Sunscreen is more than just a lotion that you put on during the summer to avoid redness and sunburn. The American Cancer Society and the Skin Care Foundation recommend protecting your skin with sunscreen (at least SPF 30) all year long. When you’re exposed to harsh ultraviolet rays, it can lead to sunburn, eye damage, premature wrinkles, and even skin cancer. Sunscreen has significantly improved and diversified over the years to fit everyone’s specific needs. If you want to practice a healthy skincare habit, you can incorporate sunscreen into your daily skincare routine (it should be the last product you apply) — and, hopefully, you won’t ever have to turn to aloe vera gels after the beach.
When it comes to shopping for the best sunscreen, finding the one for you will depend on a variety of things, such as skin type (normal, sensitive, dry, oily, combination), lifestyle (active outdoors or not), preferred product formulation (chemical or mineral), and budget. We sourced the best-rated sunscreens — take a look below to find one that fits your needs.
At a glance
- Best overall:
- Best for sensitive skin:
- Best for face:
- Best face and body:
- Best for dark skin tones: Black Girl Sunscreen
- Best moisturizing:
- Best spray:
- Best for tattoo protection:
- Best scented:
Best overall: Purito Centella Green Level Unscented Sun SPF 50
Purito Centella Green Level Unscented Sun is a water-based chemical sunscreen. It’s a popular Korean sunscreen, and it’s the best overall because it leaves no white cast and is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. It’s also unscented, hydrating, and helps improve your skin’s elasticity. It contains Centella asiatica, which makes it soothing and calming. Most importantly, it contains niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, which are great for healthy skin.
Best for sensitive skin: Elta MD UV Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
If you’re someone who has sensitive or acne prone skin then you need a product that helps fight acne. This Elta MD clear facial sunscreen leaves no white and feels super moisturizing. It’s made of transparent zinc oxide and it’s a Broad Spectrum sunscreen so it protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
Best for face: Supergoop
The SuperGoop everyday sunscreen doesn’t look or smell like your typical sunscreen. The texture is translucent, and it feels silky smooth, similar to how a primer feels on your skin. This mineral sunscreen is great for people who want to wear makeup on top of their sunscreen because it will blend in smoothly.
Best for face and body: La Roche-Posay
La Roche-Posay has an expansive list of sunscreen products, and they’re all great options. This particular chemical sunscreen spray is great for the face and body because it will blend smoothly thanks to its water-like consistency. The spray cap on top can be a little hard to press, but overall, this sunscreen leaves absolutely no white cast.
Best for darker skin tones: Black Girl Sunscreen
Black Girl Sunscreen was created by Shontay Lundy, a Black woman who wanted to create a product specifically for women of color. Black Girl Sunscreen eliminates the white residue and moisturizes the skin to leave you with a radiant glow, and it has a seal of approval from Beyoncé herself. This reef-free sunscreen caters to darker skin tones and is a testament to the fact that we need more women of color in-house when it comes to product formulations. You should hurry because this hot item goes out of stock quickly.
Best moisturizing: Bioré UV Aqua Rich
This Korean chemical sunscreen feels just like a moisturizer — hence the “aqua” in its name. It leaves no white cast, and a lot goes a long way with this product. This sunscreen is great for everyday use, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like the heaviness of sunscreen but you still want to add it to your daily skincare routine.
Best spray: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Mist Sunscreen
This Neutrogena SPF 55 sunscreen spray is lightweight and water-resistant. It’s oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores, but it does leave a bit of shine on your face. It’s super convenient for traveling or adding that extra spray on your face before you leave the house.
Best for tattoos: L:A Bruket No. 192 Tattoo Daily Protection
L:A Bruket is a Swedish brand that focuses on organic and natural skincare products. This tattoo aftercare sunscreen is great for people with tattoos who want to protect their tattoo’s color and vibrancy. Its made of all-natural ingredients, including titanium dioxide, which acts as a sun filter to help the tattoo stay protected from bleaching. It’s great for everyday use if you have your tattoos out in the sun a lot and don’t want them to fade.
Best scented: Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Sol Oil SPF 30
This shimmering body oil sunscreen by Sol de Janeiro is great for the body. It smells so fragrant and leaves your body glowing — it literally leaves shimmers on your body. It’s made of cupuaçu butter, anti-oxidant rich acaí oil, and conditioning coconut oil that will soften for an ultimate Brazilian glow. Best of all, it’s cruelty-free, paraben-free, and sulfate-free. If you want something to get that extra tan glow on your body while also smelling fresh, this is the sunscreen for you.
Why is sunscreen important?
Although the ozone layer acts as a natural sunblock protectant from the sun’s deadly ultraviolet rays, we still get our fair share of exposure to UV radiation. Too much exposure to UV rays can lead to hyperpigmentation, sunburn, sun poisoning, and, in the worst-case scenario, skin cancer.
How often should you wear sunscreen?
All the time! You should wear sunscreen any time you’re exposed to the sun — for most people, that means 365 days a year, even if you stay inside some days. Whether it’s a gloomy day or not, you should have some sun protection on. During the winter, when you’re indoors more, you should still wear sunscreen since some rays can get through the windows and affect your skin.
Sunscreen is not just important for your face — it should also be worn on any part of your body exposed to the sun. If you’re worried about wrinkles and are looking to find a sunscreen to help with anti-aging, remember that, aside from your face, your neck and hands are two important areas where you should always apply sunscreen. We often forget to wear sunscreen on our neck when applying sunscreen, and we tend to wash our hands after applying.
How does sunscreen work?
Sunscreen works in a combination of ways. Sunscreen can block and absorb UV rays through physical and chemical particles. For the physical particles, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are used to reflect UV radiation from the skin. At the same time, chemical ingredients react with radiation before it penetrates the skin, absorbing the rays and releasing the energy as heat.
Broad-spectrum sunscreen is the type of sunscreen you should look for because it protects against UVA and UVB rays, both of which can wreak havoc on your skin. And you should re-apply every 2-4 hours depending on how active you are outside.
Can you still tan with sunscreen?
Yes! There isn’t a sunscreen out there that can act as a 100% protectant from the sun, so you’ll still be able to tan to some degree.
What’s the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?
All sunscreens are categorized into two different types: Physical and chemical. The difference is in how the sunscreen reacts to UV rays to protect the skin.
Physical sunblock sits on top of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays. The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients in physical blocks.
Chemical sunscreen contains organic (carbon-based) compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone, which create a chemical reaction. Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing UV rays and changing them into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin.
We’re constantly trying skincare products and looking to try new sunscreens, so be sure to check back for updated products. Looking for more great stuff? Find more in our health and beauty hub.
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