Best sun creams and sunscreens with SPF and UV protection for your skin in 2022

Things are finally hotting up in the UK so it’s a good job that we’ve been trialing the most effective sun protection creams so you don’t have to. Sheer, clear, and coral-reef friendly, the following sun screens for face and body are worth your pennies.

In a survey conducted by Bupa, it reports that that 38 million Brits admit to not applying sun cream while in the UK. As astonishing as this statistic is, we are not surprised. Whilst us beauty editors implore people to recognise sunscreen as an essential pillar of your skincare regime, finding the right SPF can be very confusing.

Sun protection creams will help to keep your skin protected from sun damage as well as minimise the ageing effects of the sun (along with a large hat and seeking shade, of course). Brands have modernised sun lotion into new, less Casper-the-ghost like formulas and they are better than ever. Here is everything you need to know about SPF and the new tried and tested sun creams the Telegraph beauty team swear by.

What is SPF?

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVA and UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer. “The latest development in UV protection is that it is more than just sun screen,” says Dr Tom Mammone, Vice President Skin Physiology and Pharmacology Clinique. “The topical use of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are boosting SPF values and help protect skin,” advises Mammone.

How does SPF work?

“There are two types of sun protection filters – chemical filters and physical filters,” advises dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth. Chemical filters absorb UV rays like a sponge, thereby reducing the risk of cellular damage. Physical filters act to reflect and scatter UV.

“Broad-spectrum coverage, i.e. both UVA and UVB, is recommended for all skin types and should be in the range of SPF 15-30 for both lighter and darker skin tones,” advises Mammone. Those who have a darker skin tone require less protection from UVB rays (which causes burning), they still need adequate UVA to protect against skin cancer and ageing. Invest the time in finding a formulation that feels comfortable on your skin, and wear it daily.

​What should you look for on an SPF label?

As a rule of thumb, you should always wear SPF 30 or above, as anything less, you are at risk of considerable sun damage. “The SPF value is calculated using coverage of 2mg/cm^2 of product on the skin which is actually far less than what most of us apply,” advises Wedgeworth. Therefore the actual amount of protection you get is likely to be a fraction of the figure on the bottle.

To ensure you are getting the right dose of SPF, you should apply a teaspoon to every limb, with a generous amount to your face. Be aware that the SPF only tells you how much UVB protection a product affords, so make sure the product you choose also has good UVA protection, which is usually on the front or back label.

UVA star rating is very important and should be considered when finding the right SPF for you. The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) protection. You should see a star rating of up to five stars on all UK sunscreens on the ingredients label.

What does the SPF figure actually mean?

“The SPF figure tells you how much more time you can spend in the sun without burning, relative to your skin’s natural protection,” advises Wedgeworth. Say you can spend 10 minutes in the sun without burning, a SPF 30 product would increase that to 300 minutes. The caveat is that the figure is based on extremely thick application of sunscreen with very frequent reapplication.

“We know in practice, this seldom happens. So, It’s always advisable to opt for an SPF 30 or higher. If you have very fair skin, a history of skin cancers and for children, I advise SPF 50,” says Wedgeworth.

How can sunscreen protect you from wrinkles?

There are two main types of ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin, UVA and UVB. “UVA rays penetrate more deeply and cause long term damage to collagen, resulting in wrinkling of the skin and are also linked to some skin cancers,” says Wedgeworth. UVB rays cause more intense burning of the skin with DNA damage and increase the risks of skin cancers considerably.

It makes sense to use products that protect against both of these effects, hence the benefits of broad spectrum sunscreen. Dr Mammome also adds, “The face is the part of your body that is most often exposed to the sun and also has the thinnest skin on your body, so it’s extremely important to have a broad spectrum sun screen formulated specifically for that area (and to use it daily) to protect your skin from ageing.”

Best SPF sun cream for face

Great for dry (or ageing) skin, this is as hydrating as a moisturiser thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid.

Kate Moss, Charlize Theron, and our very own beauty team swear by this lightweight invisible SPF for face. One of the most sheer high factor sunscreens you can buy, this won’t clog pores or make your skin greasy.

A new see through SPF feeds your skin with vitamins to defend itself from free radicals while the clear gel formulation doesn’t leave behind a chalky finish. A great primer for make-up too.

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