Sunscreens that Actually Deliver on Their Promises

It’s no secret that wearing sunscreen is essential—it helps protect your skin against sun damage, which can cause skin cancer, as well as signs of premature aging like wrinkles or brown spots.

However, not all sunscreens are created equal—and with hundreds of options on the market, it can be tough to narrow it down. However, there are a few things you should always be on the lookout for when weighing your options. “You want to make sure the sunscreen you pick is at least SPF 30,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Arash Akhavan. He also encourages choosing a broad-spectrum formula, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Whether you have oily, sensitive, or acne-prone skin—or you’re just looking for a sunscreen that layers beautifully under makeup—we've rounded up the best options, from chemical to mineral, below.

  • Our Picks
  • Final Verdict
  • What to Look For

Best Overall: Supergoop! Glow Screen Sunscreen SPF 40

This primer-like sunscreen gives skin an instant glow and is the perfect first step in your makeup routine. In addition to the SPF 40 protection, this formula also moisturizes the skin with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 and can also help guard against damage from blue light. It’s no wonder the launch of this product made such a splash at ishonest HQ.

What Our Testers Say

"From my very first time using Supergoop's Glow Screen I noticed how nicely it absorbed into my skin and created an instant glow." — Nicole Kliest, Product Tester

Best Budget: Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 60+

A great sunscreen doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg—especially since we want you to be using lots of it. We especially love this affordable mineral option from Neutrogena. Its broad-spectrum formula incorporates zinc oxide and is super gentle on the skin—it’s free of fragrances, dyes, oils, and irritating chemicals. Bonus: It was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, meaning it’s a go-to for those with sensitive skin conditions.

Best Drugstore: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60

Here at ishonest HQ, we’ve been a fan of this French pharmacy mainstay for some time now—it was even one of our top beauty products of 2019. This brand’s Cell-Ox Shield technology—a combo of broad-spectrum SPF 60 protection and antioxidants—means you can rely on this sunscreen to protect and replenish your skin. It’s also totally free of oils, fragrances, and parabens—not to mention it’s available in almost every drugstore around the world.

Best Splurge: Clé de Peau Beauté UV Protective Cream SPF 50+

We know—the price of this sunscreen might seem a little over the top. But here’s why it’s worth it: It does much more than shield you from the sun’s rays, namely smoothing and moisturizing the skin while protecting it from pollution. It's formulated with good-for-your-skin ingredients like mangosteen, Asian ginseng, wild thyme, hyaluronic acid, and scutellaria baicalensis extract (a traditional Japanese herb thought to support skin health), and it also incorporates the brand’s Illuminating Complex EX, which helps retexturize skin and lessen the appearance of damage (and contains precious platinum golden silk and pearl elements, to boot).

Best Sheer: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

There's a reason why this best selling sunscreen keeps flying off the shelves. Made with people of color in mind, this sunscreen goes on completely sheer so that you can say goodbye to chalky residue. People of all shades can enjoy the benefits of avocado and jojoba oil, and it also plays nice under makeup.

Best for Face: Glossier Invisible Shield SPF 35

Transparent straight out of the bottle, Glossier’s Invisible Shield feels more like a serum than a heavy-duty sunscreen. Its water-gel formula contains a mix of vitamin E, vitamin P, broccoli, and aloe leaf extract and will help neutralize free radicals. It’s also paraben-free and non-comedogenic so you won’t have to worry about it clogging your pores. An added bonus is its mild but lovely scent—sweet orange peel oil—and since it’s totally clear, you don’t have to worry about it leaving any white residue on your face.

Warning, though: This sunscreen is not water-resistant, so while it’s great for daily use, having a water-resistant sunscreen on-hand is helpful, especially if you plan on taking any impromptu dips in the water.

Best Mineral: C'est Moi Sunshine Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 45 Water Resistant

This lightweight mineral sunscreen contains all of the ingredients you want and none of the ones you don't. It delivers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection (thanks, zinc oxide), and nourishes the skin with organic aloe and shea butter, plus it contains good-for-your-skin strawberry, apple, and kiwi extracts. Need more reasons to get on board? This sunscreen made the EWG's best-of list in 2020 for the third year in a row—meaning it's free of potentially harmful ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, avobenzone, parabens, and phthalates.

Best for Body: MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF 50

If you’re looking for ultimate protection for your whole body, reach for this mineral sunscreen from MDSolarSciences. Formulated with antioxidants, ceramides, and humectants, this product will keep your skin moisturized, while its broad-spectrum SPF 50 coverage shields you from UVA and UVB rays. Need more convincing? The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends this formula, so you know that it’ll protect your body from sunspots and more severe skin conditions like skin cancer.

Best for Oily Skin: Murad Oil and Pore Control Mattifier SPF 45

There’s no getting around it—finding the right sunscreen when you have oily skin can be tough. But this Murad formula was made with the struggles of a greasy forehead and enlarged pores in mind: It’s oil-free, mattifying, and works to help visibly reduce the appearance of large pores over time without drying or clogging up the skin.

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

If you have acne-prone skin, look no further than this broad-spectrum formula from EltaMD. It’s packed with skin-perfecting ingredients—like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid—and will help protect and smooth the skin. It's also oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores. Also garnering a recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation, this sunscreen comes in either a clear or tinted version.

What Our Testers Say

"This is easily the most non-irritating, absorbent, and low-maintenance facial sunscreen I’ve come across; it’s essentially a nice mid-range moisturizer that happens to have SPF 46." — Kelsey Clark, Product Tester

Best Tinted: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals is known and loved for its powerhouse skincare products, and this tinted mineral sunscreen is no exception. It’s formulated with zinc oxide to protect you from UV rays and also works to increase your skin’s resistance to environmental stressors. It also goes on smoothly and provides just enough tint to brighten and even out your skin without leaving a white cast. This non- comedogenic formula is free of fragrances and parabens and is suitable for all skin types.

Best Vitamin C: Bolden SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer

A sunscreen that can provide SPF protection while evening skin tone sounds like the perfect addition to any beauty regimen. The formula is packed with Vitamin C to boost's skin's natural sun protection, refine skin texture, and fade dark marks and sun spots. You'll also be happy to learn that it dries sheer and works well as a moisturizing primer.

Final Verdict

It’s no secret that wearing sunscreen is essential, however, not all sunscreens are created equal—and with hundreds of options on the market, it can be tough to narrow it down. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray 50+ Sunscreen (see at Sephora) made the top of our list for being easy to use and versatile. Its lightweight non-comedogenic formula is meant for your face and body. Plus, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. If you're looking for a sunscreen that plays nice under makeup, try SuperGoop Glow Screen (see at Sephora). In addition to the SPF 40 protection, this formula also contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 to moisturize skin and cocoa peptides that guard against blue light.

What to Look For in a Sunscreen

Adequate SPF Protection

According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa K. Garshick, the first thing to look for in a sunscreen is that it provides adequate SPF protection. “In general, I recommend SPF 30 or higher,” she says. Of course, reapplying your SPF is just as important as applying it in the first place. “I recommend reapplying every two hours, or sooner if swimming or sweating,” she says.

Broad-Spectrum Coverage

Dr. Garshick also says it’s key to make sure your sunscreen offers broad- spectrum coverage, which means it will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. In addition, she says that some tinted sunscreens also contain iron oxide, which may also help protect against blue light.

Chemical vs. Mineral Formulas

“Depending on your skin type and sensitivity, it’s important to know the key ingredients in your sunscreen,” says Dr. Garshick. “Mineral sunscreens, containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are commonly recommended for those with sensitive skin and children. I often recommend my pregnant patients opt for mineral sunscreens as well.” If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you can generally get away with using either type of formula.

We like Glossier Invisible Shield SPF 35 for every day because it's lightweight and comes with skin benefits like a facial serum. Plus, it doesn't leave a white cast under makeup. We also like Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 for its blend of nourishing oils and no white residue. In general, pick a sunscreen with benefits based on your skin concerns and one that is lightweight and non-greasy.

While each derm has their own personal preference as far as individual products go, in general, the recommendation is that everyone should wear at least SPF 30 every day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Broad- spectrum sunscreen that is water-resistant is also recommended.

If your skin is oily and acne-prone, you should pick an oil-free, non- comedogenic sunscreen. You could also apply a thin layer of a toner, like one containing witch hazel, before applying sunscreen to help treat the skin and absorb oil. We like our Best Pick for Oily Skin, Murad's Oil and Pore Control Mattifier SPF 45 because it reduces shine and is meant to reduce the appearance of large pores. In general, look for a lightweight sunscreen that doesn't feel greasy or heavy on the skin.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and director of The Dermatology and Laser Group.

Marisa K. Garshick, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist practicing at MDCS Dermatology in New York; she is also an assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell—New York Presbyterian Medical Center.

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Dale Wilson B, Moon S, Armstrong F. Comprehensive review of ultraviolet radiation and the current status on sunscreens. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(9): 18-23.

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