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The 11 best sunscreens for healthy skin 2024



The 11 best sunscreens for healthy skin 2024

As a beauty expert, there are two cardinal rules to live by. One, drink more water; two, wear SPF daily. It is basic beauty lore. Even so, during my almost decade-long tenure as beauty director of Elle magazine, I did not always practise what I preached, and I have the freckle-shaped skin damage to show for it. The benefits are obvious: research has proved that daily application of sun-protection factor 15 or above lowers your chance of developing certain skin cancers by 50 per cent, plus, of course, it discourages premature skin ageing. 

My issue with SPF was the reaction and tolerance of my sensitive skin, which, if I’m honest, felt more of an immediate priority on a day-to-day basis than protecting the future of my face. And I’m not alone in this. A YouGov survey conducted by skincare company Face The Future showed that only 22 per cent of the UK apply SPF daily, and just 53 per cent of British women are worried about ageing from sun damage. 

In my case, I hadn’t found the right product for my skin, but they’ve come on light years since the white-cast, comedogenic formulas that gave SPF a bad name. The sun protection market has shown consistent and significant growth and, in turn, beauty brands have expanded their ranges to tackle specific skin concerns, launching suncare products to solve many problems. But with greater choice comes greater confusion.

The facts are clear, though: SPF is vital. It is important for protecting your skin from both burning and ageing ultra-violet radiation, essential for your health, and, as I have come to experience with the right products, can deliver a skin-beautifying boost, with benefits.

What to look for in a sunscreen

Your key non-negotiables are broad spectrum (protection against both UVA & UVB rays), and a minimum SPF of 30 (but ideally 50). To protect against all harmful rays – such as blue light, visible light and infra-red too – a full-spectrum SPF is even better.

Dr David Jack is an aesthetic doctor and skincare expert with a skin clinic on Harley Street. He tells me: “It is paramount to not only consider SPF as a way of preventing sunburn, but as the critical element in a comprehensive, anti-ageing skincare strategy.” But not all SPFs are created equal. “A minimum of SPF 30 will block approximately 97 per cent of UVB rays, with higher SPFs offering greater protection. The level of UVA [the deeper-penetrating UV rays] protection is less than this.”

Mineral versus chemical sunscreen

If, like me, you have skincare concerns and might be SPF-avoidant, it is best to opt for a non-comedogenic sunscreen. This simply means non pore-blocking and therefore the difference between a good and a bad skin day. Most mineral sunscreens are non-comedogenic, but lots of modern chemical formulas have been adapted to make sure they aren’t causing skin irritation. Mineral sunscreens include natural ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, that sit on the skin to physically block the sun’s rays; chemical formulas use effective ingredients such as oxybenzone that are absorbed into the skin to convert UV rays into heat, which is then released from the body. 

Dr Jack believes the distinction between the two is largely irrelevant when it comes to efficacy. “It is the level of protection that matters. The use of daily SPF is important year round (not just in the summer) as UVA levels tend to be at similar levels throughout the year and can even penetrate through glass.”

Apply it correctly

Many studies have shown that we don’t use sunscreens properly. With that in mind, it is up to you to get the most protection from your SPF. The number of times sunscreen should be reapplied over the course of the day is dependent on your level of activity, the amount of sun exposure and the type of product. Dr Hiva Fassihi is a consultant dermatologist for skincare company La Roche-Posay and recommends applying your SPF 20-30 minutes before going outside, with reapplication of sunscreen every two-three hours.

She shares some useful tips: “The amount of UVA and UVB protection a sunscreen provides is related to how thickly it is applied on to the skin, so be generous with your sunscreen application.”

For the average adult, use 30-50ml of SPF – about the size of a shot glass – to cover the whole body. For the face, remember the two-finger rule; dispense two strips of sunscreen along your index and middle finger and apply for full facial coverage. 

And keep topping it up. Dr Fassihi warns us to “ignore ‘once daily’ or ‘water resistant’ branding and always reapply your sunscreen every two to three hours, and straight after swimming or towelling, in order to maintain protection”.

Best sunscreen for oily skin

Ultra Violette Lean Screen Mineral Mattifying SPF 50+, £34

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