This was another good idea for a post that came from a comment left on another blog post - so thank you Rachel.
I use a moisturiser with sunscreen pretty much every day. I just don't like the look of my skin with a tan, and I subscribe to the idea that sun damage causes a lot of visible ageing of the skin.
Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, and generally release the energy as heat. If you suffer from prickly skin in hot weather, a chemical sunscreen may actually makes things worse for you because of this.
There are many chemical sunscreens, including avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate and octisalate, which block different spectrums of UVA and UVB light. Mexoryl is a stable chemical sunscreen filter that also blocks UVA light well, and is a L'Oreal exclusive. I find the Mexoryl sunscreen formulations to be too silicone-heavy for my skin to tolerate well.
The safety and stability of mainstream chemical sunscreens is something that's been debated widely. I am certainly more comfortable and feel more protected using a sunscreen with at least some physical sunscreen ingredients in it during the summer.
On the positive side, chemical sunscreen ingredients are generally transparent and feel more cosmetically pleasant to apply than physical sunscreens. In the winter, I'm comfortable using a purely chemical sunscreen, as I find them to be less drying than physical sunscreens.
Physical sunscreens reflect UV rays, bouncing them off the skin. They are generally easier for sensitive skins to tolerate, and it's easier to find formulations with less silicones/parabens/mineral oil/whatever than with chemical sunscreens.
Physical sunscreens can be thick and feel tacky when you apply them, and can also leave a white cast that takes a while to sink in. I also find that they have an oil-absorbing effect on the skin; great if you are a bit oily, not so good for a dry skin.
The two types of physical screens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; generally zinc oxide is regarded as the better of the two for a wider spectrum of protection and for being less prone to cause clogged pores.
Chemical sunscreens I've used:
Sarah Chapman Skinesis Dynamic Defence spf 15. I've used and liked this for a few years in the winter, but it isn't one to use over an active treatment serum - the Dynamic Defence itself has a lot of anti-ageing stuff going on and it created a mess on my skin when I tried to pair it up with Perricone Face Firming Activator. If you want a one-stop, treat and protect for normal to dry skin, this is a great day moisturiser. £43 for 40ml.
Algenist Regenerative Anti-Ageing Moisturiser spf 20 is a good winter day cream. It's not as busy as the Sarah Chapman, so you can layer it over an active serum. £68 for 60ml.
Soap & Glory Feel Good Factor spf 25. I found this too silicone-heavy for my skin, but if you don't have a problem with silicones it's a good, less expensive, option. £12 for 50ml.
Institut Esthederm Bronz Repair cream. I didn't follow this initial post up with a review because I really didn't like it and I wouldn't recommend it. I found I had to double cleanse to remove it and still had clogged pores. I also didn't like the look of my skin with a tan, and I tanned extremely quickly with this (that's its selling point, so it's me, not the cream.) It also felt very sunscreen-y. £52 for 50ml.
Physical sunscreens I've used:
Trilogy Vital Moisturising Cream spf 15. Pure Zinc Oxide protection, feels a bit thick when you first apply and looks white but sinks in quite quickly. Inert, nourishing. Shame it's not a higher spf for summer, although if you don't spend a lot of time outside this might be adequate for a typical British summer. £28 for 50ml.
Invisible Zinc spf 30. I haven't reviewed this one on this blog (the link is to the Cult Beauty website where it is sold in the UK). It's another pure zinc oxide block, takes a while to sink and and feels heavy at first but gives extremely good protection. Heavy on the silicones though. £25 for 150ml.
Super Daylight Savings spf 25. I've just started using this (no review yet, link is to product page on the Boots website.) This lists zinc oxide (13.5%) as the sunscreen ingredient, although it does contain titanium dioxide too. This product leaves almost no white cast on my skin at all, which makes me suspect the zinc oxide has been micronised (ground up into incredibly small particles). It does contain mica (but no bismuth, I checked!) for a 'glowy' look - I think it also helps to cover up any potential whitening. I could live without the mica, but it's not Data-from-Star-Trek distracting, it's more a bit Twilight. I like this a lot, although it is also oil-absorbing and my skin can feel a little dry at the end of the day. £28.50 for 30ml.
Combination (chemical and physical) sunscreens:
Chantecaille Firming Sun Cream spf 30. Link is to my review. This is my favourite summer sunscreen. It doesn't feel heavy, it applies well and leaves a semi-matte finish on my normal-in-the-summer skin. It also smells beautiful. £75 for 50ml.
Coola Organics spf 30 Unscented Moisturising Sunscreen. Quite a silicone-heavy base, but feels light, applies easily and gives good protection. I used this last summer after I'd finished a pot of the Chantecaille and was happy with it (it was a PR sample). Mr London liked it too. Link is to Mise Beauty, the UK stockist, as I haven't reviewed it yet. £23.50 for 50ml.
There isn't such a thing as a perfect sunscreen, but I hope that this round up of some sunscreens I've tried together with their good and not so good points might be helpful.
For an oilier skin, I'd recommend one of the mineral sunscreens or the Soap & Glory. For a drier skin, I would recommend the Algenist or Sarah Chapman. The Chantecaille is my personal favourite for the summer, although it's very expensive.
I'd be glad to get recommendations for any other moisturisers with spf to try.