If I could go back in time and warn my younger self about the future, the first thing I would say is, “Wear more sunscreen!”
It’s hard to think about all the unnecessary damage I’ve done to my skin by walking around without it for most of my life.
As any dermatologist will tell you, we should actually be wearing sunscreen year-round to protect our skin from UV damage.
Since the warm weather is finally here, now is the perfect time to start practicing good habits.
We uncovered the 15 best sunscreens for all sorts of skin types and needs.
But first, let’s explain one of the most confusing differences between sunscreen formulas.
Physical sunscreen is made from ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
It creates a protective barrier over your skin that reflects damaging UV rays from the sun.
They’re less likely to irritate your skin, block both types of UV rays (A and B), and last longer in direct sunlight.
Chemical sunscreen works by turning UV rays into heat through chemical reactions, then releasing the heat off your skin.
These formulas are thinner and spread more easily over your skin.
You can also apply much less chemical sunscreen, and many chemical formulas have added ingredients that nourish your skin.
Look for: Silk proteins and shea butter.
Avoid sunscreens that feel like gel or say “dry-touch” on the label.
You want a moisturizing, creamy chemical formula that will hydrate your skin as it protects you.
If your skin is really dry, or you live with a chronic skin condition, you can actually mix your sunscreen into plain moisturizing cream.
Look for: Dries fast.
If you need to go out looking your best, but want to protect against UV rays, you should pick a formula that’s lightweight.
A sheer, physical formula is your best choice, because it will shield your face without looking greasy.
Look for: Hypoallergenic, fragrance free.
Start by choosing a physical formula, because it’s less likely to contain irritating chemicals.
Specifically, look for a label that boasts “no dyes, oils, or chemicals.”
But also be sure to get a sunscreen with a high SPF rating – because sensitive skin needs protection.
Look for: Non-comedogenic.
“Non-comedogenic” means the sunscreen won’t cause acne.
Like sensitive skin formulas, choose brands with natural ingredients that have removed skin-irritating chemicals.
Look for: Chemical formulas, soy.
Both types of sunscreen protect darker skin tones just as well.
But a physical formula will leave a visible, chalky layer on your skin.
Find broad-spectrum coverage in your favorite consistency, but look out for soy as a main ingredient.
Soy helps the lotion blend to your skin tone.
Look for: Moisturizing, non-greasy.
We should all be wearing more sunscreen, but if you’re going to put it on every day you need to shop around.
If your skin isn’t sensitive, find any broad-spectrum formula with 30 SPF or higher.
A chemical type that’s gentle on your skin will be better for regular use. Remember to re-apply it every two hours on really sunny days.
Look for: Non-greasy, stick sunscreen.
If you have one problem area that always gets burned (your nose, ears, neck) you can keep it covered using a portable sunscreen stick.
Brands with a gel consistency, like Supergoop, also work well for spot coverage.
You’ll want to choose a formula that’s light and sheer, so it won’t look greasy and stand out.
Look for: High SPF with antioxidants.
If you’re only wearing sunscreen while lounging in the sand, you should focus on maximizing your protection.
Get a high SPF formula (50+ at least) and make sure it’s water resistant.
Be sure to re-apply every two hours, or after swimming or exercise.
Look for: Absorbs quickly.
Choosing a formula that won’t feel greasy is important for comfort – especially if you’re only putting sunscreen on your face.
A sheer physical formula will blend in on most skin tones, and is less likely to irritate your skin.
Look for: Spray nozzle.
These days plenty of brands sell sunscreen with an easy spray-on cap.
The formula may not be ideal for your skin, but it’s best to have one of these bottles handy to re-apply lotion throughout the day.
Since it won’t be your everyday sunscreen, pick something with a high SPF before other qualities.
Look for: Oil-free.
The important thing to remember is that water-resistant formulas are not sweat resistant.
If you plan to exercise in the sun, a non-greasy physical formula is one of the best choices.
Sadly, you’ll have to reapply lotion after you finish exercising, no matter what.
Look for: All-natural.
It’s not just good for the environment: these formulas are also great if you have sensitive skin.
Just don’t skimp on the SPF.
Look for: Ensulizole, mineral powder.
If your skin already looks a little greasy, you don’t want to make things worse with the wrong sunscreen.
Try a chemical-based formula that uses gel or alcohol. The UV blocker ensulizole is the least greasy choice.
A formula that uses mineral powder will help your skin look more dry.
Look for: Physical formula, high SPF.
If you want to prevent any more damage, choose a broad-spectrum formula with a creamy consistency.
A physical formula is more likely to block UV rays, preventing damage and even skin cancer.
Look for: Antioxidants.
On the other hand, if you don’t have wrinkles but worry about developing them, you need to protect against free radicals.
A high SPF with added antioxidants will block new sun damage while fighting visible signs of aging.
What’s your go-to sunscreen brand?