Ask any dermatologist: SPF is the MVP of all beauty products—hands down, no doubt about it. The best sunscreen products protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays, defend against skin cancer and are the most important item in your arsenal for preventing sun spots, wrinkles, and fine lines. But picking the right one for your face and body can be a tad, well, overwhelming. There are natural sunscreens, zinc oxide sunscreens, tinted sunscreens, sprays, lotions, powders—the (lengthy) list goes on.
That said, the abundance of options means that you’ll 100 percent be able to find a formula that works well for your skin type. From oil-free facial sunscreens that layer fabulously under makeup to SPF-filled body lotions that you’ll want on hand during beach days, there’s truly an option for everyone. To help make your decision a heck of a lot easier, we tapped top dermatologists to give us the low down on every single little detail about SPF.
Why Do I Need Sunscreen?
Not only is sunscreen the best defense against skin cancer, but it's also your best bet for preventing signs of aging like sun spots, skin sagging, and wrinkles. “Sunscreens contain active ingredients that help protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation,” explains Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, founder of Entiére Dermatology. “Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays cause the most damage to the skin. Those are the rays that cause burning. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is a wavelength that actually goes deeper into the skin and causes skin aging.” As such, layering on an appropriate amount of sunscreen (and reapplying regularly) helps to reflect and absorb the sun’s harmful rays.
But putting on SPF isn’t an activity reserved for beach days or tanning sessions. It should be done every, single day—no matter the weather. Dr. Levin explains that the sun’s rays can penetrate through car windows and clouds.
It’s also important to note that those with darker skin tones need to wear sunscreen too. Just because your skin is less likely to burn, doesn't mean you're immune to the sun's rays. Dr. Naana Boakye, a board-certified dermatologist at Bergen Dermatology, explains that sunlight causes decent chunks of hyperpigmentation in people of color. “Hyperpigmentation can be seen in a variety of skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. As a result, I strongly recommend wearing sunscreen,” she adds.
How Much Sunscreen Do I Need to Apply?
In short: a lot. “I tell my patients a half a teaspoon for the face and the neck combined and a whole shot-glass full (1 oz) for the body,” says Dr. Levin. An easy hack for making sure you get the recommended amount on your face, is to coat the length of two fingers in sunscreen. If you use a foundation that has SPF, it's recommended that you layer sunscreen underneath as well. Chances are, you're not applying enough makeup to get the full protection.
As for the body? It’s easiest to judge the amount you’re applying with a liquid formula—spray sunscreens are a little trickier. To make sure you’re actually getting enough product on your arms, legs, and stomach, Dr. Levin suggests holding the bottle close to the skin during application. “Your sunscreen spray bottle is not perfume,” she says. “Apply it close to ensure you’re not missing spots and also make sure to rub it in.”
Do I Need to Reapply Sunscreen?
“It’s recommended to reapply every two hours to all sun-exposed areas,” explains Dr. Boakye. The active ingredients that offer protection can come off in the water, because of sweat, or simply expire with time. While it's easier to layer liquid when you’re fresh-faced, don’t use makeup as an excuse to skip reapplication. Dr. Levin recommends reaching for a compact or a powder formula that can easily be layered over your foundation.
How Do I Incorporate Sunscreen Into My Routine?
As a rule of thumb, sunscreen should be the final product in your skincare routine. Put all your other antioxidant facial serums (shoutout vitamin C) and body lotions on beforehand. There are no ingredients or products that can’t be used in tandem with sunscreen, but there are a few that make using SPF that much more important. Think: retinol, AHAs, and BHAs. “Anything that’s going to provide anti-aging benefits is turning over your skin cells faster, which then makes it more sensitive to the sun,” explains Dr. Levin.
What to Look For in Sunscreen
- Chemical vs Mineral Sunscreen
“The best sunscreen is the one you’re going to wear every day,” says Dr. Levin. And while something is always better than nothing, there are few factors to consider when deciding between a chemical and mineral formula. The primary difference between the two is that mineral sunscreen, which is typically formulated with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, primarily absorbs UV radiation, whereas chemical sunscreen will primarily reflect and scatter UV light, explains Dr. Boakye.
Mineral sunscreen is typically recommended for those with super sensitive skin and babies, as certain ingredients in chemical sunscreen can cause irritation or allergies. That said, chemical sunscreen isn’t dangerous by any means and is less likely to leave a white cast. “There’s a lot of fear-mongering against chemical sunscreens, but not all chemicals are bad. Even water is a chemical,” explains Dr. Levin.
- Formula for Your Skin Type
Thanks to dozens of elegant formulas, everyone can find an SPF that works for them. That said, Dr. Boakye suggests that anyone with acne or oily skin look for oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas; dry skin types look for sunscreens packed with hydrating ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid; and rosacea patients search out dimethicone formulations. (Doctor’s note: Children under six months should not wear sunscreen.)
The Best Sunscreens for Your Face
- The Best Sunscreen Overall: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 PA+++
- The Best Mattifying Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- The Best Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin: iS Clinical Extreme Protect SPF 30
- The Best Spray Sunscreen: SunBum Original SPF Sunscreen Spray
The products on this list have been vetted by Marie Claire's Beauty Editor, Samantha Holender (that's me!) and Marie Claire's Beauty Director, Deena Campbell; or have been hand-selected by a board-certified dermatologist. Each and every one includes ingredients clinically proven to protect against UVA and UVB rays, is highly rated by reviewers, and has an SPF over 30. While the *best* sunscreen for you will vary based on personal preference, skin type, and skin tone, you truly can't go wrong with one of the items on this list. For a more personalized recommendation or if you have any concerns, check with your board-certified dermatologist.
Best Lightweight Sunscreen
SPF haters, meet your new favorite sunscreen. The totally clear gel disappears into the skin as soon as you smooth it on and won't leave a cast on deeper skin tones. It's also free of fragrance, common irritants, and oil—all the stuff you'd usually use as an excuse not to wear sunscreen. Basically, it's the most pared-down, nothing-to-see-here, obsession-worthy formula.
Pros: Lightweight; Invisible
Cons: Only water resistant for 40 minutes
Customer Review: "I have used this product for years and tried many other sunscreens and this is always the one I come back to—it doesnt leave my skin white cast or too oily and it acts as a perfect primer under makeup." — Sephora
Best Mineral Sunscreen
This creamy sunscreen was approved as one of the safest sunscreens in the Environmental Working Group's 2022 report. While they tested a grand total of 1,850 sunscreens, only 500 were up to par—including this moisturizing option. It's a great double-duty option for both the face and body, leaves an amazing glow (trust us, we've tried it), and is oil-free, so it won't clog pores or contribute to breakouts.
Pros: EWG recognition; Face and body
Cons: Too heavy for some; Can leave a white cast
Customer Review: "I’ve purchased so many mineral sunscreens within the passes five years and this is by far the best. The perfect amount of moisture. Spreads easily, leaves a light white cast but blends well. Didn’t break me out. Will be using daily." — Amazon
Best Mattifying Sunscreen
Ask 100 dermatologists what their favorite sunscreen is, and you'll get the same response 100 times: EltaMD. Not only is the cult-favorite brand completely safe for acne-prone skin, but this sunscreen is infused with a small dose of lactic acid to keep pores clear, along with mattifying ingredients to help prevent makeup from slipping and sliding by noon.
Pros: Oil-free; Invisible
Customer Review: "This is my 3rd bottle of EltaMD UV Clear. It is my favorite face sunscreen!! It’s thin, moisturizing, and never leaves a white cast! I have sensitive skin and this does not break me out or irritate my skin. Definitely recommend!" — Dermstore
The Best Everyday Face Sunscreen
Want to keep your skincare routine simple? Scoop up this sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB damage, includes vitamin C for a boost of environmental protection, and contains natural antioxidants to defend against free radicals.
Pros: Multi benefit; Non comedogenic
Cons: Slight white cast
Customer Review: "I've been using this sunscreen for a couple years now. I have extremely acne-prone skin and I was delighted to find this never breaks me out. For a high-SPF mineral sunscreen, the white cast isn't too bad - it goes on with a cast, but the cast fades after about five minutes." — Dermstore
Best Sunscreen for Dry Skin
Biossance's signature squalane formulas extend to the SPF category. This one is super sheer, formulated with 100-percent non-nano zinc that protects and hydrates even the most sensitive skin. It leave a dewy glow behind, too, making it perfect for no-makeup beach days.
Pros: Hydrating; Glowy
Cons: Too sticky for some
Customer Review: "I have been using this sunscreen for about a year now, it’s the best physical sunscreen I have found. I have rosacea and this product has never broken me out. I use it everyday, even under makeup." — Sephora
Best Sunscreen Drops
You can get your sunscreen in dropper form with Dr. Barbara Sturm's SPF 50 sundrops. The lightweight liquid is super gentle, sinks in quickly, and protects against photo-aging UVA and sunburn-threatening UVB rays.
Pros: Rubs in easily; Good on the go
Cons: Doesn't last long; Might pill
Customer Review: "This is LOVE LOVE LOVE! I love the simplicity of easily applying sunscreen. This is white and feels like a serum while patting in. This helped me also save time from blending so easily on my face and neck. It's white and able to be applied fast." — Sephora
Best Sunscreen for Oily Skin
If oil and acne have traditionally made you give sunscreen a side eye, allow us to introduce you to this Neutrogena miracle worker. It's been given a green light by the Environmental Working Group thanks to its efficacy and safety, feels extremely breathable on the skin, and is non-comedogenic. It's a win-win-win.
Pros: Affordable; Non-comedogenic
Cons: Too drying for some
Customer Review: "This sunscreen has really helped w my journey to clear skin, as it protects my skin but also gives your skin such a plump look as well as a healthy glow. i’ve never found it breaking out my skin, and it’s my holy grail skin base. affordable and my go to product!!" — Target
Best Sunscreen to Reapply
Great for reapplication over makeup, this dermatologist-tested compact deserves a permanent spot in your handbag. It's not something you'll want to use on its own for your full SPF protection, but it's a great addition to your sun care routine.
Pros: Great for reapplication; Airbrush finish
Cons: Should be a layering sunscreen; Not sole protection
Customer Review: "My favorite sunscreen powder!! I use this everyday. I’ve tried a lot of sunscreen powders and whenever they are brush on I always felt like there wasn’t enough coming out- so I love that this is in a compact so you don’t waste product and can build the coverage you want. I wear a tinted sunscreen as makeup everyday with this over it- but also love to use this when I am using foundation/ going for a more glam look." — Influenster
Best Sunscreen for Mature Skin
This weightless formula miraculously repairs existing UV damage while protecting your skin from new rays. Oh, and it won't leave that tell-tale white cast you loathe and use as an excuse not to wear SPF daily.
Pros: Invisible; Anti-aging
Cons: Takes a while to rub in
Customer Review: "This is my go-to daily sunscreen. it spreads very thin and comfortably. It doesn't leave a white cast though it can look a bit shiny/satiny, usually improved if you use a mattifying moisturizer underneath can use powder overtop. doesn't pill under my makeup though I don't wear makeup daily. I reapply at the end of the work day for protection during my drive home." — Dermstore
Best Sunscreen Makeup
You've definitely seen Ilia's SPF-packed skin tint on social media, and trust us, it lives up to the hype. If you like dewy coverage (who doesn't?!) you'll quickly become obsessed with this formula, which is available in 30 shades. That said, you do still need to apply a full teaspoon of product to achieve the recommended SPF. If you're not going to wear that much, just layer one of these other amazing sunscreens underneath.
Pros: Makeup hybrid; Gives coverage
Cons: Can feel a little wet
Customer Review: "I absolutely love this skin tint! It really surprised me with the amount of coverage it provides. I have dry, mature skin and this leaves my skin looking dewy and healthy. It does have a slight smell but I got passed it because I love it so much!" — Sephora
Best Sunscreen for Free Radicals
Looking for a sheer physical sunscreen that delivers powerful broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection? We'll you've found it in Drunk Elephant's SPF 30, which also aids in the prevention of free-radical and oxidative damage.
Pros: Antioxidant protection; Nice texture
Cons: Has a slight smell; Little white cast
Customer Review: "I have been using Umbra Sheer daily for the last five years, and consider it an HG item in my routine. Not only is it highly effective in warding off UVA and UVB rays, but it feels moisturizing and acts as a primer for makeup application. It's worth noting that if you are at the beach or in another sunny locale for multiple hours of the day, you'll have to reapply, as one application won't last all day." — Sephora
Best Chemical Sunscreen
This sunscreen provides SPF in a lightweight formulation you'll quickly obsess over. It's formulated with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides—three skincare saviors that enhance your complexion. Plus, even though it's not mineral-based—which tends to be less irritating—it's supremely gentle and non-comedogenic.
Pros: Affordable; Hydrating
Cons: Might pill
Customer Review: "Great product especially if you have acne prone skin. Doesn’t clog pores. It is very moisturizing and it has spf! That’s a plus! My skin is light brown so the only thing I hate is that it has a big of the white tint sunscreen normally leaves on brown skin. It’s not as bad as normal sunscreen but I feel like I can tell. It smells pretty good (not highly scented but not medicinal). You only need about two pumps for your whole face." — Amazon
Best Brush-On Sunscreen
Brush On Block's translucent powder blends seamlessly with a self-dispensing brush you can buff over your face, neck, and scalp throughout the day. That's right, your hairline and part need SPF attention, too.
Pros: Great for reapplication; On the go
Cons: Not enough to be your primary SPF
Customer Review: "I love this stuff. I have oily skin that is often shiny and this helps me with mattifying my skin and protecting me from the sun. The translucent colour makes it an easy match for my skin (very pale), which is wonderful. Just give it a tap and monitor the difference in your skin as you apply and you've got great coverage that lasts." — Brush on Block
Best Sunscreen for Rosacea
If the sun or heat is one of your rosacea triggers, check out this thick, mineral sunscreen. Thanks to olive leaf extract, which reduces redness, and soothing aloe, it'll do it's best to keep your skin calm. The best part? It gives an insanely gorgeous, dewy glow to the skin—no highlighter necessary.
Pros: Glowy; Great for rosacea
Customer Review: "I think this may be my 10th bottle purchased. I have very sensitive skin & dry skin- so I love a super hydrated face, but I don’t like a an oily tacky feel that a lot of facial spfs leave you. This soaks in but still hydrates. 10/10 recommend." — Dermstore
Best Sunscreens for Your Body
- The Best Sunscreen Oil: Vacation Chardonnay Oil SPF 30
- The Best Sunscreen for Shine: EWC Slow Aloe Daily Sunscreen SPF 30
- The Best Spray Sunscreen: SunBum Original SPF Sunscreen Spray
- The Best Invisible Sunscreen: Black Girl Sunscreen Melanin Boosting Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
The Best Body Oil
If you like to glow while sitting beach-side, a sunscreen body oil is for you. You'll still get your fair share of protection, while simultaneously looking all kind of shiny. Enter this Vacation oil, which feels lightweight, protects skin via SPF 30, and gives an enviable glow. Plus, it smells delightfully nostalgic.
Pros: Glowy; Smells great
Customer Review: "It smells so so so good. And makes you shine like a diamond. And gave me the most golden glowy tan. I would buy it by the gallon. Love it" — Ulta
The Best Sunscreen for Shine
I know, I know: European Wax Center might not be the first brand that comes to mind when sunscreen shopping. But trust me when I tell you that this is easily one of my favorite sunscreens in existence. The fragrance is light, the texture is smooth and silky, and finish is perfectly high-shine. It does feel a bit wet though, so it really boils down to personal preference.
Pros: Shiny finish; Great smell; Slows hair growth; Invisible
Cons: A little sticky
Customer Review: "This is a great sunscreen! It's not thick at all which means you don't end up looking like a ghost after applying. It's clear and your skin absorbs beautifully!! Extra bonus is that it also slows hair growth in between waxes. Love it!!" — EWC
Best Sunscreen for Dark Skin
Specifically formulated for more melanated skin, this SPF leaves no white cast whatsoever. Not only does this option have EWG-approval and an elegant formula, but it's also packed with moisturizing ingredients like avocado and jojoba.
Pros: No white cast; Hydrating
Cons: Some say it's greasy
Customer Review: "I recently purchased this and I love it. It leaves my skin feeling soft and looking super hydrated. It's perfect for a no makeup day but if you still want that shiny look. My makeup works super well with it and most importantly NO white cast!!" — Ulta
Best Sunscreen for Babies
While SPF shouldn't be used on babies under six months, the EWG loves this option for little ones of age. It's free from chemicals, alcohol, and parabens, so it's gentle on the most sensitive of skin.
Pros: Great texture; Gentle
Cons: Not good for darker skin tones; Leaves a white cast
Customer Review: "This does leave a decent white cast, however, if you apply makeup over it then it’s fine. It makes my skin look airbrushed! It’s a wonderful makeup primer and sunscreen." — Sephora
Best Drugstore Sunscreen
With an affordable price point and powerful, antioxidant formula, scooping up this sunscreen ahead of summer is a no-brainer. In addition to all the usual pros (UV ray protection, hydration, lightweight), we also love that this bottle is made of 45 percent recycled materials.
Pros: Affordable; Antioxidant protection
Customer Review: "What I love about this sunscreen the most it leaves no white residue after you apply it to your skin. I also struggle with acne and somehow it manages to not clog my pores and allow me to have flawless skin. I've been using this product for three years. I continue to place my reorder every three months or longer cause it lasts a while for me a little goes a long way." — Amazon
Best Spray Sunscreen
SunBum's spray-on mist makes sunscreen reapplication a total breeze. It's dry touch, so sand won't get stuck to your skin on a beach day. Just remember to hold the bottle close during application and rub it in.
Pros: Dry formula; Easy to apply; Great for beach day
Cons: Make sure you apply enough product
Customer Review: "SunBum is already the best sunscreen but the spray makes it better. The spray can cover the areas of your back that you can't reach. It's very convenient. Smells good" — Ulta
Meet the Dermatologists
Known for her honesty and love for bespoke medical and cosmetic skin solutions, Dr. Levin has established a loyal following of patients from all walks of life - entire families, skincare enthusiasts, actors, designers, beauty editors, physicians, lawyers, teachers, and many more. As a native Californian, Dr. Levin graduated summa cum laude from the University of California of Los Angeles (UCLA) and earned her medical degree from the University of California of San Francisco (UCSF), as a member of the highest honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha. She completed her internship at the California Pacific Medical Center and dermatology residency at New York University Langone Health. As a clinical assistant professor at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, she is committed to contributing to the field of dermatology by teaching dermatology resident physicians and medical students, as well as serving as a reviewer for various scientific journals. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society of Dermatologic Society, and the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. She is a leading expert and speaker in facial rejuvenation, laser surgery, acne and rosacea. Dr. Levin has won awards and research grants for her research in laser surgery, acne, and global dermatology. Media knows expertise. Dr. Levin is frequently sought-after as a skincare and beauty expert, regularly contributing to major media outlets and consulting for skincare and beauty companies. Community is a passion for Dr. Levin. She has cared for patients, educated local health care providers, and performed clinical research in various international settings, including Thailand, Uganda, and Botswana. Dr. Levin serves as a member of the Skin Cancer Advisory Committee for Standing Voice, a non-profit organization focused on promoting the well-being of persons with albinism in Tanzania.
Dr. Naana Boayke and every aspect of her work is driven by a simple philosophy: Radiant skin is a lifestyle. She takes an inside-out approach to healthy skin, and believes diet, exercise, mindfulness and overall wellness all play a role in achieving healthy, glowing skin. A practicing dermatologist who has treated more than 18,000 patients over the past 15 years, Dr. Boakye received her B.A. at Wellesley College, her M.P.H. from George Washington University and her M.D. from Temple University. She completed her dermatology residency at State University of New York Health Sciences Center in Brooklyn, New York, where she also served as Chief Resident. Dr. Boakye is affiliated with numerous professional societies including the American Academy of Dermatology, Skin of Color Society and the American Contact Dermatitis Society.
Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and keeps up with the latest trends in the beauty space. She has previously written for Us Weekly, Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Follow her on Instagram @samholender.
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