12 best facial sunscreens

Protect delicate skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays with the help of a targeted cream

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Everyone should have a good facial sunscreen in their skincare collection; in fact it’s recommended that whatever the weather you should protect your face every day. But that can be a challenge considering you’re also meant to cleanse, tone and moisturise daily too. As it gets hotter though (for hopefully longer than a few days), SPF protection should take priority to help protect your face from harmful rays that can cause skin cancer and premature ageing. 

But before you sift through the mountain of facial sunscreens available, make sure you know what all the lingo means and what you need to look out for. Sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of how long your sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that damage skin and cause it to burn. Ideally you should aim to use at least SPF 30.

You may also spot the term UVA on your sun cream bottles. These rays penetrate deeper into your skin and are responsible for premature ageing, such as dark spots and wrinkles, so you’ll want to make sure you get a broad spectrum sunscreen to gain protection from both types of rays. Some may claim to protect against free radicals too. These are created from environmental factors like pollution and dust, as well as the sun, and also cause skin to age prematurely. 

Whether you’ve got normal, sensitive or combination skin, we’ve found a facial sunscreen to suit your needs. We tried each one over a couple of days to see how our skin reacted. We also considered texture, how quickly it absorbed into the skin, tinted options for those who don’t want to wear make-up over the top and any scent to check it wasn’t too overpowering. All the ones on our list have UVA/UVB protection and should be applied before you head out for the day and roughly every two hours thereafter, if you’re out in the sun directly.

1. Clarins Sun Wrinkle Control Cream for Face UVB/UVA 30, 75ml: £18.90, Clarins 

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Whether you have oily, dry, combination or normal skin, this reasonably priced cream suits all skin types. It’s fairly lightweight, doesn’t clog pores and absorbs quickly into the skin. With UVA-UVB filters, it provides a good level of sun protection too and contains anti-ageing properties to help fight fine lines and wrinkles. Ingredients such as aloe vera and kiwi fruit keep your skin moisturised and are also packed full of useful vitamins and nutrients. After applying in the morning before make-up, it left our skin feeling soft and looking fresh. We think it’s the ideal cream for daily use.

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2. Clinique SPF 30 Mineral Suncreen Fluid for Face, 30ml: £22, Clinique

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This brand knows how to create effective, high-quality skincare products and its lightweight facial sun cream is a safe bet when it comes to reliable protection. It’s a tad runnier than others we tested but still easy to apply quickly and doesn’t leave any white traces. It’s scent- and oil-free and can be applied after your normal skincare regime, making it a good option for sensitive skin. Also available with SPF 50 protection, and there’s a separate lotion designed for your body for those after full coverage. 

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3. Sisley Paris Super Soin Solaire Youth Protector for Face SPF 50, 40ml: £67.50, All Beauty

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If you’ve got a bigger budget, this is the one to buy. The optimum thickness for a cream, it glides smoothly over skin and melts into it quickly, without leaving any greasy residue. This was also the best in terms of smell, acting almost as a perfume for your face with its mix of herbal ingredients such as sage and marjoram.  Leaving your skin feeling nourished and moisturised, this face protector works to stop ageing caused by the sun – including wrinkles, dark spots and loss of firmness – and provides anti UVA-UVB protection, as well as protection against environmental stress. 

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4. Green People Facial Sun Cream Scent Free SPF 30, 50ml: £16.50, Green People

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Organic skincare expert Green People has created a scent-free facial sun cream that can be applied on its own or under make-up. This not-too-runny lotion absorbs into skin quickly, leaving no tell-tale white marks or greasy shine. It protects against UVA and UVB rays and contains ingredients such as avocado and green tea to help combat anti-ageing and keep your skin looking firm. It’s a good choice for those with sensitive skin as it doesn’t cause irritation.  

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5. Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector for Face SPF 50, 100ml: £28, Kiehl’s

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Another reliable brand for skincare, Kiehl’s has created its own facial sun cream that protects against UVA and UVB rays, as well as damaging free radicals. You only need a little to cover your whole face and it makes skin feel soft, leaving no white marks. It’s also fairly lightweight so doesn’t feel heavy on skin and is oil- and scent-free. It’s handbag-sized too, so ideal for those who want to keep their protection close to hand. Although it claims to be water resistant, we recommend reapplying after bathing or swimming anyway to keep protection to a maximum. 

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6. Eve Lom Daily Protection SPF 50, 50ml: £70, Space NK

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This broad spectrum sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays, as well as from pollutants, free radicals and environmental damage, making it a hard-working cream that will help to reduce wrinkles and increase firmness. Although it’s pricey, you can use this instead of your daily moisturiser as it’s a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula that nourishes the skin quickly. We liked how soft our skin felt after use, how easily make-up could be applied over the top and the sleek, stylish packaging. 

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7. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50, 50ml: £16.50, Look Fantastic

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La Roche-Posay products are a favourite with dermatologists and we’re also a fan of its lightweight, broad spectrum sunscreen that’s scent-free and won’t clog pores. Great for sensitive skin, a little goes a long way with this one and it soaks into skin quickly, leaving you with a shine-free complexion. As with all of this brand’s products, it contains La Roche-Posay thermal spring water, which helps fight anti-ageing. There are tinted options in the Anthelios range if you’d prefer. 

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8. Alpha H Limited Edition Protection Plus Moisturiser SPF 50, 100ml: £42.95, Look Fantastic

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Best known for its multi-purpose beauty product, the Alpha H Liquid Gold, which has built up a cult following over recent years (one is sold every minute), Alpha H has designed a hard-working moisturiser that’s also packed with ingredients to protect your skin against UVA and UVB rays, photo-ageing and free radical damage. The result is fresh-looking, hydrated skin that is ready for your normal make-up to be applied over the top. Although it’s a pinkish colour, it doesn’t tint your skin and it’s also scent-free. We think it’s a good option for older skin, as it has lots of anti-ageing properties.

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9. Nivea Sun Anti Age Face Cream SPF 50, 50ml: £8.49, Superdrug

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For those on a budget, this is a great option. Nivea is known for reasonably priced skincare products and this sunscreen is highly moisturising and protects against UVA and UVB rays. It’s yellowish in colour and has that familiar sunscreen smell but is fairly quick to absorb into the skin after rubbing it into your face. It also claims to help prevent skin ageing through reducing fine lines and wrinkles, which we couldn’t test over time but our skin certainly felt nourished after use. 

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10. Ultrasun Face High SPF 30 Anti-Ageing Formula, 100ml: £30, Feel Unique

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If you’re looking for a cream that focuses heavily on anti-ageing, pick this one. As well as being SPF 30, it’s packed with ingredients to fight premature ageing. Fighting free radicals and UVA-induced ageing, this sunscreen will leave skin feeling nourished after use. It takes a little longer to soak into the skin than others we tested but it will eventually leave no white marks. It claims that one application will last all day, which is great if you often forget to reapply (although we’d recommend reapplying if you’re out in the sun, just to be on the safe side). It’s also a handbag-friendly size. 

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11. FrezyDerm Sun Screen Velvet Face SPF 30, 50ml: £16.99, FrezyDerm

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FrezyDerm is another brand that focuses heavily on the science behind its products. This clinical-looking bottle has a twist and pump applicator and contains a clear gel rather than a cream. It’s an unusual, velvety texture on application that leaves your skin with a matte finish, which is the ideal base for applying make-up on top of. The texture makes it suitable for all skin types and ages, too.  With UVA and UVB protection as well as anti-ageing properties, it’s a good day-to-day option and it’s fragrance-free.

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12. Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF 30, 50ml: £82, Elemis

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City dwellers (and those with a bigger budget), here’s the one for you. It’s essentially your daily anti-ageing moisturiser but it also contains UVA and UVB protection. Apply in the morning during your normal skincare regime and it will leave skin feeling smooth and firm. It claims to reduce fine lines and wrinkles in 14 days and we certainly noticed our skin starting to look brighter after a few. It has an unusual, earthy smell, which is probably down to the blend of marine ingredients, but it’s not too overpowering and we didn’t notice it after application.  And a little goes a long way, which may help you justify the price tag.

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The Verdict: Facial sunscreens

Clarins is our winner for its fast-absorbing, anti-ageing sunscreen that is quick to apply every morning. If you have the budget, we love Sisley’s cream. It smells so good and is lightweight but still leaves your skin feeling refreshed. 

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