Stories from Summer Skin Care

These under-$10 drugstore sunscreens are low-key the best that you can buy

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerJuly 26, 2019

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Photo: Getty Images/ Milos Dimic

Perusing the drugstore aisles for beauty products is one of my favorite activities. There is a seemingly endless number of things to oggle at, from this $7 toner to this $10 blush that looks identical to my personal iconic fave. But there’s one section in particular that—even as a beauty editor—always overwhelms me: the sunscreen aisle.

While I know for sure which SPF product I should be slathering on my face every day (dozens of dermatologists have recommended Elta MD UV Clear ($32) over the years, so that’s the one I tend to stick with), deciding what to protect my body with is a whole other story. From sprays to creams to foams, there are so many different options—and it usually takes me at least 15 minutes to decide which to buy and toss into my beach bag.

To make the choice slightly easier, I consulted Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, of Hudson Dermatology and Laser to see which SPF product he reaches for during a drugstore visit. “If you are active, breaking a sweat, et cetera, I really like the Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel SPF Lotion ($10). It’s light and absorbs pretty quick so you don’t have that sticky feeling,” he says, adding that since compliance is such a major factor when it comes to putting on sunscreen, he tends to recommend things that patients actually like applying, and this Neutrogena product fits the bill. Plus, he says, “it does really well—even if wet.”

The lotion not only stays on your body, but SPF 50 keeps your skin seriously protected throughout the day. Plus, like the rest of Neutrogena’s Hydroboost line (the water gel moisturizer is a personal favorite of mine), the sunscreen is formulated to keep your skin hydrated—which is obviously super important if you’re spending a ton of time in the sun. And since it’s a chemical sunscreen, not a physical or mineral one, it goes on clear and decidedly won’t leave you looking like Casper the friendly ghost during your beach day. Plus, it’s only $10.

If you’re more of a spray ‘screen fan, Virginia-based dermatologist Lily Talakoub, MD is a fan of  Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Spray Sunscreen SPF 70 ($9), which lets you spritz it upside down so you can keep your own back protected—a feat for all of us single ladies out there.

Looks like my journey through the drugstore sunscreen aisle just got a whole lot easier to navigate.

Another confusing thing about SPF? Figuring out how to wear it with makeup. Here’s what a dermatologist and a makeup artist want you to know about how to wear sunscreen under makeup. Plus, the one place where you’re (probably) forgetting to put sunscreen.

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