French sunscreen comprises a fundamental part of every flawless-skinned Parisienne's skincare routine. And what might be the reason for that? Well, sun exposure doesn't just leave nasty burns; it is also responsible for 90% of the visible signs of ageing and a heightened risk of skin cancer. Furthermore, even on an overcast or rainy day, your exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun will still range from moderate to very high levels, so it is imperative to stay protected with high-quality sunscreen daily.
There are two types of UV rays emitted from the sun. UV-A rays cause rapid ageing of the skin, and the shorter wavelengths of UV-A cause sunburn. UV-B penetrates and damages the outermost layers of your skin; overexposure causes suntan, sunburn and, in severe cases, blistering. You indisputably require protection from both types, and this fact is critical during the decision process for choosing the best French pharmacy sunscreen.
Another major factor when deciding which sunscreen to choose is SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF measurements refer exclusively to UV-B rays; the higher the SPF value, the longer it takes your skin to redden or burn. Our recommendation is to choose a French sun cream with an SPF of at least 30, meaning that you expose yourself to only 3% of the usual amount of UV-B rays. An SPF of 50 drops your UV-B exposure down to just 2%!
The final deciding factors are variable depending on your preference, skin type and use case. Our top 10 picks narrow down the best French sunscreens for you based on all these remaining factors. Enjoy!
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1. Most popular sunscreen
The La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid sunscreen is a cult-favourite amongst French pharmacy shoppers, due in large part to its lightweight, protective formula. It is imbued with La Roche Posay's famous Thermal Spring Water, which soothes and hydrates skin, and is completely free from parabens, fragrances, and oils. There are multiple versions available in order to accomodate every skin type, all of which feel super light on the skin, and absorb incredibly quickly.
It possesses a plethora of impressive efficacy & tolerability results, is featured in our French Skincare Routine guide and is recommended by 9 out of 10 dermatologists globally. So perhaps unsurprisingly, this French pharmacy staple is our clear winner for the most popular French sunscreen (and a contender for most other categories in this top 10 list).
As part of the same 'Anthelios' collection, La Roche Posay also boasts one of the best tinted sunscreens - definitely worth checking out if they have already piqued your interest!
2. Best overall sunscreen
Chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin (thus avoiding the white-cast problem that plagues mineral sunscreens), which then absorbs UV rays converting them into harmless thermal energy. Despite their efficacy, chemical sunscreens have garnered a poor reputation over the years for causing skin to break out. However, since French chemical sunscreens adhere to strict European regulations, they are *far* more gentle and tolerable.
Easily one of the best overall French sunscreens - that just so happens to be a chemical sunscreen - is the Vichy Capital Soleil Face & Body Lotion. The formula is enriched with Mexoryl XL, a patented filter system that provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection that stays on the surface of the skin, and it has a super silky, non-greasy texture that absorbs quickly into the skin (face and body!) without leaving a residue.
3. Best sunscreen under makeup
Combining sunscreen with makeup can genuinely be one of the most frustrating experiences in the world. Often it can even be enough to put you off from using sunscreen entirely, but trust me, it's not worth it, and there is a miracle solution that exists.
Lancome's UV Expert Aquagel Defense SPF50 provides the perfect canvas for all your makeup and is the ultimate way to sneak a high SPF into your daily routine, effortlessly and invisibly. The fresh, lightweight cream-gel texture gives a non-greasy, matte finish, and it truly is just a joy to use each day as your dedicated facial sunscreen.
Check out our Best French Makeup Brands buyer's guide for more details!
4. Best sunscreen for the beach
Being at the beach is one of the ultimate pleasures; it doesn't get much better than relaxing stress-free in the sand on a hot summer's day with a cool sea breeze lapping over your body. French women understand that in order not to spoil this pleasure, you must also stay protected.
Biotherm's Spray Solaire Lacte Ultra-Light Sun Spray SPF 30 is the absolute best French sun cream for days at the beach for several reasons:
- It was developed with 'Sun Sea Wind Technology' to defend skin from the effects of sea, wind & salt;
- It is a water-resistant, moisturizing sun spray;
- It features a lightweight milky texture for easy application;
- And it contains Life Plankton & Vitamin E for moisturizing & soothing benefits.
Make sure that you reapply frequently and generously for maximum effect!
5. Best luxury sunscreen
Just like with anything else, you get what you pay for, and when it comes to protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation from the sun, you should seriously consider opting for a higher-end option.
With its innovative anti-ageing mechanism powered by potent active ingredients, the luxurious Sunleÿa G.E. SPF30 sunscreen acts as a sun protection shield while also protecting your skin from photo-induced ageing. With the combination of cutting-edge and ultra-advanced sun filters, you get the absolute best protection against UVA and UVB rays.
It has a silky texture with a fresh feel, absorbs rapidly, leaves no white traces on the skin, is non-comedogenic, and is water-resistant. This really is the crème de la crème of sunscreens and the best luxury French sunscreen.
6. Best sunscreen for sensitive skin
As outlined in our Best French Skincare Brands post, French pharmacy products are a haven for sensitive skin due to their famously gentle and simplistic formulas. French sunscreens are no exception; in fact, it is rather tricky to find one that *doesn't* work well for sensitive skin.
As opposed to chemical sunscreen, mineral sunscreen uses zinc oxide or titanium oxide - or sometimes both - as the active UV protection ingredient. The minerals sit on your skin's surface and act like microscopic mirrors to reflect harmful rays. Since this type of sunscreen doesn't get absorbed into the skin, it is much less likely to clog pores and is generally much more gentle.
One such gentle mineral sunscreen doubling up as the best French sunscreen for sensitive skin is Avene's Solaire UV Mineral Sunscreen Fluid. It boasts a light matte finish, broad-spectrum UV-A & UV-B defence, free-radical protection, water resistance and soothing Avene thermal spring water. Unlike many other mineral sunscreens, it does not leave much of a white cast on the face at all. Exceeding our expectations on all fronts, it will slot perfectly into any sensitive skincare routine.
7. Best sunscreen for oily skin
Additional shine may feel like the last thing you need if you have oily skin, but contrary to popular belief, sunscreen actually reduces shininess. Oiliness and acne-prone skin is a well-known symptom of a damaged moisture barrier, hence the first port of call for resolving these problems is to nurture your moisture barrier back to health. The best and most effective way of protecting your moisture barrier from further damage is by using sunscreen!
Biotherm's Creme Solaire Dry Touch UV-A/UV-B Face Cream is the best French sunscreen for oily skin. It boasts an oil-free, nurturing formula that penetrates quickly into your skin without leaving a white sticky film and dries with a lovely matte finish. Furthermore, it is beautifully compatible with any sensitizing retinoid treatment that you may be using!
8. Best moisturizing sunscreen
Another frustrating experience when it comes to completing the perfect skincare routine is finding products that layer well together without pilling on the skin. Whilst this is much less of a problem with French skincare products thanks to their elegant simplicity, one such method for avoiding this is choosing a preformulated product that acts as multiple layers in one.
The Bienfait Multi-Vital Sunscreen Lotion by Lancome is not only our choice for 'best French moisturizer with SPF' but also a fantastic product that blends three skincare steps into one. It excels as a moisturizer, a potent serum packed with antioxidants, and most crucially: a sunscreen. Unsurprisingly, this French sunscreen is a cult favourite amongst French women.
9. Best sunscreen for sports
Choosing a water-resistant sunscreen is crucial for staying protected during sports and outdoor activities - especially if that activity is swimming! Biotherm's Lait Solaire Hydratant SPF50 reigns supreme in this department and hence is our pick for 'best French sunscreen for sports'.
This water-resistant Lait Solaire (literally: "sun milk") contains a photostable UV-A/UV-B filtering system with SPF50 - and vitamin E to neutralize free radical production. Its formula is completed with Biotherm's famous Life Plankton sourced from the French Pyrenees hot springs, which soothes the skin and stimulates its natural defences.
10. Best sunscreen spray
Cream sunscreens tend to be thick, and some people (myself included) may go as far as saying that their skin feels dirty or greasy after applying certain sunscreens. French sunscreen sprays are the definitive answer to this issue.
Yves Rochers' Perfect Skin Spray Lotion SPF50 is exemplary and, in our opinion, the best French sunscreen spray available on the market. It is a very high UV protection sunscreen (SPF50) in an ultra-light, fast-absorbing milk-lotion spray format for a "barely-there" feel. Enriched with sea holly for hydrating action, you will struggle to find anything quite like it.
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