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Finding a holy grail sunscreen : “you have to kiss many frogs before finding your prince”

Natasha Dauncey anti ageing sun protection sunscreen

If you’ve read the previous parts of this series (part 1, part 2, part 3), by now you’ll understand that finding the right sunscreen for your needs isn’t that straightforward! Here are my top picks based on what I’ve tried so far. There's an obvious bias towards chemical / organic sunscreens as I prefer them for wearability and UVA protection.

My current sunscreen of choice

I have a soft spot for this sunscreen as it was the first and only one I’ve been able to commit to wearing daily which hasn’t bothered my skin at all. Anglamark Sun Face cream SPF 30 is a great option especially for dry, sensitive skin. It might be ok for oily skin if you don’t mind the shine! Note they do an SPF50 version (not sure if there might be a white cast with this one) but I opted for SPF30 for winter months. It uses the filters Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus and Uvinul T150, it’s fragrance-, alcohol- and silicone-free with minimal ingredients. It has a creamy texture and a dewy finish, but this has been a godsend through the winter months and I’m finding it wearable in the warmer weather we’ve had lately. It is also great under make up (no pilling whatsoever). The only downside with this sunscreen is that it’s not that easy to get hold of, the link above is the only place I’ve been able to find it and it’s recently been out of stock a lot. So I’d still like to road test some more accessible options and will update this post accordingly.

Other top picks from me for facial sunscreen are listed below (though that Reddit post has a very comprehensive list to work from too). Note all EU sunscreens will have a minimum UVAPF of one third of the labelled SPF (possibly more). Please keep in mind the context for my recommendations: I’m UK based where the UV index isn’t that high, I don’t get a lot of UV exposure, I’m a Fitzpatrick Type IV (darker skin, tans easily, rarely burns), I’m more concerned about UVA protection and I have fussy skin (normal to dry / dehydrated, but easily irritated by the wrong ingredients e.g. alcohol, fragrance). Please be aware that I’ve only tested these for “everyday use” rather than any heavy duty/prolonged outdoor activity. Through testing sunscreens I’ve realised I prefer light cream textures over fluid textures. I find the latter quite difficult to apply on my skin, resulting in streaky / uneven application. This may be less of an issue if you have oily skin. It’s worth noting that a cream texture doesn’t necessarily mean the sunscreen is heavy, so do try out testers / samples if you can rather than ruling out a sunscreen on its description!

Hopefully these recommendations will be particularly useful to those with sensitive skin that are struggling to find a sunscreen they can get on with.

UNFRAGRANCED SUNSCREENS

Modern organic filter sunscreens

Anglamark Sun Face cream SPF30 – I love the gentle, minimalist formulation!

+ balanced UVA / UVB (this is really very unique based on most sunscreens I’ve seen!)
+ all modern filters: Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus and Uvinul T150
+  fragrance / alcohol / silicone / oil free
+  excellent price point
-  has a slightly unpleasant smell on application (though dissipates quickly!)
-  not widely available
?  might be too dewy for oilier skin / warmer weather
?  website indicates this is water resistant but I can’t see anything on the label to confirm this

Derma Ansigtssolcreme face SPF30 – similar to Anglamark

The INCI list is slightly different (includes aloe and vitamin E) but otherwise very little difference between this and Anglamark. I think I prefer Anglamark (though I don’t know why!)

+  balanced UVA / UVB
+  all modern filters: Uvinul T150, Uvinul A Plus, Tinosorb S
+  fragrance / alcohol / silicone / oil free
+  excellent price point
+ pump dispenser for easy application
-  has an unpleasant smell on application (though dissipates quickly!)
-  not widely available
?  might be too dewy for oilier skin / warmer weather
?  website indicates this is water resistant but I can’t see anything on the label to confirm this

 

Noreva Cicadiane SPF50+ soothing repairing care

Was excited to find an all modern filter sunscreen on Cocooncenter and only noticed when I received the product that this has no indication of UVA protection (presumably as it's marketed as a moisturiser rather than sunscreen). However, given the inclusion of Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus, Uvinul T150 I would hope it would have a reasonable level of UVA protection. For this reason I'm wary to recommend it as UVA protection is key for me. That said, if you're really struggling to find a sunscreen for sensitive skin, this might be worth checking out as it seems very gentle with a nice ingredients list. It's fragrance / alcohol / silicone / oil free, contains hyaluronic acid, zinc and copper and it's marketed for skin barrier dysfunction, injury, post-treatment / surgery. It's also the cheapest of all the sunscreens I've tried at £7.99 for 50ml. It has a richer texture than Anglamark though and a non-matte finish, so I think this is best suited to normal - dry skin.

Combination sunscreens (organic + inorganic combos)

Canmake mermaid skin gel UV SPF50+ - a combined organic and inorganic sunscreen, NB. does contain octinoxate

+  lovely light formulation with a really nice skin feel
+  applies beautifully and wears well under make up
+  mostly new filters (Uvinul A Plus, Tinosorb S) + octinoxate + zinc oxide + titanium dioxide
+  PA++++ UVA protection giving a PPD of at least 16 (though actual amount of UVA protection is unknown)
+  fragrance / alcohol free
-  not water resistant (so not suitable for prolonged exposure)
-  now widely available - ships from Japan
?  inclusion of silicones may be problematic for those that can’t use them
?  takes a little longer to dry down due to lack of alcohol

 

Ultrasun Extreme SPF50 – this is a bodycare sunscreen but the texture is lighter than some of their facial sunscreen range! I really wanted to like this but I wasn’t keen on the texture – though it feels very light on the skin I found it hard to apply. NB. Does contain octisalate

+  mostly modern filters (Tinosorb M, Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus, Uvinul T150) + octisalate, titanium dioxide
+  light fluid texture
+  good value for money
+  fragrance free
+  water resistant
?  small amount of alcohol (probably less than 0.5% based on ingredients list) – didn’t seem to bother me
?  has a slight white cast (on me) but does seem to fade
-  found this difficult to apply – goes on a little streaky as it dries down quickly. Might work better on oily skin?

 

La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra non-perfumed cream SPF50+

Another mix of old and new chemical filters but thought it might be worth a punt as a fellow skincare enthusiast mentioned it. Filters: Tinosorb S, octisalate, uvinul T150, Mexoryl XL, avobenzone.

Unfortunately, I had an odd reaction to this despite only using it for a couple of days – I think due to the alcohol. It left an unpleasant tingling sensation on my skin, made it blotchy and then flaky a couple of days later, which is a real shame as I really liked the feel of this! Be aware that it has a slight tendency to pill (I wonder if this is an issue with all LRP sunscreens as I had the same issue with Anthelios XL in the past). As a result, whilst it’s not my top pick, if your skin isn’t sensitive this might be worth a try. Note that the finish isn’t matte so might not be the first choice for oily skin though I’m aware of another skincare enthusiast who likes this and does lean oily.

Inorganic / physical only filters

Elta MD UV Elements broad spectrum SPF 44 (tinted) – the only tinted option I’ve found that just about works for my skin tone so far, though haven’t properly tested daily performance yet. Comes highly recommended though

+  broad spectrum (but unknown UVA protection level, though I suspect it’s reasonable)
+  fragrance / alcohol free
+  tint masks white cast (not sure how darker skins that mine would fair though – I’m a MAC NC42 for reference)
+  light texture, pleasant feel (considering it’s a physical sunscreen), hyaluronic acid for hydration
+  added antioxidants
+  water resistant
x   expensive to buy outside of the US
?   unsure of level of UVA protection
?   tint may be too dark for fair skins?

 

FRAGRANCED SUNSCREENS

If you can tolerate fragrance – Heliocare is an option worth looking at as their 360 range uses the modern filters.

Heliocare 360 oil free gel or fluid cream – I wasn’t keen on this (I tried the oil free gel) due to the fragrance and texture but it’s a good option for those less sensitive of you!

+  new organic filters + visible light and IR protection (there’s also 2 mineral only formulations)
+  added antioxidants
+  2 formulations for different skin types (one for oilier skin and one for dry skin)
+  alcohol free (and low silicone content)
?   average price point
-   fragranced (quite strong in my opinion)
-   mineral only version that’s widely available is fragranced, the non fragranced version only available in Spain
-   the oil free gel didn’t apply well to my (dry) skin, those with oily skin seem to like this formulation though

 

Heliocare advanced SPF50 – this is a combined organic + inorganic sunscreen (NB. with older filters)

+  added antioxidants
+  2 formulations for different skin types
+  alcohol free – gel version only (and low silicone content)
+  light texture (I’ve only tried the gel version which is lighter/more pleasant than 360)
?  average price point (slightly cheaper than the 360 range)
-  potentially irritating filters for sensitive skin (octinoxate, octocrylene)
-  fragranced (again quite strong)

 ========================================

On my wishlist to try next:

A few more accessible options (in Europe at least). As an aside though I love LRP and Avene skincare (particularly their sensitive ranges), I find their number of sunscreen options totally overwhelming and it’s so hard to tell the difference between them without examining the INCI lists to look at their filters (which has been SO time consuming). Their ranges still include a lot of the older filters in most of their sunscreens and the one below is still not exclusively new filters. But I’m still keen to find a lighter organic sunscreen I can have in my sunscreen stash!

Avene Suncare fluid fragrance free SPF50+

Chose this to try as it’s a fluid texture with mattifying effect so thought it might be a good option for hotter weather. It is a mix of new and old filters: Tinosorb M and S but also avobenzone (which is much further down the list so I’m hoping it doesn’t cause irritation). Also has antioxidants. Fragrance and alcohol free. Will update once I’ve tried it.

Ultrasun anti-age & anti-pigmentation SPF50+

This looks great on paper: it has modern filters, octisalate (shouldn’t be problematic vs other old filters) and titanium dioxide. Unfragranced and it looks to be silicone free. Also contains antioxidants and anti-pigmentation ingredients (a little sceptical about this so wouldn’t be my primary reason for purchase). The catch is the cost at £32.00 for 50ml, this is one of the most expensive sunscreens on my wishlist which is why I haven’t bought it yet! Given my track record with sunscreens I don’t want an expensive mistake. That said, I contacted Ultrasun and they were willing to send a sample for me to try so I will report back! I received this today and unfortunately it was the old formulation (with old filters).  There is also an anti-pollution sunscreen with newer filters which looks very similar to this, also worth a try but I haven’t been able to find a sample of it yet.

Louis Widmer sun gel SPF 30

All modern chemical filters, in a “light gel” formulation – can’t vouch for that having not tried it yet. Unfragranced, water resistant, free of alcohol, oil and emulsifiers (which in theory should offer a light texture) but does contain silicones. Some nice hydrating ingredients also added. This is a very good price at £14.50 for 100ml so I’m keen to see what it’s like.

For body sunscreen (chemical filters – old & modern)

Boots Soltan sensitive (or kids sensitive) range (note packaging has changed, not sure if formulation is same as before), SPF 30 or 50 versions. Soltan has been my go to body sunscreen for years. They used to do a version that was good for prickly heat but I can’t find it on their site

+  5 Star UVA rating
+  good value
+  fragrance free
+  some new filters: Tinosorb S, Uvasorb HEB, Tinosorb M (SPF50 only)
+  alcohol free (adult version, not kids)
-   potentially irritating filters for sensitive skin (octocrylene, avobenzone)

Anglamark Sun lotion SPF30 200ml

I bought this but haven’t tried it yet. Depending on how it performs it may replace Soltan for body sunscreen as it’s exclusively new filters. I've also got the Derma version which I suspect will be very similar.

Ultrasun Extreme SPF50+ - as mentioned above, though this feels expensive for a body sunscreen!

 

What are your favourite sunscreens? Have I missed any good ones?

Thanks for reading my sunscreen series, hope you’ve found at least some of it useful. Maybe it can serve as a reference point for sunscreens as I will keep this updated as and when I try new sunscreens - feel free to bookmark this post and check back for updates. 

Any questions, feel free to email me or contact me via social media!

Natasha xo

 sun protection



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