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10 best facial sunscreens that will protect your skin all year round

Protect your skin from harmful rays with these trusty creams that work just as well under make-up as they do without

We tested a range of products, considering how they wore on the skin, whether they caused breakouts or the dreaded white cast, how they wore under make-up, extra skincare benefits and different formulas ( The Independent/iStock )

Summer is great. Everyone’s a bit nicer to one another and somehow folks hardly have any clothes on in the park while no one bats an eyelid. However as a result, under the copious amounts of cider on ice and impromptu barbeques, there is a year on year increase in the harrowing epidemic that is...The British Lobster.

You’ve seen them. You certainly know one. Burnt to a crisp, hanging onto an iced lolly for dear life. Refusing to go home until dusk as that sun ain’t ever gonna come out again in ye olde Britainnia! The antidote to this ongoing farce is of course the humble SPF.

All jokes aside, strutting out into the baking heat without protection is asking for trouble. Not only does sun damage count for 70 per cent of the aging of our skin but there are significant risks of skin conditions causing long term damage via prolonged sun exposure.

Let’s start with the basics. The number on the container means it will last times that amount it takes your skin to burn in the sun. For example, if you’re a whiter shade of pale and it takes five minutes for you to feel the burn, and you have an SPF 15 on, you’re going to last 75 minutes before you need to reapply. So keep a handy reinforcement in your bag to keep topping up as the number is individual to the wearer. Check in with yourself to see what fits throughout the day.

SPFs have come a long way too. Studies have shown that chemical UV and UVB filters such as avobenzone can cause harm by seeping into the bloodstream and have been banned in some areas of the world. Hawaii and Florida for starters, primarily because of their contribution to the eradication of coral reefs. As a result, on this list you will only find mineral sunscreens with alternative ingredients such as zinc oxide that are the safest on the market for both you and the environment.

Equally, there is no excuse for alcohol to be present in sunscreens these days. It’s commonly used to formulate more common chemical UV filters such as homosalate. But why on earth you would dry your skin out with irritant alcohols in the sun is anyone’s guess.

You might think you’ve got things covered if your foundation has SPF in it, but while they do indeed contain sunscreen actives, you would need to put seven teaspoons of the product on for it to get even a foot in the door when it comes to sun protection. So unless you want to be drowning in foundation, or have moisturiser dribbling off your chops, invest in one of the SPF’s in our roundup.

We tested a range of products, considering how they wore on the skin, whether they caused breakouts or the dreaded white cast, how they wore under make-up, extra skincare benefits and different formulas to find you the best suncare saviours out there.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

For a radiance boost: Murad city skin age defence broad spectrum, SPF50: £60, John Lewis & Partners

Murad’s “city skin” is a stand-out range from the brand and this is one of our favourite products featured. If you’re the type who hates wearing sunscreen for white cast fear, pilling or breakouts, this might be your saving grace.

Housed in a bottle with a needle-nose dispenser, the light, peachy (not white) coloured liquid is not only a dream to apply but is also packed with extra goodies. Ascorbic acid brightens whilst added humectants keep you moisturised throughout the day.

It adds a subtle radiance to the skin without any sparkle, as opposed to generic facial SPFs that can make you look ill with their white undertone. Great on all skin types, including dry which is key, and all skin tones.

Air tight and light proof packaging, joyous application, top notch blendability, great ingredients. It’s all here!

Buy now

For matte skin: Clinique mineral sunscreen fluid for face, SPF50: £22, Look Fantastic

Small but certainly mighty, this lightweight wonder comes in both 30 and 50 SPF. Shake to wake the oil-free formula, this gentle enough to use around the eyes.

Clinique’s mineral sunscreen fluid is definitely for you if you want a more matte finish. The liquid dries unlike any other on our list, leaving your skin soft and giving that pore blurring effect we all know and love. There is a lack of extra antioxidants in this one so there really are no bells and whistles as such. But it’s a great fragrance-free option if you want a no fuss, effective option.

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For pre make-up application: Dermalogica skinperfect primer, SPF 30: £46.50, Look Fantastic

If you’re still sceptical and are determined to find an alternative to the generic application, Dermalogica has a multitasking primer just for you.

The consistency is dreamy. Presumably from the dimethicone but the light, whipped very matte cream glides on, blurring pores as well as having a subtle warm undertone. This is great for colour correction, but does have some shimmer particles so beware if you’re looking for a more matte finish.

Make-up wore nicely for the whole day on top of this primer, it’s also great alone if you fancy an Instagram filter approach to the day. A cracking alternative if you like to layer products or like the no make-up make-up aesthetic.

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For a touch of colour: Soleil Toujours 100% mineral sunscreen glow, SPF 30: £36, Cult Beauty

If you want a little extra oomph from your sunscreen, Soleil Toujours might have the answer.

This isn’t entirely coloured per se but has a subtle caramel tint which leaves a wonderful dew on the skin after application. There are light reflecting particles too so all you need is to set with powder and out the door you go. This is particularly good if you hate having to put your make-up on in the morning only to find is sliding off by lunchtime in the heat. A nice tip is to brush this onto the collarbone and shoulders, like you would a highlighter, to match your mug to your deliciously bronzed bod.

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For a subtle glow: Estee Lauder perfectionist pro multi-defense UV Fluid with 8 anti-oxidants, SPF45: £36, Boots

The beauty powerhouse that is Estee Lauder claims this is the next generation of sunscreen. Needless to say, we’re a fan. It’s a sheer, pinky liquid which gives skin a boost while adding a subtle glow. Tiger lily and green tea act as antioxidants with extra hydrators such as squalene in there too. It blends beautifully with no greasy residue and works particularly well under make-up. This nicely sets you up for the day with broad protection. Grab a tester if you can for combination skin before diving in for the long haul, you won’t regret it.

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For sensitive skin: Coola mineral cucumber face, SPF 30: £36, Cult Beauty

Cucumber and skincare is a combination that has stood the test of time and here it is being the main selling point of Coola’s mineral addition to the range.

This lightweight liquid has a semi-matte finish leaving you with a natural, undetectable finish. Linseed is also in here to hydrate while the cucumber hit feels refreshing. Shea butter and rosehip seed oil, which contains fatty acids, help soothe and moisturise skin.

You must shake this one before applying otherwise you might find it a tad oilier than you’d expect. It’s clean and sustainably sourced. What’s not to love? Also good for drier skin types.

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For splurgers: Omorovicza UV mineral shield, SPF30: £75, Cult Beauty

While one might balk at the cost, Omorovicza’s product is jam packed with extra ingredients to help strengthen skin as well as protect. 

Vitamin C, a favourite for environmental protection is featured here alongside apple fruit extract which helps skin look and feel firmer. Trademark Hungarian thermal water adds extra anti-ageing properties while sodium hyaluronate is your hydrating buddy.

Silica spheres in here give a soft focus finish, easily allowing this one to double up as a high end primer too. It is also 100ml, which is much bigger than its competitors. If you can break the bank for your normal or combination skin, give it a go.

Buy now

For discolouration: Dr. Dennis Gross dark spot sun defense broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 50: £44, Space NK

Here’s a treat for those who wish they’d have got on the SPF wagon sooner. Renowned derma-God Dr. Dennis Gross has devised this sure fire winner for those who may have a little discolouration from previous sun drenched trips. Three forms of vitamin C and vitamin E work in tandem with a melatonin complex to bring your skin kicking and screaming into the new age. Ceramides and hyaluronic acid are the youthful backburners in this formula. Brightening and evening skin tone are the main skills on Dr. Gross’ list while working hard to stamp out existing sun and dark spots. Lightweight and lovely.

Buy now

For all-round care: Medik8 physical sunscreen: £36, Medik8

Medik8 have spent some time and care putting together a cohesive and clever range of sunscreen products. Our favourite being this physical sunscreen. Featuring 2019’s it ingredient, moringa, it adds an extra layer of environmental protection while carnosene is also present to help against any damage caused by infrared rays. It leaves a deliciously blank canvas to work on; evening skin tone and texture. It’s a tad thicker than some on our list so steer clear if you’re on the drier side.

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For drier skin: Drunk Elephant umbra sheer physical daily defense, SPF30: £29, Space NK

Drunk Elephant's latest edition to the line is a no-nonsense mineral marvel worth a shout out. This thick moisturising formula is packed with non-fragrant plant oils and skin-benefiting antioxidants for additional environmental defence. Given the high percentage of zinc oxide the white cast is true to its name but impressively settles to a sheer dewy finish upon application. A worthy option for sensitive dry skin and a generous amount of product given the price.

Buy now

The verdict: Facial sunscreens

Murad had to win. It makes sunscreen an actual pleasure to apply and has all the extra zhush to boot. Soleil Toujours is a great addition to your kit if you fancy a fuss free bronzing while Clinique gets a mention for no mucking about and getting down to business without a song and dance.

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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