The 15 Best Face Sunscreens of 2023, Tested & Reviewed
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The best formulas to protect your face from sun damage minus the white cast.
By now, you’re probably well aware of the virtues of sunscreen, when it comes to preventing skin cancer and the effects of aging on skin. If you follow any skin-care experts on social media, you may have noticed a common refrain along the lines of “if you’re not using sunscreen, you may as well toss out the rest of your skin-care products.”
However, knowing the importance of SPF and always making the effort to apply sunscreen are two different things. There are so many types of sunscreen, too, which can make finding a winner even more challenging. You have your lotions, sticks, powders, and mists, and there are also two main categories of sunscreen formulas: mineral and chemical (more explanation on that at the end).
Choosing a sunscreen that’s one or the other (or both) is up to personal preference — the important thing is to find a formula that’s water-resistant and offers broad-spectrum protection (read: protection from UVA and UVB rays) of at least SPF 30, according to the American Academy of Dermatology recommendations.
To help you avoid buyers’ remorse on your next sunscreen purchase, Shape staffers and a diverse range of tested have tried the good, the bad, and the greasy; to separate the chalky, heavy uncomfortable sunscreens, from the silky, glow-y reliable ones. Here are the best sunscreen formulas to shop for every preference, skin type, and budget.
Best Overall: Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Milk Sunscreen
Why We Like It: It has a lightweight texture and doubles as a great primer.
It’s Worth Noting: We found this is not a great option for sensitive skin.
This formula took everything you once knew about traditional sunscreen and reimagined it into a luxurious complexion product you’ll look forward to using every day. We found the silky texture to feel more like a fancy skin serum than a waxy or greasy sun protectant. The mineral SPF protection is substantial enough to shield skin from UVA and UVB rays, while also delivering smoothing skincare benefits with ingredients like soothing chamomile and brightening antioxidants.
The hydrating milky liquid has a natural tint that melts into skin, blending with any skin tone we tried it on to deliver a healthy, even glow. It’s a special breed of sunscreen that you won’t think twice about applying daily because the sun protection is just the added bonus on top of a serum that is hard not to love.
Price at time of publish: $36
Size: 1.7oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Best Budget: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Why We Like It: This non-greasy formula is great for oily, sensitive, and eczema-prone skin
It’s Worth Noting: It won’t give you a glowy finish like some of the other top picks.
This sunscreen impresses from first swipe, with a lightweight texture that spread easily over our faces without a trace of residue. Unlike traditional physical sunscreens that sit on the surface of the skin and can feel heavy and slick, this ceramide-spiked cream leaves skin feeling moisturized—not greasy. While this particular formula won’t result in a glowy finish, it was ideal for our testers’ oily skin. It’s also ideal for sensitive skin types as it’s free from all the irritating stuff like parabens and fragrance, plus it’s allergy-tested and won’t clog pores.
Price at time of publish: $14
Size: 2.5 oz | Active Ingredient: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Best Splurge: Dr. Rossi Derm MD The Day Formula
Why We Like It: This rich cream feels luxurious, brightens skin, and won’t leave a white cast.
It’s Worth Noting: The bottle is small and comes with a hefty price tag.
Everything about this sunscreen feels fancy, including the price tag. But investment aside, this luxe formula will deliver one impeccably silky, hydrating, protective layer of sunscreen that’s hard not to fall in love with. The bottle is little, weighing in at just over an ounce (35ml) and serves as a regular reminder to cherish every drop of this pampering blend. The mineral formula uses titanium dioxide to protect against UVA and UVB rays, and niacinamide, which delivers a host of skincare benefits like smoothing fine lines and reducing redness. Daily dabbing of this fancy formula will also improve skin’s appearance over time.
This was an excellent formula for under makeup. We used it as the final step of our skin care routine as instructed, and it absorbed so well. Our makeup did not become blotchy or patchy because of the sunscreen like has happened in the past with other products.
Price at time of publish: $116
Size: 1.1 oz | Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Best Physical : Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
Why We Like It: This oil-free formula goes on completely clear and is water- and sweat-resistant
It’s Worth Noting: It’s hard to see where you apply it which makes it easy to miss a spot.
True to its name, this Internet and editor-favorite sunscreen goes on completely clear and feels weightless on skin, busting your excuses for daily SPF. Despite looking invisible once applied to skin, its effects are apparent leaving skin looking instantly refreshed with an exceptionally healthy glow. The antioxidant-rich blend features red algae, to increase moisture, and Frankincense, to soothe, giving skin a velvety, natural finish.
Our makeup wearers loved the texture that felt like a silicone primer and doubled as a performance primer. This sunscreen is oil-free and scentless, making it ideal for sensitive skin types. While it is only water- and sweat-resistant up to 40 minutes, it’s the kind of formula you won’t mind reapplying post-dip in the pool.
Price at time of publish: $38
Size: 1.7oz | Active Ingredient: Avobenzone | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 40
Related:I'm an SPF Newbie, But This Supergoop Sunscreen Is Already My Favorite
Best for Dry Skin: EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40
Why We Like It: The moisturizing formula is good for sensitive and acne-prone skin and improves skin texture overtime.
It’s Worth Noting: It takes a few minutes to dry and you’ll have to be patient before applying makeup in order to prevent pilling.
There’s a reason this sunscreen is a favorite among dermatologists everywhere—it combines substantial sun protection in a super-hydrating formula that feels more like a pampering moisturizer than a sunscreen. It plays well with sensitive and acne prone skin types since it won’t leave skin greasy or cause irritation, and the vegan and cruelty-free formula is equally as gentle on the environment.
When we performed the blot test, a little bit transferred, but it was far less than other formulas. That extra moisture is great for keeping skin hydrated and glowy throughout the day, which we found was the case with this formula. Plus, it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and lactic acid which help to hydrate the heck out of skin, while also reducing shine, so your skin looks dewy, instead of greasy, and is ideal for drier skin types. We even noticed improvements in skin’s texture and appearance overtime, smoothing crepe-y dryness, and evening spots.
Price at time of publish: $36
Size: 1.7oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide, octinoxate | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 40
Related:I’ve Tried Dozens of Facial Sunscreens, and This Is the Only One That Doesn’t Make Me Break Out
Best for Oily Skin: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60
Why We Like It: This cream feels light and comfortable for everyday wear and won’t clog pores.
It’s Worth Noting: It doesn’t layer as well under makeup.
From a brand rooted in gentle formulations that soothe and protect the most sensitive skin types, this sunscreen is no exception. The oil-free formula is much thicker than the brand's beloved milky fluids, however it still manages to feel light and comfortable on the skin. Plus, it does more than just add a solid layer of sun protection: It also absorbs excess oil on the skin keeping your face looking refreshed even in sweltering heat and humidity. Despite feeling thick out of the tube, it melts into an easily spreadable lightweight lotion as we applied, and it didn’t feel suffocating on the skin, even with a powerful SPF 60 defense.
Price at time of publish: $20
Size: 1.7oz | Active Ingredient: Avobenzone | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 60
Best for Sensitive Skin: Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++
Why We Like It: This hydrating formula has a rich, pampering texture and is vegan and cruelty-free
It’s Worth Noting: It may leave some skin types looking shiny.
This is not your run of the mill facial sunscreen and that is precisely what we love about it. It feels rich and creamy out of the tube but melts into a lightweight veil as we apply it over our face, making it comfortable for everyday wear. The unique formula contains a blend of rice and grain fermented extracts, which are rich in vitamins B, C, and E, and amino acids, that gave our skin a hefty dose of hydration to keep it dewy and supple. The vegan formula is gentle on both skin and the environment, as it’s formulated without oxybenzone, octinoxate, and animal-derived ingredients which can be irritating to sensitive skin types.
Price at time of publish: $18
Size: 1.7oz | Active Ingredient: Ethylhexyl Triazone, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Diethylhexyl Butamido Triazone, Methylene Bis-benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 50
Related:Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin That Offers Protection Without the Irritation
Best Lightweight: ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral SPF 50+ Sunscreen
Why We Like It: The mineral formula layers well under products and makeup, and gives skin a healthy glow.
It’s Worth Noting: The cost per use is steep.
The love affair with this formula starts with its milky lightweight texture out of the bottle. Despite being a 100 percent mineral-based formula with zinc oxide, the formula has a watery consistency that makes it light and breathable on skin. We noticed a slight white cast upon application when testing, but it quickly neutralized leaving behind a hydrated base that layered well with other products.
It may be on the pricier side, but the bottle is double the size of most of the top performers on this list. The thin formula spreads easily to cover plenty of surface area with every drop. Despite being fragrance-free, we found the formula does have a subtle scent reminiscent of your standard beach-goer sunscreen, but nothing that should deter you from applying this daily.
Price at time of publish: $60
Size: 3.4oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 50
Best Fragrance-Free: Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
Why We Like It: This cream is rich and hydrating and leaves a healthy, dewy finish.
It’s Worth Noting: It’s thicker than other formulas and may be too heavy for oily skin types.
There’s something about a bright blue tube that gives off tropical vacation vibes and makes the application of daily sun protection feel a bit more exciting—even if your day is spent at the office, instead of the beach. The texture is on the thicker side, and takes a bit more effort to rub in completely, however we found it does spread easily with minimal streaks. During testing, we noticed it leaves a slight whiteness at first application but a little rub and that subtle cast disappears, blending seamlessly into skin and giving our face a healthy, dewy glow. The formula is water-resistant up to 80-minutes and we even found it held up remarkably well through a sweaty boot camp workout: no pilling up, running, or streaking.
Price at time of publish: $32
Size: 1.7oz | Active Ingredient: Avobenzone | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 50
Best Reef-Safe: Blue Lizard Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Why We Like It: This sunscreen is an all mineral formula with high water-resistance and is a good value.
It’s Worth Noting: The thick lotion can leave a white cast.
This sunscreen is the ideal pick for anyone who spends the majority of their time outside and near the ocean –lucky you. The formula is highly water-resistant and reef-safe, making it ideal for surfers, hikers, and beach go-ers, and while we did notice it left a thin white layer on skin during testing, that was an understandable tradeoff given its strength against the elements.
The texture feels surprisingly thin coming out of the tube making it easy to apply, but thickens as we rubbed into skin giving that heavy duty sun protection, all without suffocating skin. It's also spiked with hyaluronic acid to give skin a supple, hydrated feel. We found it left a slight greasiness on skin that won’t layer well with other products so think of it as a bare-face, outdoor-day type sunscreen, versus one you would layer under for the day.
Price at time of publish: $17
Size: 3 oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide, titanium dioxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Best for All Skin Tones: Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SFP 30
Why We Like It: This hydrating formula absorbs quickly and has a desirable texture.
It’s Worth Noting: Although it is touted as fragrance-free, it has a subtle sunscreen smell.
This sunscreen was specifically formulated by Black women for Black women, but the truth is all skin tones can benefit from the cocktail of skin-loving goodness in this tube. A blend of avocado, jojoba, cacao, carrot juice, and sunflower oil make this sunscreen feel more like an everyday moisturizer that soothes, hydrates, and heals skin. The sun protection part feels like an added bonus on top of an already great moisturizer.
The hydrating formula melted into our skin like butter with a slight cooling sensation that's every bit refreshing on a hot summer day, and not the least bit irritating. We love how quickly it absorbed, without any rubbing, and the healthy, dewy sheen that it left behind. The sunscreen remained clear, even on the tester's dark complexion and left skin looking refreshed, healthy, and glowy (not shiny). This tube offers everything you could want in a quality sunscreen and at an affordable price.
Price at time of publish: $16
Size: 3 oz | Active Ingredient: Avobenzone, homosalate | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Related:The Best Sunscreen for Dark Skin Tones
Best Glow: Cocokind Silk SPF
Why We Like It: This hybrid formula (mineral and chemical) has a hydrating feel and is good for sensitive skin.
It’s Worth Noting: It’s not water-resistant.
This pretty purple tube hosts a hybrid formula that combines mineral (zinc oxide) and chemical (homosalate) sun defenses to protect against UVA and UVB rays. It also manages to maintain a silky feel thanks to banana blossom, which helps to hydrate and smooth skin without feeling heavy. The pampering cream somehow manages to combine substantial sun protection with the hydration of a quality moisturizer, which makes it ideal for daily use.
But the best part about this sunscreen is the glow. We found it’s a lit-from-within radiance that looks natural, almost like a Paris filter come to life, but not a glittery sheen. It also gave a subtle smoothing effect, even to our tester’s oily skin.
Price at time of publish: $25
Size: 1.7 oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide, homosalate | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Kinship Self Reflect SPF 32 Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen
Why We Like It: The fast-absorbing sunscreen gives skin a healthy glow with no residue.
It’s Worth Noting: This may leave a slight cast on darker skin tones.
There are thousands of five star reviews of this product on the internet and consider this one more. For starters, it has a light lotion-like consistency that makes it easy to spread but it didn’t leave our skin greasy or heavy. It’s formulated with antibacterial turmeric, which helps to strengthen the skin’s barrier and soothe inflammation, making it a good option for acne-prone skin types. This does contain coconut alkanes high on the ingredient list, which can clog pores. If you know your skin specifically is sensitive to coconut derivatives, then a different formula may be better for you.
It has a light peachy tint when squeezed from the tube, which blended seamlessly into our light or medium-toned skin, however left a slight white cast on darker skin tones. We also love that it’s reef-safe, cruelty-free, and has a higher zinc oxide percentage than most, meaning stronger protection for your skin.
Price at time of publish: $46
Size: 3.5 oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 32
Best for Redness: Hero Cosmetics Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30
Why We Like It: This gel-cream sunscreen is good for acne-prone skin and doubles as a primer.
It’s Worth Noting: This sunscreen has a green tint that looks chalky on some skin types.
The green tinted sunscreen looks and feels different from any other product on this list and that’s precisely what makes it so special. In addition to delivering SPF 30 protection (thanks to zinc oxide), this formula has a sheer green tint that counteracts redness, making it ideal for acne-prone and sensitive skin types.
It also has a refreshing gel-cream consistency that gives skin a slight blurring effect. We loved how lightweight the formula felt on our skin and how it left a smooth, polished canvas that was perfect for layering makeup. It is like a unique sunscreen-primer hybrid, ideal for everyday wear.
Price at time of publish: $20
Size: 50ml | Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 30
Best for Everyday Use: Iris & Romeo Weekend Skin SPF 50 + Vitamin C + Glow
Why We Like It: This lightweight formula is packed with Vitamin C and improves skin texture overtime.
It’s Worth Noting: It comes in a small tube and is quite expensive.
Unlike some 3-in-1 products that promise more than they can deliver but often fall short, this multitasker delivers on all of its promises. For starters, the SPF 50+ mineral protection is substantial enough for long lasting daily sun defense. Next, we love that it acts like a top-notch primer that smooths our skin and adds grip to keep makeup looking polished and in place all day long.
The icing on the cake is the cocktail of skincare ingredients (like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and niacinamide) which are more commonly found in a skin-perfecting face serum rather than a sunscreen. The formula has a tint out of the tube, but melts into skin creating an invisible veil of glowiness that works to complement the natural radiance of any skin tone. While skin will look instantly better from first application, we love that we also saw improvements over time in our skin texture and evenness.
Price at time of publish: $50
Size: 1.18 oz | Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide | Scented: No | SPF Protection: SPF 5
Our Testing Process
To help you navigate the ever-multiplying sun protection products on the shelves today, we tested dozens of face sunscreens—mineral, chemical, and hybrid formulas—to help narrow your search. Each product was tested by multiple editors across various skin types and tones for several weeks, and reviewed across numerous categories including consistency and feel, spreadability, opacity (aka white cast or glowy), water-resistance, transfer, sensitivities, and results.
This list consists of the sunscreens that ranked the highest in each superlative category, with honest reviews of each, findings from product research, and editor’s tests to help you make the most informed purchase decision for your next sunscreen. We then consulted a dermatologist for additional quotes and information about purchasing sunscreen and the things to consider when choosing a product.
Related:The 9 Best Moisturizers with SPF, Tested and Reviewed
What to Know About Sunscreen
There’s no dancing around the obvious: sunscreen is a must. It doesn’t matter if you live at the beach, in the mountains, or anywhere in between, wearing sun protection daily is the one piece of skincare advice every skin expert in the world can agree upon. But knowing what to look for in a quality sun protection can be overwhelming. We consulted dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar to break down the key factors to pay attention to when shopping for sun protection.
These are the ingredients designed to keep your skin safe from the sun. Mineral sunscreen employs zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to protect skin from UV rays, while chemical sunscreen contains oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and/or octinoxate. (Some formulas are a hybrid with both types of active ingredients.) “I also like mineral ingredients used in combination with one of the chemical sunscreen ingredients,” Dr. Sarkar shares. Cocokind Silk SPF 30 is a great example of a hybrid filter sunscreen.
Chemical formulas are less likely to leave behind a visible white cast and Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen is one of our favorite chemical options. However, some people are sensitive to chemical SPF formulas or worried about health implications of certain chemical ingredients and find mineral sunscreens to be the better option. For an all mineral formula, we love Summer Fridays ShadeDrops SPF 30.
And then there’s the matter of whether certain filters are more likely than others to cause harm to the environment when they end up in the ocean after you take a shower or a swim. Some parts of the U.S. have banned the sale of sunscreens containing chemical filters oxybenzone and octinoxate based on studies showing negative effects of sunscreen ingredients on coral reefs. On the other hand, a recent critical review found “limited evidence to suggest that [chemical sunscreen filters are] causing significant harm to coral reefs,” and whether that’s the case remains a hotly debated topic.
If you want to play it safe and choose the least controversial option in terms of potential coral reef harm, go for a mineral sunscreen that incorporates non-nano-zinc oxide or non-nano-titanium dioxide. (More here: How to Buy Non-Toxic Sunscreen).
The bottom line: “The best sunscreen is the one you'll actually use, so I recommend finding a formulation that you like,” says Papri Sarkar, M.D. a cosmetic dermatologist in Newton, Massachusetts.
“Scent only matters if you're sensitive to it,” Dr. Sarkar told us. “For some people fragrances can cause irritation or can keep them from using sunscreen. For those people I recommend avoiding it! For others, applying something with a pleasant fragrance makes the product more enjoyable to use and they may use it more. For those, I recommend finding a product with a scent you prefer and stick to it,” Sarkar notes.
For patients with especially sensitive or irritation-prone skin though, she recommends starting with a no fragranced or avoiding heavily scented products. Our favorite fragrance-free formula in our testing was Coola Classic Face Organic Fragrance-Free Sunscreen Lotion.
“I recommend at least an SPF 30, but prefer closer to SPF 50,” says Dr. Sarkar. “Since you want to make sure that you're protecting yourself against both UVA and UVB make sure you pick a sunscreen that says ‘Broad Spectrum’ if you live in the U.S. If you're abroad, some places rate the UVB and UVA protection separately. UVB protection is measured via SPF factor and UVA is measured by plus signs. Look for at least +++ UVA protection,” she adds.
“A higher SPF will also keep you from burning longer. Since people don't love to reapply sunscreen (myself included) starting with a higher SPF makes a lot of sense.” Iris & Romeo Weekend Skin SPF 50 + Vitamin C + Glow is SPF 50 and contains vitamin C for additional antioxidant protection.
Related:Sunscreen Sprays for Your Face That Make Reapplication Less of a Hassle
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between chemical and mineral?
Chemical sunscreens are inorganic sunscreens that work like a sponge to absorb sun’s rays, while mineral, or physical, sunscreen works like a shield sitting on top of the skin to reflect rays away. "Both work well and each active ingredient has pros and cons. In general, if you're picking a sunscreen for someone with sensitive or irritation prone skin, or a baby, I recommend mineral sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. If you're someone who is especially worried about a white cast, prefer a very lightweight sunscreen or have many wrinkles or folds that sunscreen might highlight, I recommend a chemical sunscreen,” shares Dr. Sarkar. “I use both types personally and often use a combo mineral and chemical sunscreen as a first layer and then a tinted mineral sunscreen as a second layer.”
How much sunscreen should you apply?
“It's recommended to use a shot glass size of sunscreen to cover the whole body, and about 1/4 teaspoon or 2-3 finger lengths on your face,” Sarkar told Shape. “Studies show that people use about 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount of sunscreen they're supposed to in real world application. This means they get roughly 1/4 to 1/2 of the SPF protection of what's listed on the bottle,” she adds. PSA: lather it on, people. More is more in the case of sunscreen.
How often should you reapply?
This depends on what you're doing. “If you're outside on a sunny day, in the water, or sweating and being active, you should reapply about every 2 hours,” recommends Dr. Sarkar. “Otherwise reapplying about every 4 hours is a good choice.” If you’re someone who really hates sunscreen and can’t find a formula that works for them, there are other options like sun protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat with UPF, even a sun umbrella for the beach to offer further protection. “Just make sure you're well covered. On the slopes and on the beach I think sunscreen on your face is unavoidable because of the reflective nature of those environments,” Dr. Sarkar warns.
Why Trust Shape
Lindsay Colameo Peragallo is a seasoned freelance beauty writer and editor with over a decade of experience contributing to leading print and digital publications including InStyle, Byrdie, Real Simple, and more. Her published work marries her product expertise and deep understanding of the industry, to deliver honest, informative, and compelling content that helps readers better navigate the beauty aisle and their online shopping carts. Lindsay tested dozens of sunscreens and worked closely with editors and experts to review tester notes, ingredient lists, and research findings to deliver a vetted list of recommendations and genuine reviews readers can trust.
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