Sunscreen has come a long way. Gone are the days of sticky creams that would make your eyes water, invite a family of spots to set up camp on your forehead, or slide off and take your painstakingly applied makeup with it.
I'd even go as far as to say that sunscreen is cool now. We have cult brands like Glossier and Supergoop! to thank for the change in perception, not to mention high street favourites like Garnier and BYOMA. New innovations in skincare mean that using sunscreen on a daily basis (yes, even in the winter or when it's cloudy outside) feels like less of a chore. With lotions that absorb in seconds, leave no white cast and prime skin for makeup, applying sunscreen is pretty much second nature, just like cleansing and moisturising.
SPF formulas have gotten so good, in fact, that there's an overwhelming number of excellent options to choose from at both ends of the price spectrum. With the cost of skincare creeping upwards, it's likely you're on the lookout for something that works a treat yet won't leave you out of pocket. If that's the case, let me introduce you to the brand-new sunscreen that has replaced most products in my morning skincare routine: The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Dewy Sunscreen SPF 30, £14.99.
So what's in it? Chemical filters are responsible for this sunscreen's protective powers (namely butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane and phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid), rather than mineral ones. Sunscreens with chemical filters instead of zinc and titanium oxide, the two mineral filters, have a handful of advantages as they are often quick and easy to apply and are much less likely to leave behind a white or ashy tinge. This often makes chemical sunscreens a more appealing option for those with deeper skin tones.
In addition to the chemical filters, the sunscreen's star ingredient is polyglutamic acid, which might sound familiar to you for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it rivals hydrating and plumping ingredient hyaluronic acid. Due to its larger molecular size, polyglutamic acid holds significantly more moisture than hyaluronic acid, which makes it an excellent addition to anyone's skincare routine and particularly if your skin is dehydrated (feels tight and uncomfortable after cleansing).
Secondly, it's likely you've seen The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid Serum, £14.99, all over TikTok. The product achieved viral status last year when makeup wearers discovered that mixing it with foundation made for a natural-looking glow. Not only does the brand's new sunscreen champion polyglutamic acid, it also shouts out moisturising glycerin and squalane so that skin is adequately quenched and looked after.
This sunscreen is so good, I've ditched most of my morning skincare (except my trusty cleanser, of course). A 50p-sized amount is enough to do the job of a serum, moisturiser and sunscreen combined, without feeling greasy or heavy. It absorbs relatively quickly and it doesn't make my eyes sting, nor does it get caught in my eyebrows like many other high factor sunscreens out there. As someone with oily skin, I naturally questioned the word 'dewy'. Would it make me look shiny? The Inkey List says that this product is non-comedogenic, which means it's less likely to clog your pores and cause breakouts. It doesn't give my skin the slip I was worried about but lends a nice glow in all the right places, like the tops of my cheekbones. That said, it's so lightweight I can barely feel it. This is especially true under makeup; it's like you're wearing a hydrating moisturiser or primer.
I've used this sunscreen every day for a few weeks now and I'm pretty certain my skin is much better off. Not only is it being protected from the sun (though I'm diligent with sunscreen all year round, especially if headed outside or sat by a window), but the megamix of moisturising ingredients works to smooth over any rough patches of dry skin and minimise any signs of dehydration, such as fine lines.
Don't just take my word for it, though: Amanda Mitchell, Refinery29's senior beauty writer and stories creator, is also a fan. She says it's unlike any other sunscreen she has used. "The texture is closer to a night cream, which makes it great for hydrating your skin," she says. Amanda notes that it takes a second to sink in, which is standard for most sunscreens. But because it's so substantial, she's found herself skipping the hydration step in her skincare routine, as well as her makeup primer. "I've never tried a product with polyglutamic acid in it before, but now I feel like it needs to be in my routine," she says.
I've seen lots of buzz around this sunscreen and the new BYOMA Moisturizing Gel-Cream SPF 30, £14.99, some of it questioning why both products contain SPF 30 and not a higher, more protective SPF 50. Is there really that much of a difference? SPF (or sun protection factor) is a number that helps us understand how long we can spend in the sun without burning. For example, The Inkey List says that if your skin usually burns after 10 minutes of sitting in the sun, then SPF 30 estimates protection for 300 minutes, while SPF 50 estimates 500 minutes of protection. But a few factors are involved here, such as how sensitive your skin might be and the intensity of the sun. Consultant dermatologist Dr Zainab Laftah previously told R29 that SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays (the kind responsible for causing sunburn) while SPF 50 blocks 98%.
Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, told R29 that, put simply, SPF 30 is not as strong as SPF 50. "We know that there may not be huge differences in protection between factor 30 and 50 but this is based on studies under laboratory conditions," she said. The key is to choose a sunscreen that you enjoy using and to reapply it often, said Dr Laftah. I like using a Beautyblender sponge to reapply my sunscreen over makeup. "Consider opting for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against UVB (responsible for sunburn and skin cancer) and UVA wavelengths (which penetrate deeper into the skin resulting in fine lines)," added Dr Laftah. Happily, The Inkey List's sunscreen falls into the broad-spectrum category and provides this souped-up protection.
At £14.99, I predict that this sunscreen will have TikTok's skincare enthusiasts in a chokehold, especially as we're steamrolling into spring. My advice? Don't wait for it to sell out.
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