The Best Face SPFs For Every Skin Type

You will have heard it a million times before: wearing a face SPF every day is key to healthy – and healthy-looking — skin. A good sunscreen blocks the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which wreak havoc on the health of our skin and its cells, leading to decreased collagen and elasticity, fine lines, pigmentation, and an increased risk of skin cancer if an SPF is not used. 

Historically, SPFs have been sticky and greasy, quick to clog pores, and prone to imparting a grey hue over darker skin tones. The good news is that now, thanks to much-improved formulas and innovative technology, there are plenty of facial sunscreens that protect your skin while also being a pleasure to use. Look for formulas that have both UVA and UVB protection (find out more about sun protection here), a minimum of SPF 30, and a formula that suits your skin’s specific needs. 

Another factor to consider in your sunscreen selection is its effect on the environment. While the science around exactly how damaging sunscreen is to our oceans is inconclusive, what ingredients should we be looking out for to make the best choice possible? Here, the marine biologist Professor Cinzia Corinaldesi from the Università Politecnica delle Marche and Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at Skin55, provides a five-step guide.

Avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate

The main chemicals to watch out for are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are commonly used in sunscreen to absorb UV light. “We [have] demonstrated that oxybenzone, octinoxate and enzacamene caused complete coral bleaching even at very low concentrations,” says Professor Corinaldesi. Octocrylene is another chemical that’s potentially harmful to marine life, with the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory compiling a handy list of the ingredients we should try to avoid. 

“Certain organic filters have been identified in water sources worldwide and there seems to be a suggestion that they are not easily removed by common wastewater techniques,” adds Dr Mahto. “Many of the filters have also been found in various species of fish worldwide — the impact of this is uncertain on the food chain.” 

Opt for a mineral sunscreen instead

Mineral sunscreens, which typically contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are thought to be less harmful to coral reefs in comparison to their chemical counterparts. “Mineral sunscreens rely on inorganic filters, which form a physical barrier on the skin surface,” explains Dr Mahto. 

It’s worth remembering, though, that some research suggests zinc oxide can also pose a danger to marine life. “Our studies indicate that zinc oxide nanoparticles are very harmful to marine organisms,” says Professor Corinaldesi, but adds that titanium dioxide with surface coatings — as found in Green People’s scent-free SPF 30 — “has a much lower impact on coral reefs”. 

Look for non-nanoparticles 

Particle size matters, too. While nanoparticles can be absorbed by coral reefs, research suggests that larger non-nanoparticles (a label you’ll see on lotions) are better for the environment. Ren’s Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 uses non-nano zinc oxide, while Stream2Sea’s sunscreens contain non-nano titanium oxide. “Consumers should look out for sunscreens that use non-nanoparticles because nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are expected to be more harmful to marine organisms than non-nanoparticles,” explains Professor Corinaldesi. 

Read beyond the ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-safe’ labels 

The increase in demand for eco-friendly sunscreens means that a lot of brands are now marketing their products as ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-safe’. This usually means they don’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate — the two chemicals banned in sunscreen by countries such as Hawaii — but they could still contain other chemicals on the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory list that are potentially harmful to the environment. “Consumers should check the ingredients on the label of the products,” Professor Corinaldesi comments. 

Don’t forget the packaging 

Beyond the ingredients in sunscreen, it’s important to consider the packaging as well, with discarded sunscreen bottles contributing, in part, to the 8m tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans every year. Brands such as Green People are using recyclable plant-based packaging made from sugar cane; a much more eco-friendly option compared to traditional plastic containers.

From barely-there textures to subtly-tinted creams for when you don’t feel like wearing makeup, shop British Vogue’s edit of the 20 best SPFs for your face below.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel SPF50+

If you suffer from blemishes, you may find that sun protection leaves your skin feeling greasy and prone to breakouts. La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel is specifically designed for people with those concerns, offering a non-comedogenic, feather-light formula with a velvet finish alongside SPF 50 protection.

£17.50, available at LookFantastic.com.

Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defense SPF 50

Doubling up as both a moisturiser and an SPF 50 sunscreen, Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defense is an industry favourite, perfect for those with sensitive skin thanks to its oil-free, fragrance-free formula. It doesn’t leave a chalky residue either, making it a good choice for darker skin tones.

£30, available at Kiehls.co.uk.

Skinceuticals Advanced Brightening UV Defense SPF 50

With tranexamic acid and niacinamide, this is a supercharged SPF that’s as good at protecting skin from the sun as it is preventing and reducing discolouration. Put simply, it’s an excellent choice if you want an SPF that works really, really hard. 

£45, available at LookFantastic.com.

Shiseido Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+

Utilising Shiseido’s WetForce technology, which makes the formula work harder when it comes into contact with water or sweat, this Clear Suncare Stick is particularly brilliant for holidays, humid environments, or when playing outdoor sports. The handy stick packaging means it slots easily into your bag and can be rolled onto areas of the face and body as and when needed. 

£28, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 30

Making great SPFs its speciality, Supergoop’s latest launch is the Glowscreen SPF 30, a formula that offers the dewiest, most luminous glow, as well as an SPF of 30. With hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, niacinamide, and protective cocoa peptides, it doubles up as a skincare staple too – and you’ll actively look forward to applying it each day.

£15, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Avene Intense Protect SPF 50

Especially good for those with sensitive or reactive skin types, Avène’s Intense Protect is as light as silk and ultra-gentle. Not only does it contain the brand’s soothing thermal spring water and pre-tocopheryl, a powerful antioxidant, but it also houses TriAsorB, the first organic sun filter that absorbs and reflects UVA, UVB, and blue light. A must-try.

£20, available at Lookfantastic.com.

Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF 50

Drying perfectly matte, making it a great base for make-up, Heliocare’s 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF 50 is a cult classic loved by those in the know. Ideal for acne-prone and sensitive skins, it protects against UVB, UVA, infrared­‐A and visible light.

£29.45, available at Dermacaredirect.co.uk.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defence SPF 30

Non-toxic to marine life, this formula protects skin from UVA and UVB while offsetting free radical damage from the environment, thanks to potent antioxidants grape juice, sunflower shoot extract, and astaxanthin. 

£29, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF 50

Facialist to the stars, Kate Somerville also has this easy-to-use spray-on SPF in her product repertoire. Not only will it protect skin from the sun, but thanks to a light-diffusing silicone powder and hyaluronic acid in the formula, it helps to set make-up, mattify and hydrate skin. What’s not to love?

£32, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF 50

Offering a customisable approach to sun protection, Dr Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops can be worn undiluted as a serum or a few drops can be added to your regular skincare for lightweight SPF 50 protection. It’s a high price point, but it goes a long way, and works well on all skin tones. 

£110, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Ren Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen

A silicone-free formula that protects against all forms of light, Ren’s SPF offering is kind to the environment and forms a non-comedogenic barrier that fends off external aggressors. 

£30, available at LookFantastic.com.

Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution SPF 50

From blue and UV light to pollen and indoor pollution, this intelligent formula is packed full of antioxidants to protect the skin from all manner of external aggressors. Using organic mango leaf extract, it is delightfully lightweight in texture and promises eight hours of hydration while doing its protective thing.

£44, available at Selfridges.com.

Sisley Paris Tinted Sun Care Stick SPF 50

A formula just as luxurious as its packaging, this Sisley number comes in a stick applicator to make applying your sun care a breeze (and will prevent SPF spillages while travelling). With a slight tint to it, expect a little complexion perk up, while ingredients like shea, camellia oil and mango butter hydrate and smooth skin. 

£78, available at Spacenk.com.

Ultra Violette Supreme Screen Hydrating Facial Skinscreen SPF 50+

A multitasking formula, Ultra Violette’s Supreme Screen Hydrating Facial Skinscreen offers factor 50 protection, and contains an array of skincare ingredients – from peptides to vitamin C-rich kakadu plum – to combat free radicals. It is clear (so won’t leave a white cast) and helps to protect from blue light, while also leaving skin primed and ready for make-up. Put simply: it’s excellent.

£34, available at Spacenk.com.

Tan-Luxe Super Gloss Serum

For those who still want to look like they’ve spent an optimal time in the sun (even if that’s not the case), this serum delivers an immediate sun-kissed bronze glow while deeply hydrating skin (thanks to hyaluronic acid and squalane) and protects skin from the sun.

£35, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Lancer Sheer Fluid Sun Shield SPF 30

A formula that is packed with skin-saving ingredients, Dr Lancer’s SPF will improve skin texture, boost glow, and prime skin ready for make-up – all while doing its main job of fending off UVA and UVB. A brilliant option and great for all skin tones. 

£45, available at Net-a-porter.com.

Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect

Great for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, this SPF feels like a moisturiser but acts as an all-bases-covered skin-protecting formula. From blue light to pollution, it’s got your skin covered for every eventuality, plus it contains multi-weight hyaluronic acid and skin-softening emollients to leave skin in excellent nick in its wake. 

£55, available at Feelunique.com.

Chanel UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily Defender SPF 30

When you live in a city, the effects of pollution on your skin are as much a threat as sun damage. Luckily Chanel has the solution in the form of the brand’s UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily Defender, which gives broad-spectrum SPF 30 or 50 protection as well as creating a barrier against pollution and free radicals.

£46, available at Allbeauty.com.

VOGUE article

How Mushrooms Could Help Solve the Beauty Industry’s Waste Problem

What does it mean to be beautiful on planet Earth in 2020? In search of clear skin, a mellow demeanor, the perfect eyebrows, and a high vibe, what are we reckoning with? From sheet masks to disposable salon sandals to plastic lining in the shipping of even eco-friendly materials, waste permeates the beauty industry in ways that can no longer be overlooked. According to the United Nations, half of all plastic is designed to be used only once, and environmental scientists are suggesting that plastics will serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era, despite becoming ubiquitous only within the past hundred years. It’s not cute that Styrofoam takes up an estimated 30% of space in landfills and lingers for about 500 years, that trash floats in the oceans, and that microplastics exist in our food supply. With packaging accounting for 40% of plastic usage, beauty brands are turning to a natural solution: mushroom mycelium.

“Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms,” explains Loney Abrams, florist, artist, and co-owner of Wretched Flowers. “Mycelium networks can take on any form and once they colonize a form, it’s incredibly durable, insulating, and flame resistant”—properties which make mushrooms an ideal substitute for Styrofoam and plastic. Abrams and her partner, Johnny Stanish, have considered mycelium in a variety of settings. It was the material that made up their Bondage vases (also designed in special colors for a collaboration with the sustainable clothing brand Eden), which function conjunctly as vessels and shipping containers. Stanish and Abrams dream of a day when mycelium can replace Styrofoam in the shipping of large pieces of art, and make the case that mycelium could benefit myriad industries, from art and flowers to beauty. Wretched Flowers sources from and is inspired by Ecovative Design, the company that has been growing mycelium in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand to combat single-use plastics since 2007.

“Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system,” explains Gavin McIntyre, cofounder of Ecovative Design. “They’re decomposers. Mycelium grows really quickly, and for the industrial process, [we’re able to grow it] in days.” Many compostable products, such as the compostable cups that you see at coffee shops, are made from polylactic acid (PLA), a corn sugar fermented by bacteria, and are only industrially compostable. Mycelium products biodegrade within a month in a home compost, meaning they don’t need to be sent out to a facility. I asked McIntyre about composting in New York City, where the mayor has recently suspended the composting program, and he pointed out that you could technically cut up the packaging and put it out next to a tree or—though he doesn’t recommend this—a local body of water, as the product is safely marine compostable and used to protect scientific buoys in oceans around the world by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mycelium acts like a glue and is grown into molds (no pun intended) fitting any shape, from packaging inserts to sculpture to beauty applicators. Ecovative Design grows mycelium beauty and skin-care products, including eye masks, sheet masks, and makeup wedges. They are also partnering with beauty, fashion, art, and technology brands to customize packaging.

One such brand is Hudson Hemp, a farm and CBD company built on land owned by Abby Rockefeller and her family in the Catskill mountains. I spoke with cofounder Melany Dobson about how and why she decided to integrate mycelium packaging into Hudson Hemp’s CBD line, Treaty. Dobson’s team grows hemp as part of a dynamic crop rotation alongside grains that supply flour to local bakeries, livestock feed for dairy farms, and rye and hops for brewers and distillers. Part of the mission of Hudson Hemp is to develop soil that relies on nutrients that come from the farm itself; since mycelium goes hand in hand with soil health, it was already in mind. “I learned about Ecovative through Seed—a probiotic brand that has used Ecovative since 2018 in their original packaging—and decided to go for it,” Dobson says. This ethos of open-source sharing when it comes to sustainability is one that is inevitably moving the industry forward. Since its launch, all Hudson Hemp CBD has been shipped in custom Ecovative packaging.

How does change happen in the beauty industry? I think about my own brand, Masha Tea, and how the transition to more thoughtful packaging finally happened when I saw an Instagram post by Nu Swim (which, incidentally, fills my bathing suit collection with perfect fits made from regenerated ocean waste) about the biodegradable packaging company Ecoenclose. The fact of the matter is, companies are always looking to one another to see how they can improve. On a larger scale, as Dobson notes, “Multinational companies [look to] small brands once they get attention. It helps set trends. If Treaty uses Ecovative, L’Oréal starts thinking about it too.”

This idea was at the heart of my conversation with Rodrigo Garcia Alvarez, founder of Amen, a vegan line of candles produced in the historic fragrance capital of Grasse, France. “The new luxury is when things are done by ethical and sustainability standards and not just by how things look,” he says. Amen candles, which are sold at Dover Street Market, 10 Corso Como, and The Conservatory, are all shipped in mycelium grown in Amsterdam. In fact, Garcia Alvarez sees mycelium as the future of luxury, with the goal of inspiring 10 major brands to incorporate mushroom materials, then 100, and eventually a world in which mycelium can “reach the economics of scale and efficient cost,” making mushrooms more accessible in the way that plastics are today.

Eyes are on mushrooms as the future of our reckoning with waste. “Why is CBD a beauty product?” I asked Dobson toward the end of our conversation about Hudson Hemp. “Because it brings the inner-outer beauty conversation full circle,” she answered. “If you’re feeling how you need to feel in the moment you’re in, that is beautiful.” As beauty brands consider how best to meet the needs of the earth alongside those of their consumers, mycelium reminds us that there are exciting alternatives to a wasteful existence.

VOGUE article