With their lighter texture and skin caring ingredients, SPF serums are the sun protection everyone will want to wear all year round. Skincare expert Caroline Hirons tell us why


We all know we should be applying SPF on a daily basis. It is the best way to protect your skin from ageing and future damage. But face SPFs have often had a bad rap for feeling greasy, being thick and looking chalky on the skin, which makes using one a slightly arduous task. If you also happen to live in a climate where it feels like the sun rarely appears, it’s easy to think ‘what’s the point?’. 

However, the tide of SPF is turning and a new wave of serum-based SPFs is emerging - and these, according to skincare expert Caroline Hirons, are the products that might even convert the hardcore SPF skippers to year-round users, because they are simply a treat to wear. 

"It's really difficult for people to find an SPF that they fall in love with," says Caroline who believes we're going to see many more SPFs in the serum category in future. 

These lighter textures are teamed with skin-caring ingredients as well as containing high broad-spectrum SPF protection and are easy to slot into your routine because they are just like using a regular serum (a product you probably are already familiar with), it just happens to come with excellent SPF protection too. Plus there's less likelihood that your sun cream will cause your skincare to pill as can happen when you apply certain formulas over moisturisers. 

Formulations have come a long way to allow skincare and SPF to blend without compromising either formula, adds Caroline, who has collaborated with Coola for the launch of their Dew Good Illuminating Serum SPF30, £44. “It’s always been quite difficult to get nice skincare that has SPF built into it but SPF serums are creating an evolution in the SPF market because that’s what they do. They are light, you can wear them under your moisturiser without affecting the SPF protection's efficacy. They also have accompanying ingredients that support the SPF and make you want to use it as a serum.”

And it’s wanting to use a serum SPF consistently that is going to make all the difference. “Anything that makes life easier, I am here for,” says Caroline. “The texture of a serum is easy to use, it doesn’t require lots of rubbing in like a thick cream and you can put it underneath your makeup and then even put more on top if you want. SPF serums are what will make people apply them even in the winter months when they don’t think they need to because slot into a routine and are so easy to use.”

The fact that an SPF serum can offer age-proofing and glow-getting benefits appeals to our vanity - and this does help us stick with the habit, perhaps more than messaging about preventing skin cancer, says Caroline, who says the same happened in the US with messaging about smoking.  The Coola serum SPF, for example, majors on glow, which makes you want to reach for it not just as a base but for an over-makeup refresh. And with SPF needing to be applied every four hours, anything that helps us stick to the rules is a bonus.

Good application technique, as with any SPF is key with an SPF serum. “Don’t apply it too thinly, start with one or two pumps, apply it, check if your skin is completely covered and if not put more on,” advises Caroline. “And don’t forget the top of your ears, back of your neck, lips and around the eyes.”  

So now you know all about SPF serums, here is our pick of the best.

7 of the best SPF serums

1. The glow giver: Coola Dew Good Illuminating Serum SPF30, £44

While this does start out as a fairly thick cream (you can squeeze it out and it doesn’t move in your hands), as soon as you work it in the skin it takes on more of a serum texture. And when it comes to glow – wowzers, this delivers! It leaves a radiant sheen to the skin that looks so good you may decide you don’t want to wear anything else on top, but it also does create the most amazing glowy base for make-up to go on top of. It feels super hydrating and comfortable to wear and contains broad-spectrum SPF as well as ingredients that help tackle blue light.

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2. The all-rounder: Ultra Violette Queen Screen SPF50+, £36

There’s a list of good reasons why this SPF serum has become a cult buy in a very short time. It has a true serum texture, making it easy to apply and sinks in immediately. It leaves no cast on the skin, making it suitable for absolutely everyone. It’s been formulated to suit all skin types - even acne-prone skin can use it. It hydrates and plumps all while leaving a gorgeous glow to the complexion. Oh, and did we mention it smells absolutely wonderfully of Rose too. Another Caroline Hirons favourite suncream.

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You will notice this doesn’t have the word ‘primer’ in the product, and that’s because it’s not been designed as one specifically. However, we think it does the job brilliantly thanks to its gorgeously smooth velvety texture, which makes applying make-up over the top, an absolute dream. It is completely clear, meaning there is absolutely no chalky effect whatsoever. In fact, once you start using this you won’t think of it as an SPF at all, it will become your everyday, hydrating serum that just happens to have a phenomenal level of UVA and UVB protection. It’s one of the best products we’ve tried this year.

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4. The one for spots: Zitsticka Megashade SPF50, £35

SPFs and skin prone to spots haven’t always got on well. This is because older SPF formulations were prone to clogging pores, when pores are clogged sebum production goes into overdrive and that makes spots worse. However, those days are over and this serum SPF has been made specifically with spot-prone skin in mind. It has a light, creamy texture and is non-comedogenic (that means it doesn’t clog) and it contains the sort of ingredients needed to treat spots at the same time, such as tea tree to purify and colloidal oats to soothe redness and smooth the skin texture.

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5. The one for pigmentation: Murad Correct & Protect SPF45, £68

If you currently layer up a pigmentation blitzing serum and then a separate SPF, then this product ticks both those boxes in one - making the £68 it costs become more of a savvy buy. In terms of its pigmentation capability, it contains a fancy-sounding ingredient called Carotenoid technology which gets to work on breaking down existing pigmentation whilst the UV protection shields the skin from future damage. There’s also beet root extract that is a super hydrating ingredient so you may find this is all your skin needs to wear all day long.

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6. The one for hydrating: Hello Sunday The One That’s A Serum SPF45, £20

Purse-friendly and skin-caring, what more you could you ask for? Packed with hyaluronic acid, the hydrating ingredient your skin needs, this will boost your skin’s hydration levels as well as protect it with a brilliant broad-spectrum SPF. It also contains vitamin C, which gets your skin glowing. In short, there’s not much this serum doesn’t do!

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7. The one for sensitive skin: Dr Barabara Sturm Sun Drops SPF50, £110

Sensitive skins can sometimes get overwhelmed with SPFs and become even more sensitised, not what you need when we know that SPF is the best step in any skincare routine for protecting the skin instantly and long-term. However, Dr Barabara Sturm has sensitive and reactive skin at the heart of her brand and this SPF is ideal. It is filled with hydrating ingredients, skin soothers and calmers as well as a brilliant broad-spectrum SPF 50.

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