Spring has been in the air recently and we can almost feel the warm sun on our skin while sitting in a pub garden. This of course means it’s time to take SPF more seriously.
As we explain in our What is SPF? guide, it is vital – even if you’re spending most of the time indoors – to protect your skin using products with a sun protection factor. This applies all year round, not just when it’s sunny but we know that not everyone wants to do this.
From guarding your skin against age spots at one end of the spectrum to protecting yourself from cancer at the other, you, your skin, and your health will thank you for investing in one of our best SPF products.
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£15 | Buy now
Why we love it: One of the biggest issues when factoring SPF products into your skincare routine – particularly if you have oily or acne-prone skin – is that it can take a long time to get the balance of all your different lotions and potions just right.
Even a single ingredient can throw this balance out of whack and, while you may be able to pin it on the sunscreen, it’s not always simple to know which product is causing the problem.
With this in mind, we highly recommend Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen with SPF 30.
It’s been specifically designed to be universally flattering, and effective, for all skin types and complexions. It’s not greasy and it absorbs super quickly.
As its name suggests, it also doesn’t have the white film that is so common with suntan lotions and SPF products, but it still manages to protect against harmful UV rays. All while being non-comedogenic this means it is very unlikely to cause breakouts. Or at the least, it shouldn’t make breakouts worse.
Elsewhere, it’s free from alcohol, parabens and artificial fragrance. It’s sweat and water-resistant for 40 minutes and costs a relatively cheap £15 for 15ml.
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£35 | Buy now
Why we love it: A number of the products in our best moisturiser list contain SPF.
This should be enough to protect you for short periods of time, but if you’re spending a lot of time outside, concerned about age spots or have particularly fair skin, we recommend a moisturiser with a higher SPF.
The best we’ve found, that ticks all the boxes, is the Jurlique UV Defence Lotion SPF50 High Protection PA++++.
Providing the skin with an invisible shield against harmful rays, the lotion also softens and refreshes at the same time.
This means you don’t have to sacrifice smooth skin for higher protection. It’s easy to apply and leaves no waxy or sticky residue, which makes the lotion lightweight and oil-free. The grade of PA++++ means that the cream offers the best protection against the strongest UVA rays.
FURTHER READING: The science of sunburn
£25 | Buy now
Why we love it: We prefer products to cost less than a tenner to be classed as “cheap” but when it comes to SPF products, you do really get what you pay for. Plus, we’d be concerned about recommending a cream that costs a couple of pounds yet promises SPF50 as it may not protect you as well as we’d like.
The best moisturisers with SPF that don’t cost a fortune typically top out at SPF 15, but if you’re after a moisturiser with SPF 30 or higher, you’re looking at spending around £25. And at this price point, we rate the Heliocare 360 oil-free gel extremely highly.
Not only does it offer SPF 50, but its oil-free gel is also kind to oily and combination skin and doesn’t clog up the pores.
It uses the company’s Fernblock technology, derived from the fern Polypodium leucotomos, which has been proven to help protect your skin from the damaging effects of sun and daylight exposure. All while protecting your fibroblasts – the cells that produce collagen and elastin. This makes Heliocare 360 a great anti-ageing cream as well.
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£19.95 | Buy now
Why we love it: Despite being in our mid-30s, we still regularly suffer from spots and outbreaks and this makes us a little wary of adding a moisturiser with SPF, or any SPF face cream to our carefully balanced skincare routine.
However, we recently made an exception for this fantastic SPF 30 moisturiser from NIP + FAB.
Firstly, it’s oil-free making it extremely lightweight and less likely to clog up your pores.
It features glycolic acid to help brighten and clear the skin – read more about this in our guide to the acids in your skincare – alongside silica microspheres that smooth your skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and imperfections. E
lsewhere, Witch Hazel soothes and calms the skin, reduces redness and acts as an anti-inflammatory ingredient, and niacinamide provides a barrier on the skin to lock in moisture and improve the look of an uneven skin tone. It ticks so many boxes for less than £20!
£33 | Buy now
Why we love it: If you’re avid readers of mamabella, you’ll know just how much we rate this foundation from IT Cosmetics. Honestly, it’s an absolute wonder product and – while not cheap – it could easily replace a number of lotions and potions on your dressing table.
It’s buildable and offers SPF 50 while also including hyaluronic acid, soy extract, firming collagen and hydrolysed silk, grapefruit, orange, bergamot and lemon oils.
The addition of these latter ingredients would even make this foundation an ideal moisturiser with SPF.
£30 | Buy now
Why we love it: Most foundations and the best tinted moisturisers now come with SPF – which is handy as it’s a two-in-one step in the morning.
We love bareMinerals’ tinted moisturiser with SPF as it gives a glowy, natural-looking coverage while containing a broad spectrum mineral-based SPF30. This means it battles and protects against both UVA and UVB.
Offering clean, protective and hydrating coverage, this gel cream is lightweight and is one of our favourites when it comes to combining the benefits of makeup, skincare and SPF all in one.
The coverage is buildable too, so it’s the perfect option for anyone less sure about going bare-faced.
Get more recommendations in our guide to the best tinted moisturiser.
£12 | Buy now
Why we love it: If you’re looking for a more dedicated sunscreen for your face, as opposed to a moisturiser with SPF, or SPF foundation, then the latest sun cream from Garnier Ambre Solaire is great. Called YV Face Fluid, it has been specifically developed for the more sensitive face and delicate eye area.
Despite being SPF 50, the cream has a light texture that is fast-absorbing and its non-greasy formula is packed full of hyaluronic acid and glycerin to keep the skin well hydrated for 24 hours. It protects the skin against UVA, UVB and long UVA rays so you can rest assured you’re fully protected against all wrinkles, sunburn and damage.
This sun cream also contains the latest innovation from Garnier: intelligent polymer technology. This formula traps oil and UV filters in microcrystals to create a flexible protective film and optimal UV filter distribution which ultimately creates an invisible shield against all UV rays and leaves your face in its most protected state.
It’s not quite the all-round package provided by Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen, but it’s a very close second.
£8 (depending on SPF) | Buy now
Why we love it: With Amazon selling two 200ml bottles of Altruist’s fantastic SPF30 sunscreen for £8 (or two 100ml bottles for SPF50 for £7.85), this really is the bargain SPF cream we’ve been looking for.
Affordability was at the forefront of the two founders’ minds when creating this moisturiser with SPF – the priority was to make a high-quality, dermatologist-approved sunscreen at a widely appealing price.
It is suitable for daily use on all parts of the body, is water-resistant and can be used on children too.
The sun creams have five-star ultra UVA protection and a wide range of photostable UV filters, including Tinosorb A2B (the highest filter protecting the skin).
Altruist is perfect for anyone with sensitive skin, being hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. It’s also easy to use, leaving no white marks.
£12.99 | Buy now
Why we love it: If you enjoy getting a golden glow alongside protecting your skin, Bondi Sands’ tanning oil could be the product for you as it is dual-purpose.
The self-tanning ingredients in this product allows for maximum colour as you bask in the sun, while its SPF15 still means you and your skin are protected from the sun. You can look like you’ve just been on holiday instead of in lockdown, and you and your skin can get your golden glow on without worrying about being harmed by damaging UV rays.
This is a great product because, even though it is an oil, the non-greasy formula makes it easy to apply and fast-absorbing into the skin. Unlike other Bondi Sands sunscreens and other sun lotions in general, this one doesn’t specify as being water-resistant so that’s something to bear in mind when using it in a pool or the sea.
We should add – sorry to party poopers – that any changes in pigment to your skin caused by the sun are actually damaging it. Self-tanning is the only safe way to get a golden tan without running any risks.
You can read more in our guide on how to get rid of age spots.
UV light comes in two main variations, UVA and UVB. UVB rays are what cause your skin to tan, they cause sunburn and they increase the risk of skin cancers because they penetrate the upper layers of the skin. UVA rays also cause skin cancer, but in the deeper layers of the skin.
UVA rays are much more dangerous because, aside from causing signs of premature ageing, they’re the same strength all day, no matter where you are in the world.
Up to 80 per cent of these UV rays penetrate through clouds, and windows, even in winter.
Ultimately the best SPF will protect against both of these rays, so you need to look for SPF described as “broad-spectrum”. The best way to get broad-spectrum protection is via a dedicated sun cream, however, buying makeup that contains SPF is still better than nothing. Even if it doesn’t protect quite as well.
Knowing what SPF rating you need is a little trickier. This is because it depends on how long it takes your skin to redden in the sun, and this is determined by your “phototype.”
All skin types are categorised on the Fitzpatrick scale. This scale refers to the pigment of skin, and how likely those skin types are to tan and burn. People with Skin Type VI have a dark skin colour and are usually of African descent. Their skin rarely burns which means their risk of skin cancer is low.
The other types are:
Type I: Always burns, never tans
Type II: Usually burns, tans a little
Type III: Sometimes burns, tans uniformly
Type IV: Rarely burns, always tans well
Type V: Very rarely burns, tans very easily
Type VI: Never burns
A number written on the front of an SPF product refers to the amount of time it takes to start to burn compared to how long it would take if you weren’t wearing any SPF cream at all.
For example, if you burn easily (Type I/Type II) – within 10 minutes or so – a moisturiser with SPF 15 means it would take 15 times longer for your skin to burn than if you went out sunscreen-free.
If you multiply the numbers together (15 x 10 = 150), this means a face cream with SPF 15 will protect you for 150 minutes, or two and a half hours. If you burn much slower, the same SPF cream will protect you for longer.
Our advice is to go for the highest-rated SPF moisturiser or SPF face cream you can afford, regardless of your skin type. This means you’re covering all bases.
We should also note that if you use various different SPF products – from moisturisers to foundations and eye creams – you can’t add the SPF numbers of each together. For example, an SPF foundation of 15 with a moisturiser with SPF 30 does not give you protection of SPF 45. You’re only as protected as the highest-numbered product, which in our example would be SPF 30.
Amira Arasteh is a freelance journalist and content creator. Find her making sense of beauty trends, tips and topics – when she’s not stuffing her face with the best food in London or travelling the globe