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The Best Sunscreens to Wear All Year Round

Feature: Long Read
Words By Olivia de Courcy, Shannan Sterne and Nasreen Osman

The feeling of sun on your skin can do wonders for your mood, so it’s no surprise we spend the majority of the year waiting for the sun to come out. As we all know though, sun exposure can lead to UV damage, and this can result in unwanted pigmentation, damaged skin cells and more. As such, wearing suncare with a high SPF is essential all year round (yep, even when it's cloudy). And with the right SPF – think lightweight, non-greasy and no white cast in sight – you can bolster your skin's protection. Swot up on your sunscreen knowledge for every day, not just a holiday.

What Is SPF?

First things first though, what does SPF stand for? And what do you need to look out for on the bottle? Experts say the protection factor (SPF 30 for example) as well as UVB+UVA and PA markers are indicators of a good SPF. The protection factor highlights the level of protection against the sun, while UVB+UVA and PA showcases the protection against the damage caused by environmental factors such as blue light and air pollution. You might also be wondering what’s the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50? The British Skin Foundation recommends using an SPF higher than 30, and if you have a fair complexion, that rises to SPF 50. Properly applied, SPF 50 can block 98 per cent of all rays. Finally, you may also want to know how much SPF you should apply and how often? As SPF is measured by its concentration levels, you need to apply the correct amount in order to receive the correct level of protection. We recommend using two teaspoonfuls for your face and neck, and six for your body. For maximum protection, always remember to apply your SPF every two hours (this is where SPF mists come in handy to re-apply, even over make-up). 

Clarins, Sisley and Omorovicza suncare

What the Experts Want You to Know

Wear Sunscreen Daily
Wear Sunscreen Daily


“Wear Sunscreen”, Baz Lurmann’s 1999 chart-topping song was no one hit wonder: 24 years on the sentiment is as important as ever. “Everyone should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen regardless of age, gender or skin type. Just because you don’t burn doesn’t mean you’re not receiving UV damage from ageing UVA rays, which are the same strength all year round and can penetrate through windows. Your collagen actually starts to break down after just 10 minutes of being outside, even on a cloudy day,” says Dr Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad.

There Are Two Types of Protection
There Are Two Types of Protection


You will be able to tell whether a sunscreen is physical (also known as mineral) or chemical by looking at the inkey list on the back of the packaging. Physical sunscreen creates a barrier to deflect UV rays, and Dr Maryam Zamani recommends it for sensitive skins and children. “Physical SPFs include ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide – they can appear white and be thicker in texture.” Chemical, on the other hand, “are absorbed into the skin and scatter UV radiation. These sunscreens are thinner and require less product to protect skin, however they can clog pores and cause more irritation so best avoided by acneic skin types. These formulations include oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, and avobenzone.”

Every Skin Tone Needs SPF
Every Skin Tone Needs SPF


“Darker skin tones are just as susceptible to the hazards of sun damage, such as hyperpigmentation and free radical damage,” says Dr Murad. Medical and cosmetic doctor Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe has some top tips: “For skin of colour, a key thing is making sure that your sunscreen doesn't leave an ashy cast. We can't be tolerating that any longer! Beware of physical sunscreens that contain a high concentration of metals such as zinc oxide, which typically give the product a white cast on application.” Double check the inkey list if you’re unsure.

The Amount Counts
The Amount Counts


“SPF in make-up doesn't count,” says Dr Ewoma; it simply won’t give you enough protection. A dedicated sunscreen is needed. "Look at SPF in make-up as an extra layer of protection, not the full deal,” suggests Dr Murad. When applying a sunscreen, Dr Ewoma's “general rule of thumb is a 20 pence amount for colder months and 50 pence amount for warmer months – for the head and neck. The fairer the complexion, the more diligent you should be with the amount you apply.” And don’t forget often neglected areas: “the upper and lower eyelids, lips and hairline on the face and also toes, feet, underarms, and back of the neck are all all commonly missed places,” says Dr Zamani. Plus, you can use UV protection for hair, particularly good for coloured locks.

Now, Choose Your SPF

Knowledge in check, it’s time to pick the right sunscreen(s) for your needs. And you’ve come to the right place – as we’ve cherry picked the best of the best for you. From La Mer’s SPF-infused foundation that feels super lightweight in hot conditions (just remember to wear a layer of sunscreen as well) and Sisley’s ultra-hydrating lotion (thank you, shea butter) to  Paula’s Choice's skin-sensitive protector, we’re confident you’ll find a sunscreen that you’ll adore.

  • Sisley

    Best Hydrating SPF


    Sisley’s Sunleÿa Age Minimising Global Suncare SPF 30 is packed with essential oils and butters such as sage oil, marjoram oil and shea butter to keep your skin hydrated. It’s easier than you might think for your skin to dry out in both hot and cold weather. Thankfully, this SPF from Sisley is formulated with a special UVA and UVB filtering technology that absorbs the sun’s harmful rays, so your skin doesn’t have to. 

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  • La Mer Foundation

    Best SPF Foundation

    La Mer

    Although you’ll still need to wear an SPF underneath your foundation, having an extra dose of sun protection infused in your make-up is a great bonus. La Mer’s The Soft Fluid Longwear Foundation is formulated with SPF 50 and offers a luminous finish. Even better, the weightless formula of this foundation is specially designed to stay in place when worn in humid environments. 

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  • Kiehl’s

    Best SPF for Acne-Prone Skin


    Know that there are lots of formulas that work to protect your skin from the sun, while soothing acne-prone complexions. Look to oil-free, non-comedogenic and fragrance-free formulas which won’t clog your pores, such as Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense. It’s a lightweight gel formula made to withstand humid environments and readily absorb into skin, leaving a smooth, shine-free finish.

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  • Clé de Peau Beauté

    Best Hand Cream with SPF

    Clé de Peau Beauté

    Try Clé de Peau Beauté’s Hand Cream, it’s formulated with SPF 18 and has a rich texture that hydrates and repairs the skin on your hands. It’s also infused with the brand’s patented Illuminating Complex – brightening ingredients that will even your skin tone and soothe any concerns caused by prolonged sun exposure.

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  • Ultra Violette SPF

    Best Lightweight SPF

    Ultra Violette

    The Ultra Violette Preen Screen SPF 50+ Mist captured the online beauty community’s attention not only because of its vibrant pink and purple hue, but for its fine mist that helps to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. Hitting a trifecta of benefits, this sunscreen spray protects skin from UVA and UVB rays, refreshes your make-up and leaves a radiant glow behind. 

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  • RéVive SPF

    Best Eye Cream with SPF


    Pay extra attention to the skin around your eyes – they are highly-sensitive due to incredibly thin skin. It’s a good idea to look for antioxidant-packed formulas, such as RéVive’s Sensitif Eye Cream. It's filled with ginger root, a naturally strong antiseptic that kills bacteria and stimulates blood circulation to depuff skin.

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  • grey

    Best Waterproof SPF


    If your holiday home away from home is the swimming pool, having a water-resistant SPF in your travel beauty bag is essential. Water reflects ultraviolet rays, which increases the chances of UV rays reaching your skin. Decorté’s Sun Shelter is specially formulated to resist water and perspiration.

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  • La Prairie SPF

    Best SPF for Under Make-Up

    La Prairie

    Even if your make-up contains SPF, you should always apply sunscreen beforehand, because as your foundation rubs off throughout the day, it can leave your skin exposed. La Prairie’s Cellular Swift UV Protection Veil is formulated with SPF 50 and is specifically designed to work as a thin, protective veil that sits under your daily moisturiser.

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Treating Sun Exposure

Sun exposure does happen, and this can leave your skin feeling tender, inflamed, and irritated. All is not lost, according to Abi Cleeve, MD at Ultrasun UK, “the key is to look for hydrating actives that can relieve and cool the skin quickly. Aloe vera can be useful but also stronger and more hard-working solutions like aquarich, SOD and hydrogen (as a succulent based gel) to soothe skin.”

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