These Western Sunscreens Don’t Suck!

These Western Sunscreens Don't Suck

Oh I know, I know. Probably should have come up with a better title for this blog post but hey, let’s call a spade a spade, eh? πŸ˜›

As much as I enjoy waxing lyrical about Japanese sunscreens, unfortunately they’re not widely available for everyone to try them out. I’m often asked if there are any good sunscreens from Western brands that aren’t heavy, stinky, greasy and leave that awful white/grey cast on the skin. And you know what? Yes there are!

I’ve been trialing a number of Western sunscreens for a good amount of time and I thought I’d share the ones that I like with you today. While I still love my Japanese sunscreens and will continue to use them whenever possible, I wouldn’t hesitate to use these sunscreens either.

Here’s something I need to tell you first about these Western sunscreens, or Western sunscreens in general: they feel nothing like the ultra-lightweight Asian sunscreens you may be used to. They don’t have that light, sometimes watery gel/gel-cream texture that most if not all Japanese/Korean sunscreens come in. They also leave a thin film of that “sunscreeny” sheen and feeling on the skin. I’ve tried a good number of Western sunscreens over the years and none of them even comes close. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, Japanese/Korean sunscreens aren’t easy to come by so we have to go with easier-to-find sunscreens that are mostly from Western brands instead. The ones I’ve found to not just be tolerable but actually good to use on the skin will have a rich and creamy consistency. It’s the level of thickness and spreadability that determines whether these Western sunscreens are good to use or not.

All these sunscreens are broad spectrum, which protects against UVA and UVB radiation. While they’re white creams and go on the skin white, they blend out easily and don’t cast a white shadow on the skin.

In my opinion, these have passed the “they don’t suck the big one” test.

These Western Sunscreens Don't Suck

Clinique City Block Sheer SPF 25 (RRP AU$36.00)
The original City Block was the very first sunscreen I used regularly many years ago. My experience with sunscreens back then were awfully greasy ones from Coppertone and Clinique’s City Block made such a difference. While I didn’t like the scent (I still don’t), this tinted cream is light and doesn’t leave the face looking like a greasy wok. There’s also a Super City Block in the range that has a higher SPF of 30 but I prefer this.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Fluid SPF 50+ (RRP AU$27.99)
I didn’t like the original formula of the Anthelios XL Fluid, which was why I never mentioned this on the blog until today. I recently picked up a bottle of the new formula from Priceline and what a difference it was to the old one. While this is just as lightweight as the previous one, the new formula doesn’t feel as greasy and doesn’t leave a noticeable gritty feeling on the skin like most Western sunscreens do. The small bottle makes this very bag-friendly.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Clear Face Sunscreen SPF 30 (RRP AU$16.99)
Before I fell in love with Japanese sunscreens, I used to really like Neutrogena’s Dry Touch sunscreen. It’s funny because while it was really thick, once it goes on the skin, it leaves a matte finish and doesn’t feel heavy at all. The Ultra Sheer Clear Face sunscreen is much lighter than the Dry Touch; in fact it’s quite watery. Like the Dry Touch, this also leaves a matte finish on the skin and doesn’t make the skin look like an oily frying pan. The Clear Face sunscreen doesn’t come in higher SPF like the Dry Touch’s SPF 50 but comparing the two, I much prefer this.

Cancer Council Kids Sunscreen SPF 50+ (RRP AU$10.00)
This is slightly thicker than the rest of the sunscreens mentioned here but even so, it doesn’t feel heavy on the skin once the cream is blended properly on the skin. I prefer to use this on my body but I’ve had no issues using this on my face and neck either. I much prefer the Kids version compared to the other versions by Cancer Council because it’s lighter and better yet, it doesn’t smell of sunscreen. This doesn’t contain any less sun protection ingredients than the adult version but the dosage should reflect the size of an adult.

Olay Complete Defence Daily UV Moisturising Lotion SPF 30* (RRP AU$14.99)
I used this ages ago as my sunscreen and as I use it today, I remember why I liked it back then and still like using it now. It’s light, it’s pleasantly fragranced (no stinky sunscreeny smell) and it doesn’t make my makeup go on funny.

Dermalogica UltraCalming Super Sensitive Shield SPF 30 (RRP AU$64.00)
This is the only physical sunscreen in the mix with its active ingredients as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It’s also by far the lightest and easiest-to-use physical sunscreen I’ve tried. It’s hard to love physical sunscreens because so many of them are incredibly thick and gloopy so to me, this is truly a gem.

Dermalogica mediBac Oil Free Matte SPF 30 (RRP AU$64.00)
When it comes to lightweight Western sunscreens, I can’t recommend the ones by Dermalogica enough. I’ve used bottles of this and love it. It has a very light texture and goes on the skin matte. If you have oily to combination skin, you’ll like this one.

Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF 30+ (RRP AU$38.00)
This is a very good seller in Mecca and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a lightweight sunscreen that blends well on the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy sheen on the skin. Oily to combination skin folks may not like this so much but if you have dry skin, this will work for you.

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Protect & Prime SPF 30* (RRP AU$94.95)
I had no idea that Emma Hardie, the brand that came up with that cult cleansing balm, even do sunscreens! The Protect & Prime can be used on its own or under makeup as a primer. As for me, I like using this on its own. This lightweight, delicious-smelling cream (smells of lavender) leaves a satin sheen on the skin. I can’t feel as though I have anything on my skin when I have this on.

Nivea Sun Light Feel Every Day Sun Lotion SPF 30 (RRP AU$10.99)
This is a very lightweight sunscreen that blends and absorbs very quickly onto the skin. I was pleasantly surprised at how light this sunscreen is because I’ve tried the other sunscreens by Nivea and I wasn’t a fan. Now this one I can certainly get on board with. This is dry to the touch once absorbed.

Banana Boat Sport Cool Zone SPF 50+ Clear Spray (RRP AU$16.99)
I don’t normally advocate sunscreens that come in an aerosol can because you need a hell lot more sunscreen that what you can spray on your skin. However, I’ve added this to the list because it also comes in a very handy bag-friendly size that you can keep in your bag at all times. We often don’t reapply sunscreen once we’ve had our initial layer on, so this will do the trick. It will not provide sufficient UV protection unless you spray A LOT of it on your skin but some protection is better than no protection at all.


When it comes to Western sunscreens, good ones to go for are sunscreens meant for children and/or sensitive skin. They’re often fragrance-free (they don’t have that godawful sunscreen-y scent that most of us dislike), lighter in texture and consistency and are free of preservatives. This also means that you cannot keep these sunscreens for long. You’re meant to change sunscreen at least annually anyway regardless of whether you’ve finished up a tube or not so this shouldn’t be a problem. As these sunscreens are lighter, they won’t be icky and greasy, which will make you WANT to reapply after a couple of hours.

I hope this helps in your search for good Western sunscreens. While they’re not as light as Japanese/Korean sunscreens, these are still good ones to use and ones that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. Remember that it’s not just the face and neck that need sunscreen; your arms, legs and areas that are exposed need them too!

Do you have a favourite Western sunscreen? Do share it with us if you do!

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22 comments… add one
  1. Maria

    Ohhh – been waiting for this kind of post! Could you expand in another post any good Korean sunscreens that do feel ultra-lightweight and that don’t feel or smell β€œsunscreeny”?

    1. Tine

      Unfortunately I’ve only tried a couple of Korean sunscreens, one from Missha and the other from The Face Shop so I can’t really expand a lot on that subject unless I’ve tried more. However, I’ll be making a trip to Asia soon and I intend to get a few Korean sunscreens to try out and review on the blog. The Missha one I reviewed not long ago, the All Around Safe Block Mild Essence Sun Milk, is actually pretty good. Definitely ultra lightweight and doesn’t smell like sunscreen. Here’s the review in case you missed it:

  2. Kat Ness

    I’m currently loving the Mecca Superscreen in the black tube. I find it has a really nice consistency and non greasy.
    Kat Ness recently posted..Beauty Product Pick UpsMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Ooh I’ll need to test it out when I’m at Mecca next! πŸ˜›

  3. sushiroll

    I have a few recommendations worth mentioning:

    Cetaphil Suntivity Liposomal Body and Face Lotion SPF 50: i use this exclusively on my face, it is very shiny and greasy BUT it works really well with makeup. It’s like a dewy strobe primer, i don’t even wear a primer, i cleanse and moisturise then apply this on. It has very high protection, uses new generation Tinosorb filters. This is actually the same sunscreen as Daylong Actinica which is highly recommended by many dermatologists, at half the price.

    Moogoo Natural Sunscreen SPF 40: a whopping 25% zinc oxide so very good UVA protection, physical sunscreen, it comes out very thick and greasy at first, but it does dry down to a matte finish after 10 minutes. I use this on my arms/body. It doesn’t stain my clothes too. Chemical sunscreens have a tendency to stain clothes.

    Sunzapper Zinc Stick SPF 50+ skin toned: Physical/chemical sunscreen combo. I actually use this around me eyes so it won’t sting. I learnt this trick on one of the reddit forums, someone mentioned that a wax based stick sunscreen won’t sting because it has a higher melting point. I can’t put any chemical sunscreen near my eyes, it just stings like hell. La Roche Posay also make a sunscreen stick too, i have that one- it works just as well, but it’s actually getting discontinued.

    Trishave Post Shave Moisturising Lotion SPF 30+ Men: i use this on my neck, UVA protection isn’t as high as i like but i can make some sacrifices. it’s the lightest out of the 4.

    1. Tine

      Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve tried the Cetaphil one but it’s not really my cup of tea. Having said that I’d love to try out the Moogoo one you mentioned. I’ve heard so many great things about that brand but have never given any of the items a go. 25% zinc oxide is a whopper indeed! That Trishave one you recommended sounds interesting!

  4. Shuang

    I’ve been using L’Oreal sunscreen for years, ever since they came up with the one formulated with mexoryl XL. It’s pretty lightweight, absorbed easily, affordable and accessible as every drugstore has them

    1. Tine

      Oh yeah I remember that one! In fact I have one in my beauty cupboard right now that I haven’t used yet. Funny thing is, L’Oreal’s sunscreens aren’t available in Australia even though they’re widely available in Asia. Makes me wonder if they were rejected by the Australia TGA or something.

  5. Mel

    I’m so glad sunscreen in AUS is changing to be less greasy! I remember being teased in high school by my friends for having a ‘shiny face’ from wearing a moisturiser with sunscreen in it (from Avon). So sad they didn’t realise the importance of sun protection and discouraged my sunscreen wearing! I’ve recently started using the Neutrogena Dry-Matte Face sunscreen. I love it! It’s even 50 + and doesn’t leave me feeling like a greaseball.
    Mel recently posted..Best Makeup of 2015 | Australian Beauty GuruMy Profile

    1. Tine

      I agree; it’s definitely changing in Australia. Sunscreens no longer need to be thick and greasy. It’s especially important to wear sunscreen in Australia given the position of the ozone hole. Thick and greasy sunscreens will only serve to deter people from applying them regardless of how much Slip Slop Slap campaigns the government does.

      Speaking of Neutrogena, have you tried their Ultra Sheer Clear Face? It’s SPF30 but it’s lighter than their Dry Touch.

      1. Mel

        No I haven’t. I’ll have to try it next time it’s on sale at Coles πŸ™‚

        (I’m avoiding the Priceline Sales Madness)
        Mel recently posted..Best Makeup of 2015 | Australian Beauty GuruMy Profile

        1. Tine

          Hahahaha I really do want to go to Priceline (the stuff I wanted are already out of stock on their website) but I also want to avoid the madness. What to do what to do πŸ˜›

  6. Kellee

    Hi Tine! What a comprehensive list, it is great πŸ™‚ My favourites have to be the La Roche-Posay one you mention and Invisible Zinc Face and Body. This one this thick to start off with but with a prime over it, it is great. My make up lasts really well and I don’t get any more oily than usual. For my combo oily skin a big plus πŸ™‚

    1. Tine

      I really wanted to like Invisble Zinc’s sunscreens but I still find them too thick πŸ™ I know a lot of people like it and it’s a good sunscreen. Oh well. πŸ™‚

  7. Swati Murti

    hey Tine! I am using the La Rochay one right now and yes it is so much better. And, thankfully, no white cast as well. The Shiseido spf 50 one did leave white cast on my skin though I love its finish. have to try the dermalogica yet. btw, just came across this article which reminded me of you. may be it is of some help.
    Swati Murti recently posted..Why You are Not able to Get Rid of Tea or Coffee Addiction?My Profile

    1. Tine

      The new formula for the LRP? It’s so much better, right? I really didn’t like the one before the current one. I’ve not tried the Shiseido one even though it’s highly popular. I really should give that one a go.

      Thanks very much for sharing the link! πŸ˜€ xx

  8. Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers

    I’ve tried several of these and they are good but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to give up my Biore sunscreen, I love the watery essence.
    Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers recently posted..A review of Madame Wu in BrisbaneMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Oh hands down, the Biore sunscreen wins! The watery texture is amazing. It makes people WANT to put sunscreen on. If only Western sunscreens would follow suit.

  9. Kate

    You can probably look at Clarins UV Plus SPF 50, there’s three shades but I always go back to the white one. It dries fast after application and doesn’t leave a white cast.

    1. Tine

      Thanks for the recommendation Kate. I’ll check it out. πŸ™‚

  10. Kim

    My current favorite is Biore Perfect UV Milk, but when I was leaving in Canada, I used to buy Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50 by SkinCeuticals. The texture is very similar to the japanese sunscreens consistency and it has only physical filters. The formula comes in a clear and tinted version. Also, the alcohol content seems a lot smaller than the ones of most japanese sunscreens. A good one to try!

    1. Tine

      Thanks for your recommendation Kim. I’ve not tried that one by SkinCeuticals but it’s interesting that it’s a physical sunscreen that resembles Japanese sunscreens’ consistency. Definitely worth checking out!

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