The 11 Best Sunscreens for Healthy Skin 2024

As a beauty expert, there are two main rules you must adhere to. One: drink more water; two, wear SPF daily. It’s basic beauty knowledge. Yet during my nearly decade-long tenure as beauty director of Elle magazine, I didn’t always practice what I preached, and that shows the freckle-shaped skin damage. The benefits are obvious: research has shown that applying sun protection factor 15 or higher daily reduces the risk of developing certain skin cancers by 50 percent, and of course prevents premature skin aging.

My problem with SPF was my sensitive skin’s response and tolerance, which, if I’m honest, felt more of an immediate priority day to day than protecting the future of my face. And I’m not alone in this. A YouGov survey, conducted by skincare company Face The Future, found that only 22 percent of Brits use SPF every day, and only 53 percent of British women are concerned about aging from sun damage.

In my case, I hadn’t yet found the right product for my skin, but they have come light years from the white-cast, comedogenic formulas that gave SPF a bad name. The sun protection market has shown consistent and significant growth and beauty brands have in turn expanded their ranges to address specific skin concerns, launching sun protection products to solve many problems. But with more choice comes more confusion.

However, the facts are clear: SPF is critical. Protecting your skin from both burning and aging ultraviolet rays is essential for your health and, as I have experienced with the right products, can provide a skin-beautifying boost, with benefits.

What to look for with a sunscreen

Your key non-negotiable qualities are broad spectrum (protection against both UVA and UVB rays) and a minimum SPF of 30 (but ideally 50). To protect against all harmful rays – such as blue light, visible light and also infrared – a full spectrum SPF is even better.

Dr. David Jack is an aesthetic doctor and skincare expert with a skin clinic on Harley Street. He tells me, “It is paramount to consider SPF not only as a way to prevent sunburn, but also as the crucial element in a comprehensive anti-aging skin care strategy.” But not all SPFs are created equal. “A minimum of SPF 30 blocks approximately 97 percent of UVB rays, with higher SPFs providing better protection. The level of UVA [the deeper-penetrating UV rays] protection is less than this.”

Mineral vs. chemical sunscreen

If, like me, you have skin care issues and may be SPF avoidant, your best bet is a non-comedogenic sunscreen. This simply means that the pores are not blocked and therefore make the difference between a good and a bad skin day. Most mineral sunscreens are non-comedogenic, but many modern chemical formulas have been modified to ensure they do not cause skin irritation. Mineral sunscreens contain natural ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that sit on the skin and physically block the sun’s rays; chemical formulas use effective ingredients such as oxybenzone that are absorbed through the skin to convert UV rays into heat, which is then released from the body.

Dr. Jack believes that the distinction between the two is largely irrelevant when it comes to efficacy. “It’s about the level of protection. Using a daily SPF is important all year round (not just in summer) as UVA levels are at similar levels all year round and can even penetrate through glass.”

Apply it correctly

Many studies have shown that we do not use sunscreen properly. With that in mind, it’s up to you to get the most protection from your SPF. The number of times you need to reapply sunscreen during the day depends on your activity level, amount of sun exposure and type of product. Dr. Hiva Fassihi is a consultant dermatologist for skincare company La Roche-Posay and recommends applying your SPF 20-30 minutes before going outside, and reapplying your sunscreen every two to three hours.

She shares some helpful tips: “The amount of UVA and UVB protection a sunscreen provides depends on how thickly it is applied to the skin, so be generous when applying sunscreen.”

For the average adult, use 30-50 ml of SPF – about the size of a shot glass – to cover the entire body. For the face, remember the two-finger rule; Apply two strips of sunscreen along your index and middle fingers and apply for full facial coverage.

And keep topping it up. Dr. Fassihi cautions us to ignore “once-a-day” or “water-resistant” branding and always reapply your sunscreen every two to three hours, and immediately after swimming or drying off, to maintain protection.”

Best sunscreen for oily skin

Ultra Violet Lean Screen Mineral Mattifying SPF 50+, £34

An all-mineral sunscreen with a subtle matte finish that keeps shine away. Ultra Violette is a covetable cult makeup-like brand from the SPF world.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best sunscreen for dry skin

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 50, £16.50

An easily absorbed daily moisturizer with SPF included, so it’s a multitasker that delivers 24-hour hydration. It is like a drink or water for thirsty skin.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Dr. Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen SPF 50, £31

Dr. Sam Bunting from Harley Street Clinic explains: “SPF is super important for spot-prone skin as it protects against post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the pesky dark spots that leave blemishes.” This actively soothes reactive skin with a soft focus finish, so it works as an excellent base for concealer.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best sunscreen for sensitive skin

La Roche Posay Anthelios UV MUNE 400 Invisible Liquid, £20

Brilliant for all skin types, but specifically formulated for sensitive and reactive skin, it is ultra-water, sand and sweat resistant, lightweight and completely invisible.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best anti-aging sunscreen

Institut Esthederm Into Repair SPF 50+, £66

With full spectrum protection, this is designed for hypersensitive, intolerant skin with loss of firmness. Also ideal for very fair skin, post-treatment skin or sensitive skin. A brilliant, high-quality option.

Additional skin care benefits:

  • Regenerative active ingredients help firm the skin, smooth fine lines and stimulate collagen and elastin production

  • Pipe application

Best sunscreen with tinted formula

Obagi Tint sunscreen in cool or warm, £64.09

The option to choose a warm or cool shade is brilliant for the most complementary and complexion-enhancing finish. It gives a beautiful natural glow and the skin feels enriched and protected. A personal favorite.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best sunscreen for outdoor activities

Lancaster Sun Sport Cooling invisible mist, £25.60

This super-fine mist can even reach wet skin and is resistant to both water and sweat. It’s a great skin-cooling and comforting all-rounder with great staying power and real ease of use. One for the gym bag.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best budget-friendly sunscreen

Garnier Ambre Solaire Super UV with Vitamin C, £9.50

Ultra-light and serious value for money, it has a light, invisible, non-greasy finish and is the perfect addition to your facial care routine.

Additional skin care benefits:

  • With vitamin C, glycerin and vitamin E, it counteracts dark spots, adds shine and helps even out skin tone

  • Liquid application

Best sunscreen for water activities

UltraSun sports spray formula with very high SPF 50, £28

A transparent and fast-absorbing, non-greasy formula with the most serious staying power. Marketed as ‘one application’, which is tempting, but always top up after water to be on the safe side.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best sunscreen for lips

Sun Bum Moisturizing SPF 30 Lip Balm, £3.83

While many SPF lip balms can feel quite drying or non-absorbent, this one has a lovely creamy formula that effectively protects and nourishes your thinner skin, and therefore extra sensitive to sun damage.

Additional skin care benefits:

Best sunscreen for families

Altruistic Family Sun Spray, 12:50 p.m

Created by a dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon, the SPF 50 spray is suitable for the whole family, including babies aged six months and over, so you only need one bottle for the beach.

  • Free from parabens, gentle on the most sensitive skin and broad spectrum according to dermatological specifications

  • Trigger spray application

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