best high SPF sunscreens

What are the best high SPF sunscreens? And should you even use one? Rumour on the street has it, high SPF sunscreens give you a false sense of security. You think you’re better protected, so you don’t bother touching it up… or applying enough in the first place.

Imo, that’s true of ANY sunscreen. This stuff is thick. Greasy. White. A total pain to reapply with makeup on. If you didn’t have to use it, you wouldn’t. All the more reason to go with a high SPF sunscreen. While SPF 30 still lets 3% of UV rays hit your skin, SPF 100 only lets 1% of UV rays through. In other words, SPF 100 works 3x better than SPF 30!

Research confirms this. A 2018 study tested sunscreen in real life, the way real people use it. Participants used SPF 50 on one side of the face and SPF 100 on the other, and then took part in a number of outdoor activities. The results? SPF 100+ sunscreen protects you better against sunburn than SPF 50+!

Unfortunately, governments haven’t caught up on this research, yet. Some countries ban sunscreens with a SPF higher than 50. That’s why you see SPF 50+ a lot lately! Question is, which ones are worth getting? Here are the best high SPF (50+ ) sunscreens to keep you safe all summer long… and beyond:

What To Look For In A High SPF Sunscreen?

Same as in any sunscreen: it needs to provide broad spectrum protection. Pretty much all sunscreens contain adequate protection from UVB rays, but not all of them protect from UVA rays. Here are the UVA filters you should be on the look out for:

  • Avobenzone: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane on the label, it degrades (stops working) quickly when exposed to light, so use it with ingredients that can help it last longer, such as Octocrylene, Mexoryl, or Tinosorb.
  • Mexoryl SX: A.k.a. Ecamsule and terephthalylidine dicamphor sulfonic acid (that’s usually how it disguises itself on the label), it’s developed and patented by L’Oreal. It protects against UVA rays and degrades more slowly when exposed to sunlight than other ingredients like Avobenzone.
  • Tinosorb: It offers protection from all UVA and some UVB rays. It’s photostable and can help other UV filters, such as Avobenzone, last longer, too.
  • Titanium Dioxide: A white mineral that protects against the entire UVB range but only half of the UVA range. It doesn’t irritate skin but can leave a white cast.
  • Zinc Oxide: A white mineral that protects from the entire UV range (finally!). It’s very gentle and non-irritating, but leaves a white cast on the skin.


What can high SPF sunscreens do?

High SPF sunscreens provide broad spectrum protection against UV rays to prevent premature wrinkles, saggy skin, dark spots, and even skin cancer. SPF 30 protects you from 97% of UV rays that hit your skin, while SPF 100 from a whopping 99%! It may seem like a small difference, but it all adds up.

What can’t high SPF sunscreens do?

No sunscreen, not even SPF 100, protects you from 100% of UV rays. A teeny tiny percentage will always get through, so reapply your high SPF sunscreen during the day for maximum effectiveness.

Who should use a high SPF sunscreen?

Everyone should use a high SPF sunscreen in summer or if you live in a climate that’s always torrid.

Who should NOT use a high SPF sunscreen?

If you believe that using a high SPF sunscreen means you can apply it only once in the morning and be safe all day long, then you’re better off using a lower SPF sunscreen and reapplying a couple of times during the day.

Can I use a high SPF sunscreen if I have sensitive skin?

Yes, you can use a high SPF sunscreen if you have sensitive skin, as long as it doesn’t contain any ingredients that may irritate your skin, like fragrance and the old generation of chemical UV filters.

How often should you use a high SPF sunscreen?

Every single day, all year long. UV rays can penetrate through clouds and windows and even get reflected on snow. You’re not safe from UV rays just because you’re indoors or it’s raining outside.

How do you use a high SPF sunscreen?

Apply 1/3 of a teaspoon for face and neck. Gently pat it on your skin and make sure you cover every inch that’s exposed to the sun, including your ears. Reapply as needed during the day.

How often should you apply a high SPF sunscreen?

As you go through your day, touch your face, get more sun lightweight on your skin, run or sweat, some of the sunscreen will brush off your skin. In the summer, when you tend to sweat more, reapply it every couple of hours. In winter, use your judgement and reapply it at least once.

In what order should I apply sunscreen?

Sunscreen is always the LAST step of your morning skincare routine. Then, wait at least 15 minutes for the sunscreen to settle before doing your makeup. If you apply it sooner, you’ll just be removing the sunscreen you’ve just applied!

What Are The Best High SPF Sunscreens?

Best High SPF Sunscreen For Sports: Ultrasun Ultra Sensitive Very High SPF50+ Extreme Formula (£54.00)

This sunscreen uses the latest generation of chemical UV filters: they provide broad spectrum protection without irritating sensitive skin, like the old generation did. Oil-free and fragrance-free, it’s suitable for all skin types, including oily and sensitive. It’s also water-resistant and provides excellent sun protection even in extreme conditions, such as torrid summer days. The texture’s lightweight and absorbs quickly into your skin without leaving a tacky residue behind.

Available at: Boots, Sephora, and SpaceNK

  • Active Ingredients: Tinosorb and Titanium Dioxide.
  • Benefits: Provides excellent broad spectrum protection even in extreme conditions.
  • Cons: Not available in the US (Tinosorb isn’t approved there yet).
  • Skin type: All skin types, especially sensitive.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Best For Acne-Prone Skin: Vichy Capital Soleil Mattifying 3-in-1 SPF50+ (£17.50)

This multi-tasking sunscreen contains the new generation of chemical UV filters to provide gentle broad-spectrum protection without irritation or white cast; probiotics to soothe the redness and irritation that always comes along with acne; and green clay to absorb excess oil. The texture is slightly gritty and dries to a matte finish that keeps oil at bay for a few hours.

Available at: Boots and Sephora

  • Active Ingredients: Univul T, Homosalate, Tinosorb, Bifida Ferment Lysate, and Kaolin.
  • Benefits: Provides broad spectrum protection and mattifies skin.
  • Cons: Not available in the US (Tinosorb isn’t approved there yet).
  • Skin type: Oily and acne-prone.
  • Cruelty-free: No.

Best High SPF Sunscreen For Coverage: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50 ($49.00)

A lot of tinted mineral sunscreens barely offer enough coverage to counteract the white cast they leave behind. Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50 is different. It offers medium colour coverage that evens out the skin tone while providing broad spectrum protection. There are 4 shades available, so not everyone will be able to find the right match. Yet, that’s 3 more shades than most tinted sunscreens offer, so definitely a step in the right direction. The lightweight texture sinks in quickly without leaving a greasy residue behind.

Available at: Colorescience and Dermstore

  • Active Ingredients: 12% Zinc Oxide.
  • Benefits: Provides broad spectrum protection and evens out the skin tone.
  • Cons: Only 4 shades available.
  • Skin type: Suitable for all skin types, but especially dry.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Best Water-Resistant High SPF Sunscreen: Shiseido Expert Sun Protector Face & Body Lotion SPF50+ (£34.00)

A lightweight, moisturising lotion that provides high, broad-spectrum protection in ALL conditions. Whether you’re in the torrid heat of the desert or swimming in the clear blue ocean, this sunscreen will protect you from UV harm for hours (of course, do reapply it at regular intervals). The formula contains fragrance and chemical filters that may irritate the most sensitive of skin types. If that doesn’t bother you, this is a wonderful pick for all your summer and skiing holidays.

Available at: Boots and Sephora

  • Active Ingredients: Chemical UV filters.
  • Benefits: Water-resistant, provides broad spectrum protection in all weather conditions.
  • Cons: Contains fragrance, which can irritate sensitive skin.
  • Skin type: All skin types bar sensitive.
  • Cruelty-free: No.

Related: 3 Reasons Mineral Sunscreen Is Better For Sensitive Skin

Is your sunscreen up to the job? Download your FREE “Sunscreen Audit” cheatsheet to find out if your sunscreen is both effective AND safe:

Best High SPF Korean Sunscreen: COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++ (£21.90)

This sunscreen features a mix of old and new chemical filters with a sprinkle of mineral titanium dioxide to provide broad spectrum protection without the white cast or greasy feel. There’s only a sprinkle of aloe vera here, so not the most soothing formula. But, it does contain a big dollop of hydrating glycerin to keep skin softer and smoother. The consistency is runny and sinks in quickly. You can layer it on easily without experiencing pilling.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Sephora, Stylevana, and Yes Style.

  • Active Ingredients: Chemical UV filters.
  • Benefits: Broad spectrum protection and hydration.
  • Cons: Contains fragrance and very little aloe vera.
  • Skin type: Dry and combination skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Best High SPF Sunscreen For Oily Skin: La Roche Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 ($19.99)

Lost all hope of finding a wearable sunscreen for your oily, breakout-prone skin? Give La Roche Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 a try. For starters, it has a creamy texture that dries down quickly – no dreaded greasy cast here. The best part? It helps absorb excess oil, so you won’t have to blot your face every 5 minutes. It can also withstand heat, humidity and up until 80 minutes in water! Make no mistake, you still have to reapply it during the day – especially if you sweat a lot. But it does offer better protection than most sunscreens out there – and in a texture oily skin will love.

Available at: Blue Mercury, Ulta and Walgreens

  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%.
  • Benefits: Provides broad spectrum protection and mattifies skin.
  • Cons: Synthetic UV filters may irritate sensitive skin.
  • Skin type: Combination and oily skin.
  • Cruelty-free: No.

Related: What Are The Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin?

Best Anti-Aging High SPF Sunscreen: Paula’s Choice RESIST Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 ($37.00)

Paula’s Choice calls it a moisturiser with SPF, but it’s a sunscreen so use it as such. This chemical sunscreen has a very lightweight texture that sinks in quickly into your skin without leaving a white cast or greasy residue behind. It’s also loaded with every antioxidant you can think of to prevent premature aging and boost the effectiveness of the sunscreen. Plus, some of these antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties to soothe the irritation and redness UV rays can cause. Did I mention it works well under makeup too? It’s a sunscreen that doesn’t feel like sunscreen.

Available at: Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK

  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 2.0%, Octinoxate 7.50%, Octisalate 5.0%, Octocrylene 2.0% and antioxidants.
  • Benefits: Broad spectrum protection and wrinkle-prevention.
  • Cons: If you’re allergic to chemical filters, this isn’t for you.
  • Skin type: Every skin type can use it, but it’s most suitable for oily skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Related: What Are The Most Common Antioxidants In Skincare Products?

Best High SPF Sunscreen For Dry Skin: Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60 Soft Sheer Sunscreen Lotion ($32.00)

Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60 Soft Sheer Sunscreen Lotion has a creamy lotion texture that dries to a smooth, non-greasy finish. Its formula is pretty basic, but effective: it protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays and keeps it safe and moisturised for hours. In other words, it does what a good sunscreen is supposed to do. If you’ve got dry skin, you’ll find this a pleasure to use. The best part? It’s 100% fragrance-free.

Available at: Dermstore and Vichy

  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%.
  • Benefits: Provides broad spectrum protection and moisturises skin.
  • Cons: If your skin gets irritated by chemical filters, this isn’t for you.
  • Skin type: Dry skin.
  • Cruelty-free: No.

Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin

Best High SPF Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin: Kinship Self Reflect Sport Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 ($28.00)

This sunscreen has everything sensitive skin needs. It contains a big dollop of zinc oxide, my fave UV filter: it protects, on its own, against the entire UV range without irritating sensitive skin. Plus, ceramides to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and keep it safe from environmental aggressors. Aloe vera and probiotics soothe redness and irritation. The texture’s a bit greasy, but spreads easily and absorbs fairly quickly into your skin. Oily skin may find it too thick and oily, but other skin types will lap it up.

Available at: Credo Beauty and Ulta

  • Active Ingredients: 24% zinc oxide and ceramides.
  • Benefits: Provides broad spectrum protection, moisturises, and soothes.
  • Cons: Texture is a bit greasy.
  • Skin type: Dry and sensitive skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Final Verdict

Sensitive skin? Look for a fragrance-free high SPF sunscreen with zinc oxide. Oily skin? Opt for a lightweight, oil-free option (chemical UV filters are better for this). Dry skin? Your skin needs a moisturising formula that gives skin extra hydration.