Ahh sunscreen! While I wouldn’t say I ever was anti-sunscreen… I do cringe at some of the practices I once followed. I think that I – along with many others – was misinformed by fearmongers around sunscreen for a long time.
Many of the physical sunscreens I used would break me out, make my face ghost white, and be generally uncomfortable to wear. This made me have a really shitty relationship with sunscreen, which ultimately lead me to not wearing any for a period in my life. I just felt there weren’t any good options. Now, five years later, I kind of blame the green and clean community for my wrinkles lol.
With jokes aside, my collection of sunscreens are kind of ironic considering my past. I do wish all of them could at least be cruelty-free and vegan. But I found that being less dogmatic about one’s values, when it comes to sunscreen, is the best approach to wearing any. SPF is sort of a medical must and I think everyone should do what’s practically possible for them. The most important thing is to find one that you like and will wear without a fuss. And for me, personally, brands like Vichy and La Roche Posay are much more readily available, much more comfortable and elegant to wear, and are sold at a decent price point.
I also do wish to apologize in advance that this post doesn’t include at least one sunscreen with a physical UV filter for anyone who can’t tolerate chemical filters. I’ve found that the top best sunscreens lean towards being chemical-based, Those physical sunscreens I do like are makeup-based and which I, unfortunately, can’t recommend as a stand-alone sunscreen. Because of their coverage, you can’t apply an adequate amount. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll find one that I can comfortably recommend.
Without further ado, here are the best sunscreens of the year 2021…
A note on Eye-Irritation
Instead of repeating myself for every product, I’ll just gather my experience of how well every product performed around the eye area here.
I believe that all fluid sunscreens are safe/tested to be used around the eyes as they have better technology to not slide around on the face. Most of them are also water-resistant. But from my experience, fluid sunscreens can still sting the eye if you get teary-eyed or accidentally touch your face to then poke your eye or something.
I’ve seen some people using the Invisible fluid on their eyelids. However, I only apply around the eyes (brow bone and under) and, nevertheless, it finds its way into my eyes to tear me up later that day. The cream-based sunscreens are more prone to sliding and causing eye irritation. So overall, I find all of them to potentially irritate the eye at some level if they get close; cream-based more so than fluid ones.
My Top Favorite Sunscreens
(with the exception of one)
La Roche Posay Invisible Fluid SPF 50+
SWEAT-/WATER RESISTANT: ✔
USED: ON TOP OF MOISTURIZER
Also goes, or went, under the name “Shaka Fluid”. This sunscreen has built itself a little cult-following since I discovered it about 2-3 years ago. I remember giving this a go with a huge skepticism as it contains alcohol, which was a huge no-no at the time. Not to mention, that this is an all-chemical sunscreen. Coming from the green and natural beauty space, I felt a bit shameful, to be honest.
I picked this up because I was tired of trying to find a physical sunscreen that didn’t leave me looking ready for my casket. Physical sunscreens aren’t either very popular in Europe making them less readily available. I wanted to find something close to home that did not leave me looking dead, worked great under makeup, didn’t break me out or dry out my skin, and felt light. And this one happened to check everything on my list! I have never looked back to physical sunscreens ever since!
The Invisible Fluid reapplies without issue or heaviness and is long-lasting. It’s my go-to in the summertime for its light feel. Its finish is so good that I compare every sunscreen I try to it. Very few can compare to its elegancy. The alcohol doesn’t feel drying at all. But if your skin barrier is damaged or very sensitive, it may sting a bit.
I don’t have any bad thing to say other than that I wish it came in a bigger-sized bottle also. Yes, LRP recently came out with an Invisible Fluid spray for the body. But the ingredients aren’t exactly the same, the one for the body leaves skin feeling tacky compared to the one for the face that sinks right in. It’s just not as elegant tbh and suits drier skin types better.
This is my absolute favorite summertime sunscreen. But for wintertime, I do opt for some of the others mentioned down below.
EVY Daily Defense Face Mousse SPF 50+
SWEAT-/WATER RESISTANT: ✔
USED: INSTEAD OF MOISTURIZER
Praised and loved by many Swedes made me buy this twice. However, I don’t share the same love for it! One part of me wants to say that I absolutely hate it. There. I said it. But the other part of me wants to love it and make it work. The long-lasting formula guarantees high protection up to 6 hours – meaning no need for frequent application in normal conditions! – is very seductive for someone active like myself. And loads of people love this sunscreen!
However, what I concluded is that EVY is best suited for very dry skin, wintertime, or water sports. There are just better daily sunscreens for hot and humid weather out there in my opinion.
I’ve been reading reviews, and some say that it “sink right in”. Well, those reviews are often published during wintertime or by those that suffer from extremely dry skin. And I totally can see how the EVY Daily Defense would be perfect for wintertime! But it feels a bit overkill with such a long-lasting sunscreen when we only have 4 hours of daylight during that time? (speaking of Sweden ofc, I guess it would be perfect in other parts of the world).
EVY’s sunscreens don’t leave a white cast and work as a primer under makeup. But I personally feel, especially in warm weather, that the EVY sunscreens aren’t very comfortable to wear and leaves my skin feeling like it has something on. Unless you, perhaps, dry it down with powder or a matte foundation, it feels sticky to the touch hours after and leaves the face sort of shiny.
This isn’t a fuss-free for-all-skin-types kind of sunscreen. Both my boyfriend and I find the mousse being very difficult to measure and apply. How do you even make sure you’re using enough? How big is a golf ball exactly? And if you do apply to the point of “just in case” you’re left with feeling like you took too much. And I’ve had more issues with teary eyes than with the rest because it’s the slowest of all sunscreens to sink into my skin,
Something to note is that the Daily UV is supposed to replace your moisturizer. The first time I used it, I didn’t do that… Which explained why it felt too hydrating and I hated it. But even using it more correctly hasn’t made me fall in love, as it’s still too hydrating for me during most days in the summertime.
I bought the blue bottle for the body thinking it would dry down quicker, but it was even worse. If anything, I preferred their Daily UV for both face and body. Overall, I like it for the beach and long city walks, but not a favorite of mine to use in hot and humid climates. If they ever come out with an elegant dry-touch formula, I’ll definitely be the first one in line!
Vichy UV Age Daily SPF 50+
SWEAT-/WATER RESISTANT: ✔
USED: ON TOP OR INSTEAD OF MOISTURIZER
Vichy UV Age daily fluid brings a modern take on my beloved fluid sunscreen from LRP. A worthy opponent to say the least. Apart from having similar (if not the same) consistency as the Invisible Fluid, it packs a few antioxidant punches with 1% Vitamin E, 4% Peptides complex, 2% Niacinamide, and 10% Vichy Volcanic Mineralizing Water and Probiotic Fractions. And while the Invisible Fluid works more like a separate sunscreen, the Vichy Daily UV is recommended to replace your daytime moisturizer. But with its light feel, you can also use it on top of your moisturizer if you feel the need for more moisture.
There’s really not much setting them apart when it comes to finish and feel. Maybe this one’s slightly more hydrating? I wish the fragrance wasn’t in there but I find it to fade quickly and doesn’t feel lingering after a few uses.
I really enjoy using this one as a daily alternative to the Invisible Fluid but with more oomph. It is a bit more expensive and comes at 40ml instead of 50ml. According to the website, it’s only sweat-resistant. So not exactly for the beach. However, I do think it’s a great alternative if you want a light SPF with more active ingredients and don’t mind the fragrance!
La Roche Posay Age Correct SPF 50+
SWEAT-/WATER RESISTANT: ✖
USED: INSTEAD OF MOISTURIZER
I picked this up mainly for my boyfriend who usually uses the CeraVe moisturizer SPF 25 during wintertime. I wanted him to up his game for the summer with SPF 50 and this was a similar 2-in-1 option!
The LRP Age Correct SPF is more expensive than the CeraVe, but the texture is ridiculously similar. While Age Correct doesn’t contain ceramides, it’s boosted with some niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, PHE-resorcinol, and LHA. It also claims to fade dark spots making the skin more even with time. And just like the Vichy UV Age fluid, this has fragrance. But I would say mild and not very long-lasting. This one also doesn’t sting my eyes as badly as the CeraVe SPF.
I measured that one full pump is about 1/4 of a teaspoon, which takes out the guessing part, as that’s perfectly enough for the face. This has a tendency to ball up when applying certain foundations, but not as much as the CeraVe SPF I would say. It leaves the skin looking dewy but sinks into a drier finish within an hour or two.
I really like and recommend this one (and so does my boyfriend) as an everyday moisturizer with high SPF. I will keep using and alternating it between the CeraVe during wintertime.
Garnier Anti-Dark Spot Super UV Fluid SPF 50+
SWEAT-/WATER RESISTANT: ✖
USED: ON TOP OF MOISTRUIZER
This is another great alternative to the LRP invisible fluid! However, I think the name is a bit misleading. It doesn’t have any active ingredients other than hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. What I mean, there’s really nothing in it, other than sunscreen, that fights dark spots. So it doesn’t make it special in any way like the name suggests. If anything, if we’re going to play that game, the Vichy UV Age fluid has more punch in fighting sun damage and pollution.
Overall, there’s not a huge difference in the texture and feel compared to the other fluid sunscreens. All-in-all, they are equally on par with the LRP Invisible Fluid that I hold the dearest. Still, I would say that the Garnier Super UV Fluid one dries and stays slightly more matte than the other two. Therefore it may suit oily skin types more.
As the texture and feel are so similar to the one from LRP, there’s really nothing bad to say about it. I really enjoy this one and would say that it makes a great everyday sunscreen alternative to the LRP invisible fluid for days you don’t need that water-resistant formula. I rather use this one when spending most of my time inside than the invisible fluid. It’s also the cheapest of the fluids mentioned here. So if you don’t need sweat resistance and don’t care about any extra added active ingredients, but like the fluid texture, I’d pick this one up!
Shangpree Phyto Essence Uv SPF 50+
SWEAT-/WATER RESISTANT: ✖
USED: ON TOP OR INSTEAD OF MOISTRUIZER
I bought this one earlier this year in the wintertime when it was on sale. However, I quickly felt it wasn’t suitable during cold weather as it made my skin feel very dry. So I saved it for summertime, and this is really where it shines! It’s an Asian brand, so the formula is made for their typical hot and humid climate. In fact, this one outperforms all of the sunscreens above when it comes to the comfort of the skin in high humidity!
It leaves the skin looking radiant but the texture dries down matte to the touch and stays that way. With all the others, skin starts to feel slightly tacky and sticky in a humid environment, but not with this one! The skin stays feeling dry! This feature makes it also more suited for oily skin I would say.
The Shangpree Phyto Essence UV does not leave any white cast and works great under makeup (no pilling!). But has mainly older chemical filters compared to the other ones on this list. Although it is sort of humidity-proof, it’s not water-resistant. So, therefore, more your everyday sunscreen and not for sports. It has a list of many nourishing ingredients, which you would expect from an Asian sunscreen. But despite mushroom extract and such, my skin feels a bit dehydrated at the end of the day.
The only downsides of this sunscreen are that it is quite fragranced and the packaging makes it a bit difficult to squeeze out everything. And while I see that they’ve updated the packaging (and may have even reformulated), removing the silver on top, it still doesn’t look like an improvement. I do like it, however, wouldn’t necessarily repurchase it unless I know I’m going somewhere really humid as the formula felt a bit drying for my skin. It’s also the most expensive one on the list.
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