42 of the Best Sunscreens in 2021, No Matter What Type of SPF You Prefer
"Sunscreen is one of the simplest and most effective ways that you can protect yourself from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Sunscreens will also protect you against premature aging from UVA light, so it's protection against wrinkles, enlarged pores, and sagging and uneven skin tone." Given that SPF is such a powerful tool to keep the quality of your skin intact, you should really be wearing it 365, but in the summer, when the UV index (a metric of how strong the sun's rays are) is highest, it's a non-negotiable.
Here are some ground rules for how we picked these products: Editors chose SPFs of 30-plus (because derms say SPF 30 is the minimum level of protection you should wear on the reg). Where there were enough options, we separated out chemical filters from physical ones, so that you could see the best of each. Chemical filters such as avobenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene sink into the skin and work like a sponge to absorb the UV rays and release them as heat so that you don't get burned. Physical filters, conversely, sit on top of the skin and reflect the sun's rays back so that most rays don't enter the skin at all.
As a beauty editors, we know what’s coming next: “But I don’t like the way sunscreen looks or feels on my skin.” Hogwash! These days, whether you like sprays, creams, mousses, sticks; whether you want a matte sunscreen or a glow-inducing one; whether you're hunting for a zinc formula that blends imperceptibly or a chemical one that doesn't feel sticky; whether you're looking for something for your face or your body; or whether you’re acne-prone, dry, sensitive, or just plain picky, there is a sunscreen for you. It’s the golden age of SPF, and given that the best thing you could do is grab a tube and slather it on, look no further than this: The ultimate sunscreen for every preference type there is.
Best chemical face lotion sunscreens
Not only does this sunscreen offer the daily recommended dose of SPF 30, but it pairs it with a hefty helping of vitamin C. Thanks to its antioxidant prowess, in addition to protecting you from the sun it will also protect you from other environmental stressors, like pollution. It’s got a lightweight, fluid texture, and is great for layering on underneath your usual moisturizer before you head out for the day.
The fact that this face SPF (one of our favorite of the tested ‘screens) only costs nine bucks is the kind of good news we need right now. It’s got an oil-free formula that quickly sinks into skin, and with antioxidants packed alongside chemical filters, it’s helpful to wear whether you’re staring at a computer or out onto the deep blue. It’s SPF is 50, but wear this one 365.
It can be challenging to find a sunscreen that doesn’t look chalky on darker skin tones, and Black Girl Sunscreen was developed for the purpose of solving that problem. It melts seamlessly into skin without leaving behind a white cast, and combines its sun-protective properties with moisturizing ingredients like avocado, jojoba, cacao, carrot juice, and sunflower oil.
Best mineral face lotion sunscreens
Developed with all skin tones in mind, this mineral-sunscreen—which was designed by tennis superstar Venus Williams—will give you physical protection without leaving behind a white film. It’s not goopy or greasy, and will give your skin a natural-looking matte finish.
This chemical-mineral hybrid gets name-checked by derms every single day of the week. It goes on without leaving behind a white cast on skin, and genuinely leaves skin better than before. Spiked with sodium hyaluronate, this SPF smooths and hydrates skin at once, and at least half of our editors use it daily to protect against the sun’s rays.
As the last step in your skin-care routine, this mineral ‘screen provides multi-layer protection while also evening your skin tone with its subtle tint. In addition to mineral SPF 30 to keep UV rays at bay, it’s got an alphabet’s worth of vitamins (A, B, C, and D, to be exact), plus turmeric extract and French rice germ to fend off damage from pollution and blue light.
Best mineral face fluid sunscreens
While sunscreen tends to be a beach bag staple, many of us are still skipping out on the stuff for everyday use. This product was designed for all of those non-beach days, when you’re walking (or driving) around the city with the sunshine on your face. In addition to offering broad-spectrum SPF 50 from zinc and titanium oxides, it’s packed with antioxidants, iron oxides, and polymers to act as a “second skin” that keeps environmental pollutants (looking at you, NYC subway grates) from doing any damage.
Traditionally, “lightweight” and “mineral SPF” have been mutually exclusive terms, but this stuff proves you can get both in a single product. It combines zinc oxide and DNA Repairsomes that are meant to help skin mend from being exposed to UV rays, as well as vitamin E to help skin deal with free radical damage.
Like a glossy skin-bettering serum, the microfine zinc oxide and titanium dioxide go on and help to ever-so-slightly even skin tone while also delivering antioxidant protection. Our editors like it because it feels weightless under makeup, but if you’re more laissez-faire, wear it alone with brushed up brows and ever-so-slight tint on lips that screams summer has arrived.
Best chemical body lotion sunscreen
The Hydro Boost line of skin-care products is renowned for its lightweight textures, packed with hyaluronic acid, that all feel like a giant splash of water on your skin, and the SPF lotion is no different. It’s a gel texture that feels more like a beefed-up body serum. We’re in love.
During the summer months, a good body sunscreen not only has to protect against sun damage, but it’s also gotta stand up to sweat. This stuff does it all, and actually becomes stronger when exposed to heat and water. Proprietary technology activates when your skin becomes hot or wet—two things you’re guaranteed to be all the time from June through September, and adds an extra shield of defense from UV rays.
Reap the benefit of super-high SPF coverage with the creamiest body milk, which you can snag at the drugstore. It absorbs lightning fast, without a trace except for the moisturized feeling you’ll have on your skin. Write a thank you note to the formula’s nourishing ingredients including antioxidants and glycerin which make skin feel super soft.
Best mineral body lotion sunscreen
This skin-nourishing mineral sunscreen combines protective zinc oxide and titanium dioxide with antioxidant rich botanicals, including Kakadu plum, eucalyptus, and red algae. It doesn’t leave a white cast, feels like skin-care for your body that just happens to have SPF 50 in it.
This creamy mineral-based sunscreen has garnered hundreds of five-star reviews for being gentle and effective for all skin types (even those who are acne-prone). It’s got zinc oxide as a physical blocker, plus fruit extracts for added antioxidants, all of which work together as a trusty sun shield.
For invisible defense against the sun’s harmful rays, this fully mineral-based sunscreen sinks seamlessly into all skin tones for coverage that you don’t even feel. Though the Clinique lotion is marketed for the body, it’s totally safe for the face as well, and people with the most sensitive skin types love it for being uber gentle.
Best chemical body spray sunscreen
As refreshing as a Paloma cocktail on the beach, this spray sunscreen (from the makers of the brand that made flavor water cool) is an editor pick year after year. The light grapefruit-scented spray goes onto skin, leaving behind a light sheen and sticks around for long runs around the park or long walks on the beach, if that’s more your thing.
Spray sunscreens are easy to apply on the go, making them a top choice for those people who exercise outside. They feel light on skin and this one goes on without feeling sticky or like you have any sort of residue left on your skin. Spray, rub it in, wait for 15 minutes before you head outside and then you’re protected for up to two hours (don’t forget to reapply!).
A spritz of this cool-to-the-touch broad-spectrum SPF gives you invisible coverage without any of that greasy or sticky feeling. Your skin also reaps the benefits of skin-soothing chamomile, vitamins C and E, aloe vera, and cucumber extract for a truly refreshing sunscreen that’s easy to apply and light as air.
Best mineral body spray sunscreen
It’s traditionally been hard to formulate a mineral spray sunscreen (they have a rap for being super chalky), but the brand behind some of the best formulas in the business has mastered the feat. This one goes on almost sheer, and once it’s on skin and you smooth it in, it stays put and leaves behind an ever-so-soft scent of coconut.
The brand that makes beaches everywhere light up with its creamy tropical scent, this year, introduces a mineral spray that locks onto skin and stays put (even the sweatiest environments) for 80 minutes. Derms like it because it protects and is gentle on skin. We like it because it mists onto your complexion and is refreshing like a nice sea breeze. (If only!)
Derms are constantly recommending mineral sunscreens for people with sensitive skin, and this one in particular was designed specifically with those complexions in mind. It’s fragrance-free, so it won’t cause irritation, and protects skin with sun-shielding zinc oxide that goes on in a fine, easy-to-apply mist.
Best sunscreen sticks
The sports stick that runners everywhere keep in their back pocket to apply on the go, we’re big fans of this mineral formula because it’s easy to swipe on the face and with 80 minutes of water resistance, it’ll stand up to the sweatiest workouts.
Derms say you should be re-applying sunscreen every few hours, and Cerave’s mineral sunscreen stick makes it as easy as possible to do just that. A single swipe of the stuff all over your face will deliver SPF 50 to keep you protected from UVA and UVB rays while also delivering your daily dose of ceramides to keep your skin hydrated and strong.
If you need a sunscreen that will stand up to summer’s sweatiest activities, look no further than this sport-friendly stick. With a combination of non-nano zinc, beeswax, and cocoa powder, it glides on easily, and an infusion of cocoa powder helps to stimulate cell turnover. You can use it all over your face (don’t forget those lips and eyelids!) and know that you’ll be protected for hours out in the sun.
Best body mousse sunscreen
There’s something novel about slathering your skin with a product that looks and feels like whipped cream—especially when that whipped cream offers UV and antioxidant protection. This chemical SPF 50 is ultra-lightweight and fast-absorbing, which means that it won’t leave skin greasy, goopy, or with a white caste. It offers eight-hour hydration and nourishes skin with vitamin E, and feels so good it will make re-applying something you actually look forward to doing every two hours.
If ever you’ve questioned the fact that putting on sunscreen is a part of your self-care routine, this body butter ought to convince you once and for all. Its whipped texture and nutty fragrance make putting it on feel nothing short of a luxury. The mineral formula is made with both zinc and titanium dioxide, and SPF 45 provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
Though this sunscreen is technically for kids, it’s got everything to keep adult skin protected, too. In addition to chemical broad-spectrum UV protection, it’s made with a proprietary ingredient that’s purported to boost your skin’s own defenses against radiation that prevents oxidative stress to reduce premature photo-aging. It’s the type of product that the entire family will want to share.
Best powder sunscreens
This mineral-based powder lightly dusts sun protection all over as it feeds your skin antioxidants and combats pollution damage (thanks to calcified red algae). The formula’s safe for all skin types, and you can choose the type of coverage you want—from your shade to whether you want a matte or a shimmery finish.
You’ll easily apply (and reapply) with this brush that provides protection against UVA, UVB, and blue light ray damage. The brush goes on silky-smooth for a soft finish on the skin, and works well to take down mid-day shine, in a pinch.
Best sunscreen scalp sprays
This stuff is basically beach hair in a bottle. Not only does it smell like the ocean, but it’s made with monoi oil to nourish your scalp and strands without leaving them greasy or sticky thanks to the fact that it comes out in a fine, lightweight mist. Chemical filters will protect your scalp from sun damage, and keep color from fading no matter how many hours you’re spending outside.
There’s something to be said about a scalp spray that evokes murmurs of, “that is *so* chic” every time you pull it out of your beach bag. What’s really special about this product, though, is that it’s skin care, scalp care, and sun protection together in a single bottle. It’s got antioxidant-packed green tea leaf extract to protect against free radical damage, plus a blend of red algae and vitamins C and E that firms and smooths skin on both the face and scalp. And of course, there’s the fact that it’s sunscreen and water-resistant for 80 minutes. When you spray it on, there’s a fine, delicate mist that will refresh your face and hair instead of gunking it up.
A single spritz of this sunscreen on the top of your head will mentally transport you to a tropical island vacation. The SPF 30 comes from chemical filters and is equally protective to your strands as it is to your scalp. It will help keep your hair from changing color or drying out in the sun, an important plus for anyone who’s seen their fair share of chemical treatments. You can use it all day long without ever having to worry about your scalp getting greasy, and sunflower seed oil will help nourish strands after a long day at the beach or pool.
Best tinted sunscreens
Celebrity dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, has formulated a winner with his tinted SPF: It’s mineral-based, full-spectrum, and can replace your go-to BB or CC cream, your foundation, and even your concealer because of its ability to hide redness and dark spots. It gives you really solid sun protection and provides a dewy finish that color corrects and evens out your complexion.
What doesn’t Tiffany Masterson do right? The Drunk Elephant tinted face lotion blends well into all different skin tones and works for multiple skin types at once. It blurs spots and breakouts much like a BB cream, but it’s giving you zinc oxide-based sun protection, antioxidant-rich algae extract, and sunflower sprout extract to fend off free radical damage.
Allergan, the brand behind many of the go-to in-office procedures at your derm’s office, is the parent brand to this seriously good SPF, concocted for post-procedure vulnerable skin. While it was once only available at your local MD, so many people clamored for it that you can now find it online. We like it because it dries with an almost powdery finish that makes applying anything after it a breeze.
Best makeup sunscreens
In recent years, the lines between makeup and skin care have become increasingly blurred, and this recently released SPF-foundation hybrid is among the best of the best—it’s as if you’ve taken three steps of your routine and put them together in a single bottle. The weightless serum offers SPF 40 coverage by way of non-nano zinc oxide, which will protect from UVA, UVB, and UVC rays, plus blue and infrared light. It’s made with hyaluronic acids, squalane, and niacinamide, which will hydrate and soothe skin, and comes in 18 different shades.
Your eyelids are one of the areas of your face that are most prone to sunburn, yet they’re also the spot that most of us tend to overlook when applying SPF. To make things worse, wearing eyeshadow can up the potential burn factor even further with reflective pigments. Supergoop! came up with a genius fix for this issue with the launch of their Shimmershades, which look like your regular old eyeshadow (albeit very pretty and shimmery) but also offer SPF 30. The zinc oxide and octisalate mix comes in three shades—fawn, gold, and bronze—each of which will make you genuinely excited to slather sunscreen on your eyelids for the first time ever.
This SPF-infused moisturizer will even your skin tone and leave your complexion with a dewy, hydrated finish. It’s lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about sweating it off (or, even worse, the dreaded caking) during the summer months, and it comes in 20 different shades so there’s a match for nearly everyone.
Best Lip SPF
There’s a reason that this product is a cult-fave in the beach bag of those in the know. The lips are an often unprotected point on the face (and if you’ve ever accidentally tasted some SPF, you’ll know why), which is why lip products are so important year round. While many of us are protecting the bottoms of our faces with masks this year, we can’t miss an opportunity to tell you about this guy. In addition to keeping collagen from degrading around the lip area, this one actually nourishes and fills in those pesky crinkles that come when you’ve been in the sun too long. There’s a tint for everyone out there, but we’re big fans of Simply Rose, which leaves a perfect summer flush behind.
Our editors love these tinted lip balms so much, we’ve got them in our desk drawers, night stands, and basically every purse we own. They’re ultra-hydrating and offer a subtle swath of color (in addition to SPF 15), and come in 15 shades including a berry pink, a peachy neutral, and a poppy red.
This no-frills SPF 15 balm goes on clear and comes in a pack of six so that you can snag one and give the rest to people whose sun habits you care most about.
Oh, you're looking for *more* intel about SPF? We've got that, straight from a derm in the video below:
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