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The best sunscreens for oily skin to buy in 2023

Best sunscreen for oily skin

Protect delicate and breakout-prone skin from sun damage with the best specialist sunscreens for oily skin

Applying sun protection daily is the number-one thing we can do to fight the signs of ageing, even on those cloudy days when you do little more than walk from the car to the office and back again. If you’ve struggled to find the best sunscreen for oily and/or blemish-prone skin, it can be tempting to skip the SPF altogether, since finding a formula that doesn’t erupt in a series of breakouts can be no mean feat – but experts would advise you to think again.

“Blemish-prone skin tends to be quite inflamed, and when there is inflammation in the skin, the cells can react to sun damage or irritation by making extra melanin – this results in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” says advanced aesthetic doctor Dr Preema Vig. “It’s vital to use an SPF to prevent provoking the hyperpigmentation and making it darker. Infrared heat from the sun can also cause acne flares, which can irritate your skin further.”

If you’re wondering which of the many facial SPFs out there are formulated to support oily, blemish-prone complexions, then we’ve done our research. From dry-touch gels to lightly tinted options, here we’ll reveal the sunscreens you should be investing in this year and help you understand what to look out for with our quick buying guide.

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How to choose the best sunscreen for oily skin

Why do I need a separate sunscreen for my face and body?

As with any skincare, facial sunscreens tend to be formulated differently to body sunscreens since the skin on your face is exposed to far more pollutants and environmental factors on a daily basis. Facial sunscreens are designed to be more lightweight and easily absorbed, not to mention formulated with other ingredients to enhance different skin types as well as protect them. “Those with oily and acne-prone skin should avoid using standard sunscreens on their face regularly, since they can be formulated with comedogenic ingredients and oils which can block the pores and cause breakouts,” adds Dr Preema.

What ingredients should I look out for?

The key is to look for non-greasy formulas that are labelled oil-free and non-comedogenic (which means they won’t clog pores). “Avoid ingredients such as benzophenones, such as oxybenzone, as well as cinnamates and certain preservatives like quaternium-15 – these are all chemical UV filters that can contribute to skin allergies and irritation,” adds Dr Preema.

How much should I spend?

While there’s no real correlation between the price of your sunscreen and how effective it is in protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays, as with all skincare products, it’s certainly worth investing in formulas that work for your skin type. Those with active ingredients (to help fight blemishes or tackle past sun damage, for example) may cost more, as will those that are sustainable or chemical-free, if that’s something that’s important to you. It very much comes down to personal preference. And since SPF is a product that we should be wearing daily, the most important factor is to choose something that feels good on your skin.

How we test the best sunscreens for oily skin

Over the course of a few weeks, we test each sunscreen for feel, finish and scent by applying generously every morning and topping up throughout the day. We look at how straightforward each SPF is to apply, how it looks on a range of skin tones (is there a tell-tale white cast?), whether or not it pills beneath makeup, and whether it feels lightweight on the skin. To ensure each sunscreen is suitable for oily skin and those prone to acne, our testers also monitor whether or not any of the products contribute to breakouts. Last but not least, we examine how well each formula guards against the sun. Of the 15 products we test, only the ones that impress most are included below.

The best sunscreens you can buy in 2023

1. Avène Very High Protection Cleanance Solaire SPF 50: Best sunscreen for congested skin

Price when reviewed: £17 for 50ml | Check price at Boots

Avène’s hardworking Cleanance range is specially formulated for those with oily skin, so if you’re prone to congestion and blemishes, this is one to stockpile since it has a shedload of benefits. As well as offering broad spectrum protection, it contains monolaurin to help regulate sebum, and zinc gluconate to help target blemishes and soothe redness – a triple whammy in one tube. You can get away with quite a few pumps of this, since the light, silky texture melts easily into skin, leaving no white streaks or greasiness, and successfully absorbs any sun-induced shine throughout the day.

Check price at Boots

2. Dr Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen SPF 50: Best sunscreen as a make-up base

Price when reviewed: £31 for 50ml | Check price at Dr Sam Bunting

Formulated by Harley Street dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, this fragrance-free SPF absorbs in a matter of seconds. As well as offering powerful UVA and UVB protection, it’s enriched with 5% niacinamide, which helps to even out the complexion and support the skin’s barrier function. The texture feels super hydrating and gives great coverage without feeling heavy. The bottle recommends three pumps for your face, which feels like a lot, but it blends in easily without leaving a chalky cast, and its brightening, primer-like finish means it sits wonderfully under make-up, too.

Check price at Dr Sam Bunting

3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Shine Gel Cream SPF 50+: Best water-resistant sunscreen

Price when reviewed: £20 for 50ml | Check price at FeelUnique

La Roche-Posay’s sun-care products are recommended by dermatologists worldwide, and for good reason. This formula is specifically designed for oily skin that might be prone to sensitivity, sun intolerance or prickly heat, offering exceptionally high protection above and beyond recommended guidelines. Its patented UV filtering system combined with its not-so-secret ingredient – thermal spring water – forms a smoothing, resistant film over the skin’s surface while still allowing it to breathe. This also makes it super water-resistant. Irritated and oily skins will love the dry-touch gel texture, which sinks in effortlessly and mattifies without leaving any white trace.

Check price at Feel Unique

4. Garnier Ambre Solaire Over Makeup Super UV Mist SPF 50: Best budget buy sunscreen

Price when reviewed: £7.60 | Check price at Amazon

If you’re looking for something you can spritz over your make-up when you’re on the go, pick up Garnier’s Over Makeup Super UV Mist. It’s enriched with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid and suitable for sensitive skins. Upon application, it feels weightless and refreshing – and doesn’t leave an oily film – so it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t like layering their skin with too many creams. Even better, you can top it up throughout the day as needed – a summer holiday game-changer in our book.

5. REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30: Best mattifying sunscreen

Price when reviewed: £25 for 50ml | Check price at Amazon Sensitive skins will love this fast-absorbing, non-chemical, silicone-free formula from sustainable skincare brand Ren. The key ingredients include naturally derived rice starch, which absorbs oil and stands up to shine in an instant, while zinc-oxide offers complete protection against both UVA and UVB. The texture feels lightweight yet moisturising, with a super-satiny finish, and we found it really helped to soothe redness caused by the weather or breakouts. It’s also cruelty-free and the packaging is 100% recyclable – a win-win.

Check price at Amazon

6. Clinique City Block Sheer SPF 25: Best sunscreen for tinted protection

Price when reviewed: £24 for 40ml | Check price at John Lewis

This oil-free formula from Clinique is the perfect option for everyday wear. It’s got a very slight, sheer tint so it can be worn with or without make-up, and skin instantly looks radiant and dewy once the product is applied. There’s no stickiness – instead it offers up smooth coverage and gives skin a hydrated glow. We also love the compact, handbag-friendly tube for whenever you want to reapply during the day.

Check price at John Lewis

7. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 30: Best sunscreen for minimising pores and shine

Price when reviewed: £34 for 50ml | Check price at Cult Beauty

Another great option for everyday wear, this cult US brand finally hit UK stores last year and it’s easy to see why it’s been such a hit with beauty editors and skincare enthusiasts alike. The universally flattering, shine-minimising Unseen formula is water resistant and perfect for tackling oily breakouts and enlarged pores – the lightweight cream almost has a silky blurring effect, so it works brilliantly for evening out your skin tone, and with or without make-up. There’s no white cast either and it’s fragrance-free.

Check price at Cult Beauty

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