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Best facial sunscreen 2023: Sunblock and sun cream to protect your face outdoors

Looking for the best facial sunscreen? We’ll help you pick the right one for your face

Step outdoors and protecting your skin against the sun should be a priority. Even if you’re wearing a hat and sunglasses, you’re still exposed to harmful rays that have been proven to damage and age your skin, particularly your face.

“It’s vital to wear sunscreen daily because skin damage is a year-round concern,” says facial aesthetics specialist, Dr Pamela Benito. “80% of UV rays still penetrate through clouds, and UVA rays are present at the same strength every day of the year, so even when it isn’t a clear or sunny day, your skin is still being exposed.”

This is where our handy list of the best facial sunscreens comes to the rescue. While there are tons of products you can buy, we’ve narrowed down the list to our top nine to help you hydrate and protect your face when you’re out and about. Many of them also come with a wealth of other benefits, so read on to find out which formulas should become part of your daily routine.

READ NEXT: Best sun cream

Best facial sunscreen: At a glance

  • Best anti-ageing sunscreen: Clarins Mineral Sun Care Fluid for Face SPF30 | Buy now
  • Best tinted facial sunscreen: Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 30 | Buy now
  • Best spray-on: Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced Mist SPF 50 | Buy now

How to choose the best sunscreen for your face

What are the key things to look for in a sunscreen?

Look for the words “broad spectrum” on the packaging, as well as the terms “UVA” and “UVB” – this means you’ll be protected from all the sun’s rays on applying the product every two hours. Some formulas cover only UVA or UVB, but you need a product that targets both. UVA rays cause ageing and UVB cause your skin to burn, so if you only have protection from one then your skin will become damaged from the other.

READ NEXT: Best face oil for glowing skin

Antioxidants such as vitamin E will help fend off any environmental hazards threatening to pollute the skin, or you can try one with liquorice extract to help soothe the skin. “Also look for ingredients such as titanium dioxide, sunflower, rosemary and ascorbic acid – these are all great for facial SPFs because they sit on the skin, are light, non-greasy and won’t cause irritation,” adds Dr Benito.

Finally, don’t go lower than SPF 30 alongside a star rating of four out of five, as recommended by the British Association of Dermatologists, even if you have dark skin. What’s the difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50, you might be asking? “SPF 30 allows around 3% of UVB rays to penetrate the skin, while SPF 50 will allow around 2% UVB radiation,” explains Dr Benito. This is the reason you should always wear a hat or cover bare skin to protect it from the sun during the hottest parts of the day.”

Which formula offers the best protection?

There are many different textures of sunscreen, but much of the decision comes down to personal choice. One formulation doesn’t necessarily work better than the other; so long as they deliver the right protection and you cover every inch of your face with the product.

Fluids and creams for the face are equally effective, as long as they provide satisfactory hydration and zero irritation. Try to apply them indoors, as doing so in the sunlight can cause the product to evaporate before it’s had a chance to sink into the skin.

How much should I spend?

Facial suncare is vitally important, so you shouldn’t scrimp on costs. That said, you can find a more-than-suitable facial sunscreen for less than £60, so we wouldn’t recommend spending anything over that unless there’s a super high-end brand that suits your skin. If you can’t afford both a good daily SPF moisturiser and a sunscreen, opt for sunscreen since this will have more SPF-focused technology. There’s nothing more important than staying safe in the sun, so keep this in mind when purchasing.

READ NEXT: The best facial serums to buy

The best facial sunscreen to buy

1. Clarins Mineral Sun Care Fluid Face SPF 30: The best anti-ageing facial sunscreen

Price: £20 for 30ml | Buy now from Boots

You and your skin will absolutely love this cream. Say goodbye to tacky-feeling sun cream, with this formula the closest you’ll get to a normal moisturiser. Plus, it leaves a lovely glow in its wake. Some people only use facial sunscreen on holiday, meaning they don’t apply it long enough to experience the skincare benefits of the product – but you’ll want to keep using this one! Made from plant-based extracts including aloe vera, senna and baobab, it’s rich in antioxidants and offers broad spectrum protection as well as fighting the signs of photo-ageing. It glides onto your skin and absorbs quickly, with zero irritation. The sweet smell of holidays is just a bonus.

Buy now from Boots

2. Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50: The best sunscreen for city-dwellers

Price: £50 for 50ml | Buy now from Look Fantastic

This splurge-worthy mineral sunscreen may be the most expensive on our list, but it comes with an armour of skin-boosting benefits, protecting against just about everything that contributes to ageing skin. First, it wards off multiple types of light damage – including blue light, which we’re exposed to when we sit in front of a screen all day. It also protects against UVA and UVB, and the toxic pollutants that we might encounter on the daily commute. It dispenses as a silky, white cream; but absorbs well, without leaving a chalky residue – even around facial hair. We also found it to brighten and even out skin tone, thanks to the iron oxides present that colour-correct and protect the skin from infrared radiation.

Buy now from Look Fantastic

3. Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 30: The best tinted facial sunscreen

Price: £32 for 50ml | Buy now from Cult Beauty

    When you wake up in the morning and time is of the essence, this lightweight sunscreen-meets-primer from cult US beauty brand Supergoop! is the perfect multitasker. It’s very lightly tinted to give a pearlescent, dewy finish, and it soaks in quickly. This means it can be used daily, with or without make-up. It also comes packing lots of beauty-boosting ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 to plump and hydrate the skin, and niacinamide and cocoa peptides to protect it. Texture-wise, it’s probably a medium thickness – but it blends in quickly and evenly, calming any redness, giving an almost-airbrushed finish. The golden tint complements a variety of skin tones, too, creating a radiant, glowy look without any greasiness.

    Buy now from Cult Beauty

    4. Typology SPF30 Face Sunscreen with Aloe Vera: Best facial sunscreen for dehydrated skin

    Price: £30 for 50ml | Buy now from Typology

    This soothing, lightweight lotion is packed with hyaluronic acid and aloe vera to calm and hydrate the skin, and it feels so gentle it could easily pass as a moisturiser. It’s a mineral formula, so it sits on top of the skin to block the sun’s harmful rays, but it absorbs like a dream, leaving no white cast or sticky, tacky finish. If you’re someone who likes to keep their morning routine simple, this could be great as it works best on clean, dry skin and does have the potential to pill when layered with serums or other products. Be sure to wait a few minutes between each skincare step to allow the products to absorb and dry. Those with dry skin may benefit from combining this SPF with a little of their usual moisturiser.

    Buy now from Typology

    5. RoC Soleil-Protect High Tolerance Comfort Fluid SPF 50+: Best facial sunscreen for mature skin

    Price: £14 for 50ml | Buy now from FeelUnique

    This ultra-light, anti-ageing lotion from French pharmacy label RoC is another formula whose texture could pass as that of a daily moisturiser. It isn’t oil-free; but it’s great for mature and sensitive skin types that could do with an extra hit of hydration. It glides on effortlessly, feels super-moisturising and leaves skin feeling supple. The brand is known for its proven, clinical formulas, and this product goes above and beyond – like much of the range; it helps to combat any existing signs of sun damage, as well as protecting against pollutants and UV rays.

    Buy now from FeelUnique

    6. La Roche Posay Anthelios Pocket SPF 50+: The best facial sunscreen for sensitive skin

    Price: £18 for 50ml | Buy now from LookFantastic  

    Bulky, leaky bottles are just a no-no when you’re out and about – and, let’s face it, they make your bag ten times heavier than necessary. This travel-sized bottle is the perfect weight and size for applying on-the-go – it literally fits into your pocket – and the formula is brilliant, too.

    La Roche-Posay is a highly respected, dermatologist-approved skincare brand that suits all skin types, so it’s the best buy for those who are prone to irritation. The lightweight fluid makes it easy to apply and it absorbs beautifully into the skin. SPF 50+ covers all bases – just make sure you cover every inch of your face. This one’s even gentle enough to apply on the eyelids.

    Buy now from LookFantastic

    7. Institut Esthederm Adaptasun Protective Face Cream: The best facial sunscreen to boost your tan while protecting

    Price: £40 for 50ml | Buy now from Amazon

    As well as helping to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays, Adaptasun also contains tan-boosting agents that will help your tan along a little. It isn’t a fake tan, but it helps to activate your skin’s natural pigmentation process for a naturally enhanced glow. You won’t find an SPF rating on the bottle, because Institut Esthederm uses a star rating (actually, sun rating) system instead to represent different levels of intensity. But given that the sun’s UV rays can be very strong wherever in the world you are, we’d recommend going for the three-sun rating unless your skin is well adapted to sun exposure. This cream is thick and deeply moisturising, but it doesn’t feel too heavy on the delicate skin of your face, so it’s a good choice for dry or combination skin.

    READ NEXT: The best facial serums from £6 

    Buy now from Amazon

    8. Alpha-H Daily Moisturiser SPF 50+ 50ml: Best facial sun cream that can be used as a daily moisturiser

    Price: £35 for 50ml | Buy now from Cult Beauty

    This lightweight cream comes in a nifty pump dispenser and doubles up as both an excellent moisturiser and a high-coverage SPF 50+ facial sun cream. It’s good for all skin types and offers a healthy dose of hydration without that greasy feel. With vitamin E, aloe vera and honeycomb extract, it has antioxidant properties and leaves a matte finish, so it works well under make-up. Slap this on daily for an efficient dose of both moisture and protection.

    Buy now from Cult Beauty

    9. Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced Hydrating Face Sun Cream Mist SPF 50: Best spray-on facial sunscreen

    Price: £8 for 75ml | Buy now from Boots

    Introducing an SPF face mist that doesn’t sting or irritate the eyes, avoids greasy and tacky skin, and costs less than £10. Apart from the fact that the smell evokes the tropics, we love that it covers the face quickly and evenly – and is quick to absorb, too. Okay, so the contents of spray bottles don’t necessarily last as long as creams or fluids – mainly because it’s easy for the user to get “spray happy” and use too much – but when it comes to SPF, how much is too much, exactly? The best thing about this is that you can apply your usual SPF foundation in the morning and then continue reapplying this mist over it to keep on top of your facial protection throughout the day. You don’t need to rub it in, keeping any make-up in place – just spray it evenly over your face and go. A great little spritz for handbags, plus it keeps you cool, too.

    Buy now from Boots

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