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

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 more reliable UVA protection.

My current sunscreen of choice

I have a major 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 normal, 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. 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 my make up routine (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 frequently out of stock. I'm also unsure of it's 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 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: 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" 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). 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! 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!

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 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* 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
+ PPD 26 (I think) - Ultrasun is one of the few brands willing to share their UVA protection so brownie points for them!
?  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. 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? (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 so I hope they don't plan to discontinue it as it *could* become my daily sunscreen. I want to test it a bit longer before committing though due to the inclusion of the older filter (avobenzone) which I'd rather avoid in case it causes irritation on my fussy skin. 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). 

Organic sunscreens (older and modern filters)

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. But I’m still keen to find a lighter organic SPF50 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.

*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* 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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