Tested: Best and worst sun creams revealed as the weather warms up

As the weather gets hotter, we all need to be applying some SPF...
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  • The best sun cream has been revealed by Which?, as well as the other sun creams that have passed their SPF and UVA testing and the ones that haven't.

    You only want to use the best sun creams on your little ones and yourself. You can’t however tell which ones are good – or which ones last all day – simply by looking at the brand or the price tag. Thanks to Which? we now know which sunscreen we’ll be using in future.

    We all know sun creams are an absolute necessity, in fact they’re probably one of the first things you buy before a holiday, or pack before a day in the summer sunshine.

    But they can be expensive, especially considering they don’t last very long! You shouldn’t be keeping a sun cream for longer than 12 months, as it can make the UV protection ineffective.

    MORE: Mum reveals hack to keep baby cool during heatwave

    At least when you pick up a bottle of sun cream in the shops you know it’s got all the protection you and your family need, right?

    Maybe not. Consumer watchdog Which? tested an array of well-known sunscreen, including Lidl sun cream and a popular Aldi sun cream too, that all claimed an SPF of 30 in 2017. And we were shocked to see that one big name brand, which is also the most expensive sun cream they tested, didn’t pass their rigorous testing, with Which? labelling them ‘Don’t Buy’.

    How the best sun creams were tested

    Over their two years of testing, Which? tested an array of recognisable sun creams. From big brands such as Nivea and Hawaiian Tropic to supermarket and shop own-brands like Aldi and Boots. Each of the sunscreens were tested to strict British standards to see if they would provide enough protection against UVA and UVB radiation (UVB is what causes you to burn and UVA is what causes us to age from too much sun, with both types being linked to skin cancer).

    squeezing a bottle of suncream - Best sun creams

    Credit: Getty Images

    To rate the creams fairly, Which? ran two tests to find the best sun cream. For the SPF test, suncream was applied to a small area of a volunteer’s skin, which was then exposed to a UVB lamp. They recorded when the skin turned red, and compared the smallest dose of UVB needed to turn the skin red, with and without the sun cream, to determine the SPF. One product didn’t pass this test.

    The UVA test was carried out using a device called a spectrophotometer, which allows testers to measure the amount of UVA absorbed by the sun cream. All products passed this test.

    But the results were alarming! Especially when you consider that one of the creams that failed the tests costs £10, compared to one that passed which you can pick up for only £2.79.

    Sun creams to avoid: warning signs to look out for

    While it’s important to not just rely on sun cream to protect you from the harmful rays, knowing what to look out for when choosing a sun cream can save you multiple applications or in the worst case, serious sun burn. According to the NHS, things to look out for when buying a sun cream include the SPF factor and UVA protection.

    SPF (sun protection factor) is on a scale of 2 to 50+ based on the level of protection it offers, with 50+ being the maximum. You should look out for low-SPF suncreams as these will offer little protection from the sun, instead opt for high SPF suncreams – 30 and above will offer good protection.

    The star rating that you’ll see on sun cream packaging measures the amount of UVA (ultraviolet A radiation) protection. On suncreams sold in the UK, you should see a star rating of up to 5 stars. The higher the star rating, the better, so opt for one with a high rating of 4 or 5 stars.

    Many suncreams that say they offer ‘all-day’ or ‘6+ hours’ of protection actually often do not. Therefore, don’t rely on this when buying a sun cream and always top-up throughout the day.

    Aldi suncream: How good is Aldi sunscreen

    While some dismiss Aldi suncreams as not being as good as big-name beauty brands, a survey conducted last year revealed just the opposite. According to Channel 5 Shop Smart: Save Money, sun cream from Aldi protects us better from the harmful UV rays than top brands like Garnier Ambre Solaire, Nivea Sun, Piz Buin, Boots, and Superdrug.

    Aldi’s Lacura suncream has a rating of 5 UVA stars, the highest you can get, while the other brands have ratings that hover around the 3 or 4 star mark.

    This means that Aldi suncream is in fact one of the best on the market according to research, and even better, also one of the cheapest with their Lacura suncream coming in this year at only £2.29.

    Best sun creams 2020

    To make sure you’re picking up the best bottle of sun protection for you and the family, read our round-up to find the best suncream out there – and the ones that should be avoided, as rated by Which?…

    HAWAIIAN TROPIC Satin Protection Lotion SPF30

    Hawaiian tropic is one of the best sun creams

    Credit: Hawaiian Tropic

    Price: £6.50
    Price per 100ml: £3.61
    Size (ml): 180
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    When Which? previously tested Hawaiian Tropic Satin Protection Lotion they found that it failed their requirements, but it’s now passed, with five star ratings across the board, and has been recommended as one of their ‘best buy’ formulas. Well done Hawaiian Tropic!

    Which? says: ‘This sunscreen will appeal to people who prefer a lotion, but want it to be quick and easy to apply. Our panel had a mixed response to the smell of this sunscreen – it may not be for everyone.’

    BUY NOW: HAWAIIAN TROPIC Satin Protection Lotion SPF30, £6.50

    Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30

    Soltan is one of the best sun creams

    Credit: Soltan

    Price: £7.50
    Price per 100ml: £2.50
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    Boots own brand products are a go-to for many of us when we’re stocking up on sun care, so we’re pleased to say that their Protect & Moisturise Lotion passed Which?’s tests for several years running. They also passed the sun care spray from the same range.

    Which? says: ‘This product passed our tests, so it’s an effective sun cream. However, our panel didn’t find it as easy to apply as some other sun creams’ – so perhaps not one for use with kids!

    BUY NOW: Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30, £7.50

    ALDI Lacura Suncare Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30

    Aldi's lacura is one of the best sun creams

    Credit: Aldi

    Price: £2.29 – cheapest sun cream!
    Price per 100ml: £1.40
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    The cheapest to be tested, we were pleasantly surprised to see that this sunscreen, from ALDI, passed both tests. And at only £2.79 a bottle, it’s a bargain! They also passed the spray from the same range.

    Which? says: ‘Aldi Lacura Suncare Moisturising Sun Spray SPF30 passed our SPF test, and our panel of testers considered it very easy to apply, so we’ve named it a Best Buy sun cream.’

    BUY NOW: ALDI Lacura Suncare Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30, £2.29

    Calypso Press & Protect Sun Lotion SPF30

    Credit: Calypso

    Price: £4.50
    Price per 100ml: £1.50
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    Another sun cream bargain, this lotion from Calypso actually works out very cheap per 100ml.

    Which? says: ‘This sunscreen is an affordable option and passed our SPF and UVA tests – it’ll help keep you protected in the sun. Our user panel liked the fact that it doesn’t leave skin looking chalky. Our panel found it difficult to apply – it needs more rubbing in than other sun creams and can leave skin feeling a bit sticky or greasy.’

    BUY NOW: Calypso Press & Protect Sun Lotion SPF30

    GARNIER Ambre Solaire Moisturising Protection Spray SPF30

    Credit: Garnier

    Price: £5
    Price per 100ml: £2.50
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    Another lotion from sun cream manufacturer GARNIER, this one also passed both SPF tests set by Which?, and it’s cheaper too.

    Which? says: ‘Garnier Ambre Solaire Moisturising Protection Spray SPF30 passed both our SPF and UVA tests and our panel of testers considered it very easy to apply, so we’ve named it a Best Buy sun cream.’

    BUY NOW: GARNIER Ambre Solaire Moisturising Protection Spray SPF30

    HAWAIIAN TROPIC Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30

    Credit: Hawaiian Tropic

    Price: £6.00
    Price per 100ml: £3
    Size (ml): 180
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    When Which? tested this product in 2015, it didn’t meet their safety standards, but then they reported again in 2017, it passed their tests for both SPF and UVA performance – but only just.

    Which? says: ‘While it’s not a Don’t Buy, this Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen had an average SPF just below 30 in our tests. When we told Hawaiian Tropic about our results, it told us that it stands behind the product’s labelling and that it is compliant with all applicable regulations. It noted the variability inherent in SPF testing and pointed to its own test results that showed that the product had met its label claim in multiple labs.’

    BUY NOW: HAWAIIAN TROPIC Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30, £6

    MALIBU Protective Lotion SPF30

    Credit: Malibu

    Price: £3.49
    Price per 100ml: £1.745
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASSHaving recently been reformulated, MALIBU’s Protective Lotion passed both of Which?’s tests when tested for SPF and UVA protection, after having failed in previous years. Great news considering it’s a bargain at only £4.79 a bottle!

    Which? says: ‘If you do wish to buy this product, we advise you buy a bottle that contains the new formulation – there’s a reference code on the back that starts with ‘FM’.’

    BUY NOW: MALIBU Protective Lotion SPF30, £3.49

    NIVEA SUN Protect & Moisture Sun Lotion SPF30

    Credit: Nivea

    Price: £5
    Price per 100ml: £2.50
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    This lotion from NIVEA is a great buy if you’re off on your holidays and need a sun cream you know will work. They also passed the sun spray from the same range.

    Which? says: ‘Our panel of testers gave this sun cream five stars – it doesn’t leave skin feeling sticky and doesn’t leave a chalky white residue, as some other products do.’ They also named it a Best Buy sun cream.

    BUY NOW: NIVEA SUN Protect & Moisture Sun Lotion SPF30, £5

    AVON Sun+ Multi Protection Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30

    Credit: Avon

    Price: £8.96
    Price per 100ml: £6.72
    Size (ml): 150
    SPF test performance: FAIL
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: FAIL

    Avon’s sun cream is the most expensive product tested, and worryingly, it didn’t pass either test.

    Which? says: ‘This product didn’t pass our SPF tests, so we think it’s one to avoid – especially as there are many other sunscreens that offered reliable protection in our tests. It’s also the priciest product we tested in 2017 – once again, our results show that price isn’t tied with quality in the world of sun protection.

    ‘When we told Avon about our results, it said it was confident in its own testing which showed the lotion to have SPF30, followed internationally recognised protocols and was conducted by external laboratories with specific expertise in this area.’

    BUY NOW: AVON Sun+ Multi Protection Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30

    M&S Sun Smart Moisture Protect Sun Lotion SPF30

    Credit: M&S

    Price: £6.50
    Price per 100ml: £3.25
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    One of the pricier options in the round up, but according to Which?, M&S’s own brand lotion will keep you well protected on your hols.

    Which? says: ‘This effective sun cream will keep you protected in the sun. It earned three stars in our application test – panellists liked its scent and said it didn’t leave a white sheen.’

    BUY NOW: M&S Sun Smart Moisture Protect Sun Lotion SPF30, £6.50

    Morrisons Sun Lotion SPF30

    morrisons' sun cream is one of the best creams

    Credit: Morrisons

    Price: £3.00
    Price per 100ml: £1.50
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    Another supermarket bargain buy, Morrisons sun cream didn’t quite reach the status of Bargain Buy, but it met all the required safety standards.

    Which? says: ‘Our panel told us it’s easy to apply and doesn’t leave an unpleasant sheen on skin like some products. Your skin may feel a little greasy or sticky immediately after application.’

    BUY NOW: Morrisons Sun Lotion SPF30, £3

    Best face sun cream

    While it’s perfectly fine to use sun cream designed for the body on your face, those who suffer with acne-prone skin and other conditions might want to invest in a face-specific sun cream as they’re lighter and absorb quicker to help prevent break outs.

    La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream SPF 50+

    best face sun cream

    Credit: La Roche Posay

    For high-quality facial sun cream, La Roche Posay’s SPF 50+ Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream is one of the best out there. Although it comes with a higher price tag, it’s worth investing in if you really struggle with acne-prone skin. The ingredients create a lightweight cream which provides a spectrum of defence against harmful UVA, UVB and infrared radiation, while also moisturising the skin and helping to create a healthy complexion.

    BUY NOW: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Comfort Cream SPF 50+ 50ml, £17.50

    NIVEA SUN UV Face Suncream SPF 50 Shine Control 50ml

    best face sun creams

    Credit: Nivea

    Nivea’s specialist face sun cream is another great option! Especially formulated to create a long-lasting, mattifying effect, meaning that you can wear it under makeup and avoid the classic greasy shine that many suncreams create. It’s lightweight and immediately absorbs excess oils from the surface of your skin, meaning that it’s a winner for those prone to acne.

    As one happy customer said, ‘I’m always on the search for a good SPF as struggle with creams that are too greasy or leave you with a weird tint. This is great! Light and absorbs easily and didn’t leave a shine, greasy feel on the skin. Also works under make-up. Very happy with it!’

    BUY NOW: NIVEA SUN UV Face Suncream SPF 50 Shine Control 50ml, £8

    PIZ BUIN Allergy Sun Sensitive Face Cream SPF30 50ml

    best face sun creams

    Credit: Piz Bruin

    We love Piz Bruin’s facial sun cream as it was designed alongside dermatologists, with sensitive skin in mind. This means that it’s really effective in preventing prickly sensations and blotchiness caused by UV rays on the skin. It offers sun protection along with the brand’s unique anti-irritant shield, helping our skin to become more resistant to the sun in the long term as well.

    BUY NOW: PIZ BUIN Allergy Sun Sensitive Face Cream SPF30 50ml, £7

    Baby suncream: The best sunscreen for babies and children

    Keeping little ones protected from the sun is essential. These are the best sun creams on the market, designed exclusively with babies and small children in mind…

    GARNIER Ambre Solaire Dry Mist SPF30

    Credit: Garnier

    Price: £6.00
    Price per 100ml: £3.00
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    This ultra-light dry mist spray is another great buy for those family holidays when you’ll be hitting any sandy beaches, although it’s a little more pricey.

    Its easy absorption makes it perfect for kids, who don’t like to wait around for sun cream.

    Which? says:
    ‘Quick and straightforward to apply and easily absorbed by skin – it doesn’t leave a white sheen. Our user panel awarded it five stars in our application tests. Your skin may feel greasy immediately after application, but it will go on to feel soft.

    BUY NOW: GARNIER Ambre Solaire Dry Mist SPF30, £6

    Soltan Kids Suncare Stick SPF50+ 25g

    Credit: Soltan

    This is one of Soltan’s best sun creams, simply for its ease of use. The stick-style method of application will make it easy to quickly covers your kids’ faces before they dash off again, giving them all-day protection from the sun. The 5 UVA stars and 50+ SPF means the cream will keep them completely safe from the sun, but it’s always important to pair sun cream with other methods of sun protection like hats and clothes.

    Perfect for sticking in your bag for a day out at the park or beach, so you’re prepared when the sun comes out.

    BUY NOW: Soltan Kids Suncare Stick SPF50+ 25g, £3.50

    Aveeno Baby Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 50

    best sun cream for babies and children

    Credit: Aveeno

    This baby sun cream from Aveeno is formulated especially for babies and children with sensitive skin. The secret ingredient in this sun cream is the oats, which lock moisture into the skin and don’t dry it out, therefore making sure that your baby’s skin stays healthy and nourished in the sun.

    It also offers a naturally high sun protection and is water resistant for 80 minutes, so you can let them splash around for a bit before slathering them up again.

    BUY NOW: Aveeno Baby Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 50, £11.57

    NIVEA SUN Kids Protect & Care Suncream Lotion SPF 50+

    Credit: Nivea

    There’s a reason why Nivea is a family favourite when it comes to sun cream. This baby and children-specific sun cream is a good consistency, meaning that it absorbs into the skin nicely without too much effort, while offering full coverage with a high UVA and SPF protection factors. Notably, it also doesn’t leave stains on clothes which when it comes to little ones, is always an important factor to look out for!

    BUY NOW: NIVEA SUN Kids Protect & Care Suncream Lotion SPF 50+, £6

    Best sun creams for eczema and sensitive skin

    ASDA Protect Sun Lotion SFP30

    Credit: Asada

    Price: £2.39
    Price per 100ml: £1.75
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    Another sun cream bargain, this ASDA lotion is only £3.50 for a 200ml bottle and also passed both Which? tests.

    Which? says: ‘Our panellists appreciated the scent of this sun cream, and found it fairly easy to apply. They awarded it four stars for application.’

    This product was tested by Which? in 2016 for eczema and sensitive skin.

    BUY NOW: ASDA Protect Sun Lotion SFP30, £2.39

    PIZ BUIN Allergy Sensitive Lotion SPF30

    Piz bruin allergy sun cream is one of the best sun creams for sensitive skin

    Credit: Piz Buin

    Price: £8
    Price per 100ml: £4
    Size (ml): 200
    SPF test performance: PASS
    UVA test performance: PASS
    Overall pass: PASS

    Some Piz Buin products, such as their Ultra Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid, have failed Which? tests in the past, but their Allergy Sensitive Lotion passed both the UVA and SPF standards in 2017. It’s not the cheapest bottle in the bunch, but if it’s your preferred brand, you can rest assured that you’re getting proper protection!

    Which? says: ‘This reliable sun cream will help keep you protected in the sun. It has a pleasant scent, too.

    It takes a long time to be absorbed by skin and our panel said it left their skin feeling sticky and greasy after application.’

    BUY NOW: PIZ BUIN Allergy Sensitive Lotion SPF30, £8

    La Roche-Posay Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF50+

    best and worst sun creams

    Credit: La Roche Posay

    This one hasn’t been tested by Which? but we love it. La Roche-Posay is often praised for its skin-friendly formulas, and this SPF50 is no different. A lightweight fluid, it glides onto your skin and absorbs quickly for fast protection. It’s been created for particularly sensitive skin, so its high protection factor should work for just about anyone. It’s also got the essential UVA, UVB and Infrared protection shields, so you rest assured that your skin is shielded against the rays.

    BUY NOW: La Roche-Posay Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid SPF50+, £13.10

    Ultrasun SPF30 Family

    Credit: Ultrasun

    We rate this Ultrasun Family sun lotion very highly for sensitive skin. It might come with a larger price tag than some of the other sun creams, but it’s family sized (400ml) so no need to keep popping more sun cream in your basket every time you go shopping. This sun cream is lightweight on the skin and has been created with the brand’s Lipsome Complex, which helps to shield skin from the damaging UVA rays – without making you sticky or greasy.

    BUY NOW: Ultrasun SPF30 Family, £46 (for 400ml)

    Best after sun cream

    Although we try our best to protect our family’s and our own skin from the sun, sometimes you slip up. Whether it’s a patch of uncovered skin lying in the sun or you’re caught out on an unexpectedly sunny day, whatever the reason for your sun burn, cool it down with these soothing after-sun creams.

    NIVEA SUN After Sun Moisturising Soothing Lotion

    Credit: Nivea

    Nivea is long-time family favourite when it comes to after-sun care cream. This is their iconic product – a sun lotion and hydrating moisturiser, coming together to form fast-action and quick-absorbing sun burn cream. The cream is enriched with aloe vera and avocado for that unique soft and silk finish, which will cool and soothe burnt skin.

    As one customer says, ‘Yes! I’m sad to admit my 4 year old got a nasty sunburn whilst playing in a cousins hot tub. I used so much of this, absolutely slathered it on him and my word it did wonders! Highly reccomend it!’

    BUY NOW: NIVEA SUN After Sun Moisturising Soothing Lotion, £4.50

    PIZ BUIN After Sun – Tan Intensifying Moisturising Lotion

    Piz bruin after sun cream is one of the best creams for sunburn

    Credit: Piz Bruin

    Revitalise your skin after spending time in the sun with Piz Bruin’s after sun, if you’re looking for a tan-intensifying effect. This lotion will both help restore your skin’s natural moisture balance and help to off-set the effects of the sun burn to prevent peeling. Using the plant extract Tanimel, it both boots your tan and offers 24-hour moisturising for restoration.

    One Amazon customer said this product really makes a difference to their skin. ‘I love this product. I have very fair skin and can easily burn rather than tan. That started to change when I found the Piz Buin sunscreens. But this after sun takes it to another level for me. I don’t itch. I don’t burn. I don’t peel. I actually wake up the next day with a bit of a tan rather than looking like a patchwork quilt.’

    BUY NOW: PIZ BUIN After Sun – Tan Intensifying Moisturising Lotion

    Calypso After Sun Moisturising Lotion

    calypso after sun cream is one of the best creams for sunburn

    Credit: Calypso

    If you’re looking for the most after-sun for your money, then we definitely recommened Calypso’s after sun. It’s £5 for 450ml and contains aloe vera to help cool down your skin. We also love this as just a general, affordable body moisturiser for it’s all-over hydration effect.

    BUY NOW: Calypso After Sun Moisturising Lotion, £5

    Get great deals when you buy the best sun creams and after-sun lotions online, through major retailers like Amazon, Boots and LookFantastic.