10 Face Sunscreens You Won’t Mind Wearing Every Day
Finding a sunscreen that won't gum up your face isn't easy. These dermatologists reveal their favorites you can add to your skin care routine.
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Wearing sunscreen every day
If you want to have healthy skin (and who doesn’t?), sunscreen should be your part of your skin care routine. No, it’s not just about slathering it on before hitting the beach or pool. You should be putting sunscreen on sun-exposed skin every single day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the two most common types of skin cancer; while melanoma, which is rarer, is considered to be a much more aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer.
The good news: Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing BCC and SCC by about 40 percent, and reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. There’s more good news—we have 10 excellent products for you, but first here’s some crucial sunscreen info.
The importance of face sunscreen
“Sunscreen reduces your overall UV [ultraviolet] exposure and lowers your risk of skin cancer and sun damage,” says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine. With regular use, sunscreen can help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer and also prevent premature skin aging caused by the sun—think: Wrinkles, sagging, and discoloration or age spots, Dr. Hadley explains.
It’s especially important on your face. Your face is one of the areas of the body that gets the highest amount of sun exposure, says Haley Goldbach, MD, California-based board-certified dermatologist. “That means it’s prone to both skin cancer and aging,” she says.
Sneaky sun exposure
Your face gets a lot of “sneaky sun exposure” throughout the day, meaning, it’s getting hit by UV rays even if you don’t notice it, Dr. Goldbach says. “Walking to the store, driving, even taking out the trash. It all adds up. And don’t be fooled by clouds or colder weather—UV radiation still hits the skin.”
While most dermatologists suggest wearing wide-brimmed hats and seeking shade as much as possible when you’re spending time outside, that doesn’t really help in everyday life. You’re not going to wear a big beach hat on your commute to work. What you can easily do is apply face sunscreen every morning before you leave the house.
What to look for in face sunscreen
The thing is, sunscreen doesn’t have the best reputation. It’s known for being greasy, heavy, and sometimes, leaving a white cast on the skin. If you hate sunscreen, you may conveniently “forget” to apply it every single day. This is why it’s important to find face sunscreen products that you feel comfortable wearing on a daily basis, says Dr. King. “That means that we need to like the texture and the cosmetic appearance, and it needs to not cause breakouts or irritation.”
Buy a sunscreen with at least SPF 30
First things first: Dermatologists recommend buying sunscreen with at least SPF 30. “A sunscreen’s SPF, or sun protection factor, measures how much the product shields shorter-wave ultraviolet B rays, known as UVB radiation, which can cause sunburn,” Dr. King explains. Sunscreens with SPFs that are higher only offer marginally better protection from a sunburn than SPF 30; for example, SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent and SPF 30 blocks 96.7 percent, Dr. King says. “I therefore generally recommend using a sunblock that has SPF 30 or higher.” (Beware of these signs that you bought the wrong sunscreen.)
Read the sunscreen labels
You also want to look for sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum.” This means it protects against both UVB [ultraviolet B] and UVA [ultraviolet A] rays, which are both responsible for causing skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and aging.
Facial skin is often more sensitive than skin on the rest of the body, Dr. King notes, meaning that it’s more likely to break out or become red and irritated from products. To reduce the risk of breakouts, look for products labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free.” If you have sensitive skin, avoid any added fragrances or “parfum,” suggests Dr. Goldbach, as these ingredients can potentially cause an allergic reaction.
Physical (or mineral) sunscreens
More and more, dermatologists suggest choosing a physical (or mineral) sunscreen over chemical sunscreen if you can. That means the active ingredients should be zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Physical sunscreens sit on the top of the skin and block UV rays, whereas chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin and absorb UV rays before they can do damage, the Skin Cancer Foundation explains. A 2019 study published in JAMA found that common chemical sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream. This has led experts to question the safety of chemical sunscreens, though more research needs to be done to determine if the typical amount we use is enough to cause adverse effects. In the meantime, many dermatologists suggest opting for physical when you can—though any sunscreen is always better than none, Dr. Goldbach notes.
Easy on the skin
Physical sunscreens may also be kinder to your skin. “Physical sunscreens are less likely to clog pores and irritate complexions, particularly for those with sensitive skin,” says Dr. King. That’s because these active ingredients are non-comedogenic and also tend to be a bit drying. (Keep in mind, though, that facial sunscreens may contain other ingredients that can cause breakouts, Dr. King adds.) As a bonus, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also safer for the oceans and coral reefs, Dr. Goldbach says.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide used to be known for being thick, chalky, hard to spread, and very white. But in recent years, skincare brands have made leaps and bounds in product formulation. “So many companies have developed products that are incredibly sheer and won’t leave a white residue,” says Dr. Goldbach.
Below, with the help of Dr. Goldbach and Dr. King, we’ve rounded up 10 great face sunscreen options that you won’t mind wearing every day. Bonus: Some of them can double as a tinted moisturizer, making your morning routine even simpler. (See, applying sunscreen doesn’t always mean more work!)
Isdin Eryfotona Actinica SPF 50+
Dr. Goldbach recommends this sunscreen because it’s “incredibly sheer,” thanks to its emulsion texture, and doesn’t leave any white residue once it absorbs, even though it isn’t tinted. Dr. King also likes this one because it contains antioxidants and enzymes meant to repair past sun damage while protecting you from racking up any more. The brand also offers a tinted version if you’re looking for that.
EltaMD UV Physical Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 46
EltaMD is a brand that comes highly recommended by dermatologists. This particular face sunscreen is oil-free, fragrance-free, and safe for all types of skin including acne-prone, extra-sensitive, and post-procedure skin. It’s formulated with transparent zinc oxide, plus, contains a light tint. Dr. Goldbach says she just recently finished up a tube of this and vouches that it’s really easy to apply.
Bare Republic Mineral Face Gel Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Gel lotion is just as cool as it sounds. This sunscreen is super light and glides onto skin seamlessly. It dries quickly and doesn’t leave a noticeable white cast on most skin tones. It’s unscented, non-comedogenic, and contains other ingredients to soothe and moisturize skin, like cucumber and aloe extracts.
Mychelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50
This oil-free liquid absorbs really quickly into the skin and leaves a very matte finish, making it a great choice for anyone with really oily skin that tends to get real shiny real fast. It’s great for layering under makeup, but can also be worn on its own—the white color rubs away almost completely. There are also two tinted versions (nude and natural tan) if you have darker skin and/or don’t plan to layer some sort of foundation or tinted moisturizer on top.
Aveno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 30
This daily moisturizer contains physical sunscreen ingredients, making it a great two-in-one option for anyone looking to hydrate and protect skin with one single product. Not only is it void of any ingredients that irritate sensitive skin and exacerbate acne or redness, it actually contains ingredients specifically to help calm skin down. It’s a little thicker than some of the other sunscreens on this list, so best for dry skin that thrives with extra-hydrating creams.
Revision Skincare Intellishade Truphysical Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45
This physical blocker is formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The added “universal tint” removes any white cast and has a nice concealing and brightening effect on the skin. Even though it provides a little bit of coverage, the formula is still lightweight. It even has moisturizing ingredients like squalene, aloe leaf juice, and glycerin, so you can keep your skin hydrated, too.
Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40
This facial sunscreen is a mix between sun protection and highlighting primer. It hydrates the skin while giving it a pearlescent glow that leaves skin looking healthy. You can wear it on its own, but makeup also applies really smoothly on top of it. This sunscreen does contain chemical sunblockers, but as doctors note, finding a product you really love and will wear every day is the most important.
Brush On Block Mineral Sunscreen Powder SPF 30
This brush-on sunscreen powder is sheer, light, and comes in a self-dispensing brush that makes it simple to apply. Dr. King notes that this one’s particularly great for reapplying throughout the day. “It’s a great solution for people who don’t want to reapply sunscreen because they don’t want to mess up their makeup.” It also functions like a finishing powder, absorbing excess oil and extending the life of your makeup. Pro tip: Apply to the part in your hair to protect your scalp.
Alastin Hydratint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36
“If you are picky about the texture of your sunscreen, you can’t do better than Alastin Hydratint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen,” Dr. Goldbach says. “It is so easy to apply and goes on like a dream.” It also contains antioxidants and hydrating ingredients (but is still oil-free) to boost skin health and help stave off the drying and aging effects of the sun.
Coola Organic Mineral Face Matte Tint Sunscreen, SPF 30
Another great tinted option, this mineral sunscreen has a smooth, almost velvety feel and leaves skin with a matte finish. Because of this, it also works as a great primer to apply under whatever face makeup you want to put on for the day. It also contains hydrating ingredients like shea butter and various oils (which may be too heavy for some with acne-prone skin). Overall, this is a great sunscreen for daily use that you won’t even feel on your skin after you apply it. PS: It also comes in a cucumber-scented version.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Sun Safety Tips for Families"
- The Skin Cancer Foundation: "Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics"
- The Skin Cancer Foundation: "All About Sunscreen"
- Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine
- Hayley Goldbach, MD, California-based board-certified dermatologist
- JAMA: "Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients"