The best facial sunscreens for every single day of the year

Sorry, but that ‘sunscreen leaves my face sweaty’ excuse isn’t going to cut it anymore. The best facial sunscreens are so good, you can apply them with abandon and still look bloody fabulous. 

Need further convincing? If unwanted wrinkles are your concern, dermatologists rate it as the best anti-ageing product you can buy. 

Why? Because only 20 per cent of the way you age is down to genetics. The rest is the result of environmental damage from the sun and pollution.

‘Suncream not only prevents future ageing but improves existing wrinkles and skin pigmentation,’ explains dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. ‘This is because when you free skin up from the distraction of needing to protect itself from UV rays, it gets down to the business of repair.’ In fact, one of the best hyperpigmentation treatment products is a great sunscreen. 

Facial sunscreen vs SPF moisturisers 

There’s a difference between a facial sunscreen and an SPF moisturiser. Your SPF moisturiser is exactly that – it’s your daily face cream with the added bonus of having an SPF in it. Your facial sunscreen is your proper sun protection. The SPF moisturiser is doing two jobs, the facial sunscreen is only there to protect your skin from UVA and UVB damage. 

In Autumn and Winter, or when it’s a particularly overcast day and the sun is at its weakest, the best SPF moisturisers will suffice. But come Spring/Summer you need that extra level of protection. No ifs, no buts. 

How to apply facial sunscreen

  1. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. The recommended amount is ½ teaspoon for your face but if you’re not sure how much that actually is, spread a layer you can see over areas of your skin that will be exposed to daylight.
  2. Sunscreen is always the final step in your daytime skincare routine. ‘Nothing should go over the top. Any skin care product you apply over a sunscreen dilutes and reduces its effectiveness,’ warns Paula Begoun, the Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice founder.
  3. Reapply every two hours. Sunscreen delivered via a gossamer fine mist, such as Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF50 is one of the best spf to apply over make-up

Do you need a moisturiser under your sunscreen?

We would always err on the side of caution and double up. This of course completely depends on your skin type. If you have particularly dry skin, some facial sunscreens are just not going to cut it. You need something a lot more hydrating underneath. 

What you should be doing is applying an antioxidant serum like Skinceuticals C E Ferulic before sunscreen. ‘Antioxidants help further shield skin from environmental factors that slowly chip away at its youthful appearance,’ says Begoun.

This is especially true if your serum contains multiple antioxidants as they target different free radicals and work synergistically. So the more you have on at one time, the stronger your defence.

Do I need to wear sunscreen even if I’m staying indoors?

Yes, you should wear some sort of SPF every day.

In the summer months, the best facial sunscreens are broad-spectrum to protect against both UVA (ageing rays) and UVB (burning rays).

‘UVB is blocked by glass, but UVA rays travel through it, deep into your skin,’ says dermatologist Dr Hiva Fassihi. ‘So if you’re sitting by the window or in the car, your skin is still at risk of sun damage.’

You’ll also want your facial sunscreen to be at least SPF 30 as this is clinically proven to be a sufficient amount of protection to reduce the adverse effects of sunlight.

In the cooler months, it’s acceptable to use one of the best SPF moisturisers instead of two separate products.

Mineral or chemical?

Another consideration is a mineral or chemical sunscreen. Both are equally effective, it’s simply a matter of preference.

Also known as ‘physical’ sunscreen, mineral versions contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. By definition, any mineral sunscreen is going to avoid riling sensitive skin.

‘Mineral sunscreen sits on the surface of the skin and deflects the sun’s rays,’ says dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams. ‘An added bonus is that you can go out straight after applying it.’

Chemical sunscreens – more accurately called ‘synthetic’ sunscreens – absorb into the top layers of skin, where they work in two ways. They scatter and deflect the sun’s harmful rays, and convert UV rays into heat in order to ‘deactivate’ them. (Sounds scary but you won’t feel a thing!).

Common synthetic sunscreen ingredients include octisalate and avobenzone.

The best facial sunscreens you’ll actually look forward to using

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