We tried and tested a whole selection of creams, milks, oils, lotions and sprays and decided on three main criteria: there must be no white residue left on the skin, they must not clog pores and they must feel smooth on application. There are still some high SPF products (and we should all be wearing SPF 30 and above) that feel sticky and tacky. And one of these combined with a hot, humid day in the sunshine, will make applying sunscreen suddenly feel like a bigger chore.
There are too many good brands with lightweight formulas to ever put up with thick, greasy or sticky lotions. Remember to use two to three tablespoons for the whole body (yes you read that right, very few people use enough), apply 30 minutes before going out in the sun and top up just before you leave to ensure protection. Seek shade between 11am and 3pm and drink lots of water to hydrate from the inside. When a sunscreen claims to be water resistant, or waterproof, you’ll be protected while submerged, but it’s always recommended to apply again after swimming, towelling, or every two to three hours.
Sun cream has a shelf life of 12-18 months, so if anything is lurking in the back of the bathroom cabinet, make this the year you clear out the old and invest in some new bottles. Finally, don't underestimate the strength of the British sunshine - we've all been caught out on those first few sunny days in early summer. And if you want to find out more about the rules around sun care, take a look at our sunscreen guide.
1. Darphin Soleil Plaisir SPF 30, 125ml: £29, Darphin
This is sunscreen at its most luxurious, containing high-end skincare ingredients that aren’t normally found in sun care products. There’s hyaluronic acid, an ingredient creating a buzz in the beauty world at the moment – one molecule can hold 1000 times its weight in water, making it a super-hydrator. And as well as protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays, this also contains karanja oil, used in Indian medicine, and algae that work together to strengthen the skin and fight premature ageing. To use, it's a lightweight, non-greasy cream that doesn’t leave white marks, ticking all the boxes for a beauty-orientated sunscreen. This is a paraben-free product that feels like a luxury moisturiser and smells expensive.
2. Lancaster Sun Sport Cooling Invisible Mist SPF 30, 220ml: £22.50, Debenhams
From 2017, rather than just focusing on shielding you from UVA and UVB rays, Lancaster is adding into its sunscreen protection from visible and infra-red light. For the non-scientists among us, 10 per cent of rays that reach us are UVA and UVB (responsible for burning and ageing), 45 per cent are infra-reds (damaging your firmness and elasticity), while 45 per cent are visible, which we now know is partly responsible for ageing. Now the science lesson is over, this is a fantastic, completely invisible mist that crackles and cools on application, and you can also use it on wet skin. It feels fresh on the skin, so is ideal for the sporty, the kids who constantly run in and out of the water, and for those who just want a refreshing spritz rather than a weighty cream
3. Vichy Ideal Soleil Hydrating Milk SPF 50: £14.25 for 300ml, Look Fantastic
This is a great sized tube for a family holiday that sits somewhere between the supermarket brands and the high-end sunscreens. It has enough anti-ageing and skincare benefits for the adults, but is certainly suitable for kids too. And to add to its flexibility, it can also be used on the face and is ideal for sensitive skin. For an SPF 50, this is astonishingly easy to rub in ¬– the hyaluronic acid helps with the ease of application, apparently – and feels incredibly lightweight, with no stickiness or white residue at all. There aren't many brands that can produce an SPF over 45 that feels as light as this one.
4. Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF 30: £22 for 200ml, Green People
Those with sensitive skin, eczema or psoriasis, or who are prone to prickly heat, need to choose their sunscreen with care, as so many on the market can cause major flare ups, which, quite frankly, is the last thing you want on your holiday. This from organic skincare specialist Green People is ideal. The brand produces lotions that are free of parabens, lanolin, artificial perfumes, petro-chemicals, colourants, as well as other more complicated chemical compounds usually found in sun cream. It contains moisture-retaining ingredients to ensure your tan lasts, is water repellent (but not pore-clogging), and is rich in natural antioxidants (green tea, olive, avocado and rosemary) and vitamins A, C and E – all these combine to help protect against ageing and cell damage. It's relatively thick, but soaks in surprisingly quickly and easily. We found it was just as effective as its synthetic counterparts.
5. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Body Spray SPF 50+: £18 for 200ml, Look Fantastic
French brand La Roche-Posay is the brand we recommend for sun care and skincare, as well as make-up for anyone with easily-irritated skin. Its sunscreens are perfect if you're sun-intolerant, or prone to prickly heat and they offer one of the best protections against UVA rays that cause ageing – specifically brown sun and age spots. This is an exceptionally lightweight spray – we had to double check it was SPF50 – and stuck to our skin even when in the water.
6. Jurlique Sun Specialist SPF 40 High Protection Cream: £27 for 100ml, Jurlique
At the upper end of the sunscreen pricing scale, this is a high-tech yet organic sun care offering – and that costs money to make. But if you want to splash out, Jurlique is where to invest, because this is fantastic. It's also a multi-tasker, working on the face and body, and comes in a handbag-friendly tube. It's a rich cream, which took slightly more rubbing-in than others (it may be best suited to mature skin, and not suit oily or combination complexions). It delivers a powerhouse combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and natural emollients. It's also nasties-free – no petrochemicals, titanium dioxide, parabens, silicone or colourants. A great, highly effective choice for natural beauty aficionados (with money!).
7. Decleor Aroma Sun Expert Protective Hydrating Milk SPF 30: £26 for 150ml, Escentual
Here’s one for dedicated sunbathers. It smells amazing – the blend of vanilla, jasmine, rose and melon extracts conjures up exotic islands and white sandy beaches. The ingredients apparently boost the skin’s ability to protect against premature ageing from all those UVA rays, and it's packed with hydrating nourishers – our skin certainly felt soft and supple after use. It's not sufficiently waterproof to survive swimming so does need to be reapplied after a dip, or every two hours even if you're not swimming so is perhaps not the one to choose if you're on the go and don't want to be reapplying too often.
8. Marks & Spencer Sun Smart Ultra Defence SPF 50+: £12 for 200ml, Marks and Spencer
This one is astonishingly good value for money, particularly for one with such a high SPF. It ticks all our boxes for a suits-all, family sunscreen. It’s hypoallergenic, fragrance- and alcohol-free, with maximum UVB protection and extra water resistance – unless you have very fair skin, you should be ok to leave it a bit longer after swimming than usual before reapplying. It’s really easy to rub in and we were left with absolutely no white marks – impressive for SPF50+. And what’s more, we think it really does smell of holidays.
9. Clarins Sun Care Oil Spray SPF 30: £21 for 150ml, Clarins
If you like your sunscreen in a luxury dry oil for pool-side glamour, this is pretty much unbeatable. Packed with skin-protecting and softening plant extracts, fatty acids and omegas 6 and 9 (good for your skin), this will ensure skin is in tip-top condition when you get home from holiday – and can be used to deep condition and protect the hair. The scent is a heavenly blend of mandarin, kiwi, mango, jasmine, sandalwood and amber, and it sinks into the skin very well, leaving limbs glossy and gorgeous. With an oil, you’ll want to reapply more often than you would with a lotion.
10. Garnier Ambre Solaire Ideal Bronze Tan Enhancing Protection Spray SPF 30
Ideal Bronze doesn't contain any self-tan, but it does include a melanin-boosting complex that helps encourage the skin's natural tanning process, working best on fair skin that already has a bit of colour. It’s water resistant with a light texture and has an easy-to-use spray that works efficiently whichever way up it is – so those hard-to-reach backs of thighs are no longer a problem.
The Verdict: Sunscreen for body
Green People and and La Roche-Posay are perfect for hyper sensitive skin-tones, Vichy makes a great, suits-all family tube and Lancaster is for the sporty holiday-makers, in and out of the water needing a cooling spritz. But our Best Buy goes to Darphin for ticking all the boxes, bringing some luxurious glamour to a relatively mundane beauty subject, and bridging the gap between sun care and skincare.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing
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