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10 best high SPF foundations

Keep your skin protected and looking fabulous this summer

Sun protection is essential all year as UV rays are always with us, and these products are an extra layer of defence ( Getty )

Everybody loves a multitasker, and the new breed of foundations that incorporate high SPF into the mix are a welcome development, especially when they perform extra well in terms of coverage and finish. 

We all know that sun protection is essential all year, as UV rays are always with us. Very basically, UVB rays cause sunburn, while UVA rays cause sun damage, but the ways that protection is described need a bit of unpicking.

SPF expresses how effectively a sunscreen protects against UVB rays, with the number indicating how much time you will be protected (as a multiple of how long you could be in the sun without burning – for instance, if that was 10 minutes, then SPF 30 would theoretically give you 300 minutes of protection).

Then there is PA, which is found on some products now, which indicates the level of protection against UVA rays, on a scale from PA+ (some protection), to PA++++ (extremely good protection). UVA causes long-term damage, so it is worth looking for a high rating here, though many products use the SPF to cover both kinds of protection. Confusing? Some sunscreens that provide UVB and UVA protection are classified “broad spectrum”.

Ideally you will have a moisturiser with SPF, or sunscreen, as a base and then layer on the foundation on top. To maintain the stated SPF you do need to top it up every few hours. This is where the new breed of cushion foundations, several of which we feature below, can be particularly effective. Cushion foundations are makeup compacts with a sponge soaked in foundation and a separate sponge applicator. The formulas tend to be thin and lightweight but can offer a surprisingly high and buildable coverage as well as high SPF sunscreen. 

Foundations with high SPF are available across the spectrum of coverage – from light to full, so you are pretty sure to be able to find one to suit you.

You can think of makeup with SPF as an extra layer of defence against UV rays on top of your moisturiser and/or sunscreen. Two forms of sun protection surely add up to a better solution than one. 

Clarins Everlasting Cushion Foundation SPF 50/PA+++, 13 ml: £31, (refills £23), Selfridges

Our tester had not tried a cushion foundation before and really liked this one. It felt lightweight but easily built up to give really good coverage, evening up her skin tone and being kind enough to glide over lines and wrinkles in a tactful and minimising way rather than settling in. She liked the very high SPF and found the cushion compact format ideal to take out with her and top up as required. As always with Clarins, the formula is enriched with plant extracts to protect and nourish the skin, notably organic quinoa extract helping to maintain moisture levels. With the anti-pollution complex and SPF50 helping to protect the skin barrier, it is a miracle that it feels so light and breathable. Choice of six shades.

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Giorgio Armani Power Fabric Longwear high coverage foundation, SPF25, 30ml: £42, Harrods

Our tester found that this glided onto her skin with a glorious softness that made for a distinct improvement on the original. It is quite an old school, full coverage, mattifying foundation, but with definitely new-school subtlety and weightlessness. It felt lovely, and, she thought it looked pretty natural for the level of improvement it gave, with a choice of 15 shades offering a good skin tone match.

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La Prairie Skin Caviar Essence in FoundationSPF 25 /PA+++, 2x15ml: £148, John Lewis

Our tester used this over her normal moisturiser, which is SPF40, so she felt happy with her overall level of sun protection. One particular advantage she found was that the very attractive mirrored compact is easy to carry around, and so is perfect for topping up coverage during the day when she is out and about. The instructions recommend that you apply the product generously, and it took her a while to feel that she had a good, all-over coverage, to the level that she likes, but it was entirely achievable. It comes in eight shades.

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Perricone MD No Makeup Foundation, Broad Spectrum SPF30, 30 ml: £45, Cult Beauty

This proved to be a very good choice for our tester, whose main skincare worry was a complexion that had settled into being “dull and blotchy”. Combined with her preference for a fairly unmade-up look, this was proving problematic. The clever point of this foundation, which combines an anti-aging treatment, makeup and mineral based broad spectrum SPF30 protection, is that it gives effective coverage while maintaining a fairly natural look, though if you are trying to reduce shine it is probably not the one for you. Our tester found a good match in the choice of five shades and was pleased that it was easy to top it up during the day without losing the smoothness. 

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Lancôme Miracle Cushion Compact SPF23/ PA++,14g: £31.50, Fabled 

The system of fluid foundation delivered through a cushion was an award winning Lancôme innovation. Our tester found that it went on easily, and was very buildable, especially to give good coverage of problem areas around her chin and nose and under her eyes, and, as a bonus, it was pore-refining, too. In seven shades, and refillable, this portable foundation lasts pretty well through the day, but it is good to have the option to touch up makeup and boost sun protection on the go.

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Elizabeth Arden Prevage anti aging foundation SPF 30 /PA ++, 30ml: £45, Escentual

Our tester, who has previously stuck with a tinted moisturiser, was initially unsure about this, as in the pot it looked as if it would be far too dark for her pale olive complexion, but she found that it suited her skin perfectly and was super easy to apply. Just a couple of quick dots on the finger tip, equally placed round her face and rubbed in – no smudges, no smears, no extra thick patches of colour. Then a quick dash of powder blush and she was up and running. This is clearly the way to go for anyone in a hurry, who wants to boost the SPF with a moisturising, oil-free light to medium coverage foundation infused with brightening vitamin C and in a choice of eight shades.

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Dior Capture Totale DreamSkin Perfect Skin Cushion, SPF50 /PA+++, 2x15g: £65, John Lewis

We have found that the only real problem with cushion foundations as compared to liquid ones is that the cushions tend to run out a lot more quickly. Top marks to Dior then for the fact that this one comes with a refill. Our tester also awarded top marks for excellent coverage that minimised redness and wrinkles and at the same time looked very natural.

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MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation SPF 30/PA++, 30ml: £27.50, ASOS

Our tester found this very fluid foundation deceptive as, although it looked as if it would be very thin when applied, it settled well onto the skin for great, natural looking albeit quite matte coverage that was very long lasting. She was afraid that the dropper dispenser would be a bit of a faff, but soon got used to it, and loved the lightweight and hydrating feel of the foundation, which comes in an impressive range of 23 colours for good matching.

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Estée Lauder Perfectionist Youth-infusing Makeup SPF25, 30ml: £41, John Lewis

You can always depend on Estée Lauder for a good quality foundation, and our tester particularly liked this one, finding it very easy to apply, with coverage and colour that are just right. After a long and extensive search to find a really good foundation she is sticking with this one. She likes the added serum, too, feeling that she is treating her skin while she covers and protects it. With an impressive 22 shades it is easy to find a good match.

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Nars Velvet matte skin tint SPF30/PA+++, 50ml: £30, Fabled

This one would not suit someone who wanted a thick coverage, but for a healthy glow giving a natural look with added sun protection it works well, and with a choice of 12 shades it is easy to get a good match to your skin tone. Our tester liked the fact that it was oil-free, creamy and soft, with minimal scent, and found it easy to apply, albeit a little thinner than she is used to. She liked the healthy glow it gave her for a daytime look, but felt it needed a lot of building up to get to anywhere near her normal evening look, although this was achieved without any loss of smoothness.

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The verdict: High SPF foundations

Clarins is a winner for a very portable cushion foundation compact giving great coverage while Giorgio Armani is tops for delivering skin that looks soft and dewy

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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