The best sun creams these days aren’t the sticky, white and paint-like creams that most people remember from their childhoods.
Sun lotions in 2022 have reached new heights of sophistication and many are now colourless, odourless, easy to apply and waterproof. Be it the best sunscreen for kids or choosing the right sunscreen for your face – factors like SPF and protection against those UVA and UVB rays remains important. And that’s exactly what consumer watchdog Which? prioritised when testing popular products on the market.
From supermarket own brands to big name beauty favourites, we’ve collated these best sun creams together in one comprehensive list – showcasing their protection pluses, in addition to application ease, value for money and suitability to sensitive skin.
How were the best sun creams tested?
- SPF test performance: For the Which? SPF test, suncream was applied to a small area of a volunteer’s skin, which was then exposed to a UVB lamp. They recorded when the skin turned red, and compared the smallest dose of UVB needed to turn the skin red, with and without the sun cream, to determine the SPF.
- UVA test performance: The UVA check saw Which? testers using a device called a spectrophotometer, which allows testers to measure the amount of UVA absorbed by the sun cream. All products passed this test.
- Overall rating: Which? compiled the results from both tests and awarded it a PASS or FAIL status based on SPF and UVA protection.
Best and worst sun creams 2022 ranked:
This lotion from NIVEA is a great buy if you’re off on your holidays and need a sun cream you know will work. They also passed the sun spray from the same range.
Which? says: “Our panel of testers gave this sun cream five stars – it doesn’t leave skin feeling sticky and doesn’t leave a chalky white residue, as some other products do.’ They also named it a Best Buy sun cream.”
We love it for that summer holiday smell and thankfully the Which? testers agreed – passing it for both UVA and SPF protection and awarding it a Best Buy status.
Which? says: “Garnier Ambre Solaire Moisturising Protection Spray SPF30 passed both our SPF and UVA tests and our panel of testers considered it very easy to apply, so we’ve named it a Best Buy sun cream.”
A sun cream bargain, this ASDA lotion is less than £3 for a 200ml bottle. In addition to the great price is the fact that it passed both Which? tests too.
Which? says: “Our panellists appreciated the scent of this sun cream, and found it fairly easy to apply. They awarded it four stars for application.” This product was also tested by Which? in 2016 for eczema and sensitive skin and faired well.
This lotion from Calypso also works out very cheap per 100ml. Passing the Which?‘s SPF and UVA protection, we reckon it’s a solid investment in your summer skincare regime.
Which? says: “This sunscreen is an affordable option and passed our SPF and UVA tests – it’ll help keep you protected in the sun. Our user panel liked the fact that it doesn’t leave skin looking chalky. Our panel found it difficult to apply – it needs more rubbing in than other sun creams and can leave skin feeling a bit sticky or greasy.”
Boots own brand products are a go-to for many of us when we’re stocking up on sun care, so we’re pleased to say that their Protect & Moisturise Lotion passed Which?‘s tests for several years running. They also passed the sun care spray from the same range.
Which? says: “This product passed our tests, so it’s an effective sun cream. However, our panel didn’t find it as easy to apply as some other sun creams” – so perhaps not one for use with fidgety kids.
A supermarket bargain buy. Morrisons sun cream impressed the judges but just missed out on the status of Bargain Buy. It met all the required safety standards and was praised for an easy application.
Which? says: “Our panel told us it’s easy to apply and doesn’t leave an unpleasant sheen on skin like some products. Your skin may feel a little greasy or sticky immediately after application.”
One of the pricier options in the round up, but according to Which?, M&S’s own brand lotion will keep you well protected on your hols.
Which? says: “This effective sun cream will keep you protected in the sun. It earned three stars in our application test – panellists liked its scent and said it didn’t leave a white sheen.”
Having recently been reformulated, MALIBU’s Protective Lotion passed both of Which?‘s tests when tested for SPF and UVA protection, after having failed in previous years. Great news considering it’s a bargain.
Which? says: “If you do wish to buy this product, we advise you buy a bottle that contains the new formulation – there’s a reference code on the back that starts with ‘FM’.”
Some Piz Buin products, such as their Ultra Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid, have failed Which? tests in the past. But their Allergy Sensitive Lotion has passed both the UVA and SPF standards. It’s not the cheapest bottle in the bunch, but if it’s your preferred brand, you can rest assured that you’re getting proper protection.
Which? says: “This reliable sun cream will help keep you protected in the sun. It has a pleasant scent, too. It takes a long time to be absorbed by skin and our panel said it left their skin feeling sticky and greasy after application.”
When Which? tested this product in 2015, it didn’t meet their safety standards, but since 2017, it has passed their tests for both SPF and UVA performance – but only just.
Which? says: “While it’s not a Don’t Buy, this Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen had an average SPF just below 30 in our tests. When we told Hawaiian Tropic about our results, it told us that it stands behind the product’s labelling and that it is compliant with all applicable regulations. It noted the variability inherent in SPF testing and pointed to its own test results that showed that the product had met its label claim in multiple labs.”
Not tested by Which? but parents and dermatologists alike rate this Ultrasun Family sun lotion very highly for sensitive skin. It might come with a larger price tag than some of the other sun creams, but it’s family sized (400ml) so no need to keep popping more sun cream in your basket every time you go shopping. This sun cream is lightweight on the skin and has been created with the brand’s Lipsome Complex, which helps to shield skin from the damaging UVA rays – without making you sticky or greasy.
Dematologist rating: “Great for children and those with sensitive skin,” Dr Anton Alexandroff, a Doctify-reviewed (opens in new tab) dermatologist tells us. “The hypo-allergenic formulation is free from oils, emulsifiers and perfume and is recommended by Dermatologists for those prone to skin allergies.”
Another that hasn’t been tested by Which? but skin experts swear by it. La Roche-Posay is often praised for its skin-friendly formulas, and this SPF50 is no different. It boasts a lightweight fluid that glides onto skin and absorbs quickly for fast protection. It’s been created for particularly sensitive skin and boasts increased UVA protection (PPD46). This PPD46 – which means Persistent Pigment Darkening – is higher than European standards and means it it takes 46 times longer for skin to darken after UVA exposure.
Dematologist rating: “9 out of 10 dermatologists recommend it and in fact I use it myself,” says Dr Anton Alexandroff. “It’s a high protection, broad-spectrum (PPD 46, SPF 50+) comfortable fluid formula that is ultra water, sweat, and sand resistant. Plus the non-greasy cream does not leave white marks.”
How good is Aldi sunscreen?
Some people will believe that Aldi sun creams are just not as good as the big-name brands, but one survey proves the opposite. According to Channel 5 Shop Smart: Save Money, sun cream from Aldi protects us better from the harmful UV rays than top brands like Garnier Ambre Solaire, Nivea Sun, Piz Buin, Boots, and Superdrug.
Aldi’s Lacura suncream has a rating of 5 UVA stars, the highest you can get, while the other brands have ratings that hover around the 3 or 4 star mark. This means their sun cream is in fact one of the best on the market according to research.
And even better, similar to how Aldi’s cheap perfume dupes are some of the best around, their high-quality sun cream is one one of the most affordable as the Lacura sun cream comes in at just £2.29.
Check out the ALDI Lacura sun cream range here (opens in new tab)
Sun creams to avoid: The warning signs to look out for
According to the NHS, things to look out for when buying a sun cream include the SPF factor and UVA protection. While it’s important to not just rely on sun cream for sun protection and to use other methods, like staying in the shade as well, knowing what to look out for when choosing a sun cream can save you multiple applications at best or in the worst case, serious sun burn.
SPF (sun protection factor) is on a scale of 2 to 50+ based on the level of protection it offers, with 50+ being the maximum. You should look out for low-SPF suncreams as these will offer little protection from the sun, instead opt for high SPF suncreams – 30 and above will offer good protection.
The star rating that you’ll see on sun cream packaging measures the amount of UVA (ultraviolet A radiation) protection. On suncreams sold in the UK, you should see a star rating of up to 5 stars. The higher the star rating, the better, so opt for one with a high rating of 4 or 5 stars.
If you’re particularly concerned about dark circles under eyes (opens in new tab) and other signs of skin ageing, it’s particularly important to look out for UVA protection. UVA rays penetrate the skin and cause skin cells to prematurely age as they damage the outer layers of the skin.
Many suncreams that say they offer ‘all-day’ or ‘6+ hours’ of protection actually often do not. In other cases, experts have warned that water-resistant sun creams don’t work as well as we think. So, don’t rely on this when buying a sun cream, always top-up throughout the day and especially when you’re getting in and out of the water.
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