There was a time when all we wanted our sunscreens to do is keep our skin safe from the sun. They earned bonus points if they managed to do so without being greasy, chalky, or pore-clogging. But, we’ve come a long way since the days of basic SPF. Thanks to today's high-tech formulas, sun protection is so advanced it can function as skincare.
Now, you might be wondering to yourself, haven’t we had SPF skincare for a while now? The answer to that is yes and no. "There are some sun products with a low level of additional [skincare] actives, but truly are only for sun protection, and other products that have high actives or are primarily a product like a moisturizer, but their SPF level—or the amount of the product that you will use—are not enough for protection," U.S. general manager for Skinceuticals Stephanie Kramer explains.
Today's new breed of hybrid products, however, are truly dual-action. They blend high levels of active ingredients that correct specific skin issues like breakouts, redness, dehydration, fine lines, dullness, and hyperpigmentation. Simultaneously, they protect your skin from UVA and UVB damage using the latest in sun filter and mineral block technology.
"Enriching SPF formulations with hardworking actives that hit on some of your other skin goals is not only a clap back to the subpar sunscreens of yesteryear, but gives sunscreen wearers a leveled-up option over a more purpose-built sunscreen," explains Zitsticka co-founder Daniel Kaplan, whose latest launch MegaShade is a combination blemish treatment and sunscreen serum. "Rather than layering your actives or day serum under a sunscreen and wondering about possible ingredient interactions, a high-quality SPF-skincare hybrid can serve as an all-in-one that’s dermatologically tested and saves you time."
And it’s something consumers have been asking for as we’ve come to understand the lasting effects of sun damage on our skin. "UV rays can make skin concerns worse, especially post-acne scars, age spots, and wrinkles," says cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat Ron Robinson. "As consumer awareness of the importance of wearing sunscreen grows, beauty manufacturers are answering that need with better sunscreen formulas as well as more options."
While there will always be a need for traditional sunscreen options, dual-action formulas are the way of the future, according to Robinson and Skinceuticals partner dermatologist Dr. Kim Nichols. "Hybrid products are going to become increasingly popular as it is clear that consumers are looking for more than just a standard SPF for their daily routines," Dr. Nichols says. "[They] will help continue to elevate the SPF category and ensure there is an appropriate product available for everyone and their skincare concerns."
With that in mind, we rounded up eight of the latest skincare SPFs that promise to enhance and correct your complexion as they keep you safe from the sun. The future of sunscreen is bright, and these innovative products are leading the way.
Skinceuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen
As Kramer notes, UV exposure triggers melanin production, which in turn leads to dark spots. Skinceuticals latest SPF uses antioxidant niacinamide and tone evening tranexamic acid to mitigate those effects. "This SPF was carefully designed with potent skincare ingredients like one percent tranexamic acid, two percent niacinamide, and 0.3 percent phenylethyl resorcinol to help reduce existing discoloration while broad-spectrum chemical UV filters help protect against future sun damage," she explains.
"This formula is a major innovation as the ways in which the ingredients interact together truly offer a multi-benefit product that is significantly different from a traditional SPF," Dr. Nichols adds. "The results are also impressive as it has proven to reduce visible discoloration by 24 percent, brighten skin’s radiance by 24 percent, and immediately hydrate the skin by 57 percent."
Zitsticka MegaShade Breakout-Proof SPF Serum
With some SPFs, diligent daily use can leave your pores clogged and irritate acne-prone skin. Zitsticka set out to do the impossible by creating a sunscreen that not only won’t induce pimples but that actively works to calm them in the process as it helps stop dark spots from forming or worsening and adding non-greasy hydration to the skin.
"While it would’ve been easy to just stop at an 'acne-prone friendly SPF', we wanted to create something that reflected one of our main brand missions: to fight acne," Kaplan says. "Along with the SPF actives, we wanted to utilize some of our O.G. acne-fighting ingredients such as niacinamide, tea tree, and hyaluronic acid—all of which have many other phenomenal benefits besides soothing irritation."
The result is a daily silky serum that uses many ingredients geared towards blemish-prone skin, including the aforementioned trio, plus antioxidant ferulic acid and vitamin E, vitamin C-rich Kakadu plum, inflammation-soothing colloidal oatmeal, and moisturizing hyaluronic acid and ceramides. "MegaShade supplies comprehensive broad-spectrum protection from the sun, skin-soothing benefits, protection from free radicals, brightening effects, optimal hydration, and, of course, acne-fighting benefits—you’re basically hitting six goals with one product," Kaplan notes.
Mara Algae + Zinc Sea Kale Sunscreen Sérum
Combining beneficial marine botanicals with plant oils is already a home run for your skin on the anti-aging and nourishment front. But, beauty brand Mara went one step further by blending in oil-soluble zinc to make this SPF 30 serum a double whammy. It protects against future damage as it goes to work on existing concerns.
"I truly believe every ingredient in a formulation should serve a purpose, even in SPF, so we found a unique opportunity to bring a first-to-market, 100% oil-based sunscreen centering around zinc oxide for broad-spectrum sun protection," founder Allison McNamara says. "Because our zinc is oil soluble, we were able to play with highly efficacious plant oils like moringa, as well as our proprietary algae blend and marine actives that help defend against blue light and photoaging. It also uses the power of algae and marine botanicals, which are workhorses for anti-aging, elasticity, and firmness and full of antioxidants and vitamin C for warding off oxidative damage."
Le Prunier Plumscreen
Using upcycled, antioxidant-rich plums grown on a century-old family farm, Le Prunier’s upcoming Plumscreen is a marvel of nature-meets-science innovation. Non-nano zinc oxide gives the sunscreen its SPF 31 protection factor, but it’s the patent-pending Plum Superfruit Complex that’s the star.
It uses the brand's signature plum oil, plus hydrating Zonaria tournefortii (a type of algae) to impart some serious anti-aging benefits. With continued use, the sunscreen will reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, firm skin, boost hydration, minimize the severity of dark spots, and improve your skin’s radiance.
EltaMD UV Glow
EltaMD has become a favorite amongst dermatologists because it offers fantastic sun protection without aggravating even the most sensitive of skin types. The brand’s latest SPF takes things up a notch by eliminating dullness and supercharging skin’s radiance. It's formulated with a cocktail of advanced skincare actives that work in tandem with sun protection.
"EltaMD UV Glow was created to address skin concerns related to dullness as well as discoloration and overall uneven skin tone to brighten and hydrate skin for a dewy, healthy glow," EltaMD's senior product development and commercialization manager Melanie Timms says. "Antioxidants play very well with sunscreens, so it’s a good idea to use them together. However, we wanted to take it a step further by incorporating not one but three antioxidants in UV Glow. We took a more [thoughtful] approach in selecting a triple antioxidant blend of niacinamide, vitamin E, and the powerhouse antioxidant ergothioneine for enhanced skin benefits beyond just UV and free radical protection."
The resulting formula not only protects skin from the sun’s free radical damage but also actively enhances your skin’s luminosity and protects skin types prone to discoloration and breakouts, like those with rosacea, hyperpigmentation, or acne.
Urban Skin Rx ShineBlock Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30
This sunscreen is a powerhouse product that soothes and hydrates sensitive and blemish-prone skin. Designed specifically for melanin-rich skin types, the mattifying SPF 30 uses oil-controlling ingredients like camphor bark and anti-inflammatory safflower extract to control shine and balance surface oils. It’s also made with a unique zinc oxide that is broken down into nano-particles, which provides maximum blendability and eliminates the white cast commonly associated with mineral sunblock.
Medik8 Physical Sunscreen
On the other end of the spectrum is the U.K.-based brand Medik8’s Physical Sunscreen. On the surface, it seems very much like your traditional SPF with a few ancillary skincare benefits thrown in for good measure. But dig a little deeper, and you find the complex formula is hiding a few secrets, specifically when it comes to sensitive skin types.
"Our Physical Sunscreen is a true all-rounder," Medik8 director of research Daniel Isaacs says. "It offers a high level of everyday sun protection and nourishing skin barrier support with a whole host of skincare technologies for impressive results. The non-nano zinc oxide physical sunscreen features a post-treatment complex composed of grapeseed extract, green tea extract, bisabolol, and allantoin. It works to keep delicate skin hydrated and soothed along with an extremely high level of sun protection."