The best sun cream: protect your skin with these top-rated sunscreens

The best sun cream is essential if you want to protect your skin from sun damage while you're out in the garden – check out our solutions for every skin type

Best sun cream showing a bottle of Caudalie sun cream
(Image credit: Caudalie)

If you’re on the hunt for the best sun cream to keep your skin protected when you're out in the garden, you’ve come to the right place. We’re all much more informed than we were, say, 20 years ago about the importance of protecting our skin from sun damage. And as such, having the best sun cream is more important to many of us than ever before. After all, the reality is that we should all be wearing some form of sun cream – or SPF – every day. Yes, even when it’s overcast.

From reducing the likelihood of specific forms of cancer to slowing the ageing process, there are a whole host of science-backed reasons why we should all be wearing sun cream year-round. The most important being the depletion of the ozone layer, which causes greater exposure to harmful UV rays. This advice applies to people of all skin tones and ethnicities, so we’ve made sure to only include clear products that won’t leave a chalky finish on the skin.

Discover our top picks below so you can start enjoying the sun responsibly, whether you're gardening on a sunny weekend or enjoying an afternoon BBQ with friends. 

Want more expert advice? Head to our dedicated buying guide hub.  

The best sun cream 2020

the best sun cream: La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+

(Image credit: Look Fantastic)

1. La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+

The best sun cream: a great buy for all skin types

Specifications
SPF: 50+
Type: Clear spray
Water resistant: Yes
Reef-friendly: No
Suitable for sensitive skin: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Suitable for sensitive skin+Easy to apply+High SPF
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most affordable option

The best sun cream is, without doubt, the La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+, thanks to its high SPF and suitability for sensitive skin. Application is easy, thanks to a simple spray design – great news if you have kids – and it’s also suitable for use under, or even on top of, make-up, which is ideal if you’re looking for an everyday solution to help you protect your skin from sun damage.

This solution offers high UVA, UVB and Infra-red protection and delivers a clear, matt finish. Plus, its fresh fragrance leaves the skin with a lovely cool and clean finish. 

  • Shop the La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Spray SPF50+

the best sun cream: Nivea Sun Protect & Dry Touch Invisible Sunscreen Spray

(Image credit: Nivea)

2. Nivea Sun Protect & Dry Touch Invisible Sunscreen Spray

The best affordable sun cream: a firm favourite for sunny days

Specifications
SPF: 50
Type: Clear spray
Water resistant: Yes
Reef-friendly: No
Suitable for sensitive skin: Not especially
Reasons to buy
+Affordable price+Great all-round product+Available in SPF 20, 30 and 50
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for sensitive skin

If you’re looking for no-nonsense, affordable sun cream, look no further than the Nivea Sun Protect & Dry Touch Invisible Sunscreen Spray. Suitable for all the family, it provides an impressive level of SPF, along with immediate protection from UVA and UVB rays. And it won’t break the bank.

To apply, simply hold a short distance from the skin and spritz liberally. Its clear finish is instantly absorbed and non-greasy, meaning you can get straight back into the sun after application. Plus, its water-resistant formula means that you can get in and out of the water without immediate fear of burning – perfect for those afternoons in the paddling pool with the kids. 

  • Shop the Nivea Sun Protect & Dry Touch Invisible Sunscreen Spray

the best sun cream: Caudalie Beautifying Sun Care Oil SPF30

(Image credit: Look Fantastic)

3. Caudalie Beautifying Sun Care Oil SPF30

The best reef-friendly sun cream: its natural ingredients make this a top choice

Specifications
SPF: 30
Type: Clear oil
Water resistant: No
Reef-friendly: Yes
Suitable for sensitive skin: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Reef-friendly formula+Made from quality ingredients that are suitable for sensitive skin+Luxurious product to use
Reasons to avoid
-Not the highest SPF available

In all honesty, it’s only the price point that prevents the Caudalie Beautifying Sun Care Oil SPF30 from taking our top spot. Not only is it made from natural ingredients that protect the skin without harming the ocean, but it’s also a gorgeous product to use thanks to its Vitamin E complex which works to nourish the skin.

Its silky dry-oil texture is not only easy to apply but is actually pretty luxurious and doesn’t leave the skin feeling greasy. The only downside to this product is the fact that it’s not specifically water-resistant, so may not be the best option for little ones who want to be in and out of the water all day. However, as long as you’re happy to reapply after they've been in the paddling pool or running through the garden sprinkler, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

  • Shop the Caudalie Beautifying Sun Care Oil SPF30

the best sun cream: Clarins Invisible Sun Care Gel-To-Oil Face

(Image credit: Boots )

4. Clarins Invisible Sun Care Gel-To-Oil Face

The best sun cream for the face: a great option for protection every day

Specifications
SPF: 30
Type: Clear gel
Water resistant: No
Reef-friendly: Yes
Suitable for sensitive skin: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-apply gel formula+Can be used on damp skin
Reasons to avoid
-Only suitable for use on the face

We all know that we should wear sun cream on our faces every day, but the sticky, greasy texture of many of the options on the market can make this prospect slightly unappealing. Until you discover the Clarins Invisible Sun Care Gel-To-Oil Face, that is. 

Not only is this sun cream ideal for providing vital sun protection for the face – which more often than not sees the most sun – it also makes the most of plant properties for enhanced moisture and protection against ageing. 

  • Shop the Clarins Invisible Sun Care Gel-To-Oil Face

the best sun cream: Vichy solar protective water SPF50

(Image credit: Look Fantastic)

5. Vichy solar protective water SPF50

The best moisturising sun cream: protect and moisturise at the same time

Specifications
SPF: 50
Type: Clear water
Water resistant: No
Reef-friendly: No
Suitable for sensitive skin: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-apply gel formula+Can be used on damp skin
Reasons to avoid
-Only suitable for use on the face

Not only does the Vichy solar protective water SPF50 offer maximum protection for your skin, its hydrating formula is also enriched with 40% Vichy Mineralising Water and hyaluronic acid – a dreamy combination for those who find that sun and sea water tend to leave their skin feeling dry.

Suitable for sensitive skin, as well as for use on the face, this simple formula is simple to apply and leaves a shine-free finish that absorbs quickly and won’t transfer onto clothes and other fabrics.

  • Shop the Vichy solar protective water SPF50

How to buy the best sun cream

When it comes to buying the best sun cream, it’s important to take the following factors into account to ensure you’re giving your skin the best protection properly. 

SPF

The most important thing to consider when choosing sun cream is the SPF (sun protection factor) it provides. Most healthcare professionals and scientists recommend opting for a minimum SPF 30, which blocks out an average 97% per cent of harmful rays. 

From there, you should choose an SPF based on the amount of time you anticipate spending in the sun, the strength of the sun you’re experiencing, as well as the sensitivity of your skin to the sun. This is particularly important if you have fair skin that burns easily. If you’re concerned, there’s never anything wrong with opting for a higher SPF than absolutely necessary.

Sun cream variety

As we mentioned above, we’ve made sure to only include clear sun creams that won’t leave a white cast on the skin. However, it’s also worth considering the type of finish you appreciate in sun cream before making a decision about the option that’s right for you. Do you like an oil finish? Or would you prefer something lightweight and easy to apply?

Equally, we’d recommend choosing a sun cream that’s designed specifically for the face if you intend on wearing it underneath make-up, or are concerned about a thick lotion causing a breakout.

Reef-friendly

We’ve all heard about the impact that plastic is affecting our oceans, but did you know that the chemicals in some varieties of sun cream are also contributing to the depletion of ocean reefs? If you’re concerned about protecting the ocean, it’s more than worth choosing a sun cream that’s verified as being reef-friendly.

Water-resistance

While no sun cream is ever entirely waterproof and should always be reapplied after swimming, there are many water-resistant options available. This is great news if you have little ones who enjoy running in and out of the water throughout the day. Or, if you’re concerned about burning as you swim.

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