The 20 Best Sunscreens of 2023

Formulas to stock up on, stat.

collage of best sunscreens including Supergoop unseen suncreen and iS clinical sunscreen
(Image credit: Future)

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.” 

If you happen to be chasing around little ones with a stick formula, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Laura Scott recommends getting four passses across every section of exposed skin.

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.)  

  • Kid-Friendly Formulas

"Sunscreen (and overall sun protection) is important at all ages, but especially in childhood when skin can be more sensitive and easier to burn," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Laura Scott. "When looking for a kids sunscreen, it's important to choose an SPF of at least 30 that is labeled as broad-spectrum (meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays) and ideally water resistant."

While a handful of options fit the bill, Dr. Scott is particularly fond of Sun Bumb for little ones. "If they have sensitive skin, choose a mineral option like Baby Bum mineral sunscreen for your youngest," she says. "For the more active and adventurous kids, try Sun Bum’s new Kids SPF collection that is clear, water-resistant and made for both wet and dry skin application."

The Best Sunscreens for Your Face

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.