The 13 Best Sunscreens to Shield Every Skin Type
by Jin Moon
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If you dream of beaches all day long or just love being out and about getting your daily dose of vitamin D, you need to protect your skin with sunscreen. The best sunscreens will shield your skin from harsh ultraviolet rays from the sun, and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer and signs of premature aging (like fine lines and dark spots). With all the sunscreen options available now, you’re more able to cater your choice to your skin type. Whether you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, a fair or dark complexion, or tend to be oily or dry, there’s a sunscreen that will simultaneously work on your skin-care concern while protecting you from harmful rays.
Because sunscreens are sold over the counter, they fall under regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Even though that should make choosing a sunblock easier, it’s still important to read the labels to determine the best sunscreen for you. If you see a warning about skin cancer or skin aging on your sunscreen label, it doesn’t meet the FDA standards.
Here are some other key criteria to keep an eye out for: First, look for broad spectrum sunscreens. These reflect both UVA and UVB rays away from the skin through a chemical barrier. Next, scan the list of active ingredients. Only sunscreens with active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safe and effective, and you can read the full list of approved ingredients on the FDA website. Last but not least, consider the sun protection factor (SPF), which measures UVB protection. The FDA recommends a minimum of SPF 15, while many dermatologists advise SPF 30 or higher. It’s important to note that SPF doesn’t measure how long the sunscreen is effective but rather the strength of protection. Sunscreen should always be reapplied at least every two hours, and more often if you’re swimming or actively sweating. In general, fairer skin will require a higher SPF between 30 and 50 to avoid sunburn as it absorbs more sunlight than darker skin.
Then there’s the question of how sunscreen will work in water or during sports. Though no sunscreen is truly waterproof, labels will say “water resistant.” This simply means they will remain effective while swimming or sweating for a limited amount of time — usually 40 to 80 minutes, which should be indicated on the label.
To get the most out of your sunscreen, apply it 15 minutes before going into the sun so it has time to soak in and work its magic. Cover any part of your skin that will be exposed to light, avoiding eyes and mouth, and don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck.
We know we just threw a ton of info at you, so to make your life a bit easier, we researched the best sunscreens for every skin type and preference. Ranging from the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin to the best mineral sunscreen, check out our faves below, and shop the one that fits your needs.
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid For Face
- Best for Acne-Prone Skin: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- Best for Oily Skin: Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen
- Best Spray: Supergoop! Play Antioxidant Mist SPF 30 with Vitamin C
- Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 100+ Sunscreen
- Best for Tanning: Lancaster Sun Beauty Melting Tanning Milk SPF 15
- Best for Body: Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Water-Light Lotion SPF 30
- Best Tinted: bareMinerals Tinted Moisturizer Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30
- Best for Fair Skin: Replenix Sheer Physical Sunscreen Cream SPF 50+
- Best for Dry Skin: Supergoop! Glow Oil SPF 50
- Best for Under Makeup: Nars Radiance Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Sunscreen
- Best for Dark Skin: Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen
- Best Mineral: C’est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.