Sun protection isn’t what it used to be – and that’s a good thing, says beauty and health journalist, Ingeborg van Lotringen

There are some beauty chores we cannot escape, such as taking our make-up off at the end of the day, no matter how tired we are, and cleaning our make-up brushes. Wearing sun protection used to be another sticky, messy chore, but a recent revolution in SPF technology means that, thankfully, many of the new formulas now come in high-protection milks, mists, serums and gels that aren’t oily, gunky or ghosting (when those annoying white marks refuse to disappear). And they often come with bonus extras, such as skincare ingredients or cooling properties.

"The newer filters contain molecules that are lighter and smaller, allowing for weightless textures," says Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of Caudalie, adding that the brand also uses a new generation of fatty acids that feel smooth instead of oily. It’s part of the reason, says Dylan Griffiths, medical expertise manager at Eucerin, that "we can now include skincare ingredients in sunscreen, without diluting the protection or bulking up the texture".

The result is that the choice of textures and ingredients out there right now offers something for most skin types and colours. This is good to know, since 23% of us don’t wear sunscreen when the sun is out or when we’re on holiday.*

And when it comes to face sun cream, the reality is that, nowadays, plenty of modern sunscreens are so lovely, you'll want to use them as your everyday moisturiser. And with 80% of UV exposure happening in daily life** (eg, going to the shops as opposed to the beach) and up to 90% of skin ageing due to UV radiation***, daily sunscreen is the gold standard for helping to keep your skin in good nick. 

"The best sunscreen is the one you love enough to put on every day," says consultant dermatologist, Dr Anjali Mahto. "And many modern ones are so well formulated, I would choose them over many 'miracle” anti-ageing creams.'

a woman on a deckchair, at a beach
 Back to basics

But before we scour the shelves for our sunscreen BFF, let’s recap the basics of UV protection. There are UVB (burning) and UVA (ageing) rays, and you need cover for both. When it comes to UVA, look for ‘broad-spectrum’ and a minimum of 4 (out of 5) stars or 3 (out of 4) pluses: these are two ways sunscreens indicate UVA protection levels, although they aren’t the only means when it comes to UVA protection.

The Sun Protection Factor, aka SPF, is the level of protection against UVB radiation. Boots’ Soltan, which has partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support and always offers 5* UVA protection, recommends using an SPF of 30 or higher and 5* UVA protection – not least because we usually don’t apply enough (you need six full teaspoons for the body and face, while wearing a swimming costume) and to re-apply every two hours. This includes applying it straight after you've been in water, even if it’s ‘water resistant’.

There have also been recent discoveries of further potentially damaging rays, such as HEV blue light, although the evidence is still sketchy around how harmful blue light from electronic devices is on the skin. If you’re looking for some level of protection against these rays, keep an eye out for iron oxide particles, which give sunscreens a ‘tinted moisturiser’ appearance. More solutions against HEV and other rays are cropping up, making for the best generation of UV protectants since, well, time began.

In terms of sun filters, there’s two to look out for: mineral and chemical. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are made of mineral particles and stay on top of the skin to absorb, but predominantly scatter, oncoming rays. They don’t tend to irritate, so are considered suitable for sensitive skin, although they can sometimes leave a white cast on the skin. The other 25+ filters are chemical. These work by absorbing UV rays to help keep them away from your DNA and are mostly invisible on the skin.

If you’re worried about sun damage, moles or pigmented lesions, visit your GP. Alternatively, consider using the Boots Mole Scanning Service, operated by Screen Cancer.

a close up image of a blonde woman's nose and lips
The Health & Beauty team’s best body sunscreens

Hot flushes

Soltan Clear & Cool Protect Suncare Mist SPF30, £7 (200ml)

This mist has an instant cooling effect, useful for those who feel the heat.

Dry skin

VICHY Capital Soleil Solar Protective Water Hydrating SPF50, £19 (200ml)

With added hyaluronic acid, this protects and nourishes your body.

All the family

Soltan Kids Once 8hr Protect & Play Lotion SPF50+, £10 (200ml)

One application gives eight hours of protection for little ones.


Ultrasun Sports Spray SPF30, £28 (150ml)

Non-comedogenic, this sunscreen is great for those prone to oil.

Sensitive skin

Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk SPF30, £10.33 (100ml) 

This 100% mineral milk is suitable for most sensitive skin types.

Hair helper

Clarins Sun Care Body & Hair Oil Mist SPF30, £22 (150ml) 

Protect your hair from damage, as well as your skin, with this mist.

Face off: Inge’s super sunscreens for face & neck

Ever wondered how much sunscreen you really need for your face and neck? You’re not the only one – it’s a much-debated topic on social, but the British Association of Dermatologists recommends just over half a teaspoon. Sorted!

Hydrating heroes

La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMune 400 SPF50+ Invisible Fluid, £18 (50ml) 

This light but hardy lotion boasts a new filter against deep-penetrating ‘long UVA’ rays, plus skin-loving antioxidants.

LANCASTER SUN PERFECT Perfecting Fluid SPF50 High Protection, £31 (30ml)

Melts into skin and delivers a ‘dry touch’ finish. Protects against the full-light spectrum (including blue and infrared), while soothing UV-damaged skin.

Pollution protection

Shiseido Urban Environment Suncare Emulsion SPF30, £34 (30ml) 

Sweat-resistant, oil-free, fast-absorbing and employing anti-pollution and reparative plant extracts, this is a great one for the city.

Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Multi-Defense Aqua UV Gel SPF50, £36 (30ml) 

It’s hard to believe a clear gel can block so much UV, but it can. Antioxidants also help shield skin from pollution and collagen breakdown.

Pigmentation busters

Ultrasun Face Anti-Pigmentation SPF50+, £32 (50ml) 

This has a battery of pigment-fighting and brightening actives, and works as a moisturiser, sunscreen and mattifying primer.

Eucerin Sun Pigment Control Sun Cream SPF50+, £16.99 (50ml) 

‘Broadband’ sun filters and antioxidants help keep rays out and help stop hyperpigmentation forming.

Best for breakouts

Avène Cleanance Tinted Cream SPF50+, £18.50 (50ml)

Boasting a new ‘super’ filter plus iron oxides to absorb long UV and blue light, it also contains zinc and sebum regulators.

Carbon Theory Day-Lite SPF50+, £16 (50ml) 

A non-greasy blend of new-generation sun filters enriched with antioxidants and calming agents, including glycerin and SymSave H.

For sensitive skin

Hello Sunday The Mineral One Face Sunscreen SPF50, £20 (50ml) 

Mineral filters help prevent irritation, while the non-greasy and tinted formula helps cover up any redness.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF30, £30 (60ml) 

This unscented, tinted, mineral formula has a host of age-proofing and soothing agents, including vitamins C and E, raspberry seed extract and algae.

​​Soltan has partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support as its Official Sun Safety Partner†† to ensure everyone has access to the information and protection they need to stay safe in the sun, while raising funds to support people living with cancer. Soltan and Macmillan recommend a sun cream with factor 30+ and 5* UVA protection to support in protecting your skin in the sun.†††Read more here.

All prices correct at date of publication
Photography: Stocksy.


**Avène research, 2022.

***Skin Cancer Foundation.

Eligibility criteria and charges apply. Selected stores only.

††For full partnership T&Cs, visit

†††Additional measures to reduce risk associated with sun exposure should be taken.