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Whether you’re heading to the beach, campsite or just hanging by the pool, you’ll want to make sure to protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Sun damage is one of the leading causes of skin cancer, not to mention the damaging effects it has on aging and drying out your skin. That nasty sunburn that left a mark? It could have been easily prevented with some sunblock. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s a smart idea to layer on sunscreen as a general precaution against the elements.
What Are the Best Sunscreens?
The days of greasy, Pina Colada-scented sunscreens are gone, replaced by gentle, skin-friendly lotions that protect and nourish the skin without leaving a lingering scent or greasy residue. That rom-com stereotype of the guy with white sunscreen all over his nose? Consider that gone too, with the best new sunscreens all absorbing easily and evenly into the skin. Here’s what else to look for when buying sunscreen.
Traditional vs. Mineral: There are two general types of sunscreen – traditional and mineral. Traditional sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays while mineral sunscreens block the sun’s rays (hence the term, “sunblock”). Both sunscreens work well.
UVA vs. UVB: The best sunscreens should offer both UVA and UVB protection. These ultraviolet lights affect your skin differently; UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns, while UVA rays are generally associated with skin cancer and pre-mature aging. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that covers both types of UV light.
SPF: You’ll also want to look at the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating. While many people mistakenly assume the SPF number equates to minutes spent without burning, the SPF is more of a ratio than set timer. For example, using an SPF 30 sunscreen means it will take 30 times longer for skin to burn than it would without sunscreen. Ideally, you want to look for something with at least an SPF 30 rating.
Face vs. Body: You’ll want to consider separate sunscreens for your body and face. Your face needs something more lightweight, and less greasy, so that it won’t clog pores. Your body can take on something a little thicker and more heavy-duty. Apply liberally to your body; apply in small layers to your face.
Ingredients: If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to look for sunscreens with all natural ingredients, with no harsh chemicals or additives that could irritate your skin. We’ve found great options for sensitive skin and for those who suffer from acne or discoloration. All of our picks are hypoallergenic and vegan-friendly too.
How to Use: The last thing to consider is to make sure you’re applying enough sunscreen and that you’re applying it correctly. Most dermatologists suggest a one ounce “shot” of sunscreen per section of your body. An Oreo cookie-sized amount should do the trick. Rub the sunscreen liberally into your skin and make sure it’s dry before you start swimming or sweating. If you’re in the water, you’ll want to re-apply your sunscreen every two hours or so to make sure it’s effective. Most waterproof sunscreens will offer some level of protection even if you’re underwater, but drying off with a towel or moving around too much in the water could still affect its coverage.
The latest sunscreens all do double-duty as skincare wonders, packed with things like botanicals (for antioxidant properties) and vitamin E (for moisturizing). We’ve even found a sunscreen with a subtle tint, to give you an effortless, natural-looking glow, even before you’ve stepped into the sun.
Whether you’re going on a hike, heading to a festival or just enjoying brunch al fresco, It’s never been more important to slather on the sunblock to keep your skin young, smooth and healthy-looking. Fortunately, our picks for best sunscreen make it easy, so you can apply your sun protection quickly and effectively, and get on with your day.
1. EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen
The last thing people with redness or sensitive skin need is another layer of product on their already irritated dermis. But sunscreen is a must, and shouldn’t be something you skip.
That’s why we like this EltaMA UV Clear Facial Sunscreen, which not only offers UVA and UVB protection, but is also dermatologist-recommended to also help calm and clear up your skin. The mineral-based sunscreen is designed specifically for the face, so it’s lightweight and goes on clear. Even if you layer it over your regular moisturizer or acne treatments, it’ll absorb easily without leaving a greasy, sticky feeling like some sunscreens tend to do. There is no residue either.
If you’re prone to acne, rosacea, discoloration or hyperpigmentation, your skin will like that this sunscreen is oil-free, fragrance-free and free from any parabens. Squeeze into your fingers and lightly pat on your skin for best results.
PROS: The EltaMD UV Clear contains hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, which are proven ingredients to help with skin tone, texture and overall health.
CONS: Suggested to re-apply every two hours. This is a facial sunscreen and is not designed for the whole body.
2. Sun Bum Original SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion
Sun Bum is known for their fun branding and irreverent packaging (also: that name!) but the brand boasts some serious cred when it comes to making good, protective sunscreen. Sun Bum’s original SPF 30 sunscreen lotion is still our top pick from the brand, with a nostalgic summery scent and a thick, nourishing formula that stays on your skin — not on your clothes or towels.
The sunscreen is oil-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic and cruelty-free (never tested on animals) and offers broad specrum UVA/UVB protection. Infused with vitamin E, the sunscreen not only helps to protect your skin, but helps to moisturize it too.
PROS: The Sun Bum sunscreen lotion is water-resistant and reef-friendly, making it great for the beach.
CONS: Sensitive noses will want a fragrance-free option.
3. Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen
Australian botanicals like Kakadu Plum, eucalyptus and red algae form the basis of this eco-friendly sunscreen, which is made from all natural ingredients, sulfate-free, dye-free and never tested on animals.
The botanicals add antioxidant properties, while titanium dioxide and zinc oxide provide the sun protection. The UVA/UVB broad spectrum sunscreen is oil-free and light to the touch. The lotion is finished with a slight hint of color that blends easily, to help even out skin tone and create a matte, flawless complexion.
PROS: Fragrance-free and suitable for sensitive skin. Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
CONS: This sunscreen contains a subtle tint, though the color easily washes off with water.