Our resident beauty columnist, Ava Welsing-Kitcher, is ready to answer all your questions
It’s 2021, and by now, we all know that daily SPF is absolutely imperative. The house rules are easy to remember: every day (even on grey, indoor days – UV rays penetrate through clouds and glass); for every skin tone; between factor 30 and 50; and re-apply, especially on a hot, sweaty day. Protecting your skin from UVA rays – which get through to the deepest skin layers and speed up pigmentation and lines – and burn and cancer-causing UVB rays is an absolute must, and takes no more than an extra minute each morning. I have a bit of an SPF wardrobe going on, depending on what my skin needs and what I’ve put on it the night before to warrant a higher factor, like retinol or exfoliating acids. Scroll on for my ultimate line-up, plus some brilliant new favourites.
For my pretty luminous (aka oily/combination) skin, I was expecting this to make me look like a disco ball. But the way it gives glow is very clever: tiny pearly particles seemingly light skin from within, with zero glitter, and the texture itself is like a blurring velvety primer, making it great for under makeup. Hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and niacinamide cocktail together to smooth and hydrate, while sea lavender and cocoa peptides help protect against free radicals.
This brand’s original Anthelios fluid is everybody’s favourite, especially for deeper skin tones, which need a non-ashy formula. The latest addition is designed to hydrate with hyaluronic, tackle lines and hyperpigmentation with niacinamide, plus break up dead skin and clogged pores with LHA (derived from salicylic acid). With a creamy texture that sinks into skin, without a trace of pilling or creasing under makeup, it’s climbed its way high up my list in such a short amount of time.
This is the formula that finally brought my mum and sister over to the SPF side, during a trip to St Lucia. Thanks to its light gel-creme texture and tiny travel-size option, it’s the perfect way to acclimatise to bringing your holiday SPF habit home with you. It’s one of the quickest absorbing and oily skin-friendly formulas I’ve tried, plus the added vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and skin healer.
Sunscreen does need re-applying, especially if you’re outdoors all day. Rather than slather more over makeup (the thought of which makes me shudder), opt for a light spritz instead. This one contains silicone – found in many primers for a smoothing effect – in powder form, and hyaluronic acid, which together leave makeup slightly more mattified, with that hydration happening underneath. Spray from an arm’s length for a softly diffused amount, and only top up every five hours or so.
If you’re trying to tackle post-spot marks (join the club) then this is the one for you. It holds 1% tranexamic acid, a slow-but-steady ingredient that’s hailed for gradually clearing up hyperpigmentation, plus all-rounder niacinamide for smoothing tone and texture, while giving the appearance of smaller pores. With a lightweight milky texture and full broad-spectrum protection, it’s perfect for every day or when your skin needs some evening-out.
A solid favourite among everyone, but especially those with deeper skin. Non-greasy, light and completely clear, this gel sinks into skin, leaving a softly juicy finish that’s perfect alone or under makeup. I personally love this for travel rather than every day, purely due to its small size, which runs out very quickly if you’re administering the advised teaspoon amount per day. And while I quite like the fresh fragrance, others with more reactive skin than mine might want to stay away.
I’m pretty militant about my morning SPF, but lazy days do strike. I always reach for this after a splash of water or speedy cleanse, as it’s packed with everything my skin needs in one tube. Hyaluronic acid to hydrate, plus ceramides to maintain and repair the skin barrier – a saviour whenever I get eczema or a bad reaction. I always steer non-skincare enthusiasts towards CeraVe, in the hope of getting them into sunscreen – and this one’s light lotion texture is the perfect toe dip.
Dr Dennis Gross
Sunscreens get a bad rap for leaving a chalky finish on the skin, thanks to zinc oxide found in physical formulas. Sun rays bounce off and are absorbed by the more protective white surface, whereas more translucent chemical versions just absorb. This innovative new formula contains 16% zinc oxide and, straight out of the tube is pretty white with a hint of sunscreen-smell, but it blends into near transparency (if you have deep brown skin, don’t expect the same invisibility as a chemical formula). Free from fragrance and oil, it’s also sensitive skin-safe and won’t clog pores.
Freshly landed on UK shores, Ultra Violette’s already built up a cult status in its native Australia. With the most lightweight, milky texture I’ve ever felt in a sunscreen, it lends a softly luminous glow that makes me genuinely excited to reach for it every morning. Rich in vitamin C and both physical and chemical protection (I’ll explain more further down), it’s got all your bases covered – plus different iterations for sensitive, oily and dry skin.
A K-beauty favourite, this lightweight formula boasts both chemical and physical protection without a trace of a white cast. Whenever my sensitive skin reacts with redness and bumps, smoothing sunscreen over inflammation can feel like too much of an extra layer – but not with this, thanks to a calming aloe extract and a moisturiser-like feel. It’s often sold out everywhere, but my favourite K-beauty (and WOC-owned) retailer, Kosame Beauty, is expecting a restock soon.
Not all sunscreens are environmentally friendly (most in this list are, however). Oxybenzone and octinoxate are to blame for bleaching coral reefs, when they make their way down our pipes and into oceans – which is why Saltee have used eco-safe alternatives in their formulas. This facial fluid sinks seamlessly into the skin, giving a gentle glow, with added neroli and avocado oils to nourish, and ocean-sourced Venuceane to counter photodamage.
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