There are two types of people when it comes to sunscreen: those who wear it all year round (in which case, congratulations — you've really got it together) and those who only slather it on when the mercury rises.
Why should you wear sunscreen?
Considering the unholy heatwave we've just experienced, and with more scorching weather on the way, let's assume that sunscreen is on most minds where summer skincare is concerned. Its ability to protect you from uncomfortable burns, irreversible sun damage and skin cancer (melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK) makes it an important addition to any beauty routine.
Finding the perfect sunscreen that caters to your skin's individual needs and doesn't cost the earth is no mean feat, though. Plenty are known to clog pores and cause breakouts, while others can leave behind an unsightly white cast. That's before we've touched on texture (often thick and greasy) and added fragrance, which can irritate sensitive skin.
Luckily, as a beauty editor I've come across some pretty perfect SPF formulas. Recommended by consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF50, £31, is excellent, as is faultless Aussie favourite Ultra Violette Clean Screen Sensitive Skinscreen SPF30, £32. But one thing that lets them down is the price tag, especially when living costs are rising left, right and centre.
What is the best affordable sunscreen?
If you're an R29 regular you'll know that I'm a big fan of affordable skincare. I love both The Ordinary and The Inkey List but I have to admit that the sunscreen products don't grab me. It wasn't until a beauty colleague of mine (who has a hard time with rosacea) mentioned Altruist that my ears really pricked up.
Though relatively under the radar compared to sunscreen giants like La Roche-Posay, Nivea and Garnier, Altruist boasts seriously impressive credentials. With dermatologist Dr Andrew Birnie at the helm, its mission is to reduce skin cancer and make sunscreen accessible to more people. That's why nothing exceeds the £21.50 mark — and that's for an entire litre (yes, a litre) of SPF.
The range features a dedicated Face Fluid SPF50, £9.75 (with countless positive TikTok reviews) but it's the Sunscreen SPF50 which caught my attention, mainly because it is a very affordable £4.75. This may be the cheapest skincare product in my arsenal but it's arguably the smartest. First of all, it has both UVA and UVB sun protection.
UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply and result in signs of premature ageing (like collagen breakdown and fine lines) but they're also responsible for skin cancer. UVB rays are known to cause burns but they too play a role in causing skin cancer.
You might also notice a number of little stars under the letters UVA in a small circle. This is the UVA star rating system, from one to five — five being the most effective when it comes to absorbing UVA rays. For the sunscreen obsessives out there, this Altruist product combines mineral and chemical filters, which is said to provide A+ protection.
Is Altruist sunscreen good?
As the brainchild of a dermatologist, you would expect a sunscreen like this to contain all of the above. Often, though, I've found that derms are more interested in how a product performs than how it feels on the skin or wears under makeup. I'm happy to report that there are no gripes here. It takes more than a couple of seconds to massage the white cream into the skin but it provides a really nice, moisturising base under makeup, which I put down to the addition of superstar ingredient glycerin.
I have combination skin that's prone to oil slicks and hormonal spots. Lots of sunscreens break me out or give my skin a shine that can be seen from space. But not this one. If labels mean something to you, this product carries the 'non-comedogenic' tag so it's proven less likely to clog pores. I wouldn't say it's greasy or tacky like some others but it does leave behind a dewy finish that actually enhances makeup (and makes bare skin gleam if you choose to go foundation-free). I've received a handful of compliments about my skin while using it.
I could wax lyrical about this purse-friendly sunscreen for as long as anyone cares to listen. But are there any issues at all? Some TikTokers mention that it stings eyes but I always take the product up to my under-eyes and slather it all over my eyelids (an area lots of us tend to forget) and I didn't notice any discomfort. Even when washing my face in the shower, the product didn't run into my eyes like others do. If you have super sensitive eyes, the solution is simply to be a little less slapdash with your application. Do not forgo the area entirely.
And what about a white cast on darker skin? Granted, the product doesn't absorb as quickly as some speedy, undetectable favourites, like Glossier Invisible Shield, £20, and SkinCeuticals Ultra Facial UV Defense SPF50+, £41 — chemical and mineral SPFs respectively. But YouTube reviewers like Glow by Ramón (also a cosmetic formulator) and The Style and Beauty Doctor seem impressed with the final result on brown and Black skin, with no white cast (provided you work it in properly). For under £5 (for a whopping 100ml) you can't really go wrong. You can use it on your body, too.
Other reviewers claim that the Face Fluid is a lot lighter in texture and therefore takes less work to rub in. This might be a better option if you do your skincare in a rush. Another thing I like about this brand is that it supports charities which help children with albinism in Africa, as it believes that everybody should be able to protect themselves from the sun.
How often should you reapply sunscreen?
If you're spending prolonged periods in the sun, reapplication every two hours is just as crucial as the initial application if you want to stay safe, especially if you're sweating or swimming. Thankfully, this moisturising sunscreen makes things simple.
When it comes to reapplication, dermatologists taught me that aerosol sunscreens aren't as effective as lotions like this one, while TikTok taught me that tapping your favourite sunscreen lotion into your skin with a makeup sponge is the ultimate way to top up easily. I just squeeze a teaspoonful onto the sponge and get dabbing until all of the product is absorbed. As this sunscreen is a bit more substantial in texture compared to the others mentioned above, it does dull the shade of my blush slightly. But that's nothing a quick touch-up won't sort.
The brand also serves up a sunscreen in a spray bottle (which experts say is a little more effective and precise than those in aerosols), plus an affordable body lotion and sunscreen-free moisturiser for the evening.
I used to be a firm believer that you get what you pay for. But now I realise that good skincare, particularly something as important as sunscreen, doesn't have to cost a fortune. Stockpile it? If you say so.
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