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- Sunscreen is crucial to fend off sunburns, prevent skin cancer, and avoid premature skin aging.
- A good sunscreen should rub on clear and have safe ingredients for both your skin and ocean life.
- Our top pick, Supergoop PLAY Everyday, is a clean formula that rubs in clear for all skin tones.
It's summertime which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen for both your body and your face. Sunscreen will not only save you from painful sunburns, but it decreases your risk of developing skin cancer and keeps your skin from premature aging.
While you know you need to be wearing SPF on your body every time you'll be out in the sun (and on your face every day, period), it's hard to know which exactly you should buy, particularly with growing reports of dangerous chemicals in most formulas.
The most important factors in buying a sunscreen are making sure it's at least 30 SPF and reef-safe if you'll be going into the ocean. Whether you want a mineral or chemical formula is largely personal preference, but most important is to find a sunscreen you like enough that you'll actually wear it whenever you go outside.
Read more: How to know what sunscreen you should wear on your face, and what's better for your body, according to dermatologists
At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on which types of UV light contribute to your risk of skin cancer, what the real difference is between chemical and mineral sunscreen, and other sunscreen FAQs.
Here are our top picks for the best sunscreens:
- Best overall: Supergoop PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50
- Best facial sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best on a budget: Thinksport's SPF 50+ Sunscreen
- Best spray-on: Supergoop Mineral Sunscreen Mist
- Best for kids: All Good Kids' Sunscreen
- Best for outdoor adventures: All Good Organic Sunscreen Butter
- Best waterproof: Manda's SPF 50 Organic Sun Paste with Thanaka
The best sunscreen overall
Supergoop PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50 is a gentle, clean chemical sunscreen that works for every skin tone and type, is reef safe, and comes in environmentally-friendly packaging, including a bulk option.
Pros: Gentle on skin, clean formula, no white cast, works for all skin tones, reef safe, environmentally-friendly packaging
Supergoop has earned a cult-like reputation in the past few years, and though it definitely sounds too good to be true, really, Supergoop is that unicorn of a formula that works for every person with every skin type of every skin tone, for whatever level of activity or coverage.
Supergoop PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50 is an incredibly gentle chemical sunscreen, so it works for everyone from those with sensitive skin to dark skin tones. What's more, it's reef safe — Supergoop was actually one of the first brands to create an SPF without oxybenzone —and comes with environmentally-friendly packaging. I also love that the brand offers 1 to 5.5fl oz travel tubes to throw in your beach bag as well as an 18-oz pump top for more environmentally-conscious bulk-purchasing if you're trying to lather up a family of five.
I was first introduced to Supergoop a few years ago while skiing and instantly became obsessed with its sheer, oil-less, color-less texture unlike any sunscreen I had ever come across before. I also have incredibly sensitive skin and was surprised to find the formula never caused me any irritation or breakouts. It's still my go-to for high-altitude skiing and for river days in the summer. What's more, its facial Unseen Sunscreen is beloved for its ability to sit well under foundation and act like a primer while actually protecting your skin from the sun.
The best face sunscreen
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 is a physical sunscreen that protects from UVA/UVB rays and free radicals without making you look pale and shiny.
Pros: Tinted and non-tinted, protects from UVA/UVB rays and free radicals, water-resistant up to 40 minutes, safe for sensitive skin
Cons: Pricey, probably too little protection for direct/intense sunlight (the FDA and EWG recommend about 20% of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide)
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light has all the UVA/UVB protection of a mineral sunscreen, but it goes on quite clear (and comes in a tinted version for darker skin tones) and doesn't build up under makeup. The formula contains 6% titanium dioxide and 5% zinc oxide to shield the skin from sun damage and an antioxidant complex called senna alata to protect from environmental damage.
It's our top pick among face sunscreens we've tested thanks to its protection and the option to come in a lightly tinted version to entirely avoid any white cast, or a non-tinted version, both of which absorbs easily into the skin.
La Roche-Posay is known for its high-quality ingredients and sensitive skin-friendly formulas, and the Anthelios Ultra-Light Sunscreen is no different.
Read more in our guide to the best facial sunscreens.
The best budget sunscreen
Thinksport's SPF 50+ Sunscreen offers optimal-but-affordable protection without any potentially harmful chemicals.
Pros: Affordable, superior protection, plastic-free container
Cons: Requires some effort to rub in
Zinc oxide and purified water are the main ingredients in Thinksport's Sunscreen, which is a great option for hypoallergenic and eco-conscious buyers alike. Although it can leave you a bit pasty — as practically all mineral-based sunblocks do — it does eventually blend while still managing to offer superior UVA and UVB protection.
It has a high rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and is very affordable price-per-ounce. Some complain that it dries their skin out too much, which zinc oxide tends to do, and many others had trouble rubbing it in.
If you find blending zinc oxide into your skin to be a nuisance, you might go for Thinksport's Everyday Face, which comes with a natural tint and blends with most complexions. Just take care around clothes, car seats, or anything else you want to avoid staining. To that end, it probably won't do too well in water.
We're also a big fan of Badger's array of sunscreens, especially for watersports — and the SPF 34 Anti Bug Sunscreen is my personal favorite, though I have no qualms about going outside looking like a streaky white mess.
The best spray-on sunscreen
Spray sunscreen isn't as protective as cream, but Supergoop's Mineral Sunscreen Mist is the best spray-on when you need to reapply SPF in a pinch.
Pros: Applies easily and cleanly, works well for spray
Cons: Expensive, not quite the recommended amount of active ingredients in most sunscreens
Generally speaking, spray-on sunscreens aren't ideal best because we tend to spray them on too thinly and miss spots entirely. Mineral sunscreens are even more troublesome because they don't tend to spray well in the first place, and often dry out to the point of becoming impossible to use.
Supergoop's Mineral Sunscreen Mist works fairly well, though it only contains 12% zinc oxide, which falls short of the recommended 18+%, so it's only reliable for light re-applications or in-a-pinch coverage. It sprays white and rubs in with hardly any residue. We know these aren't great selling points, but Supergoop's spray is the best we've found in the category.
The best sunscreen for kids
All Good Kids' Sunscreen is gentle and contains skin-soothing ingredients, and rubs in easily.
Pros: Mineral sunscreen, healthy skin ingredients, rubs in well
Cons: Small tube
When one of our writers tested 30 different children's sunscreens, All Good Kids Sunscreen reigned supreme. It's a smooth and non-greasy mineral-based formula with ingredients like organic aloe, calendula, and chamomile that help soothe baby skin.
All Good Kids' Sunscreen has non-nano zinc as its active ingredient for ideal coverage. We love that it actually rubs into the skin easily and quickly; kids don't much care about a white sheen but it's helpful as a parent to see that the sunscreen has been applied and absorbed.
The tube size is small, which can be annoying if you have more than one kid.
Read more in our guide to the best sunscreens for kids and babies.
The best sunscreen for outdoor adventures
All Good mineral-based sunscreens are water-resistant and made with a small selection of high-quality, all-organic ingredients that stay on through sweat and grime.
Pros: Wide variety of sunscreens, many come in eco-friendly/non-plastic containers
Cons: Slight-to-definite white cast from zinc oxide
All Good is clean, inoffensive-smelling, and has a short list of high-quality ingredients. It's only active ingredient is zinc oxide. Not too gloppy, not too dry, this is a mineral sunscreen that doesn't take much effort to apply. However, it does leave a minimal-to-moderate white cast. As an outdoors enthusiast outside of the office, I tend to rely on All Good most often.
Except for All Good's kids' spray sunscreens, the brand receives a top rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) based on their ingredient list.
All mineral sunscreens are going to leave a little trace of white, but All Good does blend in better than others. However, if you have a darker skin tone, the chalky residue will be significant.
For many people, this matters the least on outdoor adventures where protection from the elements is the highest concern. We like that All Good, even after incessant exposure to elements, holds its consistency and remains highly applicable. Our favorite is the Organic Sunscreen Butter, which doesn't quite rub in as well (at least not as immediately) as All Good's Tinted SPF 30, but includes a healthy 25% concentration of zinc oxide as opposed to 12%, and comes in a compact one-ounce (plastic-free) tin. — Owen Burke, Senior Reporter
The best waterproof sunscreen
Manda's SPF 50 Organic Sun Paste with Thanaka has about as stripped down as sunscreen gets with 8 very basic and natural ingredients. This is the stuff you want if you're in or on the water all day, especially in the tropics.
Pros: All-natural ingredients, truly waterproof, reef-safe
Cons: Expensive (but not bad if you only use it on your face)
Consider most sunscreens, even the ones that claim water resistance, wash off pretty quickly once you get into the ocean or pool, surfers and swimmers need something they can trust. Manda doesn't wash off, and to that point, doesn't run at all. It also doesn't burn your eyes.
It doesn't rub in — but that's largely the point. You're intended to cake this stuff on. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend it for running about town, but it works wonders for aquatic enthusiasts, as well as perspiring, on-land athletes who spend prolonged periods of time in intense and/or direct sunlight.
Manda's formula is 20% zinc oxide. Traditionally this would both dry out your skin and clog your pores, but it has included Thanaka, a mustard-yellow paste that gives Manda its tint and has been used as sun protection (and a regenerative antioxidant) for thousands of years.
It's ocean-safe, reef-safe, and gentle enough to use on kids as well.
What else we considered
What else we recommend
- Badger: Badger is one of my personal favorite sunscreen brands, and I find it to be among the absolute most effective sunscreens, but it can be extremely difficult to rub in (let alone squeeze out of the bottle), and it does leave a noticeable cast. If you're really out in the elements though, this is a solid pick.
- MyChelle Sunshield: We liked wearing MyChelle. It went on easily and seemed to work well, but there's a long list of ingredients, some of which are allergens and immunotoxins. If your skin isn't too sensitive, you might give it a go.
Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50: With a top rating from the EWG, this mineral sunscreen also has skin-soothing ingredients like aloe and jojoba oil. It was our top pick for kids sunscreen, but got narrowly beat out by All Goods which rubs in better.
What we don't recommend
- Bare Republic: Our previous top pick for a spray-on mineral-based sunscreen, Bare Republic worked wonderfully until it didn't. We gathered it might be something about heavy (and soft) metals being put through pressure, but it finally became so dry that we weren't able to spread it at all.
- Blue Lizard: Blue Lizard is a popular sunscreen around the world, and while we like that it rubs in well, and that its ingredients include both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the 5% and 10% concentrations, respectively, fall a little short of what's advised by The Sunscreen Doc. Insider Reviews editor Jada Wong points out, though, that she's happy to reapply more frequently if it means she gets to use an easy-to-apply sunscreen that rubs in well. Still, we don't like that the brand doesn't openly advertise the concentrations of active ingredients in their formula.
- CeraVe: CeraVe applies well, but it's another one of those brands that offers formulas that don't include a high enough concentration of active ingredients. This product, for example, which is considered SPF 50, only offers 9% titanium dioxide and 7% zinc oxide.
What we're looking forward to trying
- Neutrogena SheerZinc Dry-Touch: Neutrogena makes affordable sunscreens that are reliable and gentle on skin. I've always been a big fan of Neutrogena's chemical sunscreens, but I've never tried this mineral option. The formula is made up of 21.6% zinc oxide, which is a high enough concentration to provide adequate sun protection.
- Elta MD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50: Mineral sunscreen can have a chalky look, which is only exacerbated by sweating. As the name suggests this Elta MD sunscreen is made for active lifestyles. The product features 19% zinc oxide and 4% titanium dioxide, plus other ingredients like vitamin E and hydrolyzed jojoba esters to keep skin hydrated. This sunscreen is water-resistant for 80 minutes, so it should be good for most outdoor activities.
UVA vs. UVB rays
There are two types of UV light that contribute to the risk of skin cancer: Ultraviolet A (UVA), which has a longer wavelength and is associated with skin aging, and Ultraviolet B (UVB), which has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning.
UVA rays are connected to the "broad-spectrum protection" you see on sunscreens. While less intense than UVB rays, they penetrate your skin more deeply. Basically, exposure to UVA rays can cause genetic damage to cells in the top layer of your skin, where most skin cancer occurs.
UVB rays are connected to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on sunscreens. That number tells you how long it would take for the sun's radiation to begin to burn your skin (if you do a little math). So, if your skin normally burns after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 30 sunscreen would provide 30 times the protection, or a 300-minute shield. For the full rundown, you should check out The American Cancer Society's website.
Mineral vs. chemical sunscreens
There are a lot of angles to come at the debate over whether mineral or chemical sunscreen is better. Despite common misconceptions, mineral sunscreens aren't necessarily better for or healthier for your skin.
Mineral sunscreens, which normally have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, work by reflecting UV rays away from your skin. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, converting them into heat and releasing the heat from the skin. Although absorbing UV rays (and, generally, the term "chemical") sounds bad, both are considered safe and effective for protecting your skin, NYC-based dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, told Insider previously.
There have been some initial reports that the ingredients in chemical sunscreens absorb into your bloodstream, but Dr. Garshick pointed out to Insider that no one has confirmed whether they're absorbed at a quantity that actually causes harm, and the FDA is continually looking into this.
The other biggest argument for mineral sunscreens is they're gentler on the skin, but dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD told Insider previously you can opt for gentle chemical formulas.
Lastly, some ingredients in chemical sunscreens kill off coral reefs, namely oxybenzone or octinoxate. So if you're going chemical, you want to avoid formulas with these ingredients, or opt for a mineral cream when you'll be swimming.
So with all we know right now, mineral and chemical sunscreens are equally effective and safe at protecting your skin. Mineral sunscreens may appeal to the more natural crowd and are safer for coral reefs, but they often leave a bit of a white residue on your skin and are much harder to rub in, especially if you have a darker skin tone. Mineral sunscreens also need to be applied more liberally and more often.
What SPF is best for a sunscreen?
Although sunscreen commonly goes up to 50, 70, even 100 SPF, dermatologists have confirmed that you don't get much more benefit above SPF 30, which already blocks close to 95% of UVB rays. However, all SPF is only proactive for two hours, so you need to reapply every 120 minutes or sooner.
How do I know if a sunscreen is reef-safe?
Certain ingredients in common sunscreens (typically the chemical variety) have been linked with killing off coral reefs at an alarming rate. The main culprits are oxybenzone or octinoxate. If you want to use a chemical sunscreen, look for formulas without these ingredients (some might even say "reef-safe" although be aware there is no governing body confirming this claim is actually true). You can also opt for a mineral sunscreen, which is most likely safer for the ocean than the average chemical variety you grab off the shelf.
Do I need a separate sunscreen for my face and body?
Facial sunscreens are typically gentler and oil-free formulas. You can always use face sunscreen on your body (though that habit may get pricey, quick). If you don't have sensitive skin, you can probably use your body formula on your face. But if you do have sensitive skin, you want a face-specific formula for your upper half.
Check out our other summer skincare guides
The best facial sunscreens
The best mineral sunscreens
The best sport sunscreen
The best tinted sunscreen
The best lip balm with SPF
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