Using skincare as a mode of self-care is one of the biggest skincare trends of 2021 so far, with decadent textures, spa-like aromas and luxurious packaging emerging high on all of our wish lists when it comes to investing in new beauty products. In fact, entire brands have launched this year with the sole aim of encouraging us to embrace skincare as a ritual rather than something to be rushed through. Case in point: Alicia Keys's new beauty brand, Keys Soulcare.
However, there's no getting away from the fact that there are certain products and ingredients that our skin actually needs to stay healthy regardless of how pampering they may or may not feel. There's one, in particular, that comes up time and again when I speak to skin experts: SPF.
Sun damage is one of the major contributors to skin ageing, leading to a whole host of avoidable issues like pigmentation, fine lines and dryness. This is why, despite many of us only thinking about wearing SPF on our face during the sunnier months, leading dermatologist Hiva Fassihi, MD, advocates for wearing sun protection year-round. "Something that many of us don't consider is that most of us have sun damage within our skin that is yet to be visible," Fassihi explains. "This is why it is important to protect your skin at any age."
I'll be honest though. Trying to decide on the best sunscreen for your face can feel like a bit of a thankless task. I've tried so many over the years, and there are still a huge number of formulas that tick those classic SPF tropes of being thick and greasy and lingering on the surface of your skin—not what you want when you're already prone to breakouts like me.
However, having tested probably hundreds of different sunscreens at this point, I now consider myself something of a connoisseur of facial SPFs and can attest to the fact that there are some truly brilliant formulations on the market right now. My criteria? That the sunscreen doesn't clog pores, works beneath makeup for daily wear and, most importantly, doesn't leave behind any white residue, which is essential for deeper skin tones.
Keep scrolling for 14 of the best sunscreens for your face.
Ultra Violette are a new SPF discovery for me, having just landed on UK shores from Australia earlier this year, but I am so impressed with this range and have been raving about it to everyone. Suitable for all skin types, this sunscreen—or skinscreen as Ultra Violette say—is suitable for all skin types, layers beautifully under makeup and contains vitamin C for an extra boost of brightness.
rating Facial Skinscreen SPF 50+, a moisturising facial lotion with high-factor sun protection.
Suitable for all skin types, this lightweight formula is infused with kakadu plum, a vitamin C-rich, antioxidant fruit extract that helps to protect the skin from damaging free radicals and environmental stressors. The addition of peptide dragosine plus helps to shield skin from the full spectrum of the sun’s rays as well as damaging blue light from screens, as well as promoting plump, hydrated skin.
This SPF-infused moisturiser is my favourite sunscreen of all time. I recommend it to basically everyone, but it's especially great for spot-prone complexions, as it's been formulated to keep skin balanced and calm. The texture is incredibly lightweight and leaves skin feeling smooth and soft. Plus, it doubles up as a pretty good makeup primer.
A first of its kind SPF-skincare hybrid from French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay, this sunscreen not only prevents sun damage from occurring by protecting skin from UVA and UVB rays with SPF 50, but it also corrects the effects of existing sun damage by reducing dark spots and fine lines. So clever.
On the rare occasions that I've been lucky enough to travel stateside, I would always stock up on this cult sunscreen, so I'm delighted that it's now readily available in the UK. As the name suggests, this formula leaves no hint of residue on the skin's surface, and I particularly like the slightly mattified finish that it leaves behind—perfect for oilier complexions.
This is a fairly new sunscreen discovery for me, but I've been totally blown away by it—mainly for the innovative application. You give this can a good shake and then mist it over your face to diffuse the sun protection across your skin, mattifying and blurring pores as it goes. Even better? You can apply this over makeup as the final step in your routine, and it actually helps to set your hard work in place. Honestly, I'm a little bit obsessed.
Another of my most-used sunscreens for my face is this little gem. Yes, it's another one from La Roche-Posay—this brand certainly knows its sun protection—and it's seriously good. Great for sensitive skin, it provides sun protection in a non-greasy, fluid formulation. Oh, and I love the sleek, portable packaging, too.
This is probably the sunscreen that has been recommended to me most frequently by dermatologists, and it really is lovely. It absorbs easily into the skin to leave it feeling hydrated, while the broad-spectrum SPF 50 keeps skin protected from the sun.
Rituals is one of my favourite bodycare brands, but its skincare offering is seriously underrated. This facial sunscreen contains vitamin E, organic white tea and healing ginkgo biloba—an ingredient traditionally used in Chinese medicine—for a rich, hydrating face cream. This is probably the most pampering SPF of the bunch.
This is the most expensive sunscreen that I've ever applied to my face, but it really is a pleasure to use. While all of my other sunscreen recommendations do the job of protecting skin from the sun, this one is probably the nicest to apply thanks to its serum-like texture. It feels so luxurious—as you'd expect from the price tag—and leaves skin looking so glowy and healthy.
Free from silicones and comprised of natural ingredients, this is a brilliant sunscreen for anyone seeking clean sun protection. It contains soothing rice extract to calm redness and yellow passionfruit-seed extract for an antioxidant boost, and I love how it absorbs excess oil for a fresh, non-greasy complexion.
This is a unique water-gel formulation that's totally transparent, so there is absolutely no risk of it leaving any lingering residue on the surface of your skin. It's totally non-greasy, and it absorbs almost instantly, so it's brilliant if you're looking for a sunscreen to layer under makeup.
We've covered how damaging sun exposure can be for your skin, but there's another risk that's best avoided: pollution. If you're a city dweller like me, then you'll be glad to know Dermalogica's innovative moisturiser protects against both—perfect when you're spending a long day outdoors and really want to make sure that your skin is being looked after.
If you ask any beauty editor what their favourite SPF is, it likely will be this one. It's a real cult product and is one of Shiseido's best sellers—and for good reason. This provides solid water-resistant sun protection and actually becomes stronger and more effective once your skin is exposed to water, sweat and heat. I was worried that it would be too heavy for my oily skin, but I was wrong. It's now a staple in my summer SPF stash.
Brimming with vitamins C and E alongside a whole host of potent antioxidants, this hard-working sunscreen actually reduces the appearance of dark spots and evens skin tone while it defends your skin. My skin loves this stuff, and I can attest to how much more even my complexion looks once it's applied.