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We know, we know: There's little to get excited over when applying sunscreen. But when you think about the benefits it provides, applying sunscreen day in and day out suddenly starts to feel less like a mandatory chore and more like a deliberate choice.
"Sunscreen, when properly applied, provides protection against sunburn and skin cancer, as well as cosmetic damage from ultraviolet light such as brown spots, wrinkles, and broken blood vessels," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Arash Akhavan. Pair that with an SPF formula that leaves your skin feeling comfortable and silky, rather than heavy and ashen, and you're pretty much golden.
However, finding just the right formula for your skin can be tricky. Some sunscreens feel sticky, cause breakouts, or leave skin feeling greasy. It's a simple fact that when you don’t like how sunscreen feels, you’re less likely to wear it. That’s why we tapped both Dr. Akhavan and board-certified physician Dr. Azza Halim and rounded up the top face sunscreens for every skin type.
Ahead, discover our top face sunscreen picks you'll actually look forward to wearing every single day.
Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF Level: 60 | Formula: Cream | Finish: Velvet
La Roche-Posay calls this their best sunscreen for face and body, and we wholeheartedly agree. In fact, we think it's one of the best ones out there—period. We wouldn't be alone in that sentiment either, considering the broad-spectrum SPF 60 formula has earned a perfect score from Consumer Reports for multiple years in a row, and it's also recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
A 2019 Byrdie Skincare Award Winner, this uber-popular sunscreen is beloved for its velvety texture. As its name suggests, the formula melts into the skin quickly without leaving behind a white cast or greasy residue, making it a great pick for all skin types and tones. We love it for both face and body, so if you're not looking to invest in two different SPF formulas for each area, this one is a great multitasker to go with.
Best Sheer: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream
Don't let the name fool you, this sunscreen isn't just for Black girls, but it is perfect for anyone tired of chalky residues left from their SPF. This sunscreen dries completely clear, making it ideal for your face, especially if you have darker skin. We love that it's super moisturizing thanks to avocado and jojoba oils, and users rave that it works great under makeup. The formula is also infused with cacao and carrot juice for added antioxidant protection and skin-brightening benefits, as well as sunflower oil to combat any irritation or inflammation due to sun exposure. In short, it's a great all-around sunscreen-skincare hybrid.
Most Popular: Beautycounter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense For Face SPF 25
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 25 | Formula: Cream
This sunscreen from Beautycounter is a best seller for good reason. Formulated with non-nano zinc, it offers broad-spectrum SPF 25 protection against UVA, UVB, and HEV rays with a super comfortable feel (aka, no greasy residue). Plus, the lightweight formula won’t leave behind a chalky white cast, so you can slather on freely.
Even better? It contains plenty of skin-loving ingredients to help your complexion look its very best. Chicory root extract supports the skin's barrier, vitamin E provides antioxidant protection against environmental stressors, and squalane draws moisture into the skin, leaving it hydrated and plump.
Best Under Makeup: Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting SPF 35 Sunscreen
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, octisalate | SPF Level: 35 | Formula: Cream | Finish: Matte
Byrdie Associate Editorial Director Hallie Gould says she fell in love with Tatcha's Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen the first time she tried it, and we can totally see why. First, it's formulated with zinc oxide for broad-spectrum SPF 35 sun protection (as well as octisalate to prevent it from degrading), which means you can opt to wear it on its own or layer underneath makeup that also offers some UV protection. It's also packed of skin-loving ingredients like Japanese wild rose to support natural circulation and diminish the look of pores, as well as a blend of green tea, rice, and algae to amp up the radiance.
The best part of all? It also moonlights as a primer. Dr Halim says that due to its ability to tighten pores and and smooth out the skin, it creates an excellent base for makeup, and we have to agree. Plus, it doesn't leave behind any chalky residue and greasy mess.
What Our Editors Say
"It's shockingly smoothing, hydrating, and comfortable. Essentially, it's everything most traditional sunscreens are not. Plus, I find it doubles as a great primer as it nixes shine, blurs pores, and allows for a smooth canvas ahead of your makeup application. It's expensive, so there's that, but in my opinion, it works triple-duty on your skin—so it's worth it." —Hallie Gould, Byrdie Associate Editorial Director
Best Budget: Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Clear Zinc
Active Ingredients: Homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Cream
Affordable sunscreens are a dime a dozen, but this one is one of our faves for your face. It's a broad-spectrum zinc oxide formula and includes soothing aloe and antioxidant vitamin E to help neutralize free radical damage. "Zinc oxide is usually a necessary ingredient to adequately protect against UVA damage," Dr. Akhavan says.
Other perks include a paraben-, oil-, gluten-, and oxybenzone-free formula, as well as a quick absorption time, so you can get on with your life without worrying about what your sunscreen is making your face look like.
Best Splurge: Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF 50
Active Ingredients: Homosalate, avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Liquid
Dr. Barbara Sturm products may not be known for their affordability, but they are certainly known for their effectiveness. If you've got a bigger budget and don't mind spending it, reach for this popular sunscreen serum to protect against premature signs of aging, sunburn, and more. Along with the key players in sun protection, there's also trusty hyaluronic acid to deliver moisture, green tea leaf extract for free radical protection, as well as a blend of cassia extract, vitamin E and beta-glucan to boost skin regeneration.
And because it's a serum, you can count on it being lightweight. We've never met anyone who would prefer their sunscreen to feel heavy on their skin, so we rest our case.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Dermalogica Super Sensitive Shield SPF 30
Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Liquid
For sensitive skin types, we recommend natural mineral sunscreens like this one to protect against harmful UV rays without any added irritation. It's formulated specifically with sensitive and reactive skin in mind, which is why you'll find the brand's exclusive complex of oat and botanical actives to keep discomfort, burning, and itching at bay. Plus, it doesn't include any artificial fragrances or colors, which also can contribute to irritation for sensitive skin types.
Sweep it onto your face and watch the sheer formula melt into your skin (no white cast here!), immediately getting to work to both hydrate and protect.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 40 | Formula: Cream
Sunscreen is important, we all know that, but we'd be lying if we didn't say that some of them have a tendency to clog pores. That's enough to make anyone want to forgo sunscreen altogether, especially acne-prone skin types who deal with blemishes regularly. That said, there are a handful of sunscreens that don't do that (like the ones on this list), including this crowd-pleaser by EltaMD. "It's a great all-around product for every skin type, including acne-prone skin," says Dr. Halim. "It provides UV protection through its mineral-based formula, plus it contains hyaluronic acid for hydration. It's lightweight and sheer, non-greasy, and moisturizing."
Also great: This one won't leave behind a pesky white or chalky cast after application.
What Our Editors Say
"This is the only sunscreen I've ever used that hasn't caused breakouts on my extremely acne-prone skin. I swear by it. I've used the clear and the tinted and both work equally as well. I'll opt for the tinted one if I'm in a hurry and don't want to put additional makeup on, I find that it helps calm down some of the redness in my face." —former Byrdie Senior Social Media Editor Kelly Gallagher
Best for Oily Skin: Supergoop! Mineral Matte Screen SPF 40
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide | SPF Level: 40 | Formula: Cream | Finish: Matte
You know that greasy film we keep talking about? It's part of what gives traditional sunscreens a bad rap. It's a concern for everyone, but perhaps the most so for oily skin types that deal with excess grease on the reg. If that sounds like you, a mattifying sunscreen should be your go-to. This 100% mineral-based formula nixes shine and diminishes the appearance of pores while it protects, which is why it's a great pick for oily skin.
We can't fail to mention that it's also chock full of skincare benefits: A blend of blue skull cap, hydrangea, resveratrol, and peptides brighten the skin while protecting against free radical damage, while mulberry offers further antioxidant protection. Butterfly bush extract protects against UV, IR, and blue light, and bisabolol extract helps to calm and soothe irritated skin.
Best for Combination Skin: Paula's Choice Skincare Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone; homosalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream | Finish: Matte
Finding the right sunscreen for combination skin can prove to be tricky. You’ll need a formula that’ll work well with both oily and dry patches, so the best options are ones that both balance and hydrate like this one from Paula’s Choice.
Along with broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, it imparts a soft matte finish and keeps shine under control, yet it still delivers lightweight moisture to combat any dryness. Plus, the formula contains green tea and willow bark extract to calm redness and irritation, providing a more even-toned complexion.
What Our Editors Say
"Most sunscreens tend to sit on my face and give me that oh-so unwanted greasy forehead glow. This Paula’s Choice sunscreen is the only one that protects my face without causing shininess or breakouts. It’s hydrating and leaves my skin with a matte finish which allows me to do my makeup as I normally would." —Byrdie Commerce Production Assistant Agne Numaite
Best Tinted: Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream
We know that sunscreen is good for your complexion in the long run, but this mineral sunscreen gives your skin a boost right away. From light and freckled to olive or deep, this all-natural face sunscreen works as both a primer and a color corrector. It's great to wear alone or under makeup, and users rave that it doesn't leave a ghostly residue. More importantly, it provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection against both UVA and UVB rays thanks to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Also nice: The formula is infused with a blend of shea butter, vitamin E, coconut oil, and five different fruit extracts to deeply nourish and protect your complexion.
Best for Dry Skin: EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 35 | Formula: Serum | Finish: Demi-matte
If your skin is on the drier side, you’ll want a formula that’ll deliver ample hydration without feeling greasy or heavy, as many sunscreens out there can. That’s why we’re loving this serum formula from EleVen by Venus Williams that’s equal parts nourishing and lightweight.
For starters, the formula is clean, vegan, and reef-safe, using 25% zinc oxide to provide broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection from the sun. It’s infused with prickly pear stem extract, which deeply hydrates while calming and firming the skin, and it also contains safflower oleosomes that help protect the skin from environmental stressors. Plus, it’s packaged in a post consumer resin (PCR) material, upping its sustainability factor.
Best Mineral: Renée Rouleau Weightless Protection SPF 30
Active Ingredients: Octinoxate, zinc oxide, octisalate | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream
As you may know, mineral sunscreen is notorious for leaving behind a chalky white cast. Thankfully, today's skincare innovations have led to plenty of options that apply clear and absorb nicely. Byrdie HQ’s favorite? This lightweight formula from Renée Roleau.
Thanks to zinc oxide, this sunscreen provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, plus it delivers ample hydration while feeling like you’re wearing nothing at all—no white cast or ghostly residue whatsoever. The formula is also infused with soothing green tea and anti-inflammatory licorice extract. For these reasons, Dr. Halim points out that this one is a great option for oily and sensitive skin types (though, it’s honestly a great choice for all). Also nice? “It doesn’t pill under makeup,” she adds.
What Our Editors Say
"I'm extremely fair-skinned and have had multiple pre-cancerous moles removed from my face, shoulders, and hands. My skin is also very sensitive, so my dermatologist has always recommended that I use physical blockers instead of clear, chemical sunscreens. For years I just dealt with the thick, chalky residue that comes with using a zinc-based formula until at last, I discovered this broad-spectrum holy grail. My dermatologist approves of the physical blocker: Micronized zinc oxide. Meanwhile, the smooth, genuinely weightless formula gets a gold star from me. I wear it every single day under makeup and it never pills, slides around or makes my face feel greasy. It truly feels like you don't have anything on." —Byrdie Editor Holly Rhue
Best Spray: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Mist Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF Level: 55 | Formula: Spray
Neutrogena is beloved for a wide range of beauty products, including sunscreen. This drugstore classic is a sheer mist that feels super lightweight, and since it's oil-free and non-comedogenic, you can feel confident that it won't clog your pores or leave your skin feeling weighed down.
Pro tip: Instead of spraying your face directly (with your eyes closed, of course) which can up your chances of missing a spot, spray some of it into cupped hands first and then go ahead and gently apply it to your face.
Best Stick: Shiseido UV Clear Stick Protector SPF 50
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Stick
There is no sunscreen out there that's a one-and-done kind of deal. No matter which formula you use, you will have to reapply at least every two hours (if not sooner) for the best line of protection. So, why not make reapplications easy with this sunscreen stick that can be carried with you anywhere and everywhere? We especially love this one from Shiseido, which provides broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection that becomes even more effective when exposed to heat and water thanks to the brand's WetForce and HeatForce technologies.
The formula is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores, and it can be worn over makeup so you don't have to remove your foundation or blush just to keep your skin protected. It can also be worn under makeup or on its own—the choice is totally yours.
Best Powder: ColorScience Sunforgettable Brush-On Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Powder
Another great option for reapplying sunscreen in the middle of the day is a powder formula like this mineral-based gem ColorScience. It provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection from the sun while lending the complexion a sheer, natural-looking tint. With that in mind, it’s great for wearing alone on days you’re going for an effortless, no-makeup makeup look, but the brush-on formula also makes it ideal for reapplying over your makeup sans any smudging, too.
We also love that the formula is free of not-so-great ingredients like harsh chemicals, talc, mineral oil, dyes, synthetic fragrances, and drying alcohol.
Best K-Beauty: COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++
Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Cream
As we all know, some of the very best skincare formulas come out of the Korean beauty sphere. We can go ahead and add this sunscreen from COSRX to that list because it's a true gift to any complexion.
This lightweight formula is both soothing and moisturizing thanks to aloe arborescens leaf extract, while it provides SPF 50 protection against UVB rays and PA+++ protection (aka, pretty strong protection) against UVA rays. The creamy yet weightless texture absorbs into the skin quickly, sans greasy residue or chalkiness, making it the perfect protective base for makeup.
Best for Dark Spots: SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream
This new launch from SkinCeuticals combines everything that you want in a brightening treatment with everything that you need in an SPF. Formulated with a combination of chemical sun-blocking ingredients such as avobenzone and homosalate, it offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection against both UVA and UVB rays. In terms of skin-improving ingredients, niacinamide helps to brighten and reduce the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone while a blend of tranexamic acid and phenylethyl resorcinol provide protection against future discoloration. The formula also contains reflective mica to give your skin an instant radiance boost, while glycerin acts as an ultra-hydrating humectant, drawing and retaining moisture into the skin
Best Natural: Suntegrity Skincare Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer
Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream
This guy's a favorite of Byrdie general manager/VP Leah, and she'll be the first to tell you that it's completely worth it—that is if you don't already hear it from your dermatologist first. There's a lot to love about the formula, including the fact that it pulls triple duty as a moisturizer, makeup primer, and sunscreen, and the fact that it's laced with antioxidants to protect against pesky free radicals that can bring on premature aging. And last but not least, the formula is natural and clean, so you can feel really good about wearing it.
Sunscreen is a product you need to apply day in and day out, so it's important to find a formula you won't dread using. The best sunscreen is La Roche Posay's Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 (view at Amazon); it's earned a perfect score from Consumer Reports for multiple years in a row, and it's also recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Worried about a sunscreen-induced breakout? Elta MD's UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 (view at Dermstore) won't weigh the skin down or clog pores, making it a great pick for those with skin that's prone to pimples.
What to Look For in a Face Sunscreen
SPF Protection Between 30 and 50
When it comes to SPF, which indicates how much protection a product offers against UVB rays (note: not UVA rays), it’s best to look for a formula that offers SPF 30 or higher. “An SPF of 15 filters about 93% of UVB rays, while an SPF of 30 filters out approximately 97%,” explains Dr. Halim. On the other hand, an SPF of 50 filters out approximately 98%, though a recent study by EWG claims that SPF products above 50 aren’t necessarily any more effective. That said, choosing a sunscreen with an SPF in the 30 to 50 range is best.
As mentioned above, SPF doesn’t protect against UVA rays, which can be just as dangerous as UVB rays. “UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply—even without causing any sunburn—and they result in sun damage and aging,” says Dr. Halim. It's important to note that both types of ultraviolet rays can also lead to skin cancer. With that in mind, it’s crucial to find a product that offers broad-spectrum protection, meaning it will absorb or deflect both UVA and UVB rays.
Dr. Halim mentions a few key ingredients to look out for that will indicate broad-spectrum protection: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both mineral ingredients, and avobenzone, a chemical sunscreen. “In regards to avobenzone, it breaks down quickly when it’s on its own, therefore it needs to be combined with other ingredients,” she says. “Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide enhance avobenzone’s effects while stabilizing it. Any other additives should be avoided."
The Right Formula for Your Skin Type
As you would with any type of facial skincare product, Dr. Halim stresses the importance of choosing a formula based on your skin type. If you’re oily or prone to blemishes, look for mattifying formulas that are non-comedogenic and non-greasy, ensuring they’ll keep shine under control and won’t clog your pores. Drier skin types should look for products that provide hydrating benefits while still being lightweight in texture (nobody likes a heavy sunscreen!). Those with more sensitive skin should avoid anything with potential irritants like added fragrance or dyes.