Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Until a year ago, I understood on an intellectual level that going without sunscreen was similar to tossing my skincare products in the trash day after day, but that wasn’t enough to put me on to sunscreens. Sunscreens peel, drown your face in pungent goop, splatter out of the tube like dried toothpaste, and Saran-wrap your skin in gunk that always reminds you it’s there. But, once you find the right sunscreen (the Biore Japan listed below is my personal favorite)—and there are plenty that actually feel good on your skin—you won’t look back. You’ll ultimately have to patch test for yourself to determine if a sunscreen is right for you, but we’ve done some of the work for you by rounding up the best candidates.
Here are the top sunscreens for your face and body, including a milky sunscreen in adorable packaging, a surprising winner from the drugstore, and a mineral sunscreen option if you’ve sworn off oxybenzone.
Best for Face: Biore Japan Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+/PA++++
Biore, it turns out, cranks out more than just pore strips. Asian beauty fans often say American sunscreens lag behind European and Asian ones since the FDA is slow to approve new sunscreen filters (a few decades slow, to be exact). Case in point, this water-based Japanese sunscreen sinks into the skin, not unlike a light lotion. The PA++++ rating refers to the Japanese and South Korean system for measuring UVA protection, while the SPF offers UVB protection. You have to apply in layers to minimize peeling, but the Biore sunscreen’s lightweight texture makes slathering on the recommended ¼ teaspoon a better experience than, say, buffing in gooier, grittier formulas. There’s a light whiff of citrus that quickly goes away. Once it’s on your face, the sunscreen dries matte and soft and even doubles as a face primer.
The only drawback is that this sunscreen takes a few weeks to arrive since it’s traveling the seas from Japan, but nonetheless reviewers say it’s well worth the wait.
Best Budget Sunscreen: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum SPF 45
If you’d rather not shell out a fortune for sunscreen at the drugstore, this Neutrogena sunscreen saves you a few dollars without sacrificing sun protection. And because it’s Neutrogena, this sunscreen is available in almost every drugstore, even in bare-bones selections, and often comes in a two-pack. This sheer sunscreen isn’t sticky when you first apply it, a drugstore rarity, and dries down to a wearable matte finish.
Best for Acne Prone Skin: Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk
Thanks to the host of sunscreen ingredients available to them—some of which don’t require additional stabilizers as tagalongs—Korean manufacturers get to produce lovely formulas like this milky Missha sunscreen. Like the Biore sunscreen, the Missha Sun Milk smooths on for a luminous finish and potent sun protection, thanks to a cosmetically elegant formulation that leaves no greasiness or tell-tale sunscreen odor.
This sunscreen doesn’t clog pores and earned a thumbs up from several reviewers with sensitive and acne-prone skin. However, reviews did mention a light green tea scent, so if you’re not a fan of fragrance, the Biore might be a better option. The lack of a ghoulish white cast makes this a good option for darker skin, and as if you needed any more convincing, the slim, flat packaging and screw-off lid easily withstand long journeys in your bag, however crowded.
Best for Babies: Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+
Adorable floppy hats help protect babies from sunburn, but you need to follow up with sunscreen. This sunscreen relies on mineral ingredients zinc oxide and titanium oxide to deflect the sun’s rays, as opposed to chemical sunscreens that absorb them, and doesn’t contain oxybenzone. The formula is on the rich side, so you do have to work it in. Once you do, though, it absorbs without leaving a greasy finish and stays on. The sunscreen’s labeled water-resistant and SPF 50+, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security—you should still apply sunscreen every hour or so to ensure proper coverage.
Best Natural Sunscreen: Cotz UVA/UVB Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin SPF 40
“Natural” lacks a solid definition. With sunscreens, it usually means physical or mineral sunscreens, like this Cotz sunscreen, which uses zinc oxide to block sun rays. According to reviews, this sunscreen was generally non-irritating, even for reviewers with rosacea—though you should always patch test for yourself—and sensitive, acne-prone skin. The creamy sunscreen is highly emollient, which those with dry skin might like, and isn’t too greasy once it absorbs. There’s no overpowering sunscreen smell, and it even sits well under makeup.
Best for Body: Sun Bum Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion
It’s tempting to repurpose a beloved face sunscreen for your body, but it’s a pricy habit. To avoid going through product at twice as fast, try this affordable Sun Bum sunscreen for all-over sun protection. The Sun Bum lotion has more than 800 five-star ratings on Amazon. The bottom line: This sunscreen works. It doesn’t transfer onto clothing, leave a sticky residue or create a white cast. The texture is pleasant and dispensed from a convenient squeeze bottle. Reviewers also raved about how good the sunscreen smells—a “summery” mix of banana and coconut that manages to not be overpowering.
Best Tinted Sunscreen: Elta MD UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41 Tinted
The charm of this tinted sunscreen from Elta MD is how it allows you to cram as many steps as possible into one product. The premise is trickier in practice since multi-purpose products tend to compromise on at least one aspect, like hydration or ease of application. If they don’t pill, they sit on top of skin, and so on. Not this tinted sunscreen.
The non-greasy finish blends out for a sheer layer of color to even out skin tone without an SPF-induced pallor. Reviewers with acne-prone skin for the most part said the Elta MD sunscreen played well with their skin. The shade range, or lack thereof is unfortunately typical of most tinted sunscreens.