Skincare Products » Best Sunscreens

15 Best Sunscreens for Every Skin Type and Need

Sunscreen season is upon us! By that, we actually mean every season because you need to protect your skin from the sun’s rays all year round. To keep you protected, we’ve selected the best sunscreens that you can pick up online.

It may seem like a long list, but that’s because we wanted to give you a ton of options. There is an old dermatologist adage: “the best sunscreen is the one you’ll use.” We took that to heart, and our goal with this list is to help you find a sunscreen that you’ll love to put on your skin every morning.

No sunscreen is one-size-fits-all, so we focused on curating a diverse list. We’ve selected sunscreens with all kinds of textures and ingredients to suit your specific needs. Do you have sensitive skin and can only handle mineral sunscreens? Boo, we got you. Are you looking for a sunscreen you can apply on top of your makeup? We’ve got that too.

If you’re not 100% sure about what you need, we’ve also put together a buyer’s guide at the end. We explain everything you need to know, from what words like SPF and Broad-Spectrum mean to how you can choose a sunscreen that’ll suit your skin type. 

In this article:

Our Picks for the Best Sunscreens

Looking for some new SPF options? These are the best sunscreens for every skin type, preference, and body part!

1
Best Overall
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 100+
Neutrogena Ulta.com
$14.99

It’s hard to believe that such a powerfully protective sunscreen can also be so pleasant to use. If you spend a lot of time in the sun or your skin is particularly fair and sunburn-prone, this is one of the safest options. It’s hard to find sunscreens with 100 SPF, let alone at such a reasonable price, so this product is truly special.

It’s called Dry-Touch because it has a light, non-greasy formula. This means that it doesn’t feel heavy even when you reapply it, so it’s great for those with oily skin or sensorial issues. It offers broad-spectrum protection, and it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, so it also stays put very well. 

The formula is incredible, but it also has some drawbacks. It doesn’t always agree with sensitive skin or eyes, and you will want to think twice before wearing it to the beach because it’s not reef-safe. However, for hiking, working outside, or swimming in the pool, it’s excellent. It’s also pleasant for daily life since it dries down quickly and even looks good under makeup. Buy it at Ulta!

Key Features

  • SPF: 100+ Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Lotion
  • Size: 3 oz.
  • Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone
  • Reef-Safe: No
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: No

Pros

  • Incredibly high protection
  • Light, non-greasy texture
  • Great under makeup
  • Pleasant to reapply
  • Water-resistant

Cons

  • Not reef-safe
  • May sting eyes

2
Best Face Sunscreen
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
EltaMD Dermstore.com
$37

This sunscreen has reached an iconic status by now. It’s an extremely pleasant, convenient, and effective sunscreen that’s also quite suitable for sensitive skin. It relies on a hybrid of chemical and physical sunscreen filters for broad-spectrum protection without a dreaded white cast. Notably, however, the main chemical filter is octinoxate, which is not considered reef-safe, so we suggest leaving this sunscreen at home when you go to the beach.

It comes in a light, lotion format that sinks into the skin easily and leaves behind a demi-matte, velvet finish that suits all skin types. It doesn’t pill or ball up under makeup, so it’s awesome for daily use and can double as a primer. For those with oily skin, it’s a great moisturizer substitute, while those with dry or normal skin can layer it over a hydrating serum or lotion.

Aside from being a great sunscreen, it’s also a nice skincare product, just in general. It contains antioxidant, skin-balancing niacinamide, and hydrating hyaluronic acid, which are great ingredients for every skin type or concern. It’s a little pricey, but its amazing elegance and protection more than justify the cost. Order it from Dermstore

Key Features

  • SPF: 46 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Lotion
  • Size: 1.7 oz.
  • Skin Type: All, sensitive
  • Water-Resistant: No
  • Filters: Hybrid – zinc oxide, octinoxate
  • Reef-Safe: No
  • Fragrance: No
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Extremely light and elegant
  • Powerful broad-spectrum protection
  • Pleasant under makeup
  • Good for all skin tones and types

Cons

  • Not reef-safe
  • A little pricey

3
Best Body Sunscreen
Sun Bum Original SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion
Sun Bum Ulta.com
$15.99

Sun Bum is a brand that’s all about sunscreens, and this 30 SPF lotion is their original bestseller. It’s a simple, reef-safe formula that’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a nice vacation option (although you might want to spring for the 50 or 70 SPF if you plan to be in the sun all day long).

The formula is non-greasy but moisturizing, with a coconut scent. For the body, it’s a solid choice for all skin types. It can be used on the face, as well, although those with oily skin may find it a little too heavy. For those with sensitive skin, the fragrance and chemical sunscreen filters might be an issue, so make sure to patch-test it first. 

We love how affordable it is for a fairly high amount of product, so consider picking it up for your entire family to use. Get it from Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • SPF: 30 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Lotion
  • Size: 8 oz.
  • Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes (coconut)
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Reef-safe
  • Non-greasy but moisturizing
  • Great for the body

Cons

  • May not work for sensitive skin

4
Best Mineral Sunscreen
Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++
Etude House Amazon.com
$12.80

If you’d like to stay away from chemical sunscreen filters, we finally have a mineral option! From the Korean brand Etude House, this sunscreen is all-mineral, offers high protection, and yet it’s very elegant. It’s light but hydrating, so it works well for both oily and dry skin, and it looks nice under makeup.

Nowadays, the market is filled with mineral sunscreens, but many of them take ages to sink into the skin. On those with medium or darker skin, mineral sunscreens often also leave a white cast, which we think is unacceptable for day-to-day wear.

What makes this sunscreen unique is that despite being mineral and untinted, it looks great on all skin tones. The formula relies on nanosized forms of mineral filters, which is why it’s so pleasant, although it’s worth noting that those filters can be controversial. 

The formula does contain fragrance, which might be an issue for sensitive skin, and green beauty shoppers may find that it contains too many synthetics to their liking. However, we’re super impressed by how beautifully this performs, so we think most shoppers will like it. Find it on Amazon

Key Features

  • SPF: 50 PA+++
  • Format: Light lotion
  • Size: 1.7 oz. 
  • Skin Type: All
  • Water-Resistant: No
  • Filters: Mineral – zinc oxide (nano), titanium dioxide (nano)
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: No

Pros

  • Mineral sunscreen with almost no white cast
  • Excellent for all skin types
  • Hydrating but quick to absorb
  • High protection

Cons

  • Nano filters are slightly controversial
  • May not work for sensitive skin

5
Best for Oily Skin
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 60
La Roche-Posay Ulta.com
$19.99

This mattifying sunscreen is our favorite choice for those with oily skin. It’s a highly protective, broad-spectrum formula with chemical filters, so it’s incredibly elegant once it sets on the skin.

It’s a silicone-free sunscreen, unlike some of the other sunscreens we like for oily skin, but it still does an amazing job of keeping the skin matte. This is mostly thanks to silica, nylon-12, and a few other ingredients that come together to give it the Dry-Touch effect.

The formula is non-comedogenic, so you can use it if you’re acne-prone. It should be obvious, but since it’s so mattifying, it’s definitely not suitable for dry skin.

It’s not the easiest to use sunscreen, but the effort required is worth it. Because of all the mattifiers, it dries down quickly, so you’ll have to rub it into your skin fast to avoid a weird buildup or a white cast. Once it’s set, however, it keeps the skin matte all throughout the day, and as long as it’s rubbed in nicely, makeup sits beautifully on top of it. You can order it from Ulta or Amazon.

Key Features

  • SPF: 60 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Mattifying lotion
  • Size: 1.7 oz.
  • Skin Type: Oily, combination-oily
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene
  • Reef-Safe: No
  • Fragrance: No
  • Cruelty-Free: No

Pros

  • Keeps skin matte all day
  • High protection
  • Works well with makeup
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • A little difficult to use

6
Best for Kids
Thinkbaby SPF 50+ Sunscreen
Thinkbaby Amazon.com
$16.99

When shopping for children (and especially for babies), many parents choose to avoid chemical sunscreens. There’s nothing particularly harmful about chemical filters, but some of them are more likely to irritate the skin, while mineral sunscreens are consistently gentler. This sunscreen is fairly budget-friendly, so you’ll have no reason to skimp when slathering your child in it.

The formula is very natural, so those who choose to avoid controversial chemicals will probably like it. It includes some impressive skincare ingredients, like hydrating hyaluronic acid, antioxidant-rich raspberry and cranberry seed oils, and skin-brightening vitamin C, which also helps to keep the formula stable. While the formula is fragrance-free, it does have a fruity scent.

That said, it’s not the perfect sunscreen. It has a slightly thicker cream texture that stays put well but takes some time to rub into the skin and leaves a slight sheen. If you don’t rub it in enough or if your skin is very deep, you can also expect a white cast. When it comes to babies or young kids, a white cast usually isn’t a big deal (especially in the summer), but for day-to-day life, it might be too much. You can find it on Amazon.

Key Features

  • SPF: 50 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Cream
  • Size: 6 oz.
  • Skin Type: Normal, dry, sensitive
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Mineral – zinc oxide
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: No
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Beneficial skincare ingredients
  • Great for sensitive skin
  • Very natural formula

Cons

  • Leaves a slight sheen
  • Can leave a white cast

7
Best Lip Sunscreen
Supergoop! Lipscreen SPF 40
Supergoop! Supergoop.com
$22

Rubbing regular sunscreen on the lips isn’t very pleasant, so this lip balm offers a great alternative. Many people forget the lips when applying SPF without realizing that our lips are actually just as vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer as other parts of our face.

There are a lot of lip balms out there with 15 SPF, but for better protection, 40 SPF is perfect. Instead of a balm, this is much more of a gloss, so it gives the lips a really pretty sheen. It’s nice on its own, and you can also use it to amp up protection over lipstick!

The only drawback to this lip sunscreen is that it has a polarizing flavor. Some shoppers don’t mind it, and others find it intolerable. If you’re not picky about taste, pick it up from Supergoop!.  

Key Features

  • SPF: 40 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Lip gel
  • Size: 0.14 oz.
  • Skin Type: All
  • Water-Resistant: No
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Keeps oft-neglected lips protected
  • Pretty, gloss-like sheen
  • Can be used over lipsticks

Cons

  • Polarizing taste

8
Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica SPF 50+ Sunscreen
ISDIN Amazon.com
$55

ISDIN is a Spanish brand that has been starting to make some waves internationally. This dermatologist-favorite sunscreen is a great example of the brand, with a surprisingly elegant formula.

It’s a lotion sunscreen that manages to disappear into the skin, despite the high amount of zinc oxide in it. Even users with darker skin find that they can use it without having a white cast. It has a very lightweight texture that the brand actually refers to as an emulsion. It’s especially nice on oily skin, but it’d also be a fine choice for normal and dry skin.

This is a great sunscreen for beach vacations since it’s reef-safe and water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. You’ll need to reapply after each dip, of course, but you’ll know that you’re protected while you’re in the water. You may want to reserve it for your face, however, since it’s a pricey product. It’s available on Amazon.

Key Features

  • SPF: 50 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Lotion
  • Size: 3.4 oz.
  • Skin Type: All
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 40 minutes
  • Filters: Mineral – zinc
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Reef-safe mineral formula
  • Light, non-greasy texture
  • Almost no white cast
  • Water-resistant

Cons

  • Pricey

9
Best Moisturizer with SPF
Paula’s Choice Resist Skin Restoring Moisturizer SPF 50
Paula’s Choice Paulaschoice.com
$33

Paula’s Choice is pretty consistently one of our favorite brands. A no-nonsense approach and a well-defined product formulation philosophy have made the brand an easy favorite. PC definitely kept that up when formulating this SPF moisturizer.

It’s a very creamy sunscreen that’s definitely ideal for those with dry skin. It offers immense protection while also moisturizing very thoroughly, allowing you to skip all of the hydration steps in the morning. It leaves a dewy finish that works well under makeup, although it may register as greasy on those with combination or oily skin. 

One of the key tenets with Paula’s Choice is that every product has to be gentle, with proven skin-soothing and antioxidant ingredients. That’s certainly the case here, and this moisturizer features a lot of our skincare favorites, like niacinamide, licorice root extract, and oat extract. If your skin is a little sensitive but doesn’t react to most SPF filters, you should definitely give it a try. It’s available at Paula’s Choice and Nordstrom.

Key Features

  • SPF: 50 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Cream
  • Size: 2 oz.
  • Skin Type: Dry, normal, sensitive
  • Water-Resistant: No
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone
  • Reef-Safe: No
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Rich and moisturizing for dry skin
  • Works well with makeup
  • Includes a lot of soothing, antioxidant ingredients
  • Pretty, dewy finish

Cons

  • Can look greasy on oily skin

10
Best for Under Makeup
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++
Supergoop! Supergoop.com
$34

One of the hardest things for a makeup wearer to deal with is pairing their sunscreen with makeup. How are you supposed to layer your skincare, your sunscreen, and then your primer and foundation?

While each makeup wearer can find their own way around this issue, we think choosing a sunscreen that doubles as a primer is one of the best solutions. After all, you need your sunscreen to be the final layer of your skincare routine, so putting a primer on top of it can disrupt things.

This gorgeous sunscreen is reminiscent of the silkiest primer. It looks like a clear gel, and it goes on the skin beautifully, leaving behind a natural demi-matte finish. It’s a fantastic choice for those with oily skin or just anyone who likes a bit of shine control.

Since it’s a chemical sunscreen, it’s awesome on all skin tones, leaving behind no white cast. It’s a real premium product, so the only drawback is that it comes with a luxury price tag. Pick it up from Supergoop! or Sephora!

Key Features

  • SPF: 40 Broad-Spectrum PA+++
  • Format: Demi-matte gel
  • Size: 1.7 oz.
  • Skin Type: All
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 40 minutes
  • Filters: Chemical – homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: No
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Doubles as makeup primer
  • Has a gorgeous silky, demi-matte finish
  • Works with all skin tones

Cons

  • Quite expensive

11
Best Hand Sunscreen
Supergoop! Handscreen SPF 40
Supergoop! Supergoop.com
$38

Does your hand need its own special sunscreen? No. Can it be nice to have? Sure. If you’re looking specifically for a hand cream that also offers sun protection, this formula from Supergoop! is pretty nice. It’s a little expensive, but it’s not egregious. 

As a sunscreen, it’s a great chemical option that offers decent protection and is even reef-safe, although it’s not water-resistant. It’s a fine choice for every day or for long periods spent outside – as long as you’re not getting too wet or sweaty.

As a hand cream, it’s actually very lovely! The formula is very hydrating, with glycerin and all kinds of pleasant emollients. It has a creamy, nourishing texture, but it’s not overly greasy or heavy. You could easily use it on your body, although it might be too rich for the face.

The brand highlights some antioxidant-rich plant oils, but they’re not used in a very high quantity. If your hands get dry throughout the day, or you wash your hands often, it’s a fantastic 2-in-1 that’ll restore moisture while also protecting your hands.

It comes in a large size that offers better value, but most shoppers adore the convenient travel size. You can just keep it in your purse and reapply as needed. Shop for it at Supergoop! or Sephora!  

Key Features

  • SPF: 40 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Cream
  • Size: 1 oz. or 6.76 oz.
  • Skin Type: Dry, normal
  • Water-Resistant: No
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Offers decent protection
  • Moisturizes the hands throughout the day
  • Travel size convenient to have in purse
  • Can be used on body

Cons

  • Special hand sunscreen is kind of extra
  • A little pricey

12
Best Tinted Sunscreen
Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer Tinted SPF 47 Protect + Perfect
Josie Maran Sephora.com
$36

This stunning tinted sunscreen is a great option if you prefer mineral formulas but can’t handle any white cast. It has a nice formula that’s very reminiscent of a tinted moisturizer. It offers a lot of hydration and just a hint of coverage.

It only comes in one shade, which has a medium, warm tone. It can suit a wide range of skin tones, but those with very fair or very dark skin will probably find that it’s a little too pigmented to be able to use it.

While it is a mineral formula, it combines some very elegant synthetics with skin-nourishing ingredients, like argan oil and green tea extract. The result is a really beautiful finish on the skin along with moisturizing and skin-soothing effects. We recommend it especially to those with dry skin or anyone who likes a dewy look. It’s sold at Sephora.

Key Features

  • SPF: 47 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Tinted cream
  • Size: 2 oz.
  • Skin Type: Dry, normal
  • Water-Resistant: No
  • Filters: Mineral – zinc oxide, titanium dioxide
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Warm, glowy finish
  • Great under makeup
  • Mineral protection for sensitive skin

Cons

  • Not for oily skin
  • Needs more shade options

13
Best Stick Sunscreen
Shiseido SynchroShield WetForce x HeatForce Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ for Face & Body
Shiseido Nordstrom.com
$29

Shiseido makes a lot of great sunscreens, but this one stands out as one of the better overall stick sunscreens on the market. It’s a clear stick with chemical filters, so it’s totally invisible on the skin.

It offers excellent protection, and it’s extremely water-resistant (in fact, the WetForce technology is meant to make it more effective in water). It has a balm-like texture, and it leaves the skin looking natural and satin-y.

As with all stick sunscreens, it’s ideal for touching up spots, and since it’s small, it fits in your purse easily. It’s become especially famous recently as an awesome option for reapplying sunscreen over makeup since it doesn’t disturb the foundation below it. It also works well under makeup, although we think it’s a little too expensive to justify that type of regular use. Shop for it at Nordstrom or Sephora!

Key Features

  • SPF: 50 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Clear balm stick
  • Size: 0.71 oz.
  • Skin Type: All
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Chemical – avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: No

Pros

  • Small and portable for touch-ups
  • Can be used over makeup
  • Very water-resistant
  • Nice, satiny finish

Cons

  • Very expensive for small amount of product

14
Best Lightweight
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF 50 + PA++++
Biore Amazon.com
$13.26

This super-light Japanese sunscreen is iconic, especially amongst fans of Asian beauty. It’s the only sunscreen on our list that’s designed with next-generation chemical filters, which are famed for their gentleness on the skin and immensely high protection against both UVA and UVB (that’s what that PA++++ symbol is all about). Just be aware that these filters haven’t been cleared for use in the US yet – something that most skincare fanatics are quite upset about. 

The reason why this sunscreen is so popular is that it simply disappears into the skin and doesn’t cause issues under makeup. It has a very light texture, thanks to the addition of alcohol. For those with dry skin, the alcohol may not be ideal, but the reality is that it’s an excellent texture enhancer that is largely safe for the skin when used in sunscreen.

While some users with sensitive skin can use this sunscreen, it does contain a slight fragrance that can cause issues. If you have oily, sensitive skin, you may still want to try it but make sure to patch-test.

The main drawback to this sunscreen is that it’s often replicated by counterfeiters, so be very careful when shopping online. With that said, you can buy it on Amazon as long as you vet the seller first. 

Key Features

  • SPF: 50, PA++++ (Broad=Spectrum)
  • Format: Light lotion
  • Size: 1.7 oz. 
  • Skin Type: Oily, combination, normal
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Chemical – octinoxate, uvinul T 150, uvinul A plus, tinosorb S
  • Reef-Safe: No
  • Fragrance: Yes
  • Cruelty-Free: No

Pros

  • Utilizes elegant, protective next-generation UV filters
  • Incredibly light and quick to absorb
  • Works well under makeup

Cons

  • Easy to end up with counterfeits
  • May not work for sensitive or dry skin

15
Best Powder Sunscreen
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 50
Colorescience Dermstore.com
$69

If you have oily skin, powder sunscreens provide the most convenient way of touching up your protection. They give an SPF boost while also helping to soak up excess oil from the skin. This sunscreen from Colorescience is especially fantastic, with an unusually high SPF of 50.

Unlike many other makeup-sunscreen hybrids, this powder comes in 4 shades, which is a decent amount considering its pigmentation is low. The powder comes in a tube that’s attached to the brush applicator, which makes using it on the go incredibly easy. 

The main drawback with this sunscreen also applies to all powder SPF products. The issue is that it’s very hard to apply enough powder sunscreen. You can never rely on a powder to be your main source of sun protection. Even as a touch-up, you can still only expect to receive a percentage of the SPF on the label since applying the full ¼ teaspoon amount can look very cakey.

That said, it’s still very convenient, and it’s a reasonable compromise when you need just a small increase in protection, like for the short drive home from work. The high SPF rating means that even if you don’t apply exactly the full amount, you still get some additional protection. You can find it on Dermstore.

Key Features

  • SPF: 50 Broad-Spectrum
  • Format: Powder
  • Size: 0.21 oz.
  • Skin Type: Oily, normal, combination, sensitive
  • Water-Resistant: Yes, up to 80 minutes
  • Filters: Mineral, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide
  • Reef-Safe: Yes
  • Fragrance: No
  • Cruelty-Free: Yes

Pros

  • Can be applied over makeup
  • Mattifies oily skin
  • Very convenient on-the-go

Cons

  • Hard to achieve full protection


What to Look for in the Best Sunscreen for You?

With such a long list of sunscreens to choose from, it can be hard to decide. If you’re not sure which will be right for you, read through this section, and hopefully, we can help you decide.

SPF Rating

The most important factor to consider when buying sunscreen is its SPF, which stands for Sunburn Protection Factor. This is the rating used in the US to explain how thoroughly your sunscreen protects you from UVB rays and sunburn. The higher the rating, the greater and more long-lasting the protection. 

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF because it protects the skin from 97% of UVB radiation. Note that no sunscreen (not even 100 SPF) can protect the skin from 100% UVB light.

However, higher SPF ratings are still better because they provide more protection and are more forgiving of sparse applications. That is why our list doesn’t include a single sunscreen with a rating lower than 30, and the vast majority of them go even higher. The highest protection comes from our top pick, Neutrogena’s 100 SPF sunscreen

Broad-Spectrum Protection

The sun has two categories of rays: UVA and UVB. Broad-spectrum means that your sunscreen effectively protects you from both of them, so it was important for us to only include broad-spectrum sunscreens on our list. 

Both types of rays are dangerous, especially when it comes to skin cancer. Cosmetically, both can cause hyperpigmentation. There are also some differences, though.

UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, while UVA rays are more responsible for photoaging. No matter whether your motivation to use sunscreen is purely health-based or also aesthetic-based, it’s undeniable that a broad-spectrum sunscreen is better. That’s why all of the sunscreens on our list offer it.

Most brands don’t test or disclose the exact level of UVA protection, but to count as broad-spectrum, the level of protection has to be proportional to the SPF. This means that the higher the SPF of a broad-spectrum sunscreen, the higher the UVA protection.

In East Asia, some sunscreens are also labeled with PPA followed by a plus sign, which is a rating that specifically refers to UVA protection. If you’re looking specifically for high UVA protection, Biore’s Watery Essence is your best choice.

Body Part

Are you looking for a face sunscreen, body sunscreen, or a product that can do it all? If we’re being technical, SPF is SPF, so there’s no need to use a specific product for each body part.

However, sometimes, certain parts of our body like some textures and features more than others. The body usually does best with a light lotion, while the face is pickier, so you need to choose the best sunscreen for your skin type. 

If you are shopping for your body, we recommend looking at quantity and budget. A small 1.7-ounce tube of sunscreen is not even close to enough if you’re spending a day on the beach. If you’re looking for a body sunscreen, it’s always better to choose an option that comes in a bottle of at least 5 ounces. 

Water-Resistant

If you tend to get sweaty or are looking specifically for a vacation sunscreen, water resistance is a must. Many of the sunscreens on our list are water-resistant, and thanks to testing regulations, we know exactly for how long.

Just keep in mind that while your sunscreen may stay put for up to 40 or 80 minutes, you’ll still need to reapply it when you get out of the water, especially if you towel-dry yourself.

Water-resistant sunscreens are a little harder to remove, so for daily life, a non-resistant sunscreen might be more convenient. 

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Skin Type?
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Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Your Skin Type

Sunscreens are often advertised as good for all skin types, but that’s not always true. When it comes to the face, especially, it’s important to check that the sunscreen will work with your skin.

Normal and Balanced Combination Sin

If you have a normal or combination skin type, finding good sunscreen is a breeze. Your skin doesn’t produce too much oil, but it also doesn’t get too dry. Because of that, you have a lot of room to experiment with different sunscreen textures.

You’ll want to avoid overly greasy creamy sunscreens (of which there aren’t many on our list). In summer, you’ll probably want sunscreens advertised as having a mattifying effect.

Beyond that, you can have fun with it! If you like a dewy finish, a slightly richer sunscreen will work well and can even double as your moisturizer, while if you prepare a more matte look, a lightweight sunscreen will do.

Oily and Combination-Oily

When your skin is oily, it produces a lot of sebum, so it can get shiny and greasy, especially on hot days. You’ll want to find a sunscreen that won’t make you feel oilier and maybe even have a mattifying effect.

Sunscreens with silicones, silica, and certain polymers are often very good at keeping the skin matte since they work like primers. Some folks with oily skin look for sunscreens that contain a bit of alcohol since that makes them a little more dry-feeling and enhances their ability to sink into the skin. In the short term, this can be very pleasant, although these sunscreens may not keep your skin matte for the long term.

Finally, there are sunscreens in alternative formats, like powders and gels, that are designed specifically to keep the skin matte. 

If you do choose a traditional sunscreen with some moisturizing effects, you will probably be able to use it instead of face cream in the morning (although you might still want to use a hydrating serum first). 

The best sunscreens on our list for oily or combination-oily skin are our picks from Neutrogena, La Roche-Posay, and ISDIN, although there are plenty of other options. 

Dry and Combination-Dry

When your skin is mostly dry and doesn’t produce much oil, a sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer can be a great choice. Cream sunscreens are usually more nourishing to the skin, and some products are advertised specifically as moisturizers with SPF.

Look for sunscreens formulated with humectants, like glycerin or hyaluronic acid, as these will help pull moisture into your skin. Botanical oils and plant butters can also help smooth the skin and give it an extra soft feel.

On the other hand, you can choose a normal sunscreen and just layer it over a hydrating serum or moisturizer. Just make sure to allow that first moisturizer layer to sink into your skin completely before putting the sunscreen on top of it. 

The best sunscreens on our list for dry skin are the ones from Paula’s Choice, Josie Maran, and Sun Bum.

Sensitive

Sensitive skin isn’t a traditional skin type since it’s usually connected to specific skin disorders concerns, like rosacea or eczema. Those with sensitive skin experience irritation very easily, which can present itself as redness, a rash, or stinging. Skincare products, including sunscreen, have the potential to irritate the skin and cause a reaction, so it’s important to always conduct a patch test before using it on large areas of skin.

First of all, if your skin is sensitive, you’ll want to pay attention to one of the most common irritants found in skincare: fragrance. Both synthetic fragrance and natural fragrance from essential oils have the potential to irritate your skin. Not everyone with sensitive skin will have a problem with fragrances, so while they don’t have to be totally off-limits, fragrance-free options are still the safer choice.

Second, you may choose to avoid certain sunscreen filters. Oxybenzone is the sunscreen ingredient most commonly associated with allergies, but some shoppers with sensitive skin choose to avoid chemical sunscreens altogether.

Aside from the filters, sunscreens can include any skincare ingredients. We’ve written a full guide to caring for sensitive skin where we talk in more detail about which ingredients to avoid and how to patch-test a product to check for sensitivity. 

Finally, remember that your skin is both sensitive and either dry, normal, or oily, so you’ll have to keep both elements in mind when choosing the best sunscreen for you.   

The best sunscreens on our list for sensitive skin are our picks from EltaMD and Thinkbaby.

What to Look for in the Best Sunscreen for You?
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Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen

One distinction that generates a lot of controversies is chemical vs. mineral sunscreens, or, as chemists sometimes prefer to call them, organic vs. inorganic sunscreens. These terms refer to the UV filters, which are the ingredients in sunscreen that provide the skin with sun protection.

There is a lot of outdated information about the two categories, so we’ll aim to give you a simplified but scientifically sound explanation.

Mineral Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens are also known as physical sunscreens or inorganic sunscreens. The active ingredients in them are either zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two minerals.

The big benefit of these ingredients is that they’re less likely to cause allergic reactions compared to certain chemical sunscreen filters. Green beauty shoppers like them because they’re minerals sourced from the earth (though there’s some controversy over the mining practices).

The main issue with physical sunscreens is that they tend to be very thick, although brands like Etude House have managed to innovate with lighter formulations. They also often cause a white cast, which can look odd unless you’re extremely fair.

It is possible to make more elegant physical sunscreens by using nanosized versions of the mineral filters. But, some people choose to avoid those kinds of filters because of controversy around absorption, which is mostly unwarranted, as well as concern about their effectiveness at filtering UVA.

It’s important to mention that physical sunscreen filters work pretty much the same as chemical ones. Both categories work to protect the skin by absorbing the UV rays and converting them to heat. Mineral sunscreens will also cause a small percentage of the UV rays to reflect and scatter back, but that’s not their main mechanism of action.

Chemical Sunscreens

Most of the sunscreens on our list are chemical ones, and with a good reason. They’re stable, they offer excellent broad-spectrum protection, and they’re very pleasant to use.

In the US, there is only a small number of chemical filters that are cleared to use, but in recent years, new sunscreen filters that are even gentler, more elegant, and stable have come out of Europe and Asia (like the filters in our pick from Biore).

Different chemical sunscreen filters have also caused some controversy. Some people worry that certain filters can be irritating or that they can disrupt the endocrine system if they build up in the body. In general, however, skipping sunscreen is always going to be the greater health risk, although if you’re concerned, you can choose a mineral sunscreen.

Finally, some sunscreen filters are not safe for aquatic life and aren’t reef-safe, which we discuss in more detail in the next session.

Reef-Safe

If your sunscreen plans involve a tropical vacation and some swimming in the ocean, it’s important that you choose a reef-safe formula. The main ingredients that can harm coral reefs are oxybenzone and octinoxate, so these are the main ones to avoid. The actual term “reef-safe” is actually unregulated. 

In general, for day-to-day use, this factor isn’t as relevant. The issues with sunscreen mostly occur in vacation spots, where many people enter the water at once.   

Sunscreen and Makeup

If you’re a regular makeup wearer, it’s important to choose a sunscreen that will look nice under makeup. On one end of the spectrum, there are primer-like sunscreens that actually help makeup look better on the skin, like our selections from Elta MD and Supergoop!.

On the other hand, some sunscreens are terrible under makeup. The film formers in them can interact badly with your moisturizer or foundation, causing them to pill up into little balls.

When it comes specifically to facial sunscreens, we made sure to only include options that look good under makeup. There is a higher chance of pilling should you choose to wear a body sunscreen on your face under makeup. 

If you need a sunscreen that you can reapply on top of makeup, the sunscreen powder from Colorescience and the sunscreen stick from Shiseido are both great choices.

How to Choose Sunscreen?
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Sunscreen FAQ

If you still have a few more questions about sunscreen, check out this section and see if we’ve answered yours.

How Much Sunscreen Should I Use?

With sunscreen, the amount you apply to the skin is extremely important. To achieve the full SPF that’s written on the label, you need to apply 2 mg of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. That translates to about a ¼ tsp for the face, ½ a teaspoon for the face and neck, ½ a teaspoon for the arms, and a full teaspoon for each leg.

Applying too little, and you lose a lot of your sunscreen’s protection. It’s impossible to say for sure, but the estimate is that using half the correct amount of sunscreen can lead to only achieving 1/3rd of the advertised SPF. This means that if you use just half of the right amount of a 30 SPF sunscreen, you’ll only have 10 SPF protection.

Because of that, it’s better to always err on the side of caution and use a heaping amount of sunscreen. This is also why it’s important to choose a sunscreen with a nice texture that’ll sink into your skin easily.

How Often Do I Need to Reapply My Sunscreen?

Most sunscreen bottles will tell you to reapply your sunscreen every two hours. These instructions are generally correct, but they lack some nuance. With modern sunscreens, the SPF remains quite stable for a very long time.

The reason you need to reapply is simply that the sunscreen wears away throughout the day, especially if you’re out and about being active. In day-to-day life, most people can apply their sunscreen just once in the morning, and it’ll keep them protected when they take their lunch break or drive home from the office.

However, if you’re on the beach, hiking, or participating in a marathon, sweat, water exposure, and constant wiping remove the sunscreen from the skin. In that case, it’s important to reapply sunscreen more often – every two hours if you’re just participating in light activity, or every hour if you’re constantly in and out of the water or sweating profusely. 

Is Sunscreen Safe?

Using sunscreen is always safer than not using it. Period.

It’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned about sunscreen safety, though. In recent years, there’s been an endless amount of controversy surrounding sunscreens. Most recently, there have been issues with benzene in mainstream sunscreens and scandals over shoddy SPF ratings in Korean sunscreens. Historically, there have also been concerns about the hormone-disrupting effects of certain sunscreen filters. 

In all of these circumstances, however, the protection from skin cancer that sunscreen provides always outweighs the potential risks it presents. The risks outlined by certain organizations are usually theoretical and tenuous at best.

Yes, this even includes the risks of benzene exposure. As an illuminating post on the Labmuffin blog concludes, “benzene in personal care products has never been linked to cancer, but UV exposure definitely has.” If you’re interested in the deep science surrounding this issue, we recommend reading the full post.

So, in other words, while certain sunscreens may not be perfect and while there can be occasional issues with the safety of some ingredients or contaminants, unprotected sun exposure is always far more dangerous. 

Do People with Darker Skin Have to Use Sunscreen?

Yes, definitely. While having dark skin means that you’re less likely to end up with a sunburn or skin cancer, the reality is that people of color are also more likely to go undiagnosed. Because of that, skin cancer in people of color is often identified at a later stage, when it’s harder to treat and is fatal.

The American Academy of Dermatology emphasizes the importance of wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer in the first place. The article also gives tips for how to identify earlier stages of skin cancer, specifically when you have darker skin.

While it is mostly a safety issue, it’s also useful to wear sunscreen from an aesthetic perspective. Sunscreen is one of the best anti-aging products we can use. It also helps prevent hyperpigmentation, which is a common skin concern that those with darker skin tones are more likely to experience.

We made an effort to avoid sunscreens that leave a white cast, so the vast majority of sunscreens on our list should look great on all skin tones. 

Photos via Sephora, Nordstrom, Amazon