Want to protect yourself from those pesky harmful rays of the sun? We have tried out a whole array of sun creams - to help you finding the best one.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. Our testers in our sun cream tests had a light Nordic skin type which easily turns red and is prone to polymorphous light eruption – an itchy red rash appearing on areas exposed to the sun. The sunscreens were tested on various beaches in the Canary Islands, Egypt, Southeast Asia, and at high altitudes during mountain hikes in Spain and throughout the summer in Sweden. The tests have been ongoing for 18 months to provide a really good idea of the products. The following parameters have been taken into account when assessing each sun cream:
Use: How easy is it to apply the cream or lotion and how does it feel on the skin? Is it easy to rub in, and is it economical? Is the format easy to use? How good is the protection the product provides?
Stickiness: How quickly is the sun cream absorbed, and how sticky does it feel after application? Does the cream leave stains on clothes and other objects?
Durability: Does the sun cream last well throughout the day? To what extent does it disappear due to wear or things like swimming?
A sunscreen is exactly what it sounds like – a safety product – and we have to emphasise that ours isn't a clinical test. But clinical tests don’t consider how a sun cream feels on the skin or how easy it is to apply. These factors are important, as they affect your willingness to use a cream. Our test should therefore be seen as a complement to the clinical tests performed by health and medical agencies.
A waterproof and easy-to-apply sunscreen that both protects and makes the skin feel good
Once again, EVY Sunscreen Mousse was our best in test. No other product seems to be so readily absorbed by the skin without leaving the slightest stickiness. But not only is the formula quickly absorbed – it also feels like it’s really caring for your skin. Even the most sensitive people (including children with atopic eczema) are happy to use EVY Sunscreen Mousse. The mousse provides both UVA and UVB protection and can withstand a dip – including towel drying after – but don’t skimp on it nevertheless. All sunscreens should be reapplied after a swim or shower.
From a more technical viewpoint, it should be noted that EVY settles into the entire top layer of your skin instead of just lying on the surface. This is why the mousse works so well and protects for up to 6 hours.
Although the mousse in this test provides SPF 30, EVY Sunscreen Mousse is available up to SPF 50 – and it’s just as good a product. Regardless of the level of protection, our testers had no negative comments about the mousse, so it's mostly a question of buying the cream that suits you best (the higher the SPF, the better). The fact that it is a mousse is something the whole family enjoys and it actually feels a little more fun to apply this than many other products.
None of Evy's sunscreens contain perfume, nanoparticles, preservatives or any known or disputed endocrine disruptors. As an extra plus, the sun cream is hypoallergenic and also strengthens the skin's barrier protection, which makes this an excellent product even for those with really sensitive skin. We have had children with atopic eczema test out Evy Sunscreen Mousse with really good results. Atopic children find that many products sting, but they don’t experience that with Evy's sunscreen.
A suncream that shines in all the right ways
A recurring problem with sunscreens designed for the face is that they tend to leave behind a glossy film. And while a healthy glow is nice, the line between that and too much shine can be difficult to find. With EVY Daily UV Face Mousse, however, you don’t have to worry about glittering like a newly polished car – your face will just look fresh and healthy.
This product also moisturises at the same time that it protects your skin against the sun. Your skin feels soft and supple and your face won’t make any protests in the form of angry outbreaks. Something that seems to go hand in hand with many SPF creams for the face. Using this cream is just an all-round great experience.
EVY Daily UV Face Mousse doesn’t have any scent, it sinks into the skin faster than lightning and leaves a real glow, but not the type of glossy film you want to avoid having on your face. It also contains both hyaluronic acid and collagen, which binds moisture and helps prevent pigment spots.
This sunscreen is available with both SPF 30 and SPF 50 protection – and both variants work equally well. Apply the sun cream before make-up – it might be tempting to put a sun cream on top of your make-up, but the best thing to do is to regard this sort of product as a primer for your skin, because the cream works as a really good base for your make-up. Of course, as you add more sun cream during the day you may also need to touch up your make-up. Or you can just skip the make-up because of the glow this product gives your skin all by itself.
Because Evy’s sunscreen comes in an aerosol, you never need to open the bottle itself, which means the contents won’t come into contact with oxygen and go off. This extends the shelf life of the mousse, and even though there’s an expiration date on the packaging you get time to use it all up. During the test period we never once doubted whether the product was still fresh enough to use.
Quite simply a real winner.
A good, caring sun cream for a dry and sensitive face.
For dry and sensitive faces, the sun can be a real pain. It’s always important to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays. But if you’ve got sensitive skin that’s really dry, it can be almost impossible to find the right product.
Mesoestetic Moisturising Sun Protection SPF 50+ is a really great sun cream for the face. It’s absorbed quickly and leaves the skin nicely moisturised without feeling the least bit sticky. It offers protection against UVA and UVB rays with both physical and chemical filters, and cares that bit more for your skin with the help of vitamin E. The sun cream should also be applied after moisturiser in the morning and before sun exposure. Do you have tattoos that need extra protection from the sun? Then this cream could be ideal for you.
This is a really nice sun cream that doesn’t irritate anything other than, possibly, your wallet. That’s because it’s quite an expensive product, given that the tube only contains 50 ml and is therefore relatively small. But the price is also the only negative thing about Mesoestetic Moisturising Sun Protection SPF 50+
Luxurious sun cream with anti-ageing properties that will make your wallet wince
Sensai are known for their luxurious skin care. And it’s easy to understand why even when testing their sun cream.
We tested Sensai Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream For Face in the SPF 30 version, but the cream is also available with SPF 15 and SPF 50. This cream is very different from most other sun creams for the face.
Sun products for the face usually have a lighter formula than those for the body, but Sensai Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream For Face is almost unbelievably light compared to the rest. The cream is absorbed astonishingly fast, leaving a soft and fresh feeling. No sticky surfaces, no feeling of having a film on your skin.
The scent is mild and feels exclusive. Unfortunately, another thing that feels exclusive is the price. Sensai Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream For Face is very expensive, so even though the sun cream itself is great, you really need to ask yourself if you want to spend this much money on a sun cream. If you do, then there’s no doubt you get a fantastic product. But if you don’t want to spend that much, there are cheaper alternatives.
Softening spray formula that feels great on the skin.
In recent years, transparent sun sprays have stormed into the market, and they’re here to stay. With an SPF of 30, one of the nicest sunscreen sprays is Vichy Idéal Soleil Solar Protective Water. After shaking the bottle, you then spray it on your skin and rub it in. As this is a transparent product, you need to be extra careful when applying it, as it’s difficult to see if you’ve missed an area. Don’t forget to be really generous when applying!
The spray, which contains hyaluronic acid and thermal spring water, feels like a moisturising mixture of water and oil. The stickiness is minimal and after application, the skin feels wonderfully saturated with moisture.
The main disadvantage of Vichy Idéal Soleil Solar Protective Water is the format, which despite being attractive, isn't really practical. If you hold the bottle upside down it doesn’t work, as no product reaches the tube leading to the nozzle. It would have been an obvious advantage if the bottle could have been held in any direction, as it would have meant fewer acrobatic-like exercises when trying to apply it. Apart from the packaging, this is a really great sunscreen.
Sunscreen spray with water-like consistency
We see more and more water-like sunscreens, and Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Water is one such product. Unlike thick sun creams, this type is typically perceived as more convenient and easier to use.
Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Water has a two-phase formula. This means that there are two components (oil and water) that need to be mixed together by shaking. It’s the oil that contains the sunscreen, so it’s really important you shake the bottle properly before spraying yourself.
According to the instructions for use, you just spray it on then allow the product to dry. In other words, you shouldn’t have to use your hands to rub it in at all. In fact, it’s worth noting that you actually need two rounds of spraying order to achieve the promised levels of protection. The amount of product is always important when you’re applying sunscreen, whether it’s a cream or in water form.
The only real downside, apart from a slightly pungent odour, is the bottle and spray cap. The bottle shape is incredibly difficult to grip – and the spray function is a bit of a struggle to get working. After a couple of uses, it does work better, but it’s still far from being good enough.
The spray dries quickly and leaves the skin wonderfully soft and moisturised. If it hadn’t been for the bottle's poor design and the strong smell, this sunscreen spray could have got a top score.
Expensive anti-ageing sun cream for the body that’s quickly absorbed
Unfortunately, it’s often the case that you get what you pay for. You pay a lot for Sensai Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream For Body, but in return you do get a really good sunscreen for the body.
Sensai Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream For Body feels like silk on your skin when you use it. That’s not something many sun creams achieve. There’s no hint of stickiness here; it’s absorbed as quickly as a good body lotion.
The scent is surprisingly strong and the smell of alcohol is very prominent. In fact it smells so strongly of alcohol that you almost hesitate to use it in front of the children. Fortunately, that strong alcohol smell disappears fairly quickly.
This is a water-resistant sun cream, but it’s still important to re-apply it after swimming or if you’ve sweated a lot. And here comes the crux: when a sun cream costs as much as Sensai Silky Bronze Cellular Protective Cream does – it's easy to skimp on the dose. Unfortunately, if you skimp with a sun cream you don’t ever really achieve the degree of protection promised.
On the other hand, if you feel you can afford to apply it properly, this is a fantastic product to treat yourself to. But remember that there are lots of other good sunscreens available for a fraction of the price.
A light sun protection that doesn’t economise on the sun protection factor
It’s easy to say you should use sun protection on your face every day, but in practice we rarely do. You often feel like it’s an unpleasant experience when you have a sticky, heavy cream on your face. If so, it’s time to test Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF 50.
This is a feather-light sun cream that’s very quickly absorbed. The product name makes you think it’s a gel, but in fact it’s more a hybrid between a gel and a cream. According to the packaging you should avoid the eye area, and given how strongly the product smells of alcohol, this is hardly surprising. In fact, the alcohol scent is very strong, but when you check the ingredients it turns out to be the second substance on the list.
With Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Aqua Gel SPF 50 you completely avoid any feeling of stickiness on your face, and it doesn’t leave any kind of film behind either. It feels like almost any other skincare product, and you should apply it when you’ve finished with the rest of your skincare routine. If you let it sit for a little while after application (a few minutes is enough), you can wear it under your make-up.
If you don’t find the real prominent smell of alcohol unpleasant, this is good sun protection for your face. The fact that it also provides SPF 50 is a big plus. But given the price, we’d have liked a formula that didn’t smell quite so much.
Sun protection for the face in a handy pen format
Everyone knows you should top up your sun protection during the day, but it’s frankly not very practical to carry a bottle of sun cream around all day, risking a leak in your bag. SkinCity Essentials Sun Protection SPF50 Stick solves this little everyday problem for you.
This sun cream, which is mainly intended for the face, comes in a pastel yellow packaging. The stick is transparent and you screw it up like a glue stick, but the consistency is nowhere near as sticky. This is a solid stick that leaves a little cool and comfortable feeling on your skin. The product is almost invisible, possibly a discreet shine after you apply it, but no more than that. After applying the sun protection, you have to spread it out a little with your fingers – easy as a piece of cake.
One unusual thing, however, is how strongly perfumed this sun protection is. You can almost taste the perfume in your mouth when you inhale. It’s a pleasant smell, certainly, but it’s very strong, especially if you’re sensitive to fragrances.
At the same time as it’s absolutely possible to apply this stick to top up your sun protection during the day, you should be aware that any make-up you’re wearing will suffer. It works best as part of your morning routine, or if you wear sparse make-up during the day – or at least are prepared to touch up your make-up when you touch up your sun protection.
This is a practical sun protection solution for your handbag, as it’s easy to apply on the go. But if you’re sensitive to scents, don’t waste your money on this.
Practical sunscreen in spray form that’s easy to apply
This broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA A + UVA B) that you spray on the body comes in a really large bottle. The mist is thin and feels cooling, while being absorbed relatively quickly. It also feels wonderfully moisturising, which is largely due to the caring oils the spray contains. Although a spray, due to the oils you do need to massage this product into your skin like a regular sun cream, albeit with much less in way of stickiness.
While several of our testers found the spray from Coola to be pleasantly cooling, testers with eczema felt the opposite. On sensitive skin, this SPF screen stung so much it couldn’t be used. This was probably due to the high alcohol content of the product. Alcohol denat, or denatured alcohol to give it its full name, is an ingredient that’s often used to allow a product to be absorbed or dry faster, but it also has a dehydrating effect on the skin. So if you have sensitive skin, it’s better to look for an alternative without this type of alcohol. In Coola Unscented Sunscreen Spray, alcohol denat is the first ingredient listed.
Coola's sunscreen spray contains 70% certified organic ingredients. In addition, Coola's products are designed to be kind to coral reefs, which is an advantage.
So for skin that’s not sensitive, this is a practical and easy-to-use sunscreen.
Waterproof sun cream packaged in a handy bottle, contains UVA & UVB protection
Hawaiian Tropic is a real classic that delivers good protection from the sun. It smells of coconut and the tropics, but a sensitive nose may have a hard time with the fragrance. However, the scent does disappear after just a few minutes. Like most sun creams, this one takes a while to sink into the skin, so you need to apply it 20 minutes before going out in the sun. The sun cream is waterproof and can withstand both swimming and a really sweaty workout.
Nicely packaged sun cream with a pleasant consistency, quickly penetrates the skin
Vichy's sunscreen has the consistency of a gel, which means it’s easy to apply and penetrates the skin quickly. It feels very good on the skin too. The perceived sun protection is OK, but there are several other sunscreens in the test that felt better. You also need to add a bit more after a little while, because with the gel formula you can't just put it on in one thick layer. However, you can apply several thinner layers for a better effect.
A milky sunscreen for those who prefer a classic scent
Biotherm Waterlover Sun Milk is, as the name implies, a product with a milky consistency. In other words, it’s more like a liquid than a thicker cream. But still not as thin as you normally expect from a milky product.
Once applied, it takes a surprisingly long time for this product to be absorbed. Because it’s a bit lighter than other sunscreens, you might expect your skin to absorb the product quickly. Instead, the milk sits on your skin for quite some time.
The big selling point with Biotherm Waterlover is that it’s supposed to be an eco-friendly product that doesn’t harm the oceans. This is obviously not something we can test, and so we simply have to rely on the labelling. Our the test panel felt that this cream was rather strongly scented. And if you apply it to your face, the perfume actually stings your eyes. While this is by no means a product marketed for use on children, it’s often practical to be able to have one product in your beach bag instead of two. But due to the strong scent, this isn’t a cream you’d want as a backup for sensitive baby skin.
The pump bottle is undeniably practical, and even rather stylish. But because the price is relatively high and the perfume so strong, there are many other sunscreens out there which feel more useful.
A milky sunscreen that respects the ocean
Everyone is now aware that plastics in the oceans are a major environmental threat. And once you start looking around, it's easy to see how much packaging is now made of plastic. Garnier Ambre Solaire Ocean Conservancy Protecting Milk, with a sun protection factor of 30, is largely the same product that Garnier previously had on the market. The difference is that the packaging is now made of recycled plastic, which according to Garnier, means 94% of the materials used are biodegradable.
This is a milky sunscreen. This means that a product often has a lighter and thinner consistency and is usually absorbed by the skin a little faster than the rich and thick creams. And this is a good description of Garnier Ambre Solaire Ocean Conservancy Protecting Milk. It’s not too runny, which makes it less tricky to apply than if it had been thinner.
At first, the scent is quite sharp, and anyone with atopic skin may find that it stings slightly when applied. This is worth bearing in mind if you intend to use the sunscreen for the whole family, as anyone with more sensitive skin may not get on with it.
This sunscreen is absorbed quickly and doesn’t really leave a sticky film behind. So it works well to take with you to the beach for topping up over a day in the sun.
A sunscreen for those who prefer to spray
It’s always a bit of a surprise when a product from Piz Buin doesn’t smell like coconut. Somehow this brand has become synonymous with that particular scent and summer holidays. But Piz Buin Moisturising Ultra Light Sun Spray SPF 30 has a relatively neutral yet perfumed scent.
Sometimes good and bad go hand in hand, which is also the case with this sun spray. Piz Buin Moisturising Ultra Light Sun Spray has a light, thin consistency, which makes it easy to spray and apply. At the same time, that also means it’s a bit difficult to use the amount you actually need for the protection to be adequate. So make sure you regularly top up your spray and rub it in carefully.
In terms of packaging, this spray is on the flat side, which makes it convenient to pack into the side pocket of your beach bag. This means you can keep it readily available, which is just as well given that you need to reapply it regularly.
Piz Buin Moisturising Ultra Light Sun Spray SPF 30 is easy to use, easy to carry and easy to spray. The light, thin consistency is generally good, but be sure to use enough of it when applying.
Silky sun protection spray with a bad-tasting disadvantage
A sun spray is practical for your face and on paper, Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced Hydrating Face Protection Mist SPF 50 looks set to be a perfect companion in the fight against sunburn.
According to the packaging, this sun mist for the face should give moisture for 24 hours, not be greasy, and act as a fixer for your make-up. And of course, the fact that it doesn’t contain parabens appeals to people who avoid this preservative.
It certainly is a very handy sun screen to use on your face – the mist is fine and is distributed evenly across your face. When the product lands on the skin, it feels silky rather than sticky, which is nice when you rub it into your face. The smell is reminiscent of sunny beaches and splashing waves – it simply smells like summer and sun screen. The problem is the taste.
The taste, you ask? You shouldn’t eat sun screen. No, you certainly shouldn’t. But when you spray your face, it doesn’t matter how much you hold your breath, the spray still finds its way into your mouth. We tested several different techniques to avoid this – but however it was applied, the mouth immediately filled with a flavour of perfume and alcohol. Not a very pleasant taste at all, in fact.
Of course you can avoid this if you spray the product in your hand before application, but then the fact that it’s a sun spray is a bit pointless. Yes, it protects, but when you have to spray it in your hand anyway – you might just as well use a classic cream.
A further minus point is that this sun spray feels incredibly cold when you spray it right on to your face. You almost gasp, and with that gasp you get even more of the spray in your mouth. It’s like a vicious circle of sun protection.
Today, people are aware of the need to protect themselves from the sun's rays. The most effective way to do that, of course, is to stay in the shade and cover your body with clothes and a hat, but if you want to be in the sun, then sun cream is a must. A good sun cream should contain protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. UVB rays cause the skin to build up a protective pigment by turning red or brown. UVA rays affect existing pigment in the skin and penetrate further into the skin layers where they cause negative skin changes e.g. wrinkles. A sun cream providing protection against UVA thus also partially protects against UVB.
Sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of how much longer you can stay in the sun without getting burned than if you weren’t wearing any sun protection. That time varies from person to person. But the higher the SPF, the longer you can be in the sun without getting burned. It’s important to apply enough of the product to achieve full protection. Read the fine print on the sunscreen you’ve chosen – it will say how much you should use.
The protection in the creams can be either chemical or physical. Chemical protection means molecules in the cream trap and neutralise radiation, while physical protection means the sunscreen contains physical particles, such as titanium dioxide, that settle on the skin and reflect away the sun’s rays.
There are also creams that combine these two techniques. It’s important to use plenty of cream and that you cover yourself thoroughly before you go out in the sun. According to the medical advice, you should use at least six teaspoons for the whole body and wait at least 20 minutes before going out into the sun. In addition, you should top up your protection regularly during the day as it’s gradually broken down by the sun's rays and washed away by bathing or sweat. Every time you take a dip and dry yourself, you should apply some more sun cream for good sun protection.
The quantity of sun cream is one thing, but it’s also important that it feels easy to apply and nice to have on your body. Our experience is that most people are disinclined to apply sunscreen often enough and that this happens even more with a cream that feels sticky. The skin on your face, especially under your eyes, is thinner and can react to overly greasy creams. If you have sensitive skin or easily get spots, you should be extra careful about applying a sunscreen to your face if it’s intended for the body. It’s worth treating yourself to a special sunscreen designed specifically for the face, even if it’s more expensive. If you find that normal sun cream stings when you apply it around your eyes, you should probably use a facial sun cream. You can also buy special sunscreens for your lips.
No sun cream can provide 100% protection from the sun. Children exposed to the sun should wear clothing in combination with sun cream. Bear in mind that children under the age of 6 months should not be exposed to direct sunlight at all. Read our test of sun creams for children.
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