The new formulas focus on much more than keeping the rays at bay.
Sunscreen offerings so often seem to be the preserve of big companies (Vichy, La Roche Posay, Clarins – the list could go on and on). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that at all – it provides us with a wealth of choice. But lately there’s been a rise in what I call niche suncare: smaller brands edging their way into the market and bringing more personality into the mix.
Take Saltee. This is one of my favourite new lines – and happens to be London-based, too. Its sunscreen for the face has shot to the top of my must-buy charts because it feels like really luxurious skincare. Now we all know that protecting our faces from the sun is part of our skincare regime, but this lotion also leaves skin looking dewy while providing a great base for make-up; plus it’s super lightweight. I love the Face Sea & Sun Formula SPF 50 (£29, saltee.co.uk). There’s no white cast to this finish because it’s what’s known as a chemical sunscreen – i.e., one that absorbs the sun’s rays, as opposed to a mineral sunscreen that sits on top of the skin and reflects the rays.
So why did Saltee decide to take the chemical route? ‘The most important advice to consumers is that they use a higher SPF (30-plus) with very good UVA and UVB protection,’ says brand co-founder Sam Richardson. ‘With mineral versus chemical, the weight of evidence suggests that it’s the individual formulations of sunscreens rather than just the UV filters (which account for ten to 20 per cent of the total ingredients) that determine their suitability for individual skin types.’ So Face Sea & Sun contains natural nourishing ingredients such as Nordic pine bark to help prevent pigmentation and cucumber extract to hydrate. It’s also vegan and paraben-free. The accompanying Body Active Sun Lotion SPF 30 (£32) is great too and reef-friendly – ie free of oxybenzone, the chemical that bleaches coral – from September (YOU readers can currently buy both for £45 at youbeautyshop.co.uk/saltee.)
Oskia SPF 30 Vitamin Face Cream (£58, oskiaskincare.com) also comes with a skincare focus, featuring snow algae and vitamin E to help protect collagen – it also combats the effects of pollution – and glacier water to hydrate. This feels more like a sunscreen thanks to its creamy texture, but also because it’s a mineral version containing zinc and titanium dioxide. Although this gives a slight white cast when applied it does seem to dissipate and feels good on the skin.
On to the body and Sun Bum, an independent US brand created by a group of friends that has recently launched here. This stuff looks cool and smells great with a signature banana fragrance that’s sweet and yummy in that delectable holiday-fun-in-the-sun way. And the Premium Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 50 (£17.99, boots.com) is excellent: it’s a chemical screen (the brand also has a mineral line), includes vitamin E in its formula, and gives a really light veil of water resistant cover with an easy-to-apply aerosol.
Tropic skincare is not exactly a niche brand but neither is it a behemoth. Founder Susie Ma continues to head it up and it still feels very personal. New additions to the collection include Great Barrier Sun Lotion SPF 30 (£28, tropicskincare.com), which mixes chemical sunscreen with mineral (zinc and titanium dioxide) to give a very smoothly textured product that feels moisturising; it also nourishes with vitamin E and smells deliciously of coconut.
All of the above are reef-friendly. The exception in my line-up, and not so niche, is Shiseido Expert Sun Protector Face Cream (£32, shiseido.co.uk), although the company is looking at creating an oxybenzone-free version for next year. This deserves a mention thanks to its SynchroShield responsive UV protection. In other words, the tougher the conditions – whether heat, water or sweat – the harder the formula works to keep skin protected. And it’s all wrapped up in a lightweight texture that’s barely visible on the skin. We’ve pictured the SPF 30 version here but it’s also available in SPF 50; plus there’s an accompanying body range.
After sun? Glow for it!
Keeping with the theme of summer skin, I’ve been trying out Soleil Toujours Après Soleil Exotic Shimmer Body Oil (£46, net-a-porter.com) and really can’t recommend it highly enough. This is a super-luxe blend of oils including rosehip, argan and pomegranate as well as green tea and rosemary leaf extracts, all working to moisturise and soothe the skin. There’s also some jasmine oil in the mix, so it smells great, too. But the bronze shimmer tint is spot on – not too glittery so you really just get a sunny radiance like that look you see in magazines and think they’ve likely faked it somehow. For a less expensive option, try Elf Retro Paradise Glow Up Body Oil (£12, elfcosmetics.co.uk). It doesn’t feel quite as gorgeous to use but it still delivers what its name suggests and comes in two shades: the golden-hued Sunkissed and deeper bronze Golden Hour.
My best budget buy
For a brilliant inexpensive facial sunscreen, try just launched Altruist Face Fluid SPF 50 (£9, amazon.co.uk). Formulated by dermatologists and fragrance free, this has a barely there texture and leaves no white cast (it’s a chemical and mineral mix). Also reef friendly. Top marks.
Beauty assistant: Alice Robertson