There's no debating the importance of applying SPF every morning—especially on your face. Everyday application is necessary to reap the benefits of SPF, as dermatologist Diane Madfes, MD, explains. "We are exposed to ultraviolet and infrared light every day that produces free radicals in our skin," she tells Byrdie. "These free radicals inhibit collagen production and decrease our elastin. This leads to premature aging, wrinkling, brown spots, and sagging."
We conducted hours of research on the best face sunscreens, carrying out both lab and real-world tests. In our labs, we conducted two moisture level readings to determine how well each wore throughout the day and chose opacity and feel ratings for each pick. At home, we used the selected sunscreens every day for two weeks, taking note of how well each kept us protected during a day out in the sun, and evaluated each formula's texture, feel, and finish.
We then combined these results with expert recommendations and additional research to put together this list of the best in show.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
No white cast
Can leave a slight oil residue
One of the highest-rated sunscreens on the market, it’s no surprise that the Supergoop! Unseen formula is our top pick. The broad-spectrum sunscreen has a lightweight, gel texture that glides on smoothly, absorbs easily, and leaves a soft, velvety finish. We love that it has a completely clear formula that never leaves a white cast and has a subtle, non-irritating scent.
After applying, we noticed that the sunscreen was able to hydrate and create a smoother base for makeup, acting as a moisturizer and a primer. It’s also oil-free, so it shouldn’t leave you greasy—but we noticed that it did leave a slight sheen on already oily skin types. Still, we’re giving this sunscreen top honors for its overall lightweight feel, high SPF protection, and clean formula.
Price at time of publish: $38
Type: Chemical | Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 8%, octisalate 5%, octocrylene 4% | SPF: 40 | Size: 1.7 oz. | Water-Resistant: 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica SPF 50+
Lightweight and non-irritating
Finding a mineral sunscreen that doesn’t have a white cast or leave a chalky residue behind is a challenge, but we’re happy to report that this pick from ISDIN is a winner. It has a thin, lightweight texture (more similar to a chemical formula than other mineral options) that spreads seamlessly and dries without a greasy finish. It does apply slightly white, but it absorbs clearly after blending it in with the fingers.
Aside from zinc oxide, it also contains vitamin E for antioxidant protection and photolyase, which is able to repair already-existing sun damage. While this sunscreen does contain fragrance, it’s a very pleasant smell that isn’t too overpowering.
Price at time of publish: $60
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide 11% | SPF: 50 | Size: 3.4 oz. | Water-Resistant: 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No
Coola Organic Classic Face Sunscreen SPF 50
Vegan and made with certified organic ingredients
Coola’s Classic Face Sunscreen not only provides efficient broad-spectrum protection but is also enriched with natural, certified organic antioxidants to protect the complexion and fight environmental free radicals. While it does have a thicker consistency that needs to be rubbed in well, we love that it dries down with a sheer, dewy finish that makes the skin look healthy and hydrated (that’s noticeable even on work Zoom calls). It’s great for all skin types but is especially beneficial for dry skin that is prone to getting dry patches or often irritated by other sunscreen formulas.
Price at time of publish: $32
Type: Chemical | Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 1.75%, homosalate 5.0% octisalate 2.0%, octocrylene 5.0% | SPF: 50 | Size: 1.7 oz. | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Milk Sunscreen
As the name indicates, this sunscreen from Summer Fridays has a thin, milky texture (similar to a liquid foundation) that blends into the skin easily and doesn’t leave a residue. It has a slightly tinted formula that complements all skin tones without causing a white cast—and has a matte (but not drying) finish that smoothes the complexion without settling into fine lines or accentuating skin texture.
It’s formulated with squalane to hydrate and plump, as well as an antioxidant complex to protect the skin from free radical damage. We also love that it goes on clear over makeup, making it a great choice for reapplying throughout the day. After trying it out ourselves, we found that it works for all skin types—being able to nourish dry skin without leaving a greasy residue on oily skin types.
Price at time of publish: $36
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide 9.4% | SPF: 30 | Size: 1.7 oz. | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best For Dark Skin Tones
Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30
No white cast
May be too shiny for oily skin types
Made by a woman of color for people of color, this wallet-friendly moisturizing lotion is ideal for dark skin tones. The zinc-free formula absorbs quickly without a white cast, plays well under makeup, and provides SPF 30 protection from the sun's harmful rays.
This sunscreen makes our skin look glowy and healthy, and it absorbs instantaneously with very minimal blending. It has a lightweight but creamy texture, so it can even double as your AM moisturizer. We also love that it contains a multitude of skin-benefiting ingredients, like avocado oil, jojoba oil, and carrot juice. We did notice that it might become too shiny throughout the day for those who already have oily skin, but it leaves a healthy, dewy finish nonetheless.
Price at time of publish: $19
Type: Chemical | Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 10%, octisalate: 5%, octocrylene: 2.75% | SPF: 30 | Size: 3 oz. | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Cocokind Silk SPF
Contains chemical and mineral filters
Lab-tested with results on product page
Doesn’t irritate acne-prone skin
This pick from Cocokind is a hybrid sunscreen, meaning it contains both chemical and mineral blockers to protect you from UVA and UVB rays. This makes it a great choice for those with sensitive skin (which can sometimes be irritated by chemical filters) who want a sunscreen that doesn’t leave a pasty finish.
We love that this formula is creamy and light, with a silky consistency that sinks into the skin effortlessly. It has a similar texture to a daytime moisturizer, so it’s easy to blend in and doesn’t leave a greasy feel behind. After wearing it throughout the day, we noticed that it never settles into fine lines or dry patches and gives the skin a noticeable glow. However, we don’t love that it’s not at all water-resistant, so you might want to pick a different formula if you’re heading to the beach or pool.
Price at time of publish: $25
Type: Chemical and mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide 10.5%, homosalate 10% | SPF: 30 | Size: 1.7 oz. | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Kinship Self Reflect SPF 32 Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen
Gentle, non-irritating formula
Made with plant-based probiotics
May leave a cast on darker skin tones
This sunscreen from Kinship boasts a 22.4% zinc oxide concentration and a gentle formula that won’t wreak havoc on sensitive skin types. Formulated with kinbiome, a plant-based probiotic, and turmeric, it's able to strengthen the skin barrier and soothe irritation. It has more of a watery consistency that spreads and absorbs easily and leaves a dewy finish that layers nicely under makeup. We think the slight pink tint gives the skin a healthy-looking glow, but it might appear pale on those with darker skin.
Price at time of publish: $28
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 22.4% | SPF: 32 | Size: 1.75 oz. | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Hero Cosmetics Force Shield Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30
Green tint can leave a cast
This sunscreen from Hero Cosmetics is a great pick for acne-prone skin for many reasons: It has a lightweight, comfortable feel, doesn’t leave the skin looking shiny, and has a soothing texture. And if you deal with redness from blemishes, it has a sheer green tint to neutralize the skin tone. After applying, we noticed that it had a moist texture that absorbed quickly and didn’t leave the skin feeling oily. However, we found that the green tone was unnecessary if you don’t deal with redness, and it takes longer to rub in for those with darker skin tones. But, we appreciate the antioxidant-rich formula, which is full of natural superfood ingredients and probiotics.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 17.53% | SPF: 30 | Size: 1.7 oz. | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Iris & Romeo Weekend Skin SPF 50 + Vitamin C + Glow
No white cast
Glowy coverage doesn’t last all day
If you’re looking for a sunscreen that can do more than just protect you from the sun, the Iris & Romeo Weekend Skin SPF is the perfect pick. This three-in-one product is able to provide broad spectrum coverage, brighten and protect the skin with stabilized vitamin C and niacinamide, and work as a makeup base with a tint that complements all skin tones.
When we first applied this product, we were pleasantly surprised at how seamless it is—it almost felt like we didn’t have sunscreen on at all. It has a smooth texture that spreads easily (almost like a liquid foundation) and is hydrating without becoming greasy. It doesn’t settle into fine lines or accentuate wrinkles, making it the perfect base for the rest of your makeup. The only thing that we could complain about is that the dewiness does fade throughout the day and would have to be reapplied if you’re using it for makeup coverage. But as we know, sunscreen should be applied multiple times throughout the day, so we still love this formula nonetheless.
Price at time of publish: $50
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 10% | SPF: 50 | Size: 1.18 oz. | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Our best overall pick is the Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen, an oil-free, invisible formula that offers SPF 40 protection and will never leave a cast on any skin tone. We also love the ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Daily Mineral SPF 50+ Sunscreen, which contains mineral blockers but won’t leave a chalky finish on the skin, and Black Girl Sunscreen, which is affordable and lightweight.
Meet the Expert
- Diane Madfes, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist in NYC specializing in the detection and treatment of skin cancers, facial rejuvenation, chemical peels, and general skin care.
- Azza Halim, MD, is a board-certified anesthesiologist/aesthetics/functional medicine physician based in Florida with locations in California and Chicago.
What to Look for When Buying 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 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 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.
Halim mentions a few key ingredients to look out for that will indicate broad-spectrum protection: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both mineral ingredients (present in the Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Mineral Milk Sunscreen and the Cocokind Silk SPF), and avobenzone, a chemical sunscreen (present in the Coola Classic Face Organic Fragrance-Free Sunscreen Lotion). “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 skin care product, 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 fragrances or dyes. For sensitive skin types, we especially recommend the Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen, which has a gentle, non-irritating formula.
What are the benefits of face sunscreens?
According to Madfes, daily exposure to UV (ultraviolet) light causes your skin to produce free radicals, which can inhibit collagen production. In essence, wearing face sunscreen every day helps prevent loss of elasticity, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging. And aside from pulling the brakes on photoaging, there's the benefit of preventing skin cancer.
How often should you apply face sunscreen?
"Wear sunscreen daily!" says Madfes. In addition to slathering it on every morning as part of your normal skincare routine, you're wise to continue applying it throughout the day. Why? Most formulas only guarantee coverage for 80 minutes—sometimes less if you're sweating or swimming. If you're already wearing makeup, spritz on a sunscreen spray or dust on a mineral SPF powder.
At what point in your skincare routine should you apply a face sunscreen?
Generally speaking, sunscreen should go on last—after eye cream, serum, moisturizer, and anything else you apply during your morning skincare routine. However, if you're wearing makeup, you can apply it after your sunscreen. But if possible, wait a few minutes for it to absorb completely before reaching for your foundation.
How We Researched & Tested
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a commerce writer specializing in lifestyle and cosmetics. She considered dozens of sunscreens for the face for this roundup, evaluating each on active ingredients, texture and skin-feel of formula, and finish.
Shannon Stubbs is a staff commerce updates writer at Byrdie, where she covers beauty. She’s frequently trying new skincare and makeup products to recommend the best of the best to readers. She’s tried multiple sunscreens on this list, including Black Girl Sunscreen and the Hero Cosmetics Superlight Sunscreen.
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