In the last weeks, I tried a bunch of new facial sunscreens. I believe any sunscreen must have outstanding levels of protection against UVA rays – those that do not burn the skin but penetrate it deeply, causing havoc –. The recently launched UVmune 400 range from La Roche-Posay (LRP) contains a new, presumably better UVA filter. But do those LRP products protect better than other sunscreens with outstanding UVA and UVB filters? Discover my analysis, verdict, and current sunscreens for the season.
Last updated: July 1st, 2022
Hi everyone, and welcome! Before anything, let me remind you that my facial skin is oily on the forehead, nose, and chin. And normal (not greasy nor dry) on my cheeks, jaw, and neck. I also have rosacea (you can check the article I wrote last summer about it), although it is not severe.
If your skin is not somehow similar to mine, you will still benefit from reading this article. On the one hand, if your skin is normal or dry, you could use a heavy moisturizer underneath the products I will discuss below (I always use lightweight moisturizers).
On the other hand, I will discuss sunscreen filters included in many products on the market (besides the formulations featured in this article). You can learn about outstanding filters and how to discern a good facial sunscreen. So keep reading!
Regarding skin tone, my facial skin is light/medium with olive undertones. I always wear sunscreen, but my face gets easily tanned no matter what. I am also prone to melasma (a type of hyperpigmentation fostered by UVA rays).
Cutaneous effects of exposure to UVB and UVA light
The sunlight spectrum comprises three types of light: ultraviolet (invisible to our eye), visible (the light that we can see), and infrared (which we sense in the form of heat). Have a look at the image below.
Ultraviolet rays make up <10% of the sunlight radiation. However they carry much more energy than visible or infrared light and therefore have the potential to cause far more skin damage than visible or infrared rays.
Ultraviolet C (UVC) rays are the most energetic. Luckily, they get absorbed by the ozone layer and do not reach us.
UVB rays (290-320 nm) reach the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) and may cause sunburns and skin cancers.
UVA makes it to the dermis and can foster photo-aging (wrinkles, laxity, dark spots), melasma, and also skin cancers; it comprises the UVA2 (320-340 nm) and UVA1 (340-400 nm) regions.
UVB and UVA protection ratings
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of topical sunscreens features their protection against UVB light. It is a number (for instance, 30, 50, or 50+). Thus, it is easy to know the precise level of UVB protection that a product offers.
Nonetheless, it’s not so easy to know the exact level of UVA protection that a product provides. There are several UVA protection rating systems. Yet they are not as straightforward as the SPF rating for UVB protection.
One is the PA+ PA++, PA+++ or PA++++ ranking that you will typically see on products sold on Asian markets (PA++++ means high UVA protection and PA+ low UVA protection). Or the Boots Rating System in the UK (that ranks the amount of UVA protection from 1 to 5 stars).
However, in the European Union or the US, for instance, there is no such rating. In the US, sunscreen products labeled Broad Spectrum guarantee at least a minimum and meaningful level of protection against UVA rays.
In the EU, a circle around the UVA symbol on the packaging means that a given product has adequate UVA protection according to the EU regulation for sunscreens. That suitable level must be just a fraction of the amount of protection against UVB featured by the same product.
So, it is up to the sunscreen manufacturer or skincare brand whether a product offers the best protection against UVA rays – which would be the closest possible to SPF50+ if we were talking about UVB protection –.
My current sunscreens for this season
I chose three different formulations with very high UVB and UVA protection (according to current sunscreen market standards). They can all be considered lightweight (and suitable for skins with oily features). I will use each of them for different purposes – that I explain below –.
Heavy duty. LRP Anthelios UVmune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF50+
This is the updated version of the previous Shaka Fluid. It contains a new proprietary L’Oréal UVA filter called MCE (Methoxypropylamino Cyclohexenylidene Ethoxyethylcyanoacetate), along with seven other UVB/A filters (see the table below).
MCE blocks UVA rays in the UVA1 region (340-400 nm) with a peak of UV absorption at 385 nanometers (nm), very close to 400 nm (but not beyond that, it barely absorbs visible light rays).
Some other authorized UVA filters do not absorb so well those UVA rays nearest to 400 nm. And that’s from where the UVmune 400 trade name stems. It looks as if the sunscreen products in the UVmune 400 range had a clear competitive advantage.
But is that true? Are there no other UV filters to this day that could do the same job as the new MCE filter?
My opinion (based on science) is that the MCE filter is an excellent addition to the UVA1 filter family. Yet, it might not be the only one that effectively counteracts the longest UVA rays (up to 400 nm, also called long UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin).
I will explain that in the last section of the article, where I will compare MCE to another approved UVA1 filter (for example, in the EU).
Application and texture
This sunscreen contains alcohol denatured. Partly because of that, it does not feel refreshing when applied to the skin. It has an alcoholic smell and causes a stingy feeling on the skin (and even eyes), but all that goes away after a few minutes. That seems to be the price for its high protection, water resistance, and light, fast-absorbing texture.
However, after those initial minutes, it feels good on the skin. In my case, I notice a very minimal sticky layer if I touch the skin. Pretty comfortable for heavy-duty (very water and sweat-resistant) sunscreen.
It does not bother my eyes after those early moments. Neither feels drying on my skin despite the alcohol-denatured content. However, if you have dry skin, you might prefer the hydrating creams within the UVmune 400 range (instead of the invisible fluid).
I can even apply a light layer of makeup on top of it: first, a bit of foundation (a lightweight one from Lancôme), tapping with a Beauty Blender (a makeup sponge). Then a thin layer of mineral powder (from MAC) on focused areas (around the eyes and on the T zone).
Once, I did all that (makeup included), then danced like crazy for almost an hour in the gym. After that, I could feel sweat drops all over my face on top of the sunscreen layer (it was still there, pretty hard-core).
In the past, I always used the Shaka Fluid (the previous version of this sunscreen) while at the beach. Because of the high protection and water resistance properties. I am using the UVmune 400 Invisible Fluid now for similar purposes.
I will use the following sunscreens (featured below) the rest of the time. Why? Because the UVmune 400 invisible fluid provokes contact dermatitis (and even some acne) on my chin if I wear it for a prolonged time.
I noticed that from the very first use. I applied it at home, then reapplied it in the afternoon (no water activities or makeup involved that day), and after less than 24 hours, I had all those little itchy spots on my chin area.
That often happens to me with sunscreens that include many organic (non-mineral) UV filters, especially if they are water-resistant.
Therefore, I will use the UVmune 400 Invisible Fluid at the sea or swimming pool. But once the water and sweat dynamics are over, I will apply other highly protective yet not water-resistant sunscreens (read below).
Hydrating primer. Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel SPF50+ PA++++
I like that one. It features hyaluronic acid of various molecular weights, niacinamide, Centella asiatica, glycerin, and ceramides. Therefore it is very hydrating. It feels super-lightweight and devoid of stingy feelings on the skin or eyes.
It contains seven UV filters. Five are modern and photostable UV filters (see the table below). Octisalate (ethylhexyl salicylate) and homosalate are the other two: older UVB filters that I probably would not choose if I were to design a sunscreen (but are not necessarily bad).
That particular Isntree sunscreen contains Bisoctrizole (Tinosorb M, methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tretamethylbutylphenol). Besides other highly protective UVA filters [such as Uvinul A plus (diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate)]. The mix of UVB and UVA filters in it makes it a well-rounded one.
When purchasing sunscreen, you should pay attention to the blend of filters: they should cover both the UVB and UVA regions appropriately.
Sunscreens that contain both Tinosorb S (Bemotrizinol, bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine) and Tinosorb M (Bisoctrizole, methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tretamethylbutylphenol) are usually great options because those two filters together offer excellent coverage of the UVB, UVA2, and UVA1 regions of the UV spectrum (see below).
What I like the most about this particular sunscreen is that, despite its content of Bisoctrizole (Tinosorb M), it does not leave any white cast on the skin.
Bisoctrizole is a modern, hybrid filter that shares properties of organic and inorganic (mineral) filters.
Hence, as inorganic filters (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) do, Bisoctrizole can leave a whitish residue on the skin (especially if you have skin with olive or dark tones or undertones, like me).
Moreover, this product (see it on the image above) works well under makeup. It has a dewy finish on the skin (without or with makeup on top) but is not overly shiny.
Unlike the Invisible Fluid from LRP, it does not cause contact dermatitis or breakouts on my skin despite the high amount of UVB/A filters. And I can apply it to my hairline (no white cast, no significant greasiness).
In addition, it holds well on the skin for a long time. However, it is not water-resistant (although it might be close to that).
For me, the main con is that you have to import it from Asia, and it can take a while (weeks) to arrive at your door. I order it on Stylevana, where you can get bundles of this and other Asian skincare products.
Matte & comfy. Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun: Rice + Probiotics SPF50+ PA++++
Another favorite of mine. I also enjoy this sunscreen very much. I also bought it on Stylevana.
It feels very light and hydrating upon application due to its high content of rice extract (30%) and other ingredients with moisturizing properties such as glycerin, niacinamide, or various bacterial ferment extracts.
What do I like the most about it? Its excellent UV filter profile provides high protection across all the UV spectrum with just a blend of four efficient filters (see the table below). Therefore it does not bring about any contact dermatitis or breakout on my skin.
What do I like the least about it? It leaves a tiny, subtle white trace on my skin, presumably due to the relatively high content of the hybrid filter Bisoctrizole.
So, for me, it does not play as well as the Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel under makeup. I apply a tiny bit of foundation on top (or nothing) and warm it up with some bronzer/coral blush.
It is easy to apply, and I do love its slightly matte finish. That makes it a comfortable everyday sunscreen (it is non-water resistant).
However, I will not use this sunscreen on those days when I feel like applying more makeup. Although I never apply too much. I like a natural finish even when I add a radiant touch of color (for example, on the lips).
I forgot to mention before that the three featured sunscreens lack fragrance or essential oils that could react in an undesired manner with the UV filters or the skin.
Does the La Roche-Posay UVmune 400 product offer better UVA protection?
The UV protection that a given sunscreen filter provides depends on its profile of UV absorption. In other words, the wavelength ranges it can absorb and the amount of radiation it can counteract within those ranges. The latter will also depend on the quantity of that particular UV filter within a given sunscreen formulation (aka, the concentration of the filter).
Let’s compare the UV absorption of the new UVA filter from L’Oréal (MCE) with that of another UVA filter, Bisoctrizole (Tinosorb M).
On the one hand, MCE absorbs UV rays within the UVA1 spectrum (from 340 to 400 nm) with a sharp peak at 385nm (see the image below).
On the other hand, Bisoctrizole also absorbs rays across the entire UVA1 region (340-400 nm) with a non-abrupt peak at 360 nm that fuses as it decays with a second non-sharp peak or shoulder at 380 nm (see the image underneath). That is, there is relatively high UV absorption from Bisoctrizole at 380 nm and beyond.
Therefore, a given sunscreen formulation (let’s name it F1) with a reasonable amount of Bisoctrizole can absorb 385 nm UV rays to a similar extent as another similar formulation with MCE instead (let’s call it F2).
In the absence of other UVA filters, the relative amount of Bisoctrizole in F1 will probably have to be slightly higher than the amount of MCE in F2 to give a similar amount of protection at 385 nm and beyond. But that’s not something unachievable in the least.
MCE is an achievement regarding protection from long UVA rays. However, other outstanding UVA1 filters can do a similar job protecting the skin against the damaging longer UVA rays.
Therefore, you can still rely on sunscreens other than the UVmune 400 range from La Roche-Posay for similarly high UVA protection. That said, not all sunscreens offer that level of reliability.
I hope this article was useful. Please let me know if you have any questions. What sunscreens are you using this summer? Do you have any new findings? Leave a comment below!
Thank you, and see you soon!
For your reference:
Sunscreens with the new MCE filter cover the whole UV spectrum: improved UVA1 photoprotection in vitro and in a randomized controlled trial. Marionnet C et al., JID Innov, 2021; Nov 25;2(1):100070.
Global state of sunscreens. Osterwalder U et al., Photodermatol Photoimmunol, Photomed; 2014; 30(2-3): 62-80.
3 responses to “Top sunscreens 2022 for oily and non-oily skin”
[…] English […]
Thank you for sharing this review, I found it really useful because I’m exactly using these 3 sunscreens on my daily routine at the moment. I love the Instree and BoJ but needed a stronger one for the holiday so just purchased the Anthelios.
Tania you’re welcome!! I’m glad you found the article useful. I think the UVmune 400 Fluid from La Roche Posay is a great purchase; I’m using that product much more than I thought I would do 🙂