Boots
- Best sun cream for dry skin: Hello Sunday The One That's A Serum SPF45, £22, Boots
- Best waterproof sun cream: Lancaster Sun Sport Cooling Invisible Body Mist SPF50, £32, Boots
We spoke to several dermatology experts to share their tips on how to select the perfect, non-greasy sun cream to fit your specific skin type so you can stay protected from sunburn this summer and beyond. So if you're curious to read up on all things SPF-related, by all means, scroll all the way to the bottom of this page.
SKIP TO: What types of sun creams are there? | What's the best sun cream for sensitive skin? | What's the best sun cream for allergy-prone skin? | What's the best sun cream for dark skin? | What's the best sun cream for fair skin? | What's the best sun cream for oily skin?
We've also taken the liberty of putting together an extensive guide on all the best sun creams available now, including options that suit all preferences, budgets and skin types and offer different sun protection factors (SPF). Enjoy.
All our favourite mineral SPFs that are worth the ££...
What types of sun creams are there?
What many people might not know is that for the most part, there are two distinctive types of sun creams: mineral sunscreens (also known as physical sunscreens) and chemical sunscreens. The former have a heavier formulation and act as a physical shield by sitting on top of your skin and protecting it from UV rays. Meanwhile, the latter generally have a more lightweight formula as they are designed to sink into your skin.
While both are valid ways of protecting yourself from sun damage, in recent years many brands have started to shift away from mineral sunscreens in favour of more organic chemical ones. Mineral SPFs often include active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that may leave behind a white residue, while chemical sunscreens feature avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene (phew, what a mouthful), which act as UV filters and being absorbed into your skin.
What's the best sun cream for sensitive skin?
“For individuals with sensitive, eczema or psoriasis-prone skin, extra care may need to be taken when choosing your sun protection to not aggravate the skin. Whilst in many cases the sun can improve eczema symptoms, in other cases sun exposure can cause the condition to become worse," says Lloyds Pharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura.
“When choosing sun protection always look at the ingredients list and try to avoid those which you know can irritate your skin," adds Anshu. “Opting for fragrance-free protection alongside looking for creams specifically designed for sensitive skin may also help. If you’re looking to try something new, Solero Ultra-Sensitive Sun Lotion 200ml (available in SPF 30 and 50, £7, LloydsPharmacy) is dermatologically-tested and helps protect sensitive skin, prone to flare-ups and allergies.”
“The sun can make your skin feel very dry, therefore make sure you keep your skin well hydrated and moisturised everyday. Don’t neglect regular emollient application both pre and post sun exposure to help rehydrate and soothe the skin.”
What's the best sun cream for allergy-prone skin?
‘Prickly heat’ is something that typically occurs after someone spends a rather lengthy spell in the sun. While keeping cool, wearing loose fitting clothing and staying hydrated can certainly help if you happen to find yourself in this situation too often, you may also want to rethink which sun cream you use.
"A fragrance free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic formula allows the skin to breathe and to be risk free in terms of known irritants," explains Abi Cleeve, sun care expert and founder of Skin Sense and Ultra Sun. "Many sun sensitivities and allergies are caused where sun cream blocks the pores and the skin is not able to breathe. Mineral oils and silicones can also contribute to blocking of the pores. The Ultrasun Face SPF30 & Family SPF30 for the body are both recommended by dermatologists as they are non-comedogenic with vitamin E and, squalane and GSP-T (Grape Seed Extract) for additional moisture."
What's the best sun cream for dark skin?
"It’s a myth that black skin doesn’t need sunscreen. Black skin may be ahead of the game with a natural SPF of about 13, but that is not enough protection," says Abi. "A broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF30 and above is essential."
"Black skin can still suffer burns from being unprotected in the sun, which is an indicator that damage including cell mutation is happening further down in the dermal layers. In addition, UV rays are chief instigators when it comes to uneven skin tone and hyper-pigmentation as it sends the melanin producing cells – the melanocytes – into a production overdrive which causes patchy, uneven blemished skin tone."
"A UVA filter, preferably of over 90 per cent, and SPF (to protect against UVB) of at least 30 is equally crucial for darker skin tones, both for the prevention of skin cancer and as part of preventing skin damage as part of a regular skin care routine."
What's the best sun cream for fair skin?
“If you have fair skin you may be more susceptible to both surface damage (burning) and longer-term sun damage," warns Anshu. “If you have freckles or moles you should take extra care in the sun. The sun can damage individuals with fair skin with as little as 5 – 10 minutes exposure. However, even for the darkest skin tones, just an hour of sun exposure can start to cause damage to the skin.”
“Whether you are spending long periods of time outside during summer or are incidentally exposed to the sun whilst out and about, those with fair skin should always be applying high-factor sun protection (SPF 30+). You should also remember to reapply sun cream after swimming (even if the cream is water resistant) seek shade between the hours of 12:00 and 15:00 and cover-up sensitive areas of skin such as the shoulders."
“For sensitive areas of skin such as the lips, you can try a lip protection stick, which provides moisturising UVA & UVA protection."
What's the best sun cream for oily skin?
"If you have oily skin, the summer heat can exasperate this. The heat can encourage greater sebum production which is one of the leading causes of oily skin," says Anshu. “Application of the wrong sun cream on top of your daily moisturiser may leave your skin feeling greasy or sometimes cause breakouts on the face.”
“However, you mustn’t forgo the sun protection, even if you are concerned about applying a number of creams to your skin. Many moisturisers contain SPF, however they are often a lot thinner than specially formulated sun creams and may not contain protection against both UV-A & UV-B rays."
“Instead of doubling up your moisturiser, you could use a sun cream with moisturising properties in place of your daily moisturiser."
Feeling inspired to upgrade your skincare routine? Check out our guides for the best moisturiser for dry skin, best moisturiser for combination skin and the best moisturiser for oily skin. We can also help you pick the best anti-ageing creams, hyaluronic acid serums and cleansing bars.