It really is that serious. When you’re on the hunt for the best sunscreen for face, it helps to get a second (or in this case, third, too) opinion. A single tube could last you weeks, and you don’t want to squander with subpar sunscreen.
With practically every formula under the sun, in a variety of formats and in an array of textures, it’s no wonder that the masses are left puzzled as to which ones to go for. It is true indeed, that too many options can result in decision fatigue.
Here to save you from getting swept away and overwhelmed are dermatologists Dr Aamna Adel (or @dermatology.doctor on TikTok) and Dr Shammi Theesan (or @drshammitheesan on TikTok). They break down how shopping for sunscreen can be different compared to shopping for skincare, why certain countries produce better sunscreens, and ultimately, their non-negotiables when it comes to this key skincare step.
Do you think SPF should be considered healthcare?
Dr Adel (DA): I think 100% yes. When I think about suncare, I’m thinking beyond just the aesthetic impact that wearing sunscreen can have on the skin. From skin cancer to hyperpigmentation, both of which could cause secondary psychological issues.
Dr Theesan (DT): Absolutely. It is not just a “cosmedic” product—it’s a medical product, in my opinion, and it’s the most effective way to stop or improve your chances of skin cancer occurrence.
What should consumers take into account when buying sunscreens, besides SPF value?
DA: Look for broad-spectrum sunscreens. These sunscreens protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. Ideally, it should be water- or sweat-resistant, so there’s less chance of it wearing away during the day.
Another key factor is to shop for sunscreens according to your skin type. People who are acne prone, or with oily skin type, end up avoiding wearing sunscreens because they find them too greasy, and they think it can break them out. So if you struggle with those issues, look for gel formulations which are specifically non-comedogenic.
For those with drier skin types, check out sunscreens that are enriched with hydrating ingredients.
DT: You need to use it every day, so find a sunscreen with a texture you love. This way you can use it with or without makeup. Look into what the key active ingredients are too, because some people with sensitive skin or melasma are more prone to getting irritation on their skin.
You can look at the chemical filters used. Oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate, and octocrylene, for instance, can be quite damaging to the environment. Packaging is also a key factor to look into.
Finally, you want a sunscreen that has waterproof benefits. This is so that it doesn’t slough off or get denatured by your sweat as easily.
How does shopping for sunscreen differ from shopping for any other skincare product?
DA: I think there are a lot of skincare products that you definitely don’t have to splurge on, like cleansers. Plus, I don’t really believe in switching up so much of the skincare routine. When it comes to stuff like moisturisers and serums, especially with actives, they take at least eight to 12 weeks to have any sort of benefit on the skin; you can’t just switch it up every two weeks.
But with sunscreens, you can actually play around with it a lot. You can use it one day and switch it up the next day. There’s no cumulative benefit in using just one sunscreen. I would encourage you to try lots of different sunscreens until you land on one you really, really like.
DT: I would suggest including your GP or dermatologist in the conversation, as I believe suncare is healthcare. Most of all, you have to make sure that it is an approved sunscreen, so you won’t be duped into wearing a sunscreen that doesn’t have the protection they claim to have.
In your opinion, which country do you think produces the best sunscreens?
DA: I’m based in the UK, and I know that the EU has got very good regulations. For instance, France is very good, and you can see that in the way they formulate their skincare products.
The EU in general is very robust in the way in which sunscreens are tested and regulated.
DT: I’d have to say Australia. Why? Because we’ve got the highest rate of skin cancers in the world, and the harshest UV ray exposures. So there is a strong, invested interest and need for Australia to be excellent at getting the right sunscreen out to our public. It’s practically a public health measure here. Sunscreens are not viewed as a cosmetic agent. As such, it’s heavily regulated by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
Australia also controls which filters are allowed to be in sunscreens, and they have to pass stringent tests. In fact, consumers from outside of Australia are constantly on the hunt for our local sunscreens because they value our testing and strictness in our labelling.
What are your red flags for sunscreens?
DA: Anything under SPF 30 is pretty useless. It almost kind of defeats the point of sunscreen. You won’t get adequate protection and you are increasing your likelihood of getting a sunburn and skin damage.
Additionally, SPFs in makeup is also another red flag for me, because it is quite low. It tends to be SPF 10 or 15, which isn’t very good protection. The amount that you would have to apply to even achieve that stated SPF is also unrealistic because no one is applying that much makeup the way they apply sunscreen.
DT: Gosh, there can be a few out there. Ideally, you want to avoid old-fashioned chemical filters like homosalate because they have been proven to sometimes have neuroendocrine effects. I would also avoid preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone.
Even if you’re using a chemical-based sunscreen, look for one that has some physical filters in it.
The biggest red flag of all is if they are calling it a “sun lotion” or a serum with sun protection as opposed to sunscreen.
@dermatology.doctor OG sunscreen for the win 🏅 🧴 #dermatologist #dermatologydoctor #skincareroutine #skintok #skincaretips #spf #sunscreen #skinhacks #foryou #fyp #fypシ ♬ original sound – Dr Adel | Dermatology Doctor
@drshammitheesan Your skin doesnt need needling, slugging or flooding… it needs a healthy skin barrier. #skinbarrier #senstiveskin #acne #skintrends #fyp #greenscreen ♬ original sound – Dr Shammi Theesan