Let’s face it: sunscreen used to be one of the most boring skincare products. Formulas were sticky, left a white cast, stung our eyes and didn’t sit well under makeup. Luckily for us, they’ve come a long way since then.

Fast-forward to 2023 and sunscreen is a staple skincare product in many people’s routines. They’re housed in elegant, handbag-sized tubes and cater to all skin tones. In fact, for a lot of beauty editors out there, sunscreen is a favourite product to review and rave about — especially those that don’t break the bank. 

It just so happens that sunscreen is also undoubtedly the most important aspect of a skincare routine. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays, which is essential. “Firstly to reduce the risk of developing skin cancers further down the line and secondly to prevent premature skin ageing,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto

A good rule of thumb to remember is that UVA causes ageing (for example, fine lines and dark spots) and UVB causes burning. It’s imperative to wear sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days. “This is, in fact, the time we often see the worst sunburn due to false security that there is no sunshine around,” adds Dr Mahto. 
Another key thing to consider when making sure you’re well protected from the sun’s rays is that you’ve applied enough product. A good estimate would be a teaspoonful of sunscreen for your entire face and extra for your ears. It might seem like an excessive amount to begin with but Dr Mahto says that most of us tend to vastly under-apply sunscreen and so we often don’t get the stated factor on the bottle. “Wearing high factor sunscreen is also therefore beneficial in protecting the skin.” Dr Mahto says that for this reason, getting protection from a dedicated sunscreen is always better than relying on SPF in moisturiser or makeup.

Generally, the experts agree that the very best SPF is one that you’ll actually wear and beauty editors have strong opinions on the best products on the market. Read on to find out what these seven beauty experts rate the highest when it comes to sunscreens under £20. 

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by us. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, we may earn a commission.

Beauty Pie Featherlight UVA/UVB SPF50 Sunscreen +Primer, £13.50

“While I appreciate that silicones give SPFs that super smooth, second-skin finish, my oily skin doesn’t typically get on with silicone-heavy facial products. However I’m willing to waive that rule for the Featherlight SPF50 sunscreen by Beauty Pie, which strikes the perfect balance between smoothing and moisturising. It gives skin a radiant glow without feeling greasy or tacky. The thing I like best? It sits just as beautifully under makeup as it looks on its own. My SPF collection consists almost exclusively of super high-end formulas (I’m a skincare snob, what can I say?) but this stuff ticks all the boxes. It’s lightweight, non-irritating and impressively high protection.”

Shannon Lawlor, beauty editor

Beauty Pie Featherlight UVA/UVB SPF50 Sunscreen + Primer, $, available at Beauty Pie

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sun Protection Face Mist, £17

“I have oily, blemish-prone skin so I find SPF to be quite tricky to balance in my skincare arsenal. I want to protect my skin but avoid clogging my pores. If I don’t reach for a gel-based SPF then it will be a spray or a mist option — and La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sun Protection Face Mist is gold standard. It protects against UVA and UVB rays, the formula is non-sticky or greasy and, most importantly, it doesn’t leave a white cast. A refreshingly easy top-up throughout the day, I can stay on top of protection while keeping my skin moisturised.”

Nateisha Scott, freelance beauty editor

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sun Protection Face Mist, $, available at Boots

Altruist Face Fluid SPF50, £9.90

“Altruist is one of the most underrated sunscreen brands in my opinion. Created by Dr Andrew Birnie, a UK-based skin cancer specialist, the entire range is extremely affordable (with huge bottles that are great for families and holidays). A particular favourite of mine is the Altruist Face Fluid SPF50. It’s ultra lightweight, sits well under makeup and doesn’t clog my pores or irritate my sensitive rosacea skin. The brand was created to ensure everyone could access sun safety. It supports charities working with children with albinism in Tanzania to protect them from the harsh sun rays and reduce their risk of skin cancer.”

Tori Crowther, freelance beauty editor

Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen Fluid SPF, $, available at Amazon

Escentual Sunscreen SPF50+, £8.95

“I love Escentual Sunscreen SPF50. The formula is super hydrating and always leaves my normal-to-dry skin feeling hydrated throughout the day. It gives my skin such an incredible glow, too, whether I wear it by itself or underneath makeup. As a Black woman, I am happy to report that it doesn’t lend a white cast, which is pretty much my top priority when looking for SPF. Escentual also decided to launch its own initiative in sun safety among children. The retailer has donated over 20,000 sunscreens to schoolchildren in the UK through its buy-one-donate-one scheme.”

Vanese Maddix, freelance beauty journalist

Escentual Sunscreen SPF50+, $, available at Escentual

Bondi Sands Fragrance Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+, £7.99

“I like the original Bondi Sands Fragrance-Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ for Face, and the Bondi Sands Hydra UV Protect SPF50+ Body Lotion. Both of them are super cheap. The Hydra version has a wet texture when first applied but it dries clear and doesn’t leave you looking shiny. The original sunscreen is just as good. It moisturises skin, has no white cast and it doesn’t leave you looking shiny — but it gives you a nice glow.”

Alicia Lartey, aesthetician, skin expert and beauty journalist

Bondi Sands Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+, $, available at Superdrug

Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Anti-age Face Protection Cream SPF50 Tube, £12

“I’ve found all of the Garnier face sun creams to be pretty good and they work well under makeup. The consistency is ultra lightweight, non-comedogenic (less likely to clog pores) and soaks into the skin almost immediately without feeling overly shiny or greasy. Its ability to slot right into any routine without disrupting makeup is a winner.”

Amy Sedghi, freelance beauty journalist

Garnier Super UV Anti-age Face Protection Cream SPF50 Tube, $, available at Boots

Garnier Ambre Solaire Super UV Anti Dark Spots & Anti Pollution Face Fluid SPF50+, £12

“This is the SPF that I make strongly suggest my friends buy when they ask for a recommendation because 1) it’s affordable and 2) it’s really, really good. The very fluid formula means it makes a great base for makeup but it never leaves your skin feeling excessively slippery — and that’s coming from someone with oily skin that doesn’t absorb product very quickly. It also moisturises (partly thanks to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid) and it’s non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog up your pores. That’s especially important if you’re prone to breakouts. That’s all for under £15 and sometimes less if it’s on offer in Boots. A no-brainer.”

Lucy Abbersteen, beauty journalist

Ambre Solaire Super UV Anti Dark Spots & Anti Pollution Face Fluid, $, available at Boots

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