Last updated: 13/03/2023
Spring has finally arrived and we're ready for the lighter days ahead. Prepping ourselves for some much-welcomed warmth, we've been focusing a lot on the importance of SPF. Though you (hopefully) are already taking expert advice and using an SPF 365 days of the year, whether that be in your favourite moisturiser or in your makeup, in the hotter months we all need to up our game. This means a higher factor SPF for added protection and reapplying during prolonged sun exposure to make sure you are fully protected from the stronger UVA and UVB rays that contribute to skin damage and ageing.
For many, this means adding in an extra product to their beauty routine or switching existing products out to make sure you're getting that added protection, which can be daunting when you're skin is settled with it's usual product line up and you don't know how it will react to this new addition. Fortunately, we have called in the experts to help you find the best SPF for your skin type as well as the full guide on everything you need to know about sun protection, from what SPF actually is to how to apply it.
What is SPF?
"The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of UVB protection. Protection against UVA is shown by either a star rating or by the PPD score (Pigment Protection Factor). A circled UVA logo on the sunscreen bottle means that the sunscreen meets EU requirements for UVA protection. When choosing a sunscreen, it is important to look for a high SPF value, such as 30 or 50+, and the circled UVA logo. This means that the product will give the best possible protection against sunburn and skin cancers, and will also protect against UVA radiation which causes skin aging" explains Dr Hiva Fassihi, One Welbeck Skin Health & Allergy London.
How does SPF work?
"Sunscreens are designed to protect the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR). UVR is divided into UVA and UVB. UVB radiation only penetrates as far as the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) and can cause sunburn. It causes direct damage to the DNA in the skin cells and with repeated exposure can result in skin cancers. UVA penetrates deeper in to the skin and mostly causes skin aging (loss of elasticity, lines and pigmentation). UVA radiation is not blocked by clouds and can penetrate through window glass and clothing. Sunscreens protect from these harmful effects. In the short term, they protect from painful sunburn. In the long term, they help prevent skin cancer and slow down premature skin-aging" says Dr Hiva.
Do all skin types need SPF?
"I encourage all my patients to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of how bright and sunny it appears outside" stresses Dr Hiva. "It is important to remember that UVA, the main cause of skin aging, is present all year round, even on dull days. Fair skin types are at higher risk of sunburn and UVR damage, increasing their risk of developing skin cancers. However, it is important to note that darker skin types also need to protect as they are at risk of skin aging, although to a lesser extent, and pigmentary disorders".
When should SPF be applied?
"Sunscreen should be applied generously after cleansing in the mornings" recommends Dr Hiva. "Care should be taken to cover all exposed parts of the face and neck, including the delicate skin under the eyes. After waiting 15 minutes for the preparation to fully absorb into the skin, makeup can be applied on top".
Should you re-apply SPF throughout the day?
"The number of times your sunscreen should be reapplied over the course of the day is dependent on your activity level and the amount of sun exposure" explains Dr Hiva. "For example, on a dark wintery day in the office, application of sunscreen in the morning as part of your skin care routine is likely to suffice. On a bright sunny day, with outdoor activity planned at lunchtime, I would recommend reapplication of your sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going out. If you plan to spend the whole day out during the spring and summer months, reapplication is recommended every 2-3 hours" she advises.
"The reapplication is not because the sunscreen filters stop working after 2 hours. In fact, sunscreens are becoming more and more sophisticated. The filters are now photo-stable (ie. do not breakdown in sunlight) for up to 8 hours and the formulations allow more resistant and even skin coverage; however we may miss parts of the skin when applying sunscreen, and physical activity or swimming will result in rubbing off of the sunscreen from the skin. For these reason, I always suggest reapplying your sunscreen every couple of hours when out and about" adds Dr Hiva.
What's the difference between chemical and mineral SPFs?
"Mineral (or physical) sunscreen ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, reflect and scatter UVR. They are safe and chemically inert, and often found in children’s sunscreen formulations. There is also a higher concentration of mineral blocker in sunscreens designed for individuals with very sensitive skin" explains Dr Hiva. She adds however that "these ingredients is that they leave a white residue on the skin and often feel greasy. More recently you can nanosize these mineral blockers which makes them less white on the skin and more cosmetically acceptable".
"The chemical sunscreens ingredients are very effective in absorbing UVR and are cosmetically much more acceptable. These filters either target UVB or UVA. I believe sunscreens containing both physical and chemical blockers offer the best UVR protection, in formulations which are cosmetically acceptable".
The best SPFs for every skin type
"With a broad range of textures and formulations now available, it has never been easier to incorporate a sunscreen into your daily skincare" says Dr Hiva. "The inclusion of additional steps between the cleansing and application sunscreen – ie. the filling in the sandwich, will depend on an individual’s specific skin concerns. There are an array of options depending on the concerns being addressed such as antioxidants, niacinamide, AHA/BHA acids, and azeliac acid".
The best SPFs for normal skin
The bestseller in the SPF and sun care category, the La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF50+ Sun Cream is formulated with an exclusive filter that leaves an invisible protective veil on the skin, shielding it against UVA, UVB and ultra-long UVA rays. The high-protection sun cream is water and sweat-resistant and works with any skin type or tone to offer daily support all year round.
Boasting a velvety-texture that feels luxurious on the skin and a barely-there feel, this vegan formula from Lancaster absorbs quickly into the skin to provide SPF30 protection and create an even and supported base for any makeup application. Water-resistant and long-lasting the Face Fluid utilises an exclusive Tan Activator Complex that helps to prolong your glow for longer.
Best suited for skin that tans easily, the Adaptasun Body Lotion Sun Protection from Institut Esthederm prepares the body for moderate sun exposure. The tanning cream supports the skin's natural melanin process to help you achieve a deeper and more even tan, whilst protecting from UVA and UVB rays and photo-ageing.
The best SPFs for sensitive skin
"It is really important for those with sensitive skin to protect from the damaging effects of UVR as chronic sun exposure can make the skin even more red and sensitive over the years" says Dr Hiva. "I would suggest choosing an sunscreen with no fragrance and minimal ingredients. Those with a higher contents of mineral (physical) sunscreen filters (often found in children’s sunscreens) are tolerated better by people with sensitive skin".
Formulated for sensitive skin types and dermatologically-tested, the Garnier Ambre Solaire Ultra-Light Sensitive Sun Protection Face Fluid SPF50+ is enriched with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E that help to keep the skin hydrated and comfortable. The broad spectrum SPF50+ protects against both UVA and UVB rays and sinks quickly into the skin.
This 3-in-1 formula from Avene contains sun protection, anti-pollution protection and offers a light tinted coverage to maintain a glowing and even complexion. The SPF50+ Sun Scream contains the brand's famous thermal spring water that helps keep sensitive skin hydrated and free from irritation and illuminates the skin with a veil of microencapsulated pigments.
The La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 SPF 50 is a soothing, fast-absorbing formula that targets skin dryness, damage and irritation to help relieve discomfort. Helping to rehydrate and smooth the skin's texture, the balm is enriched with SPF50 that offers optimum protection against damaging rays and can be used on the face, body and lips.
The best SPFs for dry skin
Dr Hiva's top pick:
"The Anthelios Hydrating Cream SPF50+ offers very high broad-spectrum facial sun protection for dry sensitive skin in a moisturising, ultra-comfortable cream formula designed to minimise eye stinging. It contains the antioxidant Baicalin, which is additionally effective in reducing the generation of free radicals in the skin".
Formulated for ageing skin, this high factor 50 SPF is a medium weight moisturiser that intensely hydrates to prevent the formation of wrinkles and fine lines. The formula contains a blend of antioxidants that work to protect the skin from free radicals that can dry it out, leaving it feeling soft, smooth and supple.
Suitable for all skin types, but highly effective in keeping the skin moisturised and preventing dryness in the sun, the Anthelios UVMune 400 Suncream offers the brand's exclusive filter for the skin, along with SPF50 that help to defend against UVA, UVB and ultra-long UVA rays. Water, sweat and sand-resistant, the non-greasy cream helps to hydrate the skin without feeling heavy or leaving any white residue.
The best SPFs for oily skin and blemish prone skin
Dr Hiva's top pick:
"For oily and blemish prone skin, Anthelios Anti-Shine dry touch gel cream SPF50+ can be considered as this non-greasy formula is non-comedogenic and mattifying. Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50+ which feels invisible when applied can also be used. The Invisible Face Mist SPF50+ is also very light with anti-shine technology. It is used as a top-up formulation which is easy to reapply throughout the day, even over makeup".
Made for oily and blemish-prone skin, the Eucerin Oil Control Sun Gel Cream SPF50+ is a lightweight formula with an invisible finish that helps to prevent unwanted shine for up to 8 hours. Infused with absorbant micro-particles and L-carnitine, the cream boasts powerful technology that helps to maintain a dry-touch feel with a matte effect.
Working to shield skin from UV rays whilst also correcting the look of imperfections, the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Oil Correct Suncream SPF50 is a multi-benefit cream that supports the skin's health. Salicylic acid and niacinamide in the formula gently exfoliate to create a more even skin tone and reduce excess oil, whilst hydrating ingredients keep the skin healthy and radiant.
The best SPFs for maturing skin
Dr Hiva's top pick:
"Sunscreens are very important for skin health and are the ‘best anti-ageing product out there. Anthelios Age Correct SPF50 protects the skin and also targets the signs of aging including dark spots. The formula contains Hyaluronic Acid, PHE-Resorcinol & LHA, and Niacinamide to hydrate, re-plump and soothe the skin, whilst also targeting pigmentation".
Bursting with antioxidant-rich black tea, vitamin c and mineralising thermal water, this lightweight, moisturising SPF helps to both protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays as well as helping to reverse any existing signs of ageing on the skin. Expect a more radiant and younger-looking complexion.
Protect against premature aging and dark spots and achieve a plumper and firmer complexion with the Expert Sun Protector Face and Body Lotion SPF50+ from Shiseido. Highly durable and extremely moisturising, the formula absorbs fast to provide the skin with all round protection against harmful rays, ageing and external aggressors.