I reviewed over 40 sunscreens in 2020. Here are 10 things I learned.

Hi! I’m Hannah and I love testing sunscreens. I love wearing them, I love reapplying them, and I love the way they keep my skin happy and healthy. 

As a sunscreen advocate with a pharmaceutical research background, I've tried A LOT of different sunscreens. In 2020 alone, I tried over 40 different formulations. 

Why? So you don't have to! 

I'm committed to finding the best sunscreens for every skin type - and making the science behind SPF relatable.

Watch: Here's how to protect your skin from the sun.

Video via Mamamia

Here, I've rounded up 10 of the most important things I learned after reviewing over 40 sunscreens in 2020, including the savey and spendy options that take top place.

I’ve picked up some handy tips and tricks along the way, so I hope you learn something here too!

1. 'Flashback' from sunscreen is a myth. 

I started photographing every single sunscreen with flash (all kinds of sunscreens) and not one gave me a visible flashback. Not even the thickest zinc-based sunscreens. 

Please wear sunscreen every day - it won’t ruin your photos, I promise.


2. Sunscreen is no more likely to break you out than any other product category. 

It's true! Don't be scared your sunscreen will make you break out any more than your other skincare products. 

A tip: Be sure to properly cleanse at night. For example, massage your cleanser in for at least a minute, or do a double cleanse. 

If you're prone to breakouts and acne, I promise that paying more attention to the cleansing step will change your skin.

Listen: There are a lot of rumours, myths and misinformation out there about sunscreen. UVA vs. UVB? Chemical vs. physical? On this episode of You Beauty’s Wildcard series, Leigh sits down with chemistry PhD and science educator, Michelle Wong from Lab Muffin, to discuss all things sunscreen and sun safety.

3. You should never apply SPF near your eyes.

It’s all very well to complain about eye sting, but did you know an Australian sunscreen label must state “avoid contact with eyes”? 

Experience the sunscreen eye burn on the regular? Here’s a handy little demo on how to correctly apply your sunscreen to prevent irritation around your eyes:


I guess we can collectively stop complaining about eye sting now!

4. Opt for a sunscreen with antioxidants.

It’s nice to have a sunscreen that includes antioxidants. Why? Well, for a few different reasons.

Basically, UV radiation generates free radicals in your skin (and just a refresher – free radicals are volatile molecules that can destabilise things like cell membranes, DNA, and other important cellular proteins). 

Our bodies have mechanisms for neutralising them and repairing the damage, but these mechanisms can be overwhelmed, and that’s why antioxidants are important for a protective daytime skincare routine. 

If your sunscreen contains a nice percentage of antioxidants, it saves you a step in your morning skincare.

Now, I don’t mind a ten-step AM regimen, but according to a poll I ran on Twitter (very scientific, of course), I’m in the minority here. We like things quick and easy in the morning, so get a sunscreen that can do it all!


5. There's more to it than 'chemical' and 'mineral' sunscreens.

There are over 30 UV filters approved for use in Australia. I know it’s easy to just separate sunscreens into "chemical" or "mineral", but there’s a lot more nuance to it than that. Some sunscreens have both chemical and mineral filters! 

6. Reactions to sunscreens are often due to fragrances.

If you have a reaction to a sunscreen, it could be a UV filter, but it could also be the perfume, the preservative, or any other ingredient in the product. So, don't steer clear of sunscreen because you think you'll react to "all of them."

Also, a dermatologist can help you to isolate which ingredients might be the problem, so you know exactly what to look out for. This could mean you’re able to use a lot more types of sunscreen than you thought! 

7. All skin tones need sunscreen.

All skin tones need sunscreen for ongoing skin health, and yet… a lot of brands solely cater to fair skin, by making products with a significant white cast. 

I’ve seen some brands that only shoot the product on fair skin, and some that will shoot the product on a range of skin tones but not apply enough, or say things like “less is more.”

Less is not more with sunscreen. More is more. If the product suggests that less is more, run. It’s actually mandated in Australia that a sunscreen label “should include statements to the effect that the product should be applied to the skin in generous amounts.” (Check out the TGA website for more on this).

8. Sunscreens should come in a bigger tube.

After reviewing so many sunscreens last year, I realised just how fast they tend to run out. Especially when you're applying them correctly (remember, more is more!). 

I’d love to see sunscreens for face come in a bigger tube – if we’re reapplying regularly per the labelled instructions, we run out so quickly!


9. Sunscreen is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Even between skin types, people’s sunscreen preferences can be very different. 

Some prefer to use in place of moisturiser, so don’t mind quite a moisturising formula even for oilier skin. Some prefer the lightest possible texture, even with dry skin, because they prefer to get moisture from another cream underneath. 

So, it's important to find a formula that works for your individual skin type. Luckily, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to options!

10. Price is not indicative of wearability.

I’ve tried pricey sunscreens that are gorgeous and pricey sunscreens that are… not. And the same goes for more inexpensive sunscreens. Some are lovely, some aren’t. 

The best savey sunscreens I tried in 2020.

On that note, here are five of my favourite pharmacy sunscreens:

Dry, sensitive skin: Sunsense Moisturising Face SPF50+, $13.49.


Light as air: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50+, $20.69.

Oily skin
: Cancer Council Face Day Wear Moisturiser SPF50+, $13.49.


2-in-1 moisturising sunscreen: Bondi Sands Hydra UV Protect SPF50+, $22.95.


The best spendy sunscreens I tried in 2020.

And here are five favourite fancier ones:

Normal/combination skin: Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF50+, $40.

Oily or acne-prone skin: TBH Skincare Skin Shady SPF50+, $42.


Sensitive skin: Ultra Violette Lean Screen SPF50+, $45.


Dry skin/very high protection: Skinceuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF50+, $55.

For 2021, I’m predicting more elegant sunscreens for body, that we can use as our daily body cream. Because we all have our faces sorted now, right?


For more from Hannah, check out her stories here and follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Instagram; @ms_hannah_e

What are your favourite sunscreens? Share with us in the comment section below.

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