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By now you (better!) understand the importance of sunscreen — yes, even for darker skin tones. And there are plenty of sunscreen-enhanced products that offer a more convenient alternative to lotions, from face powders to eyeshadows to setting sprays — so you officially have no excuse not to reapply. Still, you shouldn't overlook the advantages of the humble sunscreen stick.
In a nutshell, "sunscreen sticks are ideal for their convenience," says dermatologist Laurel Naversen Geraghty, M.D. They allow you to swipe on a layer of UV protection without dealing with the greasy mess and residue associated with lotion formulas. "I stash one in my car so I can quickly swipe some on my hands, ears, and face when I'm behind the wheel," says Dr. Geraghty. UV rays can reach you through a windshield (or any window for that matter), she points out, and so having a means for easy reapplication is helpful.
Forget what any assumptions you might have — sunscreen sticks are suitable for people with all skin types, including those with oily or combination skin, says Dr. Geraghty. While sunscreen sticks have an old-school reputation as something that may cause acne, today's sticks are designed to be non-comedogenic (aka they won't clog your pores), so you don't have to worry they'll contribute to breakouts, according to Dr. Geraghty. "I recommend sunscreen sticks for just about anyone," she says. "Sticks are especially useful for hands, lips, ears, and noses, or quick touch-ups when you've been outside for more than two hours," as even the best sunscreens only provide about two hours of protection, she says. "And that's even less if you've been swimming or sweating." (Related: The 11 Best Sunscreens for Your Face, According to Customer Reviews)
Thanks to their ease of application, sunblock sticks can benefit athletes who want to apply sun protection while leaving their hands clean to golf, cycle, etc. Plus, they're likely superior to other types of formulas when it comes to withstanding sweat, says Dr. Geraghty. "Stick formulas may offer more staying power than many sunscreen lotions, powders, or serums because they can be less likely to sweat or rub off," she says. That's because they're more concentrated and thus less likely to slide all over your face compared to a liquid formula, she says.
Another advantage of sunscreen sticks over lotion formulas is that they're less likely to mess up your look if you're applying a layer of sunscreen on top of makeup, says Dr. Geraghty. Just don't expect a miracle: "Sticks are less likely to mess up makeup compared to lotions, but sticks do have the potential to change the matte look of a foundation," says Dr. Geraghty. "They could potentially smear or smudge or partly remove your blush or lipstick." For those days when you're wearing heavy makeup that you want to stay perfectly in place for photos, etc., she suggests starting with an SPF lotion under your makeup and using a light SPF spray for touch up protection and to re-set your makeup. But in other instances, a sunscreen stick can go over makeup pretty seamlessly.
Whether you go with a sunscreen stick or another type of formula, the important thing is that you make a point to apply and reapply every two hours, and go with something that offers broad-spectrum protection, as recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. ("Broad spectrum" indicates that it'll protect you from UVA and UVB rays.) Dr. Geraghty recommends going with something with an SPF of at least 30 or an SPF of at least 50 if you'll be spending time in the sun.
If you want to start keeping a sunscreen stick handy for quick and effortless touch-ups, here are a few of the best options. (Related: SPF and Sun Protection Myths to Stop Believing, Stat)
Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50
Concerned that sunscreen sticks won't play nice with your sensitive skin? This was made with you in mind. "I love Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 because it's gently formulated even for sensitive skin types," says Dr. Geraghty. What's more, it's light and non-comedogenic, so it won't clog pores or contribute to breakouts, she says. Cetaphil tests its products on people with sensitive skin and those with eczema to make sure that they don't cause irritation in these groups.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick SPF 70
If you want to go with something from an affordable brand with a rep for making stellar sunscreens, you can try this sunscreen stick from Neutrogena. This sunblock stick for the face and body is non-comedogenic and ideal for anyone who likes to opt for a high SPF rating. It incorporates Neutrogena's Helioplex technology, which makes sunscreens stable in the sun, according to the brand. (Heat, light, and humidity can make sunscreen break down more rapidly, becoming less effective.) That's an obvious plus if you plan on toting your sunscreen along with you when you'll be in the sun.
Buy It: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick For Face & Body, SPF 70, $9, amazon.com
Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50
This sunscreen stick is exceptionally compact and light at 0.5 ounces, so you can easily stash it in your beach bag or even a pocket. This is a mineral formula that incorporates zinc oxide as its only sun-blocking ingredient. That means it's free from ingredients such as oxybenzone or octinoxate, which can threaten marine life when they end up in the ocean after SPF users swim or shower.
Aveeno Positively Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick for Sensitive Skin
The Shape editors with the most sensitive skin vouch for Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen, and this is the stick version of the formula. Like the lotion, it incorporates oats (hello, it's Aveeno!), to nourish and soothe sensitive skin while providing protection. (Related: Do You Still Need Sunscreen If You're Spending the Day Inside?)
Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 30
If you tend to notice a white cast on your skin after applying sunscreen, you may want to seek out a chemical sunscreen, since they're more likely to go on clear. For a chemical sunscreen in stick form, you can try Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Face Stick. It has vitamin E for moisturization and is water-resistant with broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection.