When it came to this post, I immediately knew about which products I would write. I use these sunscreens most frequently. Using a proper sunblock is a crucial aspect of my skincare routine, and at least one of these three sunscreens is always in my cupboard, ready to be used.
Before we go to the actual review, let’s talk about sunscreen basics. There are two main types of light from which a sunscreen should protect us, namely, UltraViolet A and UltraViolet B rays. SPF means Sun Protection Factor which determines the protection against the UVB light. The UVAPF, UVA – Protection Factor, is defined in different ways depending on the region, in the EU it’s with PPD system (Persistent Pigment Darkening), and most of Asia uses the PA system. The European Union recommends sunscreens with the protection of UVA to UVB in the ratio of 1:3, sunscreens that conform to this standard have an encircled UVA sign on the packaging. In America, sunscreens protecting against both UVA & UVB are called ‘broad-spectrum’, but there is no way of knowing the level of UVA protection. In Asia UVAPF, in the PA system, can be easily understood with pluses from + to ++++ with the highest meaning PPD 16 or more. In both cases, SPF and UVAPF mean that X number of protection allows for X time more before the sun damage occurs.
All the regions of the world that are known to me put SPF labelling on the packaging, in the EU sunscreens are labelled from 6 to 50+, with SPF 50+ meaning SPF more than 60. It is noteworthy that, while picking sunscreens, perhaps it’s not best to go for the highest SPF as the texture is usually thicker as the SPF number goes up. The difference in protection between SPFs 30 and 50 is 2-3%, depending on the product. Also, some European producers state the PPD rating; they are not obliged to provide the information, a circle around UVA sign is enough to inform whether or not a product meets the EU’s standards. Less commonly, companies label their products with stars for UVA protection; with 5 stars being the highest number. This system is applied only in the UK. With European sunscreens (and from other regions as well), it’s best to look for an encircled UVA sign.
Even though sunscreens can provide substantial sun protection, they do not do it in 100%, so always seek shade and don’t sit too long in the sun. Sunscreens should be applied at least 10 minutes before exposure, 15 minutes is advised and 20 minutes is best, for allowing a sunscreen product to dry. However, always consult the instructions for a specific sunscreen. It has been shown that exclusively mineral sunscreens (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) do not require the waiting time and can be applied immediately before the exposure. It’s important to reapply sunscreen every 90-120 minutes and after activities, towelling, etc. The EU recommends 2 milligrams of sunscreen per cm2 of skin, which for the face alone is about 5 grams. I find it best to apply two thin layers, but getting a measuring spoon might also be helpful. Below there’s a table from SVR’s sunscreen manual so you can see how much sunscreen, approximately, you should use for the entire body.
All of the sunscreens that I will discuss are great for all skin types, in general, but especially for oily/acne-prone skins. Suitable to be used all-year-around, without any major problems. They are mainly chemical based but do not sting the eyes or cause irritation.
La Roche-Posay ANTHELIOS XL ULTRA LIGHT FLUID SPF 50+ (This product has been reformulated; you can read my review of the new product here.)
For me it is the best sunscreen ever, I have gone through multiple bottles of it. I use it each year; it always saves my ass when I test a new sunscreen, and it turns out to be a disaster. It is a classic; it never fails me. It is light, invisible and it doesn’t leave a white cast. It never broke me out, even during the strongest heat-waves. It contains both Mexoryl XL and Mexoryl SX, filters developed by L’Oréal, which are supposedly one of the best available. It has a PPD rating of 42, which is very high.
From that I assume that the SPF is above 100, as it meets the EU ratio of UVA to UVB, 1:3, so using simple maths it gave me the result of SPF 140. However, only LRP can confirm that. It has a lot of alcohol in it, but there’s also quite a lot of glycerine, compared to Asian sunscreens. So it’s not drying, and because of the glycerine, you will feel it for a while until it dries out. It’s fragrance-free (there’s also fragranced version), water-resistant and the only concerning ingredient might be the alcohol for most of you. I would even guess that it is resistant to sebum and sweat, but it’s my assumption. Works under anything and doesn’t slide off the face at all. Perhaps people with sensitive skin or going through treatments may not appreciate the amount of alcohol in it; it’s best to try before buying. I cannot stress enough how great this sunscreen is; it’s an excellent sunscreen in my opinion. It’s my summer must-have. It retails for €14.50 (50 ml).
Ingredients: Water, Diisopropyl Sebacate, Alcohol Denat., Glycerin, Dimethicone, Isohexadecane, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Octocrylene, Silica, Drometrizole Trisiloxane, Isononyl Isononanoate, Zea Mays Starch / Corn Starch, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Styrene/ Acrylates Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Peg-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Isododecane, Phenoxyethanol, Isopropyl Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid, Silica Silylate, Lauryl Peg/Ppg-18/18 Methicone, Peg-8 Laurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Triethanolamine, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Tocopherol, Disodium Edta, Dodecene, Propylene Carbonate, Poloxamer 407, Zinc Gluconate, Perlite
Kao – Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ (This product has been reformulated; you can read my review of the new product here.)
Asian sunscreens are quite popular nowadays; there are many of them. This was the first one I’ve ever tried, and I keep returning to it. Although it has been reformulated, it is still an excellent sunscreen. It also has a lot of alcohol, but not as many moisturising ingredients, which makes it a perfect sunscreen for anyone with super-oily skin. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with sensitive skin; however, during hot summer days, it may do justice. It is a mixture of chemical filters and titanium dioxide. SPF 50+ and PA++++ which is the highest for Japanese sunscreens. If applied and reapplied correctly, it is a good source of sun protection. It is resistant to water and sweat. It can serve as a good base for makeup and works for all skin types. No white cast, the sunscreen disappears within seconds, and you don’t feel it on your skin. However, it contains fragrance and fruit peel extracts so if you’re sensitive to these may cause troubles. As above, this is also my summer favourite, and it’s one of the few Asian sunscreens that I keep repurchasing. It retails for about US$10 for 90 ml. The ingredients list is available on COSDNA.
VICHY IDÉAL SOLEIL MATTIFYING FACE DRY TOUCH SPF 30
This sunscreen is more what I would call a city sunscreen. It looks quite nice on its own and doesn’t require putting powder on top; if your skin is very oily. It’s not as light as the rest but not heavy at all. It disappears pretty quickly. It contains fragrance, though a very subtle amount. The sunscreen does not leave a white cast in general, but, since it’s a mattifying formula, you need to blend it in pretty well to avoid that. It also doesn’t make a good sunscreen for photos; you will have flashbacks on your photographs. It contains quite a bit of alcohol, but it isn’t drying at all. I can honestly recommend it to all skin types, perhaps people with dry skin will not opt for this formula. It also mattifies pretty well and works with bb creams, etc.
I like this sunscreen a lot, but I cannot use it during heatwaves; otherwise, it will clog my pores. It’s not something specific to this sunscreen; all mattifying sunscreens usually make me break out. I guess the high contents of starch and silica do it, but if I use it on regular days, it’s perfectly fine. The probability of breakouts is also the reason why I opted for SPF 30 instead of the higher version SPF 50+; it’s just lighter in texture. It has Mexoryl a UVA-UVB filter, and this sunscreen meets the 1:3 ratio standard. It has ‘water-resistant finish’, whatever Vichy meant by that (I assume it isn’t much waterproof). It costs about €14 (50 ml).
Ingredients: Water, Alcohol Denat., Diisopropyl Sebacate, Silica, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, CI 77891 / Titanium Dioxide, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Octocrylene, Isopropyl Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Zea Mays Starch / Corn Starch, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Poly c10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Glyceryl Stearate, Behentl Alcohol, Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol (Nano)/ Methylene Bis-Benzotriazoyl Tetramethylbutylphenol, Ammonium Polyacryldimethyl Tauramide/ Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, Decyl Glucoside, Disodium Edta, Disodium Ethylene Dicocamide PEG-15 Disulfate, Drometrizole, Trisiloxane, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid, Triethanolamine, Xanthan gum, Fragrance
Edit: Corrected SPF50+ means SPF60 or more & wording.