9 of the best face sunscreens for all skin types and budgets
With the weather on the up, it’s even more important to be wearing sunscreen every day if you don’t want to get leathery skin or cancer
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What to look for when buying face sunscreen
B uying face sunscreen is very different from just using regular sunscreen on your face.
Partly because the skin on your face is exposed to the sun all day every day so needs a certain level of protection, but also because it tends to be less tolerant than the skin elsewhere on your body.
Unless you get back acne, sunscreen on your body is unlikely to cause problems but use it on your face, especially if you’re prone to spots, and it can cause havoc.
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.
Below we list the best face sunscreens for dry, oily, sensitive and mature skin, with something to hopefully should suit most budgets.
Best face sunscreen UK
- Best face sunscreen: Isntree Watery Sun Gel
- Best cheap face sunscreen: Garnier UV Face Fluid
- Best face sunscreen with skincare: Hada Labo Sun Face Cream
- Best face sunscreen for oily skin: Thank You Farmer Sun Protect Water Sun Cream
- Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin: NIP + FAB Glycolic
- Best sunscreen for dry skin: Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen
- Best for sensitive skin: Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen
- Best face sunscreen for mature skin: Heliocare 360
- Best for blue light protection: Ultra Violette Supreme Screen Sunscreen
Best face sunscreen: Isntree Watery Sun Gel
£21 | Buy now
We’ve tried a lot of sunscreens over the years and our favourite by far is the Isntree Watery Sun Gel.
Not only is it lightweight and hydrating – thanks to 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 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 bit 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.
Best cheap sunscreen for face: Garnier UV Face Fluid
£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.
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 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 for a few hours.
Best face sunscreen: Hada Labo Sun Face Cream
£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 younger and all of which have a lot 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 skincare staples including hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C and E.
Both vitamins 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.
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.
Best face sunscreen for oily skin: Thank You Farmer Sun Protect Water Sun Cream
£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 such as aloe vera and chamomile extract, both of which soothe and hydrate the skin without weighing it down or clogging your pores.
These also help refresh and cool the skin, even on hot, humid days.
It then contains a blend of five 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 shiny, 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.
Best face sunscreen for dry skin: Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen
£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 we’ve ever tried.
It’s light enough to be used on the face and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive.
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.
Best moisturiser with SPF for oily, spotty skin: NIP + FAB Post-Glycolic
£19.95 | Buy now
Oily skin and acne tend to go hand-in-hand but if you’re worried that the Hada Labo or Thank You Farmer face sunscreens won’t go far enough to prevent breakouts, we recommend the NIP + FAB Post-Glycolic moisturiser.
Technically it’s a moisturiser with SPF rather than a dedicated face sunscreen but it’s been formulated to protect the skin against sun damage while clearing the pores and calming the skin thanks to the addition of niacinamide and Witch Hazel.
In particular, Witch Hazel has long been used to treat blemishes and keep the skin clear because it removes excess oil, fights bacteria, and soothes irritation. It’s also great for targeting the signs of ageing.
When you use glycolic acid, or any chemical exfoliator for that matter, it can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. This moisturiser not only helps calm any potential irritation from the exfoliation itself, but it contains SPF 30 to give you added protection from future damage.
Best face sunscreen for sensitive skin: Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen
£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.
Best face sunscreen for mature skin: Heliocare 360
£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
What to look for when buying face sunscreen?
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.
- Skin type: If you have dry skin, look for a sunscreen with a moisturising or hydrating formula. In particular, look for hyaluronic acid and glycerin. If you have sensitive skin, choose a sunscreen that is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic where possible, and if you have oily skin, look for sunscreens that are listed as non-comedogenic and that ideally have an oil-free formula.
- Broad-spectrum protection: Make sure any sunscreen you buy offers what’s known as broad-spectrum protection. This means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin and contribute to ageing and skin cancer, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburns. You can read more in our What is SPF and why is it so important? guide.
- SPF rating: Look for a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30, although we always recommend buying the sunscreen with the highest SPF that you can afford.
- Water resistance: If you plan to be in the water or sweat heavily, choose a sunscreen that is water-resistant. You still need to reapply throughout the day, but if it’s water-resistant, you won’t automatically wash it off.
- Non-comedogenic: If you have acne-prone skin, look for a sunscreen that is labelled as non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores.
- Texture: Choose a texture that works for your skin type, and climate. For example, if you have oily skin, look for a lightweight, non-greasy formula. If you have dry skin, look for a more moisturising formula. Lighter textures are more comfortable in humid settings, while thicker textures will feel more suitable in cold, sunny climates.
What is my phototype?
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.
- Type I: Always burns, never tans
- Type II: Usually burns, tans a little
- Type III: Sometimes burns, tans uniformly
- Type IV: Rarely burns, always tans well
- Type V: Very rarely burns, tans very easily
- Type VI: Never burns
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.
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