Sun Safety, Preventative Tips, Wellbeing, Melanoma Awareness

The 11 best sunscreens for your face – by skin type.

We all know we should wear sunscreen every day to protect the delicate skin on our face and neck from the aging, damaging effects of the sun. But how do you know which facial sunscreen is best for you? And which one should you use if your skin is dry, sensitive, oily or prone to acne?

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 11/11/20
Best sunscreen for your face

This article explains everything you need to know about sunscreens:

  • which sunscreens are recommended by dermatologists
  • which sunscreens are best for each skin type
  • the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens
  • and which sunscreens offer the best protection against the damaging UV rays that can cause skin cancer.

How often should I apply sunscreen to my face?

In Australia and New Zealand, we unfortunately have the highest skin cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world1. In fact, studies show that having just five blistering sunburns before the age of 20 can increase your melanoma risk by 80%.2

That’s why skin cancer experts agree that it’s essential to wear a broad-spectrum, SPF30+ sunscreen all day, every day, especially in the summer months.

In fact, new sunscreen guidelines for both Australia and New Zealand recommend that we should be applying sunscreen every day when the UV index is predicted to reach 3 or above1. And not just in summer, even in winter, the sun’s harsh rays can still damage your skin.

It’s recommended that sunscreen is applied every day to the face, ears, neck, scalp if uncovered - and all parts of the body not covered by clothing. Aim to apply sunscreen as part of your morning skincare routine to protect your skin from the harmful effects of everyday sun exposure – and remember to reapply it after every two hours of sun exposure.

Mineral or chemical sunscreens

Why do I need the right kind of sunscreen for my skin type?

Choosing a sunscreen that’s specifically formulated for your skin is crucial. It saves you wasting your precious dollars on sunblock ‘trial and error’ – or worse, breaking out in spots just before that important summer event!

If sunscreen isn’t right for your skin type, it can cause irritation, blockages, break-outs and even allergies. Think of it like choosing a moisturiser and aim to choose a sunscreen that’s specifically formulated for your skin type.

The right sunscreen can give you effective, broad-spectrum protection against UV rays (ideally SPF30+ or higher), without upsetting the delicate skin on your face and neck. Which brings us to our next point...

Use mineral sunblock

What’s better: mineral or chemical sunscreens?

Sunscreens come in many different textures and formulations but, essentially, there are two main types available:

  1. Mineral sunscreens (blockers) – also known as ‘physical’ or ‘inorganic’ sunscreens, these sit on top of the skin and physically block out/reflect rays, as well as absorbing them...Look for mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide - preferably both to provide broad-spectrum coverage.
  1. Chemical sunscreens – also known as “organic” sunscreens, contain specific chemicals designed to absorb UV light. The UV is then transmitted into a very low heat energy. These sunscreens sit in the outer, non-viable layer of the skin, and absorb UV light throughout the day. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone.

Each type has its pros and cons and it really comes down to personal preference and skin type. Mineral sunscreens tend to be less irritating, so they tend to work best on sensitive skins (including children’s delicate skin) – however, they can feel ‘heavy’ and be difficult to fully blend into the skin.

On the other hand, chemical sunscreens can be a better option if you want a water-resistant formula, play sports or sweat a lot and/or want a sunscreen that quickly absorbs into the skin.

Sunscreen technology and formulations are improving all the time. For example, many of La Roche Posay’s sunscreens contain a mix of both physical and chemical blockers, plus they are dermatogically tested for sensitive skin.

Look for a sunscreen that:

  • Provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB
  • Is specifically tailored to your skin type
  • Is ultra-light and non-greasy so you can wear it every day
  • Doesn’t sting the eyes
  • Minimises the impact on the environment

Read on to find out which sunscreens are recommended for each skin type...

Best sunscreens for sensitive skin

Above: Best sunscreens for sensitive skin (left to right) Ultra Violette Clean Screen SPF30, Neutrogena Sensitive Skin-Face Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF50, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50+ Sunscreen

My skin is sensitive – which sunscreen is best for me?

If you have fair or sensitive skin, look for a sunscreen specifically formulated for sensitive skin, fragrance-free or hypoallergenic. If you have sensitive skin, it is best to always patch test a product before using.

Our favourite sunscreens for sensitive and fair skin include:

1. Ultra Violette Clean Screen SPF30

Made in Australia, this environmentally-friendly, mineral-based sunscreen is gentle on sensitive, reactive and acne-prone skin and ideal for those concerned about eczema, rosacea or dermatitis. Clean Screen features an invisible, broad-spectrum formulation that’s loaded with zinc oxide to help defend skin from sun damage, and also organic green tea and cucumber to soothe and balance the skin and reduce inflammation.

2. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin-Face Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF50

This gentle, 100% mineral liquid formula is non-clogging, oil-free and hypoallergenic – plus it’s free of para-aminobenzoic acid and fragrance, which means it’s suitable for those with both sensitive skin and acne to wear daily. And, amazingly for a gentle sunscreen, it’s also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50+ Sunscreen

This virtually invisible facial sunscreen is easily absorbed into the skin, with a lightweight finish that’s easy to apply makeup over. Specifically designed for sensitive skin, non-stinging on eyes, and containing antioxidants to improve your skin, it’s also hypoallergenic, paraben-free and fragrance-free – and free of any potentially irritating ingredients.

Sunscreens for oily skin

Above: best sunscreens for oily skin (from left to right) Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF42, Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF30, Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen SPF55

I have oily skin – which sunscreen is best for me?

If you often get a little ‘glowy’ throughout the day, search out sunscreens that have a matte finish or lighter gel formulations which feel less heavy on your skin. Here are three of our faves:

1. Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF42

An ultra-light, oil-free sunscreen lotion for everyday face protection. Oil-free and ‘mattifying’ yet amazingly lightweight in feel, it’s designed to control excess sebum while guarding against environmental aggressors. Promotes the natural beauty of skin by protecting against the three major causes of skin cell damage – UV rays, oxidation and over production of sebum – for soft, healthier-looking skin.

2. Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF30

If you tend to ‘shine’ much more than you’d like, this is the sunscreen for you. Cetaphil’s face sunscreen not only protects the skin with SPF 30+, but controls oil while maintaining hydration. Fragrance-free, lightweight, and non-comedogenic (non-clogging), this fast-absorbing yet moisturising sunscreen leaves a matte finish for flawless wear.

3. Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen SPF55

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, this lightweight sunscreen is oil-free, non-clogging and non-greasy, so you won’t have to worry about blocked pores or excess shine. We think it’s also one of the best value sunscreens on the market, so you can use it liberally!

Sunscreens to use for mature skin

Above: Best sunscreens for mature skin (from left to right) La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra Facial Sunscreen SPF50+, Supergoop Superscreen Daily Moisturiser SPF40

What about dry or mature skin – which sunscreen is recommended?

If you have dry or mature skin, choose a facial sunscreen that contains hydrating, ultra-nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramide or colloidal oatmeal. Ingredients such as glycerin and safflower also leave the skin feeling deeply hydrated, with a natural satin finish.

Our top picks for dry or mature skin are:

1. La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra Facial Sunscreen SPF50+

Ideal for normal to dry skin types, Anthelios Ultra Facial Sunscreen SPF50+ is a light and moisturising broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s ultra-comfortable, fragrance-free and dermatologically tested. With Baicalin, an antioxidant that fight free radicals on the skin’s surface, it’s also anti-eye stinging and leaves no white marks – bonus!

2. Supergoop Superscreen Daily Moisturiser SPF40

For anyone with dry skin, Supergoop's Superscreen Daily Moisturiser SPF40 is a must-have. Containing glycerin and safflower, it leaves the skin feeling deeply hydrated, without ever looking greasy. Best of all, it blends in super-smoothly and quickly, without leaving that ‘ghostly glow’.

Best sunscreens for sensitive skin

Above: Best sunscreens for acne-prone skin (from left to right) Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF50 Hydrating Shield, Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen SPF55, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti Shine Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF60

I have acne-prone skin – which sunscreens will work best for me?

If your skin is prone to breakouts, choosing a sunscreen can be a conundrum: many acne medications can make your skin more sensitive to sunburn - however, many sunscreen formulas can congest your pores, which leads to pimples and more breakouts!

The best sunblocks for your skin can create a flattering matte look, and protect the skin without increasing breakouts. Always check the label and make sure it says ‘non-comedogenic’ — this tells you the formulation won’t clog up your pores. Two popular non-comedogenic sunscreen ingredients to look out for are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Here are our top 3 dermatologist-recommended sunscreens for acne-prone skin:

1. Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF50 Hydrating Shield

Recommended by dermatologists, this reputable sunscreen is gentle enough for mature, acne-prone skin, and the formula’s slight tint helps eliminate any redness or white residue after application.

2. Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen SPF55

An ultra-light lotion that’s oil-free, light yet water-resistant, and won't break you out. Neutrogena Clear Face contains avobenzone, an organic sunscreen filter that’s extremely effective in providing broad-spectrum UV protection, and it’s non-clogging, oil-free and fragrance-free. It’s also great value, so it’s ideal for daily use.

3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti Shine Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF60

This broad-spectrum, dermatologist-recommended sunscreen absorbs pore-clogging oil easily (even when it’s hot and humid), making it great for acne-prone skin. With an impressive SPF60 and free of oxybenzone, it’s also water resistant, and has a light, mattifying, anti-shine finish that layers well with makeup.

What is the best sunscreen for your skin

Which SPF rating should I look for in a sunscreen?

Facial sunscreens tend to be at least SPF (sun protection factor) 50+, and for good reason. A high SPF sunblock can protect your skin from the damaging UV rays that cause premature aging and even help reverse the signs of damage by reducing dark spots, improving texture and boosting skin brightness3.

The SPF tells us how long we can expect to be exposed to UVB rays before burning compared to wearing no sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the greater the expected protection - for example, a SPF15 sunscreen provides about 94% UVB protection, but protection is increased to 97% with SPF30 and to 98% with SPF50+.

What’s best in a sunscreen? UVA, UVB or both?

Check your sunscreen before you buy to ensure it is ‘broad-spectrum’, which means it contains both UVA and UVB protection. Utraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength, and is associated with premature skin aging, eye damage, while Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning and skin cancer4.

Remember that applying sunscreen doesn’t just help to reduce sunburn, it can also help to reduce the signs of aging. Aging UVA rays are present all day long and all year round – even in winter – and you can still be exposed to UVA radiation inside a car or close to a window.

What’s more, UVB exposure has been proven to play a strong role in developing melanoma, the most dangerous of the three most common types of skin cancer.

The good news is that all types of skin cancer can be treated if they’re found early enough, which is why we recommend having a thorough skin check-up such as a Full Body MoleMap, every year.

But of course, the best way to treat skin cancer is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Studies show that 90% of skin cancer is linked to sun exposure, which means that up to 90% of skin cancer can be avoided by reducing exposure to the sun.5

That’s why (and we can’t stress this enough!) we recommend that you always, always, always wear sunscreen on your face, neck, ears, chest and any part of your body that’s exposed to the sun, every day, especially during the summer months.

And wherever possible, cover up with high UPF sun protective clothing and/or stay in the shade. Your future skin will thank you for it!

References: 1. Australia: Melanoma Institute - New Zealand: - 2. American Association for Cancer Research: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers, June 2 2014 (6), 1080 - 3. 4. 5. epidemiological fact sheet.

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