Redheads have beautiful hair that is most often paired with fair skin. This light skin is a result of reduced levels of melanin (pigment that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes). This leaves redheads particularly susceptible to harm from the sun as melanin helps protect the skin against UV damage (and they don’t have much).
Their increased risk leads the Skin Cancer Foundation to recommend redheads use at least SPF 30+ sunscreen, wear UPF 30+ clothing, seek shade when out during the day, check themselves for irregularities monthly, and get an annual skin check.
This is a topic close to my heart as my partner is a redhead with a family history of skin cancer. He’s one of the reasons I started this site as a short walk in overcast weather can leave him a light shade of pink. Despite being careful, he had a skin cancer removed from his neck just a couple of years ago. This was a big wake up call for both of us and we’ve stepped up our sun protection since.
After thorough research into the fair skin of redheads and the requirements for sunscreen to be effective when protecting such photosensitive skin, SimplySunSafe recommends BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body as the best sunscreen for redheads. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for redheads.
To make sure a redhead’s skin gets the serious protection it requires, you should look for a number of must have features in your sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
The sun’s light contains two types of damaging radiation. UVA radiation is the more dangerous as it can alter the DNA of deep skin cells, leading to skin cancer and advancing visible signs of aging (skin sagging and wrinkling). UVB radiation is responsible for the visible skin damage we’ve all experienced – sunburn.
Redheads are rather unfortunately more susceptible to damage from both types of UV radiation. This sees redheads drastically overrepresented in skin cancer statistics as the estimated 1-2% of the world’s population that have red hair make up 16% of the world’s melanoma patients – scary!
So to make sure UV light doesn’t make you part of this horrible statistic, you’ll need the best protection you can find. This comes in the form of broad spectrum sunscreens. These products prevent UVA and UVB equally, helping to ensure the least amount of damage is done to your sensitive skin.
Sunscreens without broad spectrum protection only stop UVB radiation, so avoid these like the plague!
Best SPF for Redheads
Sun protection factor (SPF) is one of those weird things that everyone knows about but no one can really explain if you ask them (trust me, I ask). This is especially strange because people choose their sunscreens based on the SPF rating. So what is SPF?
SPF provides you with an amount of time the sunscreen will protect you by multiplying the time it takes you to burn without sunscreen. Confused? That’s because it’s confusing. Basically if it takes you 10 minutes to burn without protection, an SPF 15 sunscreen should protect you for 150 minutes (15 times as long). If you only take 5 minutes to burn (which could be the case for a redhead), this sunscreen would only protect you for 75 minutes.
But don’t get caught up in this SPF math thinking a sunscreen will protect you for hours on end. No matter how high the SPF rating, a sunscreen probably won’t last for more than 2 hours (especially if you sweat or go in water). This is why reapplying regularly, seeking out natural shade, and wearing UV-rated clothing should form a large part of protecting you from the sun.
Apart from being incredibly confusing, there are a few other issues with SPF:
- It only relates to UVB radiation and doesn’t indicate UVA protection. For this, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting a sunscreen with the right active ingredients (see below).
- The time the SPF rating indicates is completely arbitrary because it depends on natural photosensitivity, light intensity, and sunscreen thickness when applied. This makes it almost useless to the average person.
- People naturally assume that SPF 30 provides twice the protection that SPF 15 does, but it isn’t even close (check the table).
To make things a lot clearer, let’s reduce SPF rating to an important effectiveness indicator:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
This is much better. From this information you can see that from SPF 30 up, you’re getting great protection and increases in SPF don’t mean that much. This is why the FDA caps SPF ratings at 50+. It prevents companies from taking advantage of the fact that people will assume SPF 100 is considerably better than SPF 30 when it’s not. Wouldn’t it be much easier if they wrote the percentage of light blocked on the bottle instead of the SPF rating? Oh well.
So now you know what it is, which SPF should you use? Experts recommend SPF 30 and up (and who am I to disagree?). If you choose and use an SPF 30 sunscreen you’ll get great (97%) protection and any SPF above this shouldn’t cost you more money because it’s not doing much more for you. If you’re a particularly fair redhead who burns very easily, you may want to get the extra percentage point of protection just to be safe. However, for most people SPF 30 will do.
Physical not chemical
Sunscreens work by either reflecting light away from the skin (physical sunscreens) or absorbing the light before it reaches the skin (chemical sunscreens). The trouble is, these methods of UV protection were not created equal!
Research into the effectiveness of each sunscreen method shows that physical sunscreens stop a wider spectrum of radiation and let less light reach the skin. This means physical sunscreens do a better job of protecting the fair skin of redheads from sunburn and skin cancer. On top of this, physical sunscreens last longer on your skin, are less likely to irritate sensitive skin, work immediately (no 20-30 minute wait), and have a longer shelf life.
If you’re not already convinced you should ditch chemical sunscreens for good, listen to this. A lot of chemical sunscreens have endocrine disruptors as active ingredients. This means the sunscreen absorbs into your body and messes with your hormones. The most toxic of these chemicals, oxybenzone, is blacklisted by human health authority EWG because it acts like estrogen in the body, alters sperm production in animals, and is associated with endometriosis in women. Despite these damning facts, it is still scarily common in the sunscreens of the biggest skincare brands.
To make sure you’re getting a more effective, non-toxic sunscreen, look for ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ labeling on its packaging. If this isn’t mentioned, check the ingredients list for high levels of either zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. You should probably double check it has no oxybenzone just to be safe.
Zinc oxide over titanium dioxide
Physical sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. Research into these ingredients shows that zinc oxide prevents more of the dangerous UVA spectrum from reaching the skin than titanium dioxide.
You don’t have to completely ignore titanium dioxide sunscreens though (and I don’t). They offer substantially better and safer protection than chemical sunscreens and can have cosmetic advantages like a smoother texture and there’s less chance they’ll leave a white cast.
Suitable for the face and everyday use
Everyone should be using sunscreen whenever they go out in the sun. This is especially true for redheads as their risk of UV damage is too great not to protect themselves. It helps that sunscreens are more cosmetic than ever and can be easily be included in your daily routine.
Making sure the sunscreen you choose is suitable for your face and daily use means the formulation is gentle enough that it is unlikely to cause irritation on your most sensitive skin. This is important as you’ll be using it frequently and don’t want any unnecessary side effects.
As you’ll be using it everyday, you might want to use makeup over your sunscreen. The products I’ve recommended below are suitable for use with makeup and other cosmetics. Some of them are specifically formulated for this purpose, so read the recommendations to get a great sunscreen that’ll suit your needs.
Matte finish (not obvious when applied)
You don’t want your everyday sunscreen to be noticeable on your skin. Plus, as a redhead, you’re fair enough without the addition of a heavy sunscreen that leaves a white cast.
For these reasons, the sunscreens below have a matte finish that makes them completely (or almost) unnoticeable when applied correctly. These sunscreens won’t be greasy, which makes them even more suitable for use with cosmetics if you want to do that.
Best Sunscreen for Redheads Comparison
|BurnOut for Face & Body||DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer||EltaMD UV Physical||La Roche- Posay Anthelios||Heliocare Ultra Gel|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (18.6%)||Zinc Oxide (14%)||Zinc Oxide (9%) & Titanium Dioxide (7%)||Titanium Dioxide (11%)||Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide|
5 Best Sunscreens for Redheads
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with redheads, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, participating in skincare forums, and reading medical journals SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for redheads. All of these physical sunscreens have broad spectrum protection, an SPF of 30 or more, gentle formulations suitable for daily use, and a matte finish to make them less noticeable and more compatible with makeup.
BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body has all of the features to make it the perfect sunscreen for redheads. This physical sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection using a high concentration (18.6%) of non-nano zinc oxide and is designed for use on sensitive skin, so you will be able to use it everyday without any problems.
This product’s formula produces a lightweight lotion that is easy to apply, goes on clear, and absorbs well. It has a matte finish that doesn’t look greasy or chalky white. This is an impressive feature for a physical sunscreen with such a high level of zinc. Based on customer feedback, even people with dark skin tones are satisfied with the finish, so you’ll have no troubles. This makes it a great base for makeup that you can easily add to your daily beauty routine.
If you’ve experienced irritation with other sunscreens, you shouldn’t worry about BurnOut Face & Body. It is free from chemicals, parabens, petroleum, fragrances, oils, and nanoparticles. BurnOut have also enriched this sunscreen with plankton extract, aloe vera, and antioxidant vitamins so it can hydrate and nourish your skin while it protects you.
BurnOut Face & Body is reasonably priced for its high quality protection and cosmetic features. My partner loves this product and uses it all the time. Based on our experience I can recommend this product without hesitation as the best sunscreen for gingers.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Lightweight formula
- Matte finish makes it a great base for makeup
- Formula feels a little thick
DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer is a broad spectrum sunscreen that offers physical protection from both UVA and UVB radiation using 14% transparent zinc oxide.
DeVita pride themselves on their environmentally-friendly products and Solar Protective is no exception. It is reef-safe, and paraben, nanoparticle, cruelty and fragrance free. It is the only product featured here marketed as 100% vegan. Just reading through the ingredients (like japanese green tea extract, essential oils of lavender and chamomile, seaweed extract, and grape seed extract) is enough to make you feel healthier.
Designed for everyday use, DeVita Solar Protective’s natural ingredients give it an interesting texture that is not quite as cosmetic as the other sunscreens in this list. It still feels amazing on your skin and absorbs well. It might take a little time (or some extra massaging) to get to a matte finish, but once there you’ll love this sunscreen. It isn’t noticeable on the skin and works fantastically as a base for other cosmetics. The other great feature of this product is that it’s part moisturizer. Although not the focus of this review, you’ll notice the positive difference this makes to your skin when used regularly.
The version I’ve linked to above is the 7 ounce bottle. At that size and price, DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer is great value for money. If you’d like to try it before you make a final decision you can check out the 2.5 ounce version here. This will give you a taste of this quality product without having to commit to a larger bottle.
You might also notice some mixed reviews of this product online. I looked into this and found that a lot of them relate to a change in zinc supplier a couple of years ago that upset a lot of long-time customers. The change resulted in a formula that was thick, sticky, wouldn’t fully absorb, and left a white residue on the skin. Thankfully, DeVita listened and updated the formula. People are now back to loving this product like they always had.
DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer just missed out on first place on this list because of its lower concentration of zinc oxide. It was close, but that extra protection is an important feature for redheads.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Hydrating ingredients
- Less cosmetic texture
EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 uses a combination of zinc oxide (9%) and titanium dioxide (7%) to offer broad spectrum, physical protection. It was specifically designed for extra-sensitive and post-procedure skin that becomes more photosensitive, making it great for redheads who are naturally more photosensitive.
This sunscreen is free from paraben, oils, and fragrances, so it’s safe for daily use and won’t clog your pores while it protects you. EltaMD UV Physical has a smooth texture that applies easily and dries transparent. It works well as a base for makeup and has a light tint that helps it to blend seamlessly and look very natural. If you’re an especially fair redhead, you can try EltaMD UV Shield SPF 45 as a non-tinted alternative.
EltaMD UV Physical has the added benefit of being 40-minutes water resistant. If your everyday involves a fair amount of physical activity that can make you break a sweat, this sunscreen won’t move and will keep protecting you throughout the day. This can make it a little harder to remove than the other sunscreens featured, but that’s a small price to pay for a sunscreen that’s going to stay put.
EltaMD UV Physical is quite reasonably priced for its quality, but I can see why you might think it’s a little expensive. If you still love these features you can always use this sunscreen as a face lotion and choose a more economical option for the rest of your body.
- Lightly tinted
- Designed for sensitive skin
- 40-minute water resistance
- Lower levels of active ingredients
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra-Light Sunscreen is an amazing product that is highly recommended by dermatologists. It is a physical sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection using titanium dioxide as its active ingredient. This gives it cosmetic advantages over physical sunscreens that use zinc oxide.
Anthelios 50 has a very silky texture (the best of this bunch), goes on smoothly, and dries to leave you with a great matte finish (no sticky or greasy look/feel). This sunscreen was formulated with cosmetics in mind and it shows. It works flawlessly under makeup and blends effectively with your skin tone to make itself less noticeable. This version is not tinted, though La Roche-Posay do make a tinted version if you’re a redhead with a more tan skin tone.
It is paraben and fragrance free and suitable for daily use. This makes it a great option to include in your daily routine right now! It would sit higher on this list except that it uses titanium dioxide without any zinc oxide. As mentioned in the buyer’s guide this makes it slightly less effective at keeping UV radiation away from your skin but it’s still a great product that’s worth a try.
Anthelios 50 is quite an expensive option (though not the most expensive) and would probably be best used as a face sunscreen only. You could use it for both face and body, it’s just that it’d start to get pretty expensive pretty quickly.
- Lightly tinted
- High SPF
- Great texture and finish
- No zinc oxide
Heliocare Ultra SPF 50+ Gel is the highest SPF sunscreen on our list! It provides physical, broad spectrum protection using both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
This sunscreen has a moisturizer-like feel to it, so it is easily applied and absorbs well. It has a matte finish and dries without leaving a white cast, making it suitable as a base for mineral makeups. The formula is also non-comedogenic (won’t cause blackheads) which is reassuring if you have oily or mixed skin that is prone to breakouts.
Marketed for use by people after clinical treatments, Heliocare Ultra is suited to care for skin when it’s at its most physically sensitive and photosensitive point. This means it won’t irritate those with sensitive skin and should make redheads happy as you know this product has your naturally more photosensitive skin covered.
It sounds amazing (and it is) so why does it come in at number five on this list? Unfortunately, Heliocare Ultra is the most expensive sunscreen featured here. It works really well and has all of the features you want and the maximum available SPF, but it will get expensive to use this as regularly as you should. If you have your heart set on this sunscreen, I’d recommend choosing a cheaper option for your body and reserving this for your face so you get as much value as you can out of each bottle.
INSIDER’S TIP: This sunscreen was previously known as Heliocare Ultra SPF 90 Gel. Due to new packaging restrictions, the product can now only be marketed at SPF 50+. If you’re interested in the identical product sold in the old SPF 90 packaging, you can pick it up for slightly cheaper. This won’t last forever, so get in while you can!
- Designed for post-treatment skin
- Cosmetic texture
- High SPF
- Very expensive
This guide was written for redheads looking for the best sunscreen for their fair complexion. Hopefully it has both informed you about what to look for in a sunscreen and helped you choose one that fits your needs.
SimplySunSafe recommends (and my partner uses) BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body as the best sunscreen for redheads. After considering all of the features that make a sunscreen good for redheads, this was the product that came out on top. If you think one of the other four better suits your needs, go ahead and choose that one because ultimately the decision is about your skin and needs.
It’s always great to hear suncare tips from other redheads, so if you use a sunscreen that you think does a great job, let me know about it in the comments. I’ll do some research and might add it to this guide.