Finding a holy grail sunscreen : “you have to kiss many frogs before finding your prince” (part 4)

anti ageing sun protection sunscreen

UPDATED: September 2019 to include my latest love...see below to find out more and discover some exciting news!

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 at least for me! 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 more reliable UVA protection.

My current sunscreen of choice (UPDATED 02/09/19)

I didn't think it was possible to find something that topped my love for Anglamark sun face cream, but I've found it in Evy Daily Face Mousse SPF30. This was love at first use! I must admit I had reservations about using the right quantity of this which is why it's taken me so long to try it, but having thoroughly tested it this summer (including a 2-week stint in Spain), I find this a really reliable sunscreen. It offers 5 star UVA protection, which as you know is really important to me as one of my main concerns is pigmentation. In addition it's also fragrance and alcohol free (both key requirements for my daily sunscreen). This product is a lightweight mousse that spreads so easily over the skin and sinks in well. It's initially a little sticky on application but it dries down within a few minutes. If it remains sticky, it means you've most likely applied too much - I use a golf ball size (as recommended by the brand) for my face, neck and ears. Make up goes on beautifully over the top. I've been testing this in summer so I've been using this over my barrier support serum (no moisturiser) and this combo is hydrating enough for me. I may layer a moisturiser under it in winter as I would with most sunscreens - I'll have to test! The sunscreen uses unique technology which allows the sunscreen to sink into the top layer of skin rather than staying on the surface. As most sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin, through the day they get washed / rubbed off - thereby requiring regular reapplication. I'll be honest here - given where I live, my skin type and my sun exposure levels - I rarely reapply any sunscreen unless I'm outside for several hours so I don't pay too much attention to reapplication recommendations. But the technology in this sunscreen provides me with a level of reassurance that the protection is more sustained than with a traditional sunscreen.  This has been formulated with 5 filters: octocrylene, Uvinul A Plus, avobenzone, Uvinul T150 and Tinosorb S. I was a little concerned with the inclusion of octocrylene and avobenzone due to irritation in the past from sunscreens that happen to include these filters. However, the benefit of including so many filters in a formulation is that it reduces the concentration required of each, thereby reducing the potential risk of irritation. I would also assume that having so many filters also means that the sunscreen protects against a broad spectrum of wavelengths (each filter has a specific "window" where its protection is best). I've had zero irritation from this sunscreen, no congestion, no breakouts. In fact I usually forget I'm wearing this as it feels so light on my skin. Given how this sunscreen feels I would guess it's suitable for pretty much any skin type (providing you tolerate chemical filters of course). Price wise this is on the higher end of the scale of what I would typically spend on sunscreen BUT I am personally willing to pay for a unique formulation which this is (unlike many formulations out there charging premium prices with no unique differentiator). In addition to the face version which I've tested, there is also a regular SPF30 (blue bottle) which has a very similar INCI apart from some of the hydrating ingredients found in the face formulation (e.g. hydrolysed collagen and silk). The regular one feels less "wet" on immediate application and is better value as you get a bigger quantity. On elegance I prefer the face mousse but on price the regular SPF30 is a great option and I would happily use either on my face.

If all of this isn't enough to persuade you of my love for this sunscreen range, then maybe this will: I love it so much that I now retail it in my store alongside my own range! As much as I wanted to develop my own sunscreen, it's an incredibly expensive undertaking (with no guarantee of passing the tests or achieving the more superior levels of UVA protection that I was after!), as well as the fact there are very few sunscreens that offer both excellent protection and cosmetic elegance. In line with my range, EVY offers truly unique formulations and I love a brand that offers something different to the norm so I feel like they're the perfect complement. So you can now shop EVY sunscreens here. Sadly, I can only ship these sunscreens within the UK due to postal regulations - sorry to my international customers, but do contact EVY UK directly as they may be able to help in this instance.

Anglamark is still on my list of favourites though Evy has obviously knocked this off the top spot! This was the first sunscreen I was able to commit to wearing daily which didn't bother my skin at all. Anglamark Sun Face cream SPF 30 is a great option especially for normal, combination, dry, sensitive skin. It might be ok for oily skin if you don’t mind the shine! Note they do an SPF50 version but I opted for SPF30 for most of the year as I find the 50 a little rich for my liking (I think it would be fine for dry skin though). It uses the filters Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus and Uvinul T150, it’s fragrance-, alcohol- and silicone-free with minimal ingredients. If you can't use the older filters this is a great option if you can source it. It has a creamy texture and a dewy finish, but this has been a godsend through the winter months and I find it wearable in mild weather in the UK. It is also great under my make up routine (no pilling whatsoever). The only downside with this sunscreen is that it’s really hard to get hold of (unless you have a Danish / Swedish friend!), the link above is the only place I’ve been able to find it online and it’s frequently out of stock. I'm also unsure of its UVA protection (beyond it offering the minimum 1/3 of stated SPF). So I’d still like to road test some more accessible options with a better/more transparent UVA rating 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 but impossible to know unless brands tell us - if they don't share the info I suspect it's because the protection is closer to the EU minimum requirement!). Please keep in mind the context for my recommendations because they may not be the same for you and we all have different needs: 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 V (darker skin, tans easily, rarely burns), I’m more concerned about UVA protection and I have fussy skin ("normal/combination" but prone to dehydration and congestion, 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 (in which case you should be making sure you also use other means of UV protection e.g. UPF hats, glasses and clothing). For daily use here in the UK I have a personal preference for SPF30 with a decent level of UVA protection. For me, there's a trade off between a higher factor (SPF50) and cosmetic elegance / wearability (as well as the fact I seem to get more congestion with higher factor sunscreens). I'm much more likely to wear the correct amount of SPF30! That said, if you're very fair skinned and burn easily, you are probably better off with SPF50.

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 but wish I knew the specific level of UVA protection this offers!

+ 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!)
-  really hard to get hold of
?  might be too dewy for oilier skin / warmer weather
?  website indicates this is water resistant (yet seems to come off pretty easily with my comforting cleansing oil)
? unknown UVA protection (beyond the EU minimum which would be around  UVAPF 10)

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!)

+  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 (yet seems to come off pretty easily with my comforting cleansing oil)
? unknown UVA protection (beyond the EU minimum which would be around 10)

 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. 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 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)
-  not 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

 *UPDATE* a very similar sunscreen to Canmake is the Kiss Me Mommy UV aqua milk SPF50. It feels lovely on the skin but as with Canmake, over time I noticed my skin becoming more congested. Either my skin doesn't do well with daily use of SPF50 or perhaps it doesn't like octinoxate!

*UPDATE* Ultrasun anti-ageing fluid SPF50 - got this out of desperation for a holiday to India, as I knew I'd need something with good film forming properties to protect me properly in a high UV index climate. For hot weather this proved to be a good and reliable option for me. It felt light on my skin and in a humid climate I found I didn't need a moisturiser underneath it, but as with most sunscreens I've tried it does leave me shiny (I embraced it!). It's harder to remove than other sunscreens I've used so I wouldn't personally use it as a daily option in the UK given my current exposure to the sun, plus the price point puts me off! They do an SPF30 version though I've noticed the UVA protection for these options isn't as good (certainly not enough to justify the price point).

NB. This formulation (and perhaps most Ultrasun formulations) dry down quickly so I find the best way to apply it is in sections rather than dotting all over your face at once!

+  mostly modern filters (Tinosorb M, Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus, Uvinul T150) + octisalate, titanium dioxide
+  light fluid texture
+  fragrance free
+  water resistant
+ UVA absorbance of 95% (equivalent to 5 star UV rating)
?  higher price point which puts me off using this daily
? 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 quickly

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 (though to be fair I should try applying it in sections to see if it works better!).

+  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? (I could have just got a bad / old batch)

 

*UPDATE* Superdrug Solait anti-ageing sensitive face lotion (SPF30) - have only tried this a couple of times and it's not bad at all (I'm reserving judgement until after a prolonged period of testing!). I think you need to be careful with application as both times I've tried it, it looks like it could pill (but I just about managed to avoid it). Feels weightless on, the 5 star UVA rating is reassuring and the price point is excellent. In the summer I could probably get away without using a moisturiser underneath. Unfortunately I can only find this in store, not on the website. Having tested this enough to form an opinion this is a good value option but I'm not sure my skin loved this (and I'm not entirely sure why). I do wonder if reapplication of this sunscreen would be more important (vs my favourite). There is a SPF50 face version too - I picked up the fragranced version of it by mistake and this definitely feels heavier so wouldn't be my preferred choice (a consistent theme in general when you move from SPF30 to SPF50). At the price point it's worth a punt!

Organic sunscreens (older and modern filters)

Evy Daily UV Face Mousse SPF30. I think you know by now I love this!

+  5 star UVA protection through a variety of organic filters
+  fragrance / alcohol free
+  no white cast
+  super lightweight texture, really elegant, hyaluronic acid/other ingredients for hydration
+  added antioxidants (stable Vitamin C, Vitamin E)
+  water resistant
?   it's difficult to be sure you're using the right amount
?   currently only available in the UK (and Sweden
?   price point higher than other sunscreens (but I honestly think in this case, it's worth it and I don't say that often!)

Please note the daily UV face mousse isn't suitable for vegans, however the regular SPF30 / SPF50 (blue bottles) that I stock are (these are the reformulated versions without silk and collagen!

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 and more recently with the new LRP anti-imperfections sunscreen which pilled horribly!). As a result, whilst it’s not my top pick, if your skin isn’t sensitive this might be worth a try, especially as this brand is one of the few that are transparent about their UVA protection. 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. As a general rule the LRP sunscreens seem to be great for UVA protection but I don't feel they're suitable for very sensitive skin (due to the often high alcohol content, fragrance and inclusion of older filters) and they don't seem to play well for make up wearers either. Plus the range just confuses me with all the different options!

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 likely to be too dark for fair skins (their other tinted option is cooler toned / slightly lighter so might be a better choice for fairer skin)

 

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 seems like 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 and unbearable for me)
-   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)

- *UPDATE* UVA protection level unknown

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

On my wishlist to try next:

A few more accessible options (in Europe at least). As an aside though I like some 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 (not to mention fragrance in some too) and the one below is still not exclusively new filters. 

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.

*UPDATE* - tried this once, it's OK, has a white cast on application (which seems to fade as it dries down). But Avene are unwilling to share their UVA protection on this so I don't feel comfortable recommending it given that it does't have enough other plus points going for 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.

*UPDATE* - tried this a couple of times and found it very shiny. Pilled the first time, tried again the second time and it was slightly better but didn't like it enough to give it another go!

*UPDATE* - tried the Dr Jetske Ultee Suncover SPF30 - mainly as it uses only modern filters and is fragrance, alcohol free and great value for the 250ml bottle. I really wanted to love this but something in this formulation irritated my skin. I felt stinging on application and strangely when I relegated it to my decolletage I had the same problem. This is a very fluid texture and with the flip top cap I found it a little messy to dispense and apply. I could have looked past that if it weren't for the irritation.

*UPDATE* I'd also like to give Altruist SPF30 a go, as it's easily available here in the UK, 5 star UVA rating, fragrance free and an excellent price point. The only reason I haven't purchased it is the inclusion of octocrylene and avobenzone, both of which could be problematic for my skin, especially if I'm using them on a daily basis on my face. I know this is well loved by many though so if you're not sensitive to older organic filters I would definitely give it a try! They do an SPF30 and 50 version (I wouldn't personally bother with the spray that I also believe is available). If you're planning to use it on your face, I believe the SPF50 is harder to wear (especially with make up). The SPF30 looks like a good option though for everyday use here in the UK (or other similar climate).

For body sunscreen (chemical filters – old & modern combos)

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)

*UPDATE* Superdrug Solait Sensitive sun cream (SPF50) used this on my recent trip to India as my body sunscreen and really liked it - a definite repurchase for me! Nice application and a great price point. Combination of titanium dioxide + older and modern filters. Very similar to the Soltan sensitive range. 

+  5 Star UVA rating
+  good value
+  fragrance free
+  some great newer filters: Uvinul A Plus, Tinosorb A2B, Tinosorb S, Uvinul T150 
+  alcohol free 
-   potentially irritating filters for sensitive skin (octocrylene, avobenzone)
? contains a silicone which some may prefer to avoid

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.

*UPDATE* I have used the Anglamark and Derma body sunscreens and liked them both. They're slightly heavier than the face versions so I wouldn't try them on my face but they're a decent body option for my Scandinavian audience especially for sensitive skin. They're still hard to get hold of though so my preference would be Superdrug Solait Sensitive / Boots Soltan Sensitive if you're in the UK.

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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