The innovative new SPF formulas that'll change the way you view suncare

Posted by
Lucy Partington

Whether sunscreen makes you break out, messes with your make-up, or already have your SPF game down to pat but want to get specific, our look into the reinvention of sun care as we know it will answer all your questions. 

Greasy, sticky, poreclogging… sun cream has long had a bad reputation, but new formulas mean all that’s finally changing. Yes, suncare is being formulated with specific issues in mind, leaving no excuse to not be protected. Think UV water, setting sprays and SPF eye creams…

For SPF Haters

It seems that many of us are reluctant to wear sunscreen: according to Garnier, 61% of women find it too greasy or sticky. However, some brands are turning away from creams and creating SPF waters instead. “The water formula was developed in partnership with scientists in Japan,” says Louisa Gayford, Garnier’s scientific advisor. “They pioneer light textures. 

People in Asia are exposed to heat and humidity all year long and so they look for comfortable and efficient products.” The waters use the same bi-phase technology found in eye make-up removers. “The oil phase contains the UV filters, emollients and vitamin E, and the water phase has the hydrating and antioxidant properties that moisturise skin,” explains Jessica Tierney, scientific specialist for Vichy Laboratories. 

So they have all the benefits of a cream in a lightweight water formula. You’ll reapply them regularly because you actively want to, not because you have to.

Vichy Ideal Soleil Hydrating SPF 30 Solar Protective Water  

Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection helps keep skin safe from harmful rays, while beta carotene, a natural antioxidant, enhances the colour of your natural tan. 

£ 19,

Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Water SPF 30

The bi-phase formula is non-sticky and protects skin from UVA and UVB rays. Formulated with aloe vera water, it helps hydrate skin too. 


For Specific Skin Issues

Many people are put off wearing traditional SPF because they’re concerned about getting spots or worsening existing conditions. Loading on thick, heavy creams can contribute to breakouts, but “a lot of newer formulas are lighter weight and less greasy,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk. If you have blackheads, acne or oily skin, choose a non-comedogenic formula to avoid additional pore blocking. 

A product that protects against visible light as well as UV rays can help if you’re suffering from pigmentation, and physical formulations (that sit on skin to deflect rays rather than being absorbed) are less likely to cause irritation for those with sensitive or reactive skin, or conditions such as rosacea. The only thing that’s universally important regardless of skin type? “Have UVA and UVB protection and, ideally, an SPF of at least 30,” says Kluk. Consider us told. 

SVR Sebiaclear Cream SPF 50 

Murad City Skin Age Defence SPF 50 

On top of UVA and UVB protection, it also defends against visible light, pollution and infrared. 


Paula’s Choice Skincare Calm Mineral Moisturiser SPF 30 

Free from fragrance and colourants, this will reduce redness and calm flare-ups. 


For Make-Up Wearers

One of the biggest bugbears for dermatologists is that people don’t apply enough SPF over the course of a day, especially if it’s under make-up. “To get adequate protection, the right amount of sunscreen – a teaspoon is enough for face and neck – needs to be applied first thing, and then reapplied every few hours,” says Kluk. Taking off make-up mid work day to top up your SPF, though? Not ideal. 

But new dry SPF mists and setting sprays can solve that. “A dedicated sunscreen should still be applied each morning, then throughout the day spray enough to make sure skin is really well coated and coverage is even, and they will work as an alternative to topping up with creams,” advises Kluk. If that’s not your bag, try an SPF setting powder. 

They physically block rather than absorb the sun’s rays – sweep on a few coats to make sure you’re getting adequate protection. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not possible to go overboard.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Face Mist SPF 50+

A dry spray that’s invisible on skin, this doubles as a refreshing mist. 


Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50

This 100% chemical-free sunscreen won’t clog pores and can be used over foundation in place of your usual powder. 


Coola Make-Up Setting Spray SPF 30

This super-fine spray will keep make-up perfectly in place, while green tea and aloe help nourish skin. 


For SPF Obsessives 

If you’re anything like the Stylist beauty team, there’s no such thing as too much SPF. That’s why we’re big fans of body-part-specific sun protection. So much so that we always recommend using a separate SPF on the eye area. 

“The skin around the eyelids is thinner and can be more sensitive in certain people,” says Kluk. “So using something dedicated to that may be beneficial to people prone to irritation.” The same goes for lips: they can burn just like anywhere else, so keep a balm handy. Kluk recommends applying before going in the sun and topping it up every few hours. 

Or choose a product that has hydrating properties and replace the old one you’ve had stashed in your handbag for years. The same goes for hand cream: swap the one on your desk for an SPF formula. You won’t notice the difference and you’ll reduce the risk of developing age spots. Everyone’s a winner, right? 

SkinCeuticals Mineral Eye UV Defense SPF 30

A non-migrating formula that won’t run into your eyes, it’s also safe to use on lids and has a sheer tint that’s perfect for applying make-up over. 


Alpha-H Protection Plus Handcream SPF 50+

With vitamins C and E to fight oxidative stress, this hydrates and protects hands without leaving greasy residue. 


Ultra Sun SPF 40 Ultra Lip Balm 

Blackcurrant seed oil helps moisturise lips, while this protects against pollution as well as the sun. It sits well under lipstick, too. 



Share this article


Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington is Stylist’s beauty editor. She’s obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she’ll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.