Face sunscreens and SPF moisturisers

Which sunscreens moisturise your skin and protect against sun damage without being sticky, heavy or oily? We found a few that tick all the boxes.

Saving face

We put a range of SPF 30 and 50+ face sunscreens and moisturisers to the test. Our trial of brands including Nivea, Olay, Neutrogena, Cancer Council and more found that the high-priced products aren't always the favourites. 

Our user trial

face sunscreen moisturisers on test
Face sunscreens and SPF moisturisers in our test.

We trialled 14 widely available face sunscreens or moisturisers containing sunscreen, bookended price-wise by a cheapie from Coles ($6 for 100mL) and a Shiseido face sunscreen ($62 for 50mL).

Since most people don't apply enough sunscreen to achieve the stated SPF, we looked only at products with SPF 30 or higher to maximise the chance of getting adequate protection. All are broad spectrum – meaning they protect against UVA and UVB radiation – and all have been tested to the Australian standard for sunscreen.

We gave each triallist six different products in plain packaging so they didn't know the brand or the price. They were asked to rate: 

  • texture and consistency
  • smell
  • feel
  • ease of application 
  • how moisturising it felt 
  • their overall impression, and
  • how likely they'd be to buy it.

What we found

The five products we liked best (below) came out on top based on their overall impression, their moisturising ability and people's interest in buying them.

  • We found price is no indicator of preference, with the cheapest product, Coles Face Sunscreen, being rated equal best. Suitable for sensitive skin, this product would suit all the family as an everyday face sunscreen.
  • The Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting UV cream was the second most expensive on test, with a recommended retail price of $48.99. However, as with most products we tested, you'll likely find it a lot cheaper from discount pharmacies and on special in supermarkets – we paid less than $30.
  • The most expensive product (Shiseido) also rated quite well, and while some people loved it, it didn't do as well overall as our top-rated products.
  • Products with SPF 30 tended to rate better than the 50+ products, though the Cancer Council Face Day Wear Matte Sunscreen with SPF 50+ is one of our best-liked products – and equal best moisturiser – while Banana Boat EveryDay Faces is worth considering. The 50+ products that didn't rate as well were considered more sunscreen-like in smell, texture and feel.
  • While we expected moisturisers with added sunscreen – being more 'cosmeticky' – would rate better than the sunscreens, there actually wasn't much difference, and the products we liked best include two positioned as sunscreens.

With a mix of cheap, expensive, sensitive-skin and high-SPF products in our list, there's something for everyone. But the best-rated products didn't suit all triallists, and even the lowest-rated products were loved by some, so you may need to try more than one to find a product that suits you.

(Note: Since we completed this trial, Banana Boat has become the potential target of a class action lawsuit after seven of its sunscreen sprays fell a long way short of their SPF 50+ claims. The face sunscreen used in our trial isn't part of the suit, however.)

The ones we liked best

Coles Face Sunscreen (SPF 30)

Coles Face Sunscreen

Price $3 per 50mL ($6 for 100mL)

  • Equal best total score
  • Highest buy score

Triallist: "It felt luxurious."

Olay Regenerist Micro-sculpting UV cream (SPF 30)

Olay Regenerist Micro-sculpting UV cream (SPF 30)

Price $48.99 for 50mL

  • Equal best total score
  • Highest overall score
  • Equal best moisturising score

Triallist: "Smelt great, was easy to apply, and left my skin moisturised all day."

QV Face Moisturising Day Sunscreen (SPF 30)

QV Face Moisturising Day Sunscreen (SPF 30)

Price: $11.07 per 50g ($16.60 for 75g)

  • Equal best total score

Triallist: "Nice texture and relatively fragrance-free, did a reasonable job of moisturising."

Cancer Council Face Day Wear Matte Sunscreen (SPF 50+)

Cancer Council Face Day Wear Matte Sunscreen (SPF 50+)

Price: $14.95 for 50mL

  • Equal best moisturising score
  • Best 50+ Product

Triallist: "Felt good on my skin, was easy to apply and worked all day."

Olay Complete Defence Sensitive (SPF 30)

Olay Complete Defence Sensitive (SPF 30)

Price: $9.99 per 50mL ($14.99 for 75mL)

Triallist: "Nice on skin, makeup works well with it."

Worth considering

These products also rated well, and some trialists loved them:

  • Nivea Sun Protect & Light Feel Daily Face Veil (SPF 30)
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream (SPF 30)
  • Banana Boat EveryDay Faces (SPF 50+)
  • Nivea Daily Essentials Light Moisturising Day Cream (SPF 30)

Face sunscreens and SPF moisturisers compared

Brand/product SPF RRP ($) Size
(mL or g)
Cost per
50mL or 50g ($)
Total score
(out of 15)


Buy score

Number who
would buy
Sensitive Non-
Coles Face Sunscreen 14 30 6.00 100 3.00 12 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 9/14 Easily absorbed, light, nice texture, mild scent, quite moisturising; Some thought it wasn't moisturising enough. Octocrylene, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, octyltriazine, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting UV Cream 13 30 48.99 50 48.99 12 ● ● ● ● ◖ ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ◖ 7/15 Smooth, silky, easy to apply, most liked the fragrance; A bit too heavy or oily for some, and some didn't like the fragrance. Homosalate, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, octocrylene, phenylbenzimidazole sulphonic acid
QV Face Moisturising Day Cream 12 30 16.60 75 11.07 12 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 9/15 Nice consistency, easy to apply, no bad smell, skin looked fresh and dewy; Didn't like the shiny, oily look. Bemotrizinol, methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol
Cancer Council Face Day Wear Matte Sunscreen 11 50+ 14.95 50 14.95 11 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 7/15 Silky, smooth, light, no smell, easy to apply; A bit oily and a little sticky. Octocrylene, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, homosalate, octyl salicylate, octyl triazone
Olay Complete Defence Daily UV Moisturising Lotion (Sensitive) 10 30 14.99 75 9.99 11 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 6/14 Nice texture, sinks in, good moisturiser for some; Didn't have great smell, felt a bit dry for some. Octyl methoxycinnamate, zinc oxide, octocrylene, octyl salicylate
Nivea Sun Protect & Light Feel Daily Face Veil 9 30 10.99 50 10.99 10.5 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ◖ ● ● ● 5/15 Smooth and light, feels good and looks good on skin; A bit runny, some didn't like the smell. Octyl methoxycinnamate, homosalate, octyl salicylate, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, octyl triazone, oxybenzone
Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream 8 30+ 62.00 50 62.00 10.5 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ◖ ● ● ● 6/16 Several people commented they loved it, left skin looking moisturised without being shiny; A bit heavy, smelt and felt like a sunscreen. Zinc oxide, octyl methoxycinnamate, titanium dioxide
Banana Boat EveryDay Faces 7 50+ 11.99 100 6.00 10 ● ● ● ◖ ● ● ● ◖ ● ● ● 5/16 Quite moisturising, nice texture, looked fresh; Sticky, sunscreen smell, not moisturising enough. (A) Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, octocrylene, bemotrizinol
Nivea Daily Essentials Light Moisturising Day Cream 6 30+ 12.99 50 12.99 9.5 ● ● ● ◖ ● ● ● ● ● ● 3/14 Goes on smoothly, good moisturiser; Felt sticky and oily, deteriorated over the day. Homosalate, octyl salicylate, octocrylene, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, phenylbenzimidazole sulphonic acid
La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Comfort 5 50+ 28.99 50 28.99 7.5 ● ● ◖ ● ● ● ● ● 3/15 Would be OK as a sunscreen; Sticky, made face shiny, didn't like the smell. Bemotrizinol, octyl triazone, drometrizole trisiloxane, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, titanium dioxide, ecamsule
Ego SunSense Moisturising Face 4 50+ 13.95 100 6.98 7.5 ● ● ● ● ● ◖ ● ● 4/16 Thin and light, went on easily and had a nice feel; Quite drying, not moisturising enough, makeup didn't stay on, some didn't like smell. (A) Bemotrizinol, methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol, octyl salicylate
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Fluid Facial Sunscreen 3 50 19.99 40 24.99 7.5 ● ● ◖ ● ● ● ● 4/16 Light, feels nice, skin looked glowing; Drying, oily, stings eyes. Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, homosalate, octyl salicylate, octocrylene, oxybenzone
Invisible Zinc Facial Moisturiser 2 30 35.00 50 35.00 7 ● ● ◖ ● ● ◖ ● ● 3/13 Felt thick and protective; Too thick, made skin white, too sticky, not moisturising enough. Zinc oxide
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Dry Touch Sunscreen 1 50 20.00 59 16.95 5 ● ◖ ● ● ◖ 1/14 Performed well as a sunscreen, stayed on despite sweat; Very thick and sticky, difficult to apply, made skin white, smells like sunscreen. Zinc oxide

Table notes

Total score (out of 15): Made up of overall impression score, moisturiser score and buy score.
Overall impression (out of 5): Triallists were asked to give each product an overall rating.
Moisturiser score (out of 5): Triallists were asked to rate each product's moisturising ability.
Buy score (out of 5): Triallists were asked how willing they'd be to buy the product (without knowing the price).
Number who would buy: Number who said they'd probably or definitely buy the product / Total number of triallists.
Non-comedogenic: Claims not to cause blocked pores.
(A) No added fragrance.

Face sunscreen or SPF moisturiser

There are many products designed specifically to provide sun protection for the face that aim to avoid the heavy, sticky feeling of body sunscreens. They include face sunscreens, many of which also claim to moisturise your skin, as well as moisturisers with added sunscreens. 

What's the difference? It can be hard to tell, but where you find them on the pharmacy or supermarket shelves is one indication, while the prominence given to each on the label is another.

The importance of wearing sunscreen

Associate Professor Chris Baker from the Australasian College of Dermatologists says dermatologists regularly treat skin cancers that could have been easily prevented through proper sun protection.

"Dermatologists see a lot of skin cancers on the face, ears, head and neck," says Baker.

"These skin cancers are particularly concerning because they can arise quickly and are more difficult to treat. Surgery is the most common treatment, with visible scarring often unavoidable. Other treatments include topical therapy for some early skin cancers through to radiotherapy and chemotherapy for more advanced cancers. Sadly we don't always get them in time."

How and when to use sunscreen

  • To gain full protection from sunscreen, you need to use the recommended amount and reapply every two hours in the sun. For face products like those products we tested, this means using half a teaspoon for your face only, or a full teaspoon for your face, neck and ears.
  • The Cancer Council recommends we wear sun protection during the day when the UV index goes above 3, which for much of Australia means all year round. 

And don't forget a hat, clothing, sunglasses and shade

While sunscreen is a great start for protecting your face from UV damage, it's only one of several measures you should take. Cancer Council research shows less than half of Australians use hats to protect themselves from the sun and, as a result, are getting sunburnt on their face, head, nose or ears.

CEO of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Sanchia Aranda, says, "There can be a tendency from many Australians to slop on some sunscreen and think they are protected all day long. But sunscreen isn't a suit of armour. It should be your last line of defence – a hat, clothing, sunglasses and shade are also key to protecting your skin." 

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