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Today I wanted to share some of the best broad-spectrum sunscreens I've found at the UK drugstore. I'm really focusing on face products but some of these products can be used on the body. I'm afraid mineral sunscreens (let alone decent ones) are very rare in pharmacies, so these are all chemical formulas - I'll be doing some separate content on mineral products at a later date, so keep an eye out for that. For now, these are the products you should make a beeline for when you're in Boots or Superdrug and you need a decent sunscreen...
I'll start with products that I'd apply in the morning. Garnier are now a cruelty-free brand so if you're cruelty-free and struggling to find a good option then this is where I'd start (though, be warned: there are about 10 million subtle variations of the same thing with and without hyaluronic acid or whatever else). Their first sunscreen that I've really enjoyed is the Garnier Ambre Solaire Super UV Anti Dark Spots & Anti Pollution Face Fluid SPF 50+ | £7. This is formulated with a range of chemical filters including Tinosorb S, Avobenzone, some broad spectrum proprietary filters and Ethylhexyl Salicylate (protecting against UVB) so you should be getting a pretty well-rounded formula. This has a very fluid, almost watery texture and it's ok around the eyes; most chemical formulas irritate my eyes to some degree, it's more about how much. I really like how this melts in with no white cast and I can apply the correct amount (it's really easy to do the 2 or 3 finger method with this applicator) without turning into a greasy mess. It also sits really nicely on my skin under makeup without pilling up (it's not water resistant so it's more of an everyday formula). I also really like the Garnier Ambre Solaire Super UV Anti-Dryness Protection Cream SPF 50+ | £6. Again we have Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Uvinul T 150 (a really great UVB filter available in Europe), Tinosorb S, Avobenzone and the same two patented broad spectrum filters as the Fluid formula. As you can see, the active sun protection ingredients are pretty similar. This has a lotion texture but it's not quite as watery as the Fluid. I'd say it's very light still but a little more hydrating (in the summer I could use this as a one-step moisturiser and sunscreen). I still don't get any white cast, I still don't get pilling; this is what I'd recommend for a slightly drier skin type or if you want that one-step option. It also has some water resistance, so can be used on hot days.
Let's move onto some French Pharmacy picks: my first is the Bioderma Photoderm Max Aquafluid SPF 50+* | £14.50. This is one from last year that's pretty empty now but I was really pleasantly surprised at how water-light and elegant this formula was. It takes a moment to fade into being invisible on my skin but when it does, it's nothing too dewy and the light, oil-free formula makes it a great option for spot-prone skin. In here we have Tinosorb S, Avobenzone, Tinosorb M and Octocrylene. It doesn't pill up and I find it very easy to apply and reapply throughout the day when I'm not wearing makeup and I don't find it overly irritating for my eyes. It's a water-resistant formula and I personally have worn this whilst exercising and found it to stay on really well. Next is an oldie but a goodie: the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid Sun Cream SPF 50 | £17.50. It's quite a bit more expensive these days but you can usually get it on offer. You give this a good shake and it comes out as this very fluid formula that's very similar to my first Garnier product, I guess the benefit of this is that it's been on the market for years and is really well-trusted whereas the Garnier is newer to the scene (however, they do have the same parent company, so I wouldn't be surprised if the formulations are very similar). Additionally this formula has a really good water resistance for such a lightweight product and that's the main reason I've used it for so many years. It's a go-to product for me when I'm on holiday and breaking a bit of a sweat because it won't stream into my eyes, though obviously if I was swimming then I'd re-apply it afterwards. It can be a bit pilly if you use silicone primers or anything like that on top of it, but in general it sits fine under makeup, though this is more of a beach day product in my personal routine. You have your Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Uvinul T 150, Tinosorb S, Avobenzone and some proprietary broad spectrum filters, so you're getting really similar filters to both Garnier formulas, the difference is really to do with the feel and water resistance. This leaves no white cast on my skin and is pretty good around the eyes.
Finally, in this face product category, I really enjoyed the Bondi Sands Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ for Face - Fragrance Free* | £6.99 | last year. This is a hydrating formula and when you first squeeze it out: it looks kind of crazy but when I blend in the correct amount, apply it in light layers and leave it for a minute, it really does melt in. I've seen it work well on much deeper skin tones than my own too. It's nothing too greasy, it claims 4 hours of water resistance (making it a great option for exercise) and is nice under makeup as well, making it a lovely all-rounder. It's an Australian brand, so you know it's been through some pretty rigorous testing to reach shelves. It contains the filters Homosalate, Octocrylene, Octyl Salicylate and Avobenzone. This is also fragrance-free which makes it more suitable for sensitive skin, though overall chemical sunscreens are not always the best option for very reactive skin.
I'm going to move on to body and body / face options. Firstly there's the Bondi Sands Bondi Sands Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ Fragrance Free* | 7.99 | which is really very similar in feel and application to the face version but you get a lot more product. I even checked the INCI list and they seem identical, so if you want; maybe just pick up this and if it doesn't break you out (I don't see why it would if the ingredients and brand are the same) then you've got an all-in-one. Next is is the Sun Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion* | £15.59 | for body. Just a note on this: I'm pretty sure the INCI list on the Boots website is wrong because the other products list 'fragrance' and this one doesn't, but it's definitely heavily scented! You can check out the correct INCI on their own website here. This is actually an American brand; I don't usually go for American sunscreens but this one is nice! Because it's an American formula, there are only four of those more old school filters: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate and Octocrylene. This scent won't be for everyone but I personally love the coconutty summer holiday feel it gives. This takes a moment to blend into the skin but it does absorb without white cast on me. A really great multi-tasker for both face and body (I find it really handy for when I'm out and about) is the Ultrasun Sports Gel SPF 30 | £26 (200ml). Look, this does have a strong alcohol scent that won't be for everyone, but I personally rate it because it's a clear gel. It's not that super-elegant antioxidant moisturising formula I'm going to wear under my makeup on a work day, it's what I use for my runs because as I sweat, it doesn't go white, drip down my face or stream into my eyes. It's a water-resistant formula that's undergone extensive testing and feels lightweight. If you worry about sunscreen clogging your pores, then definitely check this out. I use it on my body too, so it's super easy. You have your Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Uvinul A Plus (getting you that high-level UVA protection), Uvinul T 150 and also Tinosorb S. The only negative for this formula is that it does contain a lot of alcohol to dry the product off the skin; it's fine for me in the way I use it but if you have very dry skin you might not want to choose this for applying and reapplying throughout the day.
Lastly, I have two products for top-ups. The Vichy Ideal Soleil Hydrating Sun Protection Water SPF 30 | £19 | is a quick and easy sunscreen water for on-the-go top-ups. You can use it on the face and body, though it's a little wet for me to personally use over makeup unless I really needed to. I don't find it greasy and it absorbs really readily into the skin; super easy if you (like me) have people in your family who 'can't be bothered' topping up. There are no excuses when it's this easy; if you're out on a walk then just spray it onto your arms, legs and face every hour or two (as it's not water resistant) and give it a quick rub. No whiteness, no mess. Your filters here are Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Homosalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Uvinul T 150, Tinosorb S and a proprietary UVA filter.
Until recently, I honestly hadn't tried a good super-light mist that wasn't expensive but I really recommend the Ultrasun Face UV Protection Mist SPF 50 | £18. And it's small enough for my weekend handbag! This is transparent, so you aren't going to get a white cast and it has a water feel on the skin; not greasy not overly mattifying. I personally use this for topping up over makeup because it will ensure you're replenishing that protected without interrupting what's on your skin. The filters are Uvinul A Plus, Tinosorb S, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Uvinul T 150 and Diethylhexyl Butamido Triazone. Honestly, not a bad word to say about this one: I really recommend it for on-the-go if you wear makeup. It's a bit of a straight male cliche but despite his caucasian-ness my boyfriend is not good at wearing sunscreen, but when I'm putting this on my face, I can quickly get a good misting on him too!
What are your favourite drugstore sunscreens?