The All-Time Best Sunscreens to Slather on Your Face and Body

Non-greasy formulas to stock up on, STAT

Best Sunscreens for Your Face in 2022
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 to prevent sun spots, wrinkles, and fine lines. But picking the right one for your face and body can be a tad, well, overwhelming. There’s chemical and mineral variations, tinted options, 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 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 a 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.  

What’s the Difference Between Chemical and 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 choosing the right type of sunscreen for you. 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. 

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 is formulated with SPF, it's recommended to 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. 

Which Sunscreen Is Best for My 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. As previously mentioned, sensitive skin types and babies are best suited with mineral sunscreens. (Doctor’s note: children under six months should not wear sunscreen.)  

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. 

The Best Sunscreen Products

Samantha Holender
Samantha Holender

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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