Spoilt for choice? Let us help you find the ultimate formula
Although a must-have it can be difficult to find that perfect sunscreen — even in 2021, we deal with products that can clog pores, lower the lifespan of our makeup, give our skin a white cast, or make us look like ghosts in flash-lit photographs.
Of course, as with most types of skincare, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach — the only true consensus is that we all need it, and we need to use it every day, whether for the punishing outdoor sun or the equally destructive blue-light damage from devices and screen time. Mineral sunscreens, which use ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, deflect the damaging rays, but can sit on top of the skin, leaving a white-tinged residue that changes the color of your skin, even under makeup.
Chemical sunscreens, which sink into the skin, work by absorbing UV — but for people with sensitive skin, the absorption can cause irritation. The bottom line? Trial and error may be the best way to decide what works best for your complexion and sun care needs. Once you find your niche, look for similar formulas when you switch between brands. Our guide below can also help you differentiate which type of sun protection best suits your skin type and concerns.
Best for Sensitive Skin
A good rule of thumb for those with sensitive skin is to shop in the children’s aisle – while these products may not be infused with the enriching anti-aging skincare ingredients that some adult formulas have, they’re created to be delicate and non-inflammatory, especially given that kids often don’t boast the same type of skin immunity that adults have.
La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics Spray SPF50+ is suitable for face and body, with a chemical formula using homosalate, not benzene, and is waterproof, as well as sweat- and sand-proof — clinical tests showed the formula going strong even after two hours in a hammam. It’s also fragrance-free and allergy-tested. But regardless of the formulation, when using spray sunscreens on the face, note that it’s best to spritz into your palm for application, as activating the nozzle near your nose can result in unnecessary inhalation.
Best for City Life
Estee Lauder’s Perfectionist Pro Multi-Defense Aqua UV Gel SPF50/PA++++ 8 Anti-Oxidants Duo is more than a sunscreen, it’s a multipronged approach to fighting off UV, pollution, blue light and other free-radical damage. Formulated especially for the Asian market, it’s uniquely suited to deal with urban skin-aging concerns — specifically, reducing oxidative stress and DNA damage that causes premature aging in the form of pigmentation, dryness and wrinkles.
But what’s truly miraculous about this formula is not merely the eight powerful antioxidants infused to neutralize all types of damage, or the complexion-strengthening ingredients that improve the skin’s natural barrier, sealing in moisture to prevent dehydration. It’s the quick-absorption, non-sticky water-light gel texture of the product that feels like a refreshing drink of water — a game-changer in the world of sunscreens.
Best for Brightening
Introducing Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériale is like preaching to the converted — everyone who has used skincare from this hero line can attest to its far-reaching benefits, and the Brightening & Perfecting UV Protector SPF50/PA+++ not only blocks UV, pollution and blue light using titanium dioxide, it prevents aging and dark spots, two other side effects of sun exposure. Micro-pearls and pigments work to give skin a subtle lit-from-within glow, while proprietary Orchid Noble LightTM Technology and moringa extract help to lighten pigmentation and give skin long-term radiance, so that with regular use, your skin will become brighter — and younger.
Best for Matte-Finish
Shiseido’s Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk is a holy-grail product and a cult favorite whose consistency and formula remain beloved even when stacked up beside higher-end brands. With an SPF of 50+ and PA++++, it’s suitable for the sunniest of days — and its protection veil actually gets stronger when in contact with water or when you sweat — but is also a favorite for daily use as its milky consistency spreads easily before drying quickly to a perfect satin-matte finish that smooths skin even before foundation, eliminating the need for makeup primer. For those with acne-prone skin, this is a sunscreen that mixes filter technologies to control oiliness.
Best for Skincare
Clé de Peau Beauté’s UV Protective Cream is a chemical formula whose sun protection factor is almost incidental — independent of its ability to absorb UV rays, this cream would be a top pick because it contains the brand’s most lauded skincare ingredients, including the patented Illuminating Complex EX, which moisturizes and retexturizes skin while also reducing the appearance of existing skin damage from environmental factors, infusing it with hydration while blocking a number of external stressors. Besides that, it’s juiced up with premium natural ingredients such as ginseng, gingko biloba, wild thyme and mangosteen extracts, and functions well under makeup, adding a layer of luminosity that radiates from underneath your foundation.