Ask the experts

The Ultimate Sunscreen Guide

Model leaning back, her face in the sun

We all know by now that SPF is not just for summer…it’s for life. Yes, your skin may be at its most vulnerable during the warmer weather, but the risk of skin damage is an all-year around concern – so don’t put a time frame on protecting yourself from harmful rays.  

Whether you’re prepping for a balmy beach day, wintery walk or lazing around the lounge, the application of SPF should be a non-negotiable step in your skin care regime. No matter where you are, what you’re doing or your skin type, a trustworthy sunscreen for your face, body and hair is a must! 

But…we can’t deny that with every hot topic comes many burning questions, so here’s our ultimate go-to sunscreen guide. 


First things first, let’s bring it back to basics – what is the difference between ‘SPF’ and ‘sunscreen’?  Simply put, sunscreens are classified by an SPF number which refers to the measurement of protection they give against UV radiation. So, sunscreen is the product while SPF is the sun protection factor associated with it.  

SPF 15 VS SPF 30 VS SPF 50+ 

The number allied with the SPF refers to the amount of time you can be exposed to the sun while wearing the protector, without burning (emphasis on the without). So, in theory, SPF 15 would shield you from UV rays 15 times longer than your skin’s defences without SPF. SPF 30, 30 times longer, and SPF 50, 50 times longer…you get the gist. But that’s not all, the number also indicates how much protection you gain from each factor (as shown below). 

SPF 15 = 93% UV protection  

SPF 30 = 97% UV protection  

SPF 50 = 98% UV protection  


There are many uncertainties when it comes to how to apply SPF the right way. Where to apply it? When to apply? How much to apply – and the list goes on. However, if you’ve got the main principles on lock, you should be on your way.  

  1. Before you do anything, shake your sunscreen bottle. This will help break up any clumping that occurs over time. 
  2. Next, use the three-finger rule when applying to the face. Gently tap the formula all-over your face, ears and neck (rather than slapping and rubbing it on) to avoid irritation and to ensure a smoother application.  
  3. When applying to your body, smear small evenly sized dots over all areas exposed to the sun. Gently massage the sun-shielding liquid in, until you can’t see it anymore. Oh, and don’t forget those sneaky spots that are easy to miss – we’re talking about your neck, the back of your hands and feet. 
  4. Finally, if you’re heading out to have some fun in the sun, allow for the formula to soak into your skin for at least 15 minutes before outdoors.  


Aside from daily, the skin care saviour should be generously massaged into your face, neck and body after moisturising in the morning.  Then, wait approximately 15 minutes for the formula to absorb before applying any make up or skin care 


woman rubbing in sunscreen to her body



Now, on to the how. When it comes to the quantity of sunscreen you need, it’s best practice to use approximately two milligrams per square centimetres of your skin – AKA around two teaspoons for each area you are covering. For those using sprays, keep spritzing until your skin has an even, seamless sheen.  


Sun protection should be used rain or shine as those sneaky UV rays can penetrate their way through clouds. But, when it comes to reapplying, it generally depends on what you are doing. If you’re outside in direct sunlight the common rule of thumb is to reapply every two hours. However, if you’re stuck in doors all day away from any windows, every six hours should suffice. With that in mind, no matter what your day is looking like always reapply, reapply, reapply!  


One thing to always ensure is that your sunscreen covers a broad spectrum, blocking out all harmful rays that can reach our skin – these being UVA rays and UVB rays. But what’s the difference?  

  • UVA rays have the longer wavelengths of the two. They penetrate deep into your dermis. Unprotected exposure from UVA radiation can lead to premature skin ageing as your skin’s firmness and elasticity is severely comprised.  
  • UVB rays maybe smaller but can cause just as much damage (if not more). They typically target the outer layer of skin, resulting into sunburn. In the same way as UVA exposure, they can also lead to photoaging.  


The main difference between physical and chemical sunscreen lies in the technique they use to block out the rays. Physical sunscreen creates a barrier to block out and reflect the UVs while chemical iterations (commonly known as sunblock) act like a sponge, soaking in the UV light so that it doesn’t damage your skin cells.  

The best way to differentiate between the two is to look out for certain ingredients. If they are powered by ‘Zinc Oxide’ or ‘Titanium Dioxide’ it’s physical, but if you spot the terms ‘avobenzone’, ‘oxybenzone’ or ‘octinoxate’ (it’s a tongue twister, we know) then you know it’s chemical. 

While both forms of sunscreen shield you from the rays, chemical SPFs are much more water-resistant. So, with that in mind if you’re heading down to the pool or doing any physical activity in the sun, chemical protection should be your go to.   

Now, we think we’ve made it pretty clear that sunscreen is essential, so it’s time to decide which is right for you. With a helping hand from our Cult Concierge skin care superstars, Ryan and Sarah have sourced the best sunscreen to use for dry skin, oily skin and every type in between. You can thank us later…


bottle of sunscreen leaning on a towel 


Thank You Farmer’s Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50 proudly sits at the top of our daily defence Hall of Fame. The featherweight formula provides consistent and invisible protection while maintaining a smooth, semi-matte finish.  

Best for: Oily and combination skin 


Proving that sunscreens can shield you from more than just UV, ZITSTICKA’s MEGASHADE Breakout-proof SPF 50 Sunscreen Serum, blocks out blemishes too. The mineral-chemical filter formula is infused with tea tree to boot away bacteria while enhancing a dew-giving glow. 

Best for: Oily and blemish prone skin 


Embodying Ultra Violette’s concept of Skinscreen, the Extreme Screen Hydrating Body and Hand Skinscreen nourishes, soothes and shields your skin from the sun’s rays. Plus, it has four hours of water and sweat resistance so you can safely enjoy your seaside getaway…ice cream, anyone?  

Best for: All skin types  


Going beyond the regular sun care port-of-call (but still an essential in our eyes), Clé de Peau Beauté dreams up the Protective Lip Treatment SPF 30. Protecting your pout from both the UVA and UVB rays, the velvety smooth stick is enriched with Moroccan Thyme extract to support skin’s natural shielding abilities and defend itself against natural environmental aggressors. 

Best for: All lips 


The INKEY List’s squalene-powered Polyglutamic Acid Dewy Sunscreen SPF 30, is a hydrating formula that creates a non-greasy, broad-spectrum cover over your skin. Perfect for parched pores, the serum bounces off UV rays, while creating an ideal base for bare skin days.   

Best for: Dry, balanced and combination skin 


Based around the brand’s proprietary SynchoShield Technology that creates an invisible shield for your skin, Shiseido’s Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+ reacts with water, sweat and heat to keep you protect regardless of what the day throws your way. Offering 360 protections, the no-greasy stick can be swiped onto skin under or over make up, for seamless shielding on face or body. 

Best for: Normal to dry skin  


An easy way to apply SPF to the body, COOLA’s Classic Sunscreen Spay is ideal for those on-the-go. With a single spritz the mist evokes a taste of summer with its Guava Mango fragrance and is also available in a fragrance-free iteration for those with sensitive skin.  

Best for: All skin types  



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Trifonia Asmar

Trifonia Asmar

Senior SEO Copywriter

Cult Beauty’s Senior SEO Copywriter, Trifonia started out in the industry when bold brows were just becoming a ‘thing’, and shares a passion for all things fashion and beauty. Currently embracing her curly girl journey (after endless years of straightening her strands), she is finally reverting to her natural ways! When Triffy isn’t busy testing out the latest curl-saving solutions, you’ll find her binging the latest reality TV show or on a long walk listening to her ever-evolving country music playlist.