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The best sunscreen for your face

Young girl with eyes closed having sun cream put on her nose by mum
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Sunscreen should be an essential part of your daily routine during the spring and summer months. While we want to enjoy the sun, perhaps to get vitamin D or just to lift our moods, there are risks to prolonged sun exposure.

The rays from the sun carry ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light can be harmful to your skin, especially on your face. Protecting your skin helps prevent diseases like skin cancer and premature ageing.

In this guide, we’ll discuss:

  • Do I need a separate sun lotion for my face?
  • What should a facial sunscreen contain?
  • Can I use a facial moisturiser containing SPF instead of sunscreen?
  • How should I apply sun cream to my face?
  • What is the best sun cream for the face?
  • Best sunscreen for dry skin
  • Best sunscreen for combination skin
  • Best sunscreen for sensitive skin
  • Best sunscreen for oily skin
  • Best sunscreen for normal skin

Do I need a separate sun lotion for my face?

You can use the same sun lotion for your face as your body. Some people find that sunscreen can be greasy or thick, which might not feel nice on your face.

The skin on your face is generally more sensitive than the skin across your body, so you still need a good quality sunscreen with enough SPF. Makeup and moisturisers that contain SPF are not enough to protect your skin.

At LloydsPharmacy, we offer a few different sunscreens suitable for your face in smaller bottle sizes. This makes it easier to carry in your bag and reapply when needed. These include:

What should a facial sunscreen contain?

A good facial sunscreen should contain ingredients that protect you from UV light. UV light is a wavelength of light found in natural sunlight and in tanning beds. It’s the UV light that harms your skin by damaging your DNA. This damage can lead to changes to your DNA, increasing your risk of skin cancer.

UVA and UVB protection

The two types of UV light proven to contribute to skin cancer are ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light.

The majority of the UV light we get from the sun is UVA light. While there are some benefits to UV light exposure, UVA light can:

UVB light makes up a small percentage of the UV light from the sun. The majority of UVB light is absorbed by the ozone layer that protects the Earth. UVB also can’t penetrate windows.

UVB light can:

You’re more likely to be exposed to UV light when the sun is strongest. You can check when the sun is strongest by measuring your shadow. If your shadow is shorter than your actual height, the UV rays will be very strong at this time.

A good sunscreen will protect you from both UVA and UVB light. Look for products that are ‘broad-spectrum’ or ‘multi-spectrum’. This means they’ll protect you from both types of UV light. You may also see the phrase UVA rating or a star rating. To better understand this rating system, check out our guide to sunscreen ratings.

Chemical absorbers vs mineral-based reflectors

Most sunscreens work by either:

Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb UV light, such as avobenzone.

UV light gives off radiation. Ingredients like avobenzone will absorb that radiation into your skin and convert it into infrared rays, which is heat. This heat is then released from your skin back into the atmosphere.

Mineral-based sunscreens contain ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These ingredients absorb and deflect UV light from your skin as well as releasing the UV light as heat.

Can I use a facial moisturiser containing SPF instead of sunscreen?

SPF moisturisers won’t give you the same protection as sunscreen.

But what if they’re both SPF30? A study from the University of Liverpool showed how you can miss areas around your eyes when applying an SPF moisturiser. This leaves these areas of your skin exposed and vulnerable to UV light. The eye area is also more susceptible to developing skin cancer, so it’s essential to protect it.

In the study, more people applied sunscreen to their eyelids and covered more face areas. Those that used SPF moisturisers often missed their eye region and did not apply enough product to block the UV light.

Moisturisers are formulated to provide and retain moisture to your skin. Their primary aim is not to protect your skin from the sun. On the other hand, sunscreens are made for that particular purpose, giving you much better protection against UV light.

You can use an SPF moisturiser in the morning but wear sunscreen before going outdoors. Always apply sunscreen to a bare, clean face.

Remember that the SPF in both products won’t combine. You’ll only be protected by the product with the highest SPF.

How should I apply sun cream to my face?

You should apply sunscreen to your face around 20-30 minutes before going outside. Make sure your skin is washed and dry before applying sunscreen.

  • Apply more sunscreen than you think you need – underapplying is common Start from the centre of your face and work your way to your hairline and jaw
  • Make sure you cover every inch of your face, including the skin around your eyes
  • Apply sunscreen to your neck and upper chest – these areas are often forgotten

If you want to apply makeup you can do so after applying the sunscreen.

What is the best sun cream for the face?

The best sunscreen for the face depends on your skin type. Skin types can be broken down into a few categories: dry, sensitive, combination, oily or normal. Knowing your skin type makes it easier to pick a sunscreen that’ll work for you.

The best SPF for your face should be at least SPF30. Facial sunscreens should also offer broad-spectrum protection for both UVA and UVB light. You may also choose to go for a lighter or non-greasy product as this will feel better on your face.

Best sunscreen for dry skin

If you have dry skin, aim to add moisture with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerine. Sunscreens containing these ingredients include CeraVe facial moisturising lotion.

Best sunscreen for combination skin

Combination skin means different parts of your face will be either dry, oily or normal. Your nose, forehead, and chin (the T-zone) will often be oily, whereas your cheeks can be dry or normal.

If you have dry and oily skin, try to use water-based products. These will add moisture to dry skin and not worsen the oil-prone areas. Water-based sunscreens include Vichy water hydrating sun lotion.

Best sunscreen for sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin, avoid ingredients that cause irritation. These include perfumes or fragrances, alcohol, oxybenzone and salicylates. Fragrance-free sunscreens include Altruist face fluid.

Best sunscreen for oily skin

Having oily skin means you have excess oil (sebum) on your face. This can lead to clogged pores and acne. You want to avoid oil-based products, so opt for a water-based sunscreen. Certain ingredients can help reduce the sebum on your face, including tea tree oil. Sunscreens that are good for oily skin include La Roche Posay sunscreen.

Best sunscreen for normal skin

Normal skin types have plenty of options for sunscreen. You can choose the one that feels the best for you, as long as it’s got the right amount of SPF in it.

At LloydsPharmacy, we’ve got many types of sunscreen for you to find the perfect one for your skin.

A final note on choosing a sunscreen

We all want to be outside to soak up whatever sun we can, but it’s essential to stay safe and care for your skin. Being proactive about skincare now will pay off in the future as you’ll have protected your skin from UV light damage. Using sunscreen to protect your face from UV light is just as important as applying it to the rest of your body.

You can find more information about sunscreen and SPF ratings here.