Courtesy of Australian Gold
Courtesy of Sun Bum, Ilia Beauty, and Thinksport
Some of the best face sunscreens come in stick, serum, and lotion formulations.
It is important to wear sunscreen on your face every day, no matter what kind of type of skin you have. To find the best face sunscreen for you, follow these tips from dermatologists and discover a few of our tried and tested favorites.
There are two types of people: those who religiously apply sunscreen to their face even if it’s a cloudy day in the dead of winter, and those who haphazardly slap on a thin layer only before heading outdoors in the summer.
Turns out we should all be the former. It is important to wear sunscreen on your face every day to block the UV rays that cause skin cancer and age the skin, says Dr. Rebecca Baxt, MD, MBA, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Paramus, New Jersey.
“No matter the time of year or your location, be sure to wear your sunscreen and reapply it every two hours,” says Dr. Meghan Feely, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology. “On cloudy days, close to 80 percent of UV [rays] can still reach your skin.”
While Feely says sunburn-causing UVB rays are blocked by glass, skin-aging UVA rays can pass through glass, which means it’s important to wear sunscreen for activities like driving your car, sitting in a window seat on an airplane, or even at your desk if it’s next to a window.
No matter what kind of skin type you have, you should always choose a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or greater that also is water resistant and broad spectrum so you’re protected against both UVB and UVA rays, Feely says. Be sure to apply sunscreen as the last step in your skin care routine—after your facial moisturizer and before your makeup.
As for specific ingredients, Feely recommends looking for physical blockers containing minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Concerns over the environmental impact on coral reefs of two chemical blockers—oxybenzone and octinoxate—have caused several destinations, including the state of Hawaii and the city of Key West in Florida, to ban sunscreen containing those two ingredients as of January 1, 2021, so it’s best to avoid products containing those.
With all of that in mind, Baxt says there is no one best sunblock, so it is important to find one that suits your skin best. Whether you have sensitive skin that burns easily, acne issues, or need to find a formula that doesn’t leave you with a sickly white cast, here are some of the best face sunscreens for all sorts of skin types. Just remember to reapply every two hours.
People with sensitive skin should look for fragrance-free products, Feely recommends. A personal favorite of Baxt, this lightweight, fragrance-free sunscreen from the French skin care company La Roche-Posay is also lightly tinted so the mineral-based formula doesn’t leave behind a white cast on your skin.
Buy Now: $16 for 3 oz., ulta.com
If you’re looking for an affordable option, Australian Gold is formulated with mineral blockers and is both fragrance and oil free, making it a solid all-around option for those with sensitive skin who may also be prone to breakouts. The tinted lotion comes in three shades, has a powdery-finish, and evens out any blotchy skin tones. It gets an extra kick of antioxidants from native Australian botanical ingredients, like Kakadu plum, eucalyptus, and red algae. (Note: While this is free of any added chemical fragrances, the botanicals give it a slight scent that fades away quickly after application.)
If you have acne-prone skin or oily skin, “be sure the product is labeled as oil-free or noncomedogenic,” Feely says. This mineral sunscreen from SkinCeuticals checks both of those boxes, but it is also formulated with aerated silica that absorbs up to 15 times its weight in oil. It goes on as a lightweight mousse and has a powder-like matte finish.
This multitasking cream delivers sun protection via zinc oxide, while coconut, sunflower, and jojoba oils provide a unsticky source of moisture for your skin. The daily face sunscreen pick of AFAR associate editor Maggie Fuller, it comes in four different tint shades—sheer, ivory, sand, and tan—for light coverage on days you prefer to skip a full face of makeup.
Those with dry skin should consider a cream sunscreen or one that includes moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid. The clean beauty company Ilia has a tinted SPF serum formulated with mineral zinc oxide blockers that comes in 30 shades and is packed with hyaluronic acid to keep skin plump and seal in hydration (plus it’s also oil free, noncomedogenic, and fragrance free).
Finding a sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast on your face can be tough, but Feely says that it is still important for people with darker skin tones to always use SPF of 30 or higher of a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is water resistant. The trick is to look for clear or tinted sunscreens. Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen meets all those requirements and doubles as a makeup primer. Formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate, this totally invisible formula relies on other chemical blockers to provide SPF 40 protection. If you’d prefer a mineral formula, Supergoop’s Mattescreen SPF 40 has a similar texture and is lightly tinted to work on a wide range of skin tones.
Buy Now: $10 for 0.45 oz., amazon.com
We’re not going to lie—getting kids to wear sunscreen on their faces is not an easy task, but parents at AFAR swear by stick sunscreens. Digital content director Laura Dannen Redman’s go-to for her two daughters is the Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Water Resistant SPF 70 Sunscreen Stick because it glides on easily. But if your kids have ultra-sensitive skin, Sun Bum’s Baby Bum SPF 50 Face Stick is gentle on even the most delicate faces since it is 100 percent mineral based and fragrance free.
Reapplying sunscreen every two hours is easier said than done, especially if you’re wearing makeup over it. This spray formulated with chemical blockers lets you give yourself an SPF boost without having to worry about whether you actually blended a lotion into your face entirely. Both the 3.4-ounce and 1-ounce sizes of the (Re)setting Mist are TSA-friendly, but the smaller size is ideal for throwing in your bag (or pocket) for a day out on the town, trails, or slopes.
If you have sensitive or oily skin (or are just prone to getting sunscreen in your eyes and want to avoid that stinging sensation), this mineral-based powder sunscreen is ideal for quick on-the-go reapplications. While the 0.21-ounce tube is small, expect to get about 90 days of use from it with daily touch-ups.
Buy Now: $13 for 2 oz., amazon.com
Fuller says she keeps a bottle of Thinksport’s regular sunscreen in her bag to reapply SPF if she’s out in the sun for long stretches of time, but the company also makes a tinted SPF 30 specifically for faces, too. This one is great for active people who plan on sweating a lot because its water-resistant formula is easily absorbed by skin and doesn’t use chemical blockers so it won’t melt into your eyes and sting them.
As a sidenote: If you’re considering buying a two-in-one sunscreen and insect repellent for any upcoming outdoors activities, Feely says it’s better to use a separate insect repellent since you’ll have to reapply sunscreen every two hours anyway.
Buy Now: $16 for 3 oz., ulta.com
Thicker cream sunscreens will easily leave behind residue in facial hair, so anyone with a beard can look for a sunscreen with a gel-based formula, Feely says. Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost SPF 50 has a water-like texture that glides on easily and uses chemical blockers that don’t leave behind any white residue. Plus it’s oil free and noncomedogenic so it’s also great for those with oily skin.
Board-certified dermatologists cannot endorse specific products on behalf of the AAD. These are products that are their personal favorites or ones that AFAR editors independently vetted and recommended.
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