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10 best body sunscreens for SPF and UV protection that lasts

Come winter sun or scorching summer, there's nothing more essential than protecting your skin from sun damage – here are our favourite creams and oils that do just that

These sunscreens were tested on people aged between two and 70 and judged on their absorption speed, appearance, feel, and efficacy during sunlight hours ( iStock )

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With summer just around the corner, it’s time up our skincare regime. As much as we all love relaxing in the sun, the damaging impact it can have on our skin means it’s vital to invest in quality sunscreen that offers protection, hydration and quick absorption. (But do note that you should be wearing SPF on your face all year round).

There are two main types of ultraviolet radiation when it comes to sun damage – UVA and UVB. UVA rays account for 95 per cent of the earth’s ultraviolet radiation, with long waves that deeply penetrate our skin, causing wrinkles and blotchiness. UVB are short rays that penetrate the top layer of our skin and are responsible for sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer.

When buying sunscreen always choose “broad-spectrum”, meaning UVA and UVB protection. The SPF refers to UVB protection and the Skin Cancer Foundation considers “SPFs of 15 or higher acceptable UVB protection for normal everyday activity, and SPFs of 30 or higher acceptable for extended or intense outdoor exposures”.

Sunscreen comes in three main forms, mineral (sometimes called physical), chemical and products that combine both. Mineral means the natural active ingredients blocking UV rays are zinc or titanium oxide, which sit on top of the skin to reflect UV light away.  Chemical sunscreens normally contain a combination of two or more of these active ingredients – oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.

These absorb into the skin and convert the UV rays into non-damaging light and heat. Note that mineral sunscreens are notoriously harder to work with than their chemical counterparts as they tend to be stickier or greasier, leaving a white film on the skin. Luckily we’ve found some exceptions to that rule in this roundup.

Cosmetic consultant Dr Ross Perry of Cosmedics Skin Clinics said: “Melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have increased by half over the last decade in the UK. Those with darker skin will know that they don’t burn as easily as those with fair skin. However, this does not mean they can skip the sunscreen. Skin damage from the sun’s UV rays can occur in people of all skin tones, so even if you’re not likely to burn, you still need protection from UVA/UVB rays.”

These sunscreens were tested on people aged between two and 70 and they were judged on their absorption speed, appearance, feel, and efficacy during sunlight hours.

Mimitika sunscreen body spray SPF30, 200ml: £21.50, Look Fantastic

Type: Chemical (octinoxate, ethylhexyl, triazone, avobenzone)

This French sunscreen company, launched in 2016, has managed to create a spray that not only protects from harsh sunlight, but is also non-sticky and has a pleasant tropical scent. The milky spray is easy to apply, so as not to miss areas, and blends in within four to five strokes, leaving no white marks on skin of all shades. 

Mimitika has included Vitamin E to help neutralise free radicals and stop premature ageing. Even more impressive, the brand is cruelty-free, vegan, hypo-allergenic, and free of parabens and nano-particles. While water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, we would recommend re-applying every two hours. The 200ml bottle would last an adult a whole two-week holiday, without breaking the bank.

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Soleil Toujours organic sheer sunscreen SPF 30, 88ml: £19, Space NK

Type: Chemical (avobenzone 3%, homosalate 7.5%, octisalate 5%)

This American suncare brand uses natural, organic ingredients for their sunscreens. The spray liquid dries completely clear, instantly leaving zero residue and a light, pleasant scent. We would advise being generous with the amount you spray because its transparency leaves a danger of missing spots. The formula also contains “eco suncomplex”, an antioxidant blend to protect against free-radicals, which is valuable for anyone who lives in a sunny place. 

We liked the travel size of this product which is ideal for a week holiday in the sun. It’s also reasonably priced for such a quality formula; 70 per cent of its ingredients are organic and the spray also offers 80 minutes of water resistance. The product is also free of oxybenzone and octinoxate which can be harmful to coral reefs.

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Evy Technology sunscreen mousse SPF 50, 100ml: £25, Space NK

Type: Chemical (octocrylene, bemotrizinol, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, avobenzone, ethylhexyl triazone)

Swedish company Evy specialises in mousse formulas for sensitive skin. Their SPF 50 is our choice as it offers maximum 98 per cent UV coverage. The texture is exactly like hair mousse. Once applied to the skin it does seem very white, but after rubbing in for around 20 seconds it totally disappears and isn’t sticky at all. We would recommend this sunscreen for sensitive skin, as it is hypoallergenic, and recommended by dermatologists and the Vitiligo Association. It’s also suitable for children which is a bonus. Although a chemical formula, it contains several sun filters at low concentrations so to eliminate the risk of allergic reactions. The 100ml bottle is compact enough to take on carry-on luggage, but we’d recommend taking a couple of bottles for a beach holiday.

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Avène very high protection 50+, 200ml: £20, Look Fantastic

Type: Chemical (bisoctrizole, bemotrizinol, iscotrizinol, avobenzone)

The French skincare company that prides itself on creating products for sensitive skin has done it again with this new sunscreen, which not only offers high protection, but does so without adding any of the common ingredients associated with negative impacts on health and ecosystems – oxybenzone, octinoxate, parabens and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor. The spray applicator delivers the cream in decent-sized bursts, which dry clear in less than 10 seconds on each body part, leaving no residue or stickiness. The sunscreen has the familiar Avène scent, it also contains soothing thermal spring water and pre-tocopheryl, an antioxidant, for added protection. The bottle will last for a whole two weeks on holiday or in persistent sunshine, and we experienced no skin irritations whatsoever.

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Natura Bisse dry oil antioxidant sun protection broad-spectrum SPF 30, 100ml: £49, Look Fantastic

Type: Chemical (avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, oxybenzone)

Oil formulas are great for giving the skin a luminous quality, and this one definitely does that. This luxury Spanish skincare brand has not only created a product that is really easy to use, but one that also smells like fresh oranges, a pleasant change from the familiar light chemical scent. The ease of application is great for sunbathers as it’ll take less than a minute to reapply. We found that applied every two hours, as indicated, there was no burning and it actually enhanced the skin’s colour. There is carrot oil in this formula and vitamins E and F and grape seed oil for antioxidant benefits and skin regeneration. An added bonus is how compact the bottle is, which means you can easily chuck it in cabin luggage for quick getaways.

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Ultrasun glimmer SPF 50+, 100ml: £18.70, Escentual

Type: Mixed (bisoctrizole [nano], diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, octisalate, ethylhexyl triazone, titanium dioxide [nano])

This Swiss sun care brand has created a range that offers high protection for sensitive skin. The glimmer SPF 50+ is particularly special as the reflective shimmer particles seem to last for days, even after washing. Not only that, the cream can withstand harsh temperatures on fair skin, with no burning whatsoever. This is great for anyone with fair, sensitive skin who needs a strong transitioning cream from spring to summer. It has infrared protection too, which is a massive plus point as this is less common with sunscreen. The only slight annoyance is the length of time it takes to rub in as it’s incredibly white and thick. It doesn’t feel greasy though, but on darker skin it does leave a slight paleness that isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other sunscreens.

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Salt & Stone mineral sunscreen SPF30, 88ml: £18, Liberty London

Type: Mineral (non-nano zinc oxide 20%)

The good thing about LA-born brand Salt & Stone is they don’t make any excuses for their cream. It is zinc-based and does take a good while to rub into the skin. The cream is quite thick, so less is more. If you’ve found you’ve put too much on, rub until most is absorbed and then brush away excess with a towel. People with darker skin might not like the fact that you will most probably be left with a white, translucent film on the body. Even on fair skin, we found we were rubbing in for a good couple of minutes. However, if you care about the environment and are super health-conscious, this is the cream for you as it is reef-safe and is not absorbed into the skin but reflects UV light. It also contains herbal extracts to help with sensitivity, redness and irritation, so we would recommend this for super sensitive skins. The sweet, herbal scent is very pleasant, too.

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Green People sun lotion SPF30 scent-free broad spectrum, 200ml: £22.50, Green People

Type: Mineral and non-toxic UV filters (isoamyl p-methoxycinnamate, titanium dioxide (nano), diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate)

It’s hard to find a mineral formula that doesn’t leave a film of white residue on the skin. But we were pleasantly surprised by this scent-free cream which uses titanium dioxide, so rubs in surprisingly quickly, and dries clear. We were pleasantly surprised to find this 78 per cent organic product uses, safe non-toxic and organic UV filters and antioxidants, making it safe for marine life.

Mineral sunscreens tend to be stickier and greasier than chemical, but this one is not, and although slightly thicker compared to some of the other creams on this list, it is very comfortable to wear all day. A handy 100ml size means it can be taken on planes for quick getaways and you even get the added benefits of organic aloe vera, green tea and edelweiss. This one would be best for eczema, psoriasis and acne-sufferers as it doesn’t clog pores.

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Zelens defence sunscreen broad spectrum SPF 30, 125ml: £36.70, SkinStore

Type: Chemical (octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone, octocrylene)

Created by Dr Marko Lens, who has more than 20 years' experience of researching skin ageing, this broad-spectrum oil is one of the most luxurious around. Offering incredible protection in the hottest heat, it absorbs quickly, moisturising skin and leaving you with a beautiful glow and a fragrant light citrus scent. Zelens use micro-encapsulation technology, meaning the brand encloses organic UV chemical filters within microscopic silica-based capsules.

These sit on top of the skin to protect from sunlight. Those with dermatological conditions or allergies could benefit from this oil as it does not penetrate the skin. On testing, we found this to be true, with no skin irritation caused. This oil also contains active ingredients to help repair DNA and stop free-radical damage, which your skin will thank you for in the future.

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Shiseido wetforce expert sun protection lotion broad spectrum SPF50, 100ml: £27.20, All Beauty

Type: Chemical (avobenzone 2.5%, octinoxate 4.9%, octocrylene 5%, oxybenzone 3%)

This much-admired sunscreen from the Japanese beauty brand has been made even better with a new gel consistency, meaning it now absorbs invisibly, and includes an added ionic mineral powder in the patented “wetforce” technology, making it ultra water-repellent once in contact with perspiration or water. This formula even contains technology that converts the smell of sweat into a pleasant odour, and we were surprised to find it worked, with the citrus smell becoming more enhanced with perspiration.

It wouldn’t be Japanese without serious skin benefits and this contains “profence CEL”, a set of ingredients designed to prevent skin damage, wrinkles and blemishes. The other great thing about it is it can be used on the face – however we wouldn’t advise it if you have easily irritated skin, as this is quite a potent formula.

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The verdict: Body sunscreens

For normal skin, our favourite has to be Mimitika, which not only offers strong protection but also smells great. Despite being on the pricey side, you do get a lot for your money. However, for a cheaper option for those concerned with the number of chemicals that some sunscreens use, then Green People’s SPF30 is ideal. It also contains ingredients that will not irritate skin.

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