For a totally invisible finish: Black Girl Sunscreen
White cast? Don’t know her. Black Girl Sunscreen is an enormously popular SPF from the US that’s clean, vegan, cruelty-free and completely invisible – making it perfect for even the darkest skin tones. Founder Shontay Lundy wanted to create a formula that dries clear but only uses safe and appealing ingredients. You won’t find any hormone-disrupting toxic chemicals here. I especially love its versatility – it doubles as a primer and won’t pill under make up. In addition, it’s a great standalone moisturiser: avocado, sunflower oil and jojoba hydrate the skin without making it look greasy.
For a matte finish: Dear, Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++
If you’re like me and have oily skin that’s only made worse with sunscreen, then you’ll love this chemical SPF from Dear, Klairs. Its unique, gel-like texture means that despite its high SPF, it feels weightless on your skin. Best of all, it dries to a semi-matte finish. I never thought that was even remotely possible with sunscreen. No more greasy morning skin! It’s also sheer, so it won’t show up on tan skin tones. If you have very sensitive or dry skin, this might not be the one for you as the formula does include essential oils (irritating to some skin types) and silica (the latter acts to absorb excess oil on the skin’s surface). However, if you have congested or acne-prone skin which tends to be made worse by most sunscreens, this would be an ideal fit.
For hyperpigmentation: Krave Beauty Beet the Sun SPF PA++++
This smooth, lightweight chemical sunscreen from Krave Beauty dries sheer (but not totally clear) with a dewy finish. Packed with the anti-oxidant power of beetroot extract as well as brightening Vitamin C, this is fairly active for an SPF which makes it great for those looking to get the maximum out of the humble sunscreen. This is our top choice for anyone whose primary concerns are uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation. However, it’s probably also due to the presence of active ingredients that Krave does not recommend Beet the Sun for rosacea-prone or ultra-sensitive skin. Also, strict adherents to clean skincare routines might not like the addition of ethanol (used as a stabilizer). That said, it is a fairly low % and most find Beet the Sun’s formula non-irritating.
For anti-redness and rosacea-prone skin: SVR Sensifine AR SPF50+
Our newest addition to the Kanvas collection is the Sensifine AR range from posh French chemist brand SVR Laboratories. Known for tailored formulations that actually work, the Sensifine AR day cream with SPF reduces rosacea breakouts and redness. This sheer SPF works by targeting blood vessels and flushing with endothelyol: an active ingredient that improves micro-circulation and cools the skin. Honestly, this little sunscreen is nothing less than impressive. When one of our editors developed rosacea last year, she tried every redness treatment under the sun. This sunscreen (along with the rest of the Sensifine AR range) reduced the flushing and evened out her skin tone in a matter of days. After two months, even the appearance of blood vessels around her nose had diminished. We're a fan for life. Available for pre-order on Kanvas Beauty now.
For the perfect base under make-up: Etude House Sunprise Mild Watery Light SPF50+ PA+++
This organic, dewy delight from Etude House is our favourite SPF base to use under a full face of make-up. Once dry, its superior formula does not pill or flake whatsoever. It does contain alcohol, so wouldn’t be our best choice for dry skin (our top pick for an SPF primer for dry skin is Black Girl Sunscreen) but works in harmony with oily or combination skin types. It dries fairly clear, and offers surprisingly high protection for such a lightweight feel. We like its light fragrance but if you don’t tolerate fragrances well, then this is one to avoid. Happily, Etude House has upgraded its formula to exclude essential oils, so sensitive skin shouldn’t find this irritating.
For sensitive skin: Purito Centella Green Level Safe Sun SPF50+ PA++++
Clean, vegan and with no artificial fragrances, Purito’s addition of soothing Centella make this one of the best sunscreens out there for sensitive and reactive skin. I’ve waxed lyrical about this Purito sunscreen previously, given it’s one of the few sheer ones in the K-Beauty Pantheon – making it a suitable candidate for tan skin. It is also very hydrating (without being greasy). Dry skin will drink this up. It honestly doesn’t have a lot of minus points, apart from the fact that it’s not water or sweat resistant. If you’re planning an active day at the beach or working out, make sure you re-apply consistently. This also wouldn’t be my first choice for oily skin. Apart from that, it’s a solid all-rounder.
For anti-ageing benefits: Neogen Probiotics Relief Sun Essence
The geniuses at Neogen have developed a high protection sunscreen that is packed with hyaluronic acid and its trade-marked SUPERPROBIOTICS™ to deliver anti-ageing benefits at the same time. Hyaluronic acid retains moisture on the surface of the skin, whereas Neogen’s SUPERPROBIOTICS™ promise to erase fine lines and refine skin texture at the same time. It doesn’t leave a white cast which makes it suitable for any skin tone, and dries glossy. We love the glowy finish, although oily skin might find it a tad greasy. There’s no alcohol in this formula, only a mild fragrance (which we didn’t find offensive and which dissipates after some time). This is a great fit for mature skin or those looking to combat existing sun damage.
For colour-correcting: Dr Jart+ Every Day Tone-Up Sunscreen SPF50+ PA+++
This mineral sunscreen has a pinkish-beige undertone to immediately “tone-up” or even out lighter skin tones. It’s a great base for make-up or if you want an airbrush effect over your skin. Unfortunately, it isn’t great for tan or darker skin given it is a physical sunblock. If you have fair to very fair skin however, you’ll love the finished look and smooth application. Over time, it’ll work to brighten skin given its relatively high concentration of niacinamide. It also claims to protect against blue-light damage, although whether or not topical creams actually can do this is still a moot point.
For mother and baby: Purito Comfy Water Sun Block
This physical, 70% water broad-spectrum sunscreen can be used on all skin types, even baby skin! It does not get absorbed (hence, not for darker skin tones) but instead adheres comfortably the surface and feels like a light lotion. If you've hesitated to use a physical sunscreen in the past because of that sticky, stuffy feeling, give Purito's Comfy Water Sunblock a go. The cream applies uniformly and smoothly on the skin, for a comfortable wear. Comfy Water Sunblock is safe for pregnant women and even those with hypersensitive skin. It's also one of our top picks for acne-prone skin, given its anti-inflammatory effect and use of non-nano zinc oxide (no blocked pores here).
Best for very oily skin: Dear, Klairs Mid-Day Blue UV Shield
The daytime companion to Dear, Klairs popular Midnight Blue range, Mid-Day Blue UV Shield is a physical sunscreen but can still work on tan skin tones as it only leaves a very light cast once absorbed. We wouldn’t use it under make-up because it can (after a long day) sit on top of the skin rather than blend in. But it’s a great finish to the 7-step K-beauty routine, layering well with serums, drying semi-matte on its own and brightening flushed or dull skin thanks to the light, cool blue undertone. Users with oily skin have noticed that their skin actually gets less oily using this over time, and love the slightly powdery finishing texture.
Best for body: SVR Laboratories Sun Secure Milk SPF50+
This 250ml tube of hypoallergenic sunscreen from SVR offers ultra-strong protection while still being gentle enough for baby skin. Its delicious, velvety, milky texture dries clear with a glossy finish. After rubbing it in, it made our skin look like glass so it was pretty much love at first application! Because the formula is so nourishing, it can double up as a body moisturizer as well (perfect if you’re like us and sometimes too lazy to layer). You won’t need to worry about it melting off in hot weather as it is both water and sweat resistant. We love the addition of power ingredients niacinamide and beta-carotene, and the fact that Sun Secure Milk was formulated with hypersensitive skin in mind.