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First, the facts: Sunscreen is hands-down the most important step in your skincare routine, no matter your skin type or tone. Not only does wearing daily sunscreen help keep your skin nice and glowy by protecting against premature dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles, but it's also a must for helping to prevent skin cancer, too. That's why I've made it my personal mission to find the absolute best drugstore sunscreens out there—from lightweight creams that never leave a white cast to sunscreen sticks and brush-on powders that are super easy to reapply—that are all under $30 (yes, really).
Skin protection doesn't have to be $$$, and these top-rated drugstore picks (which were selected with the help of dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD and dermatologist Rachel Maiman, MD) prove it. So do yourself a favor and stock up on these expert-approved formulas ASAP, cuz remember: You need to be wearing sunscreen every damn day, so why not make it an excellent (and affordable!) one?
✔️ FYI: We updated this article in June 2023 to add a few internet-famous drugstore sunscreens, delete outdated oldies, and give you the most up-to-date info on drugstore sunscreens, with more expert advice and reviews to help you find the right sunscreen for your skin (all while sticking to a budget).
Want more info? Keep scrolling for the entire list of the 18 best drugstore sunscreens of 2023, plus a few tips on how to find the right SPF for you, according to the experts.
Invisible Daily Defense Face Serum SPF 60+
I’ll be honest: I used to hate wearing sunscreens, since they always felt thick and heavy on my skin. But that changed after I discovered this lightweight drugstore sunscreen from Neutrogena, which has the same texture as a face serum and is basically as lightweight as SPF gets. The fragrance-free formula uses four types of chemical sunscreen filters (avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene) to help protect your skin against sun damage, along with hydrating glycerin and skin-smoothing silicones to keep it from slipping and sliding around on your face in the heat.
THE REVIEW: As one tester writes, "I have tried so many types of sunscreen in the past, and they have all felt super heavy on my face and clog up my pores, causing me to breakout! I read so many good reviews on this one and decided to give it a try. I was so happy that I did because it is such a good product. Very lightweight, the scent is light and doesn't cause me to break out. Very happy with it and have used it daily."
Force Shield Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30
Another fab light-as-air formula, this zinc-based sunscreen is specially made with acne-prone skin in mind. It's packed with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial ingredients, such as green tea, which makes it a great pick for those with blemishes, and it also helps to balance signs of redness, thanks to the formula's sheer, green tint that doubles as a light primer. Instead of a greasy sheen, reviewers say this one leaves you with a smooth, skin-like finish.
THE REVIEW: "I’ve only been using this sunscreen for a week but it’s so easy to rub in, since it has a lightweight lotion formula," notes one reviewer. "No white cast for brown skin, and it leaves my skin with a nice glow. New favorite sunscreen."
Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF 30
Many sunscreens can irritate acne-prone skin (see: clogged pores and more zits and breakouts), but this drugstore formula actually helps mattify skin and soak up excess pore-clogging oils with a mix of starch and silica. It also uses the chemical sunscreen filters avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene to provide broad spectrum protection, as well as aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, which works as an oil-absorbing agent to help keep shine at bay. Oh, and you'll appreciate the fact that this oil-free lotion is free from fragrance.
THE REVIEW: According to one tester, "I'll preface this with the fact that I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin. I ordered this thinking it will definitely break me out like every other SPF moisturizer I've tried, but it hasn't. It's very lightweight [and] absorbs quickly. My face also feels very moisturized, not like it's just sitting on my skin."
Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen SPF 30
The big problem faced by a lot of mineral formulations: They have the potential to leave a chalky, white cast on your skin—especially if you're someone with melanated skin. However! Many reviewers report that this mineral sunscreen (which uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to help protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays) *actually* blends into skin without leaving much of a white cast (in fact, one review states that it “doesn’t leave a white cast on my skin—definitely black-girl approved”). It’s also filled with smoothing silicones and hydrating glycerin to leave your skin feeling soft and moisturized, not sticky and greasy.
THE REVIEW: "I have to admit I was highly skeptical of this one and a little worried to try it. I’m glad to say I was wrong," one review reads. "The tint is quite sheer and works well on my medium-beige skin tone. It is just enough to blur my pores & mask some redness. I don’t look gray or ashy when I wear this, and my natural skin color comes through nicely."
Daily Sheer Fluid Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Don't feel like wearing makeup over your sunscreen? This tinted sunscreen from clean drugstore brand Babo Botanicals offers SPF 50 protection with zinc oxide and minimal whitening—not to mention an ultra-light tinted finish that looks great on its own. It's non-drying, too, thanks to the inclusion of skin-smoothing passion fruit seed oil, so no need to worry about any caking or pilling.
THE REVIEWS: "This sunscreen is what it claims to be!" one review reads. "It's sheer, it's a light liquid, and it does not leave a white cast on medium-toned skin. It's so rare to find a non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast! It does feel sheer. Not as much as a sheer chemical sunscreen, but definitely, noticeably better than other mineral sunscreens."
Make It Matte Sunscreen SPF 45
I think it's safe to say that no one wants a sunscreen that leaves 'em looking greasy and shiny under makeup. And if you often have that problem, then this moisturizing gel formula (which uses the chemical filters avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene to provide broad spectrum protection) could be just what you need. Made with melanated skin in mind, this lotion is formulated to provide a matte finish with minimal white residue—plus, it's infused with natural ingredients like aloe, shea butter, and coconut oil to help soothe and heal dry skin.
THE REVIEW: One reviewer writes, "Love how it goes on so sheer— it’s matte and isn’t greasy at all. Works beautifully under concealer or foundation. Doesn’t leave white cast like other sunscreens. For the first time ever, I am motivated to put on face sunscreen daily because it is so good!"
Serious Shade Sunscreen SPF 50
A good choice for some dry skin types, this drugstore skin serum moisturizes skin as well as it protects from harmful UVA and UVB rays (which it does using the chemical filters avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene). The secret: ultra-moisturizing cocoglycerides and skin-smoothing silicones. Reviewers love the light, milky consistency—though if you're on the oilier side, then this formula may leave you feeling a bit too slick.
THE REVIEW: "Serious Shade is amazing!" one person raves. "My skin feels so plump and hydrated after applying this, and I actually feel like my face is protected from the sun. I feel like it gives me a dewy look on my face and I love that."
I’m Safe For Sensitive Skin SPF 35
If you're someone with sensitive skin, then you know how tough it can be to find a sunscreen that won't leave you irritated or inflamed. Enter: this extra-gentle, fragrance-free mineral formula from K-beauty brand Suntique. Containing UV-blocking titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, this formula is infused with hydrating propanediol, a natural alternative to propylene glycol that can help skin retain its moisture without leaving a greasy film.
THE REVIEW: As one buyer notes, "This sunscreen doesn't feel like a mineral sunscreen. It's like a watery gel or serum-like texture and very easy to spread. It does have a nice, cooling feel to it and doesn't get flaky or dried out like other mineral sunscreens do to my skin, especially my cheeks. I've used this a couple times so far and so far I am in love with it as a daily sunscreen! It hasn't caused any redness or breakouts, either."
Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30
I get it—slathering a thick-ass layer of sunscreen on your already oily skin is basically the worst. But you don't have to worry about any greasy or heavy residues with this SPF 30, thanks to the fact that it's ultra lightweight and spiked with hydrators like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid. Instead of leaving you shiny, this bb (which uses the chemical filters avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, and octisalate) will keep you moisturized and help you achieve a soft, matte finish.
THE REVIEW: "This is my favorite sunscreen so far," writes one customer. "I have oily skin, and this absorbs immediately and feels very light when applied. I love the idea of sunscreen and moisturizer in one, and this one does exactly what it claims, keeping my skin hydrated and protected."
Sport Mineral-Based Sunscreen SPF 50+
I swear by this drugstore sunscreen for trail runs, bike rides, and outdoor HIIT classes. The lightweight lotion (which uses a unique hybrid of octisalate, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide to provide sun protection) is water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes, thanks in part to the inclusion of beeswax, which makes this formula less likely to wash off in water. As a bonus, the bottle changes color when exposed to harmful UV rays as a reminder to keep yourself protected. Genius!
THE REVIEW: "I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like this," one tester notes. "I use it when I'm running and the smell isn't overpowering, it doesn't run into my eyes, and I haven't gotten sunburned on my long runs. Very happy with the product."
Mineral Translucent Sunscreen Powder SPF 30
One of the most frustrating parts of wearing sunscreen is that you need to reapply it every two hours. That's why this translucent, oil-absorbing powder sunscreen with zinc oxide and moisturizing ceramides is so convenient—you can use it under makeup as a primer, or quickly brush it on over your makeup throughout the day to make sure you're getting continuous protection. Just throw this one in your bag and never look back.
THE REVIEW: "I was looking for a sunscreen for reapplying during the day and this is the perfect one!" one reviewer writes. "Being in powdered form, it can easily be applied over makeup. I love to keep this in my purse and car so I can easily reapply through the day. The ingredients are great, and this is a perfect alternative to chemical sunscreen mists."
Lip Protectant + Sunscreen SPF 30
Yep, your lips need UV-ray protection just as much as your skin does. So rather than layering on your thick body or face SPF, try out this lip balm with sunscreen. The drugstore formula protects with SPF 30 (thanks to the inclusion of avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone) and provides hydration, too, courtesy of moisturizing glycerin. Plus, you can reapply as often as you need.
THE REVIEW: As one tester writes, "Love this! I have one in every bag because I love how hydrating it is and that it doesn't have that disgusting sunscreen taste like other brands. It looks and feels like a lip balm/lip gloss hybrid and offers great sun protection in a clear balm."
Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50
Stick sunscreens are clutch for quick, mess-free application, and this one from Cetaphil is a derm-favorite. Formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, this gentle stick sunscreen contains sensitive skin MVPs allantoin and bisabolol, which will soothe and soften your skin with every application. Its portable size makes it ideal for travel and touch-ups on the go, and you can even use it as a lip balm to avoid getting sunburned lips. However, just note that this sheer, mineral formula can leave a white cast, especially on those with melanated skin.
THE REVIEW: As one person writes, "I love this little sunscreen stick! It's zinc (no chemicals! yea!) but, unlike a number of zinc sunscreen products, the white film disappears as soon as you give it a quick rub. I like to keep it in my bag for mid-day sunscreen reapplications, especially to my cheeks and hands."
Scalp and Hair Mist SPF 30
PSA: You need to be protecting your scalp with sunscreen, and this drugstore spray makes it v easy to do so. Just lightly mist it through your scalp and hair, and the formula's SPF 30 (which relies on the chemical filters octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, and avobenzone) will protect from sunburns and hair-color fading—without, ya know, leaving your hair sticky or greasy.
THE REVIEW: "This is my go-to for sunscreen protection for my scalp," one tester notes. "With the applicator tip, it is easy to apply without getting all over my hair. I used to have to wear a hat all the time in the sun, but this product offers me the protection I needed."
Sport Ultra Clear Sunscreen Spray SPF 50+
There's a reason this drugstore sunscreen has remained a best-seller for so many years. Using the chemical filters octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, and avobenzone, the spray-on formula makes it oh-so easy to apply (especially when you're at the beach), and since it's sweat- and water-resistant, you don't need to worry about it sliding off your skin when you jump in the water. It also goes on totally sheer and just takes a lil bit of rubbing to blend.
THE REVIEW: "This sunscreen is easy to spray on, doesn't have a nasty perfume smell (who wants to smell like a coconut?), and provides great sun protection," reads one review. "I applied the sunscreen in the morning and early afternoon and did not get the least bit sunburnt after long days in the direct sun."
Mineral Face Gel Lotion SPF 30
Think of this zinc-based, clean formula as your sunscreen and moisturizer all in one. With anti-inflammatory aloe vera, moisturizing shea butter, and gently exfoliating citric acid, the gel-like formula has a light, milky texture that absorbs quickly with a non-oily, matte finish—plus, reviewers say it's mild on skin. However, even though it's advertised as sheer, it could leave a white residue, especially on darker skin tones.
THE REVIEW: "I really love this SPF," writes one reviewer. "It goes on nicely after you flake the pills off, and doesn't leave a thick, greasy feeling that many SPFs leave behind. I would say it would be a light satin-type finish. Most comfortable texture I've found in all the SPFs I've tried."
Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30
A combo of four chemical sunscreen filters, hydrating glycerin and shea butter, and brightening vitamin C come together in this sunscreen to help fade existing dark spots and marks *and* prevent new ones from forming in the future. It has a lightweight texture and dries to a totally clear finish, so it's suitable for all skin tones. Plus, it's soooo moisturizing, which is def a big plus.
THE REVIEW: "I love this moisturizer," writes one buyer. "Being a dark-skin African American, oftentimes sunscreen leaves a residue. This is the first sunscreen I've ever used that doesn't leave any weird discoloration, feels great on my skin, and it aids in reducing hyperpigmentation."
Revitalift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30
Want to help protect against fine lines while simultaneously shielding your skin? This drugstore sunscreen combines pro-retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid (as well as four types of chemical filters) to help firm, hydrate, and brighten your skin. Smooth it over your face as the last step in your morning skincare routine and enjoy the soft, non-greasy texture it leaves behind.
THE REVIEW: "I used this day cream for a week for a review on my YouTube channel and I was so very impressed," one tester notes. "My wrinkles on my forehead and under-eye area were visibly softened. My skin looks brighter and my dark under-eye circles were faded! The SPF 30 in it is an added plus!"
Is drugstore sunscreen safe?
JSYK, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get an effective SPF because yes, drugstore sunscreen is safe and effective. Chemical sunscreens tend to be less expensive and more readily available than mineral sunscreens, but chemical formulas aren't any less safe—and as mineral sunscreens continue to grow in popularity, you'll find plenty of affordable mineral sunscreens out there from drugstore brands like Neutrogena and Cetaphil. What's the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen, you ask? Let's get into it:
Chemical sunscreen use chemical-based sun blockers (such as avobenzone and octisalate) that sink into your skin to absorb UV rays. They tend to be easier to apply, since it doesn't take a lot of effort to rub them in, and no clinical studies prove that there are any issues with the use of chemical sunscreen. However, folks with sensitive may experience redness or irritation from chemical-based sun blockers.
Also known as physical blockers, mineral sunscreens rely on mineral-based sun blockers (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) to sit on top of your skin and physically block the sun’s rays. You'll typically find that mineral formulas are less water-resistant and more likely to leave a white cast on your skin, but they're also usually more moisturizing and sensitive-skin friendly.
Both chemical and mineral sunscreens offer protection against sunburn, signs of aging, and skin cancer, so the type you choose really just depends on your personal preference.
How to choose the best drugstore sunscreen
Opt for a formula with SPF 30 or more
Whatever type of drugstore sunscreen you choose, it should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more, says Dr. Maiman. Sunscreen with SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun's rays, and those SPF 50+ block slightly more.
"People rarely apply the same amount of sunscreen that's used in studies that generate SPF ratings, so there can be an advantage to selecting a sunscreen with an SPF of 50+ over one with an SPF of 30," says Dr. Maiman. "The former will probably result in a true SPF of closer to 30, whereas the latter may be producing an SPF closer to 15."
Know that water-resistant doesn't equal waterproof
Not sunscreen is fully waterproof or sweat-proof, and manufacturers are not allowed to claim that they are, says Dr. Hartman. "If a product’s front label makes claims of being water-resistant, it must specify whether it lasts for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating." After the 40- or 80-minute mark, you'll have to reapply.
Look for "broad-spectrum" on the label
Choosing a sunscreen with “broad spectrum” on the label is key for getting adequate sun protection, says Dr. Maiman. Sunscreens with this label protect against both UVA (they're primarily responsible for skin aging) *and* UVB rays (the the rays that give your skin a sunburn).
Meet the experts
Corey L. Hartman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. He is currently on the board of directors of the Skin of Color Society.
Why trust 'Cosmopolitan'?
Corinne Sullivan is an editor at Cosmopolitan and has five years of experience writing about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news, including the best sunscreens for oily skin and the best acne body washes. Her drugstore sunscreen picks were based off of expert interviews and product testing.
Lauren Balsamo is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan with eight years of experience researching, writing, and editing skincare stories that range from the laser skin tightening to the best sunscreens for sensitive skin. She’s an authority in all skincare categories, but is an expert when it comes to face and body sunscreens for all skin types and conditions—including hyperpigmentation and acne—thanks to years of dealing with her own stubborn melasma and breakouts. She regularly tests and analyzes sunscreens for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top dermatologists and estheticians to assess new formulas and brands.
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