The Best Sunscreens of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Stay safe in the sun with our top choices, based on real-world testing

<p>TripSavvy / Jessica Juliao</p>

TripSavvy / Jessica Juliao

If you spend time outside in the sun, sunscreen is essential to prevent painful burning, potentially life-threatening skin cancers, and signs of premature aging. Choosing the right sunscreen for you may seem simple, but several factors must be considered. Do you love the summery scent of fragranced sunscreen? Or do you have sensitive skin that prefers fragrance-free?

Sunscreens come in various formats, from creams to sticks and sprays. While the latter two are often easier to apply, professional dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky says these should only be used as a second line of defense. She also prefers mineral sunscreens to chemical ones because they form a physical barrier that's naturally more resistant to sweat and water and don't require chemical absorption. However, many people prefer chemical sunscreens' lighter feel and invisible look.

To help you find your best fit, we tested 23 different sunscreens in real-life scenarios. Each one was scored for feel, opacity, transfer, and water resistance, resulting in an overall winner, the Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen, which we love for its everyday lightness and dewy appearance. Here are the other sunscreens we tested.

Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 36

Best Overall

What We Like

  • Incredibly lightweight

  • Zero transference to other surfaces

  • Infused with green tea and cica

What We Don't Like

  • The shimmer effect may not be for everyone

If you’re looking for an effective sunscreen designed for barely noticeable, everyday use, we love the Daily UV Defense Sunscreen from Innisfree. Rated SPF 36, this water-based chemical sunscreen makes it incredibly lightweight and easy to get out of the container and apply. We appreciated how seamlessly it blended with our skin, leaving it looking dewy and a little shimmery with zero white cast. However, the shimmer may not appeal to everybody, so it’s important to remember it’s not entirely invisible as advertised.

The sunscreen also has a light floral scent, which can be a pro or a con depending on your tastes. It’s infused with green tea, sunflower seed oil for soothing hydration and moisture, and cica, a herb traditionally used to reduce redness and other visible signs of irritation. We particularly liked how this sunscreen set on our skin, with no noticeable transfer to our clothes or other surfaces. It’s also formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals most associated with coral reef damage.

Price at time of publication: $16 for 1.69 fluid ounces

Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Best Overall, Runner-Up

What We Like

  • Formulated for sensitive skin

  • Easy to apply and absorb

  • Water-resistant

What We Don't Like

  • Some rubbing in is required

Those that prefer mineral sunscreen will love Babo Botanicals’ Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion. With an SPF 50 rating, it’s dermatologist tested and especially formulated for sensitive skin, making it suitable for everyone from six months of age. It doesn’t have any added fragrance, although there is a light scent from its 24 plant-based ingredients, which we found both pleasant and subtle. These include moisturizing sunflower oil and shea butter, soothing calendula and chamomile, and natural-origin zinc oxide for broad-based sun protection.

The consistency is thinner than most mineral sunscreens, which we loved because it made it easy to achieve full, reliable coverage while using less product. Once rubbed in, the lotion was quickly absorbed and invisible, with a non-greasy yet moisturized feel and zero irritation or dryness. There was also no transference. It’s rated as water resistant for up to 80 minutes (a claim that we tested in the ocean) and is also a vegan, cruelty-free choice made by a certified B corp company.

Price at time of publication: $18.50 for 3 fluid ounces

Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion

Best Budget

What We Like

  • Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes

  • No running or transference

  • Provides lightweight moisture

What We Don't Like

  • Fragrance may be a con for some

Retailing for several dollars less than our overall winners, the Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 is, in the words of our tester, “not fancy, but a classic, standard go-to for an active beach vacation that offers good value and gets the job done.” It’s especially formulated for swimming, watersports, and any other activity that will have you sweating since it’s non-running and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. We found it set well on our skin, although we couldn’t feel it in the water.

This chemical sunscreen is lightweight, breathable, and easy to apply (although you’ll need to rub it in for a minute or two to eliminate the initial white cast). We found it smooth, non-greasy, creamy, and lightweight, and we loved how it kept our skin moisturized. It wasn’t irritating and didn’t transfer noticeably to other surfaces. It is fragranced–that classic banana and coconut scent–but not overwhelmingly so. Finally, although it may not qualify as reef-safe in places like Hawaii, it is free from oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Price at time of publication: $7 for a two-pack of 3 fluid ounces

Coola Organic Classic Body Sunscreen in Guava Mango

Best for Sports

What We Like

  • Certified organic ingredients

  • Subtle guava and mango scent

  • Absorbs quickly with no transfer

What We Don't Like

  • Relatively expensive

Looking forward to a vacation full of physical pursuits, from swimming in the sea to kayaking or hiking? The COOLA Organic Classic Body Sunscreen is a broad spectrum SPF 50 lotion specifically designed for long, active days. It’s rated as water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and we found that it lived up to this promise well, setting quickly on our skin and visibly repelling water. Even after vigorous scrubbing with a towel, we couldn’t see any transference–suggesting reliable cover capable of staying put even when you sweat.

The sunscreen contains over 70 certified organic ingredients and is enriched with antioxidants that fight free radicals and hydrate the skin. We liked its smooth, creamy consistency and found it easy to apply. Best of all, it absorbed quickly, didn’t leave any visible residue, and never felt greasy. Essentially, it felt more like high-quality body lotion than sunscreen. The tropical guava and mango scent are neither overpowering nor overly sweet, while a cruelty-free rating and a bottle made from sugar cane resin score points for ethics.

Price at time of publication: $20 for 3.4 fluid ounces

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 55

Best Sheer

What We Like

  • No greasy shine or white cast

  • Doesn't clog pores

  • Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes

What We Don't Like

  • Small bottle size

Those that hate the feel of standard sunscreen will love Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion. A chemical sunscreen with an SPF 55 rating, it uses Helioplex Technology to provide broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. It’s also incredibly lightweight, with a creamy consistency that makes it easy to apply and rub in. It absorbs quickly, leaving skin moisturized rather than greasy. We didn’t experience any irritation or dryness and appreciated that the sunscreen is non-comedogenic (it doesn’t clog pores).

There’s zero white cast and no noticeable transfer, and we found that it set well even when sweating. This was as expected–after all; it’s rated for up to 80 minutes of water resistance. Although it isn’t advertised as having a fragrance, we did find that it had a subtle floral scent. However, it was not overpowering, even for our male tester. The only downside? We wish the bottle was slightly larger because, at 3 fluid ounces, it doesn’t make the most of the standard airline liquid allowance.

Price at time of publication: $8 for 3 fluid ounces

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60

Best Moisturizing

What We Like

  • Nourishing feel, even when used sparingly

  • Enriched with antioxidants

  • Easy to apply and rub in seamlessly

What We Don't Like

  • Strong sunscreen smell

Formulated for the face and body, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt In Milk Sunscreen is an award-winning, SPF 60-rated chemical sunscreen that protects from UVA and UVB rays. We loved that although it felt a little greasy out of the bottle, it rubbed in easily and ultimately felt lightweight yet deeply nourishing, even when we only used a small amount. It’s enriched with antioxidants to protect skin from free radicals and has a velvety texture for ultimate hydration.

The sunscreen has a slightly thicker consistency than lotion but blended seamlessly with our skin, leaving no visible cast. We didn’t experience any dryness or irritation (and, in fact, the product has been rigorously tested for skin tolerance), and we especially liked that it didn’t run at all, even when worn during an intense workout session. When some got into our eyes during our post-workout shower, it didn’t sting at all. The only major downside was a strong sunscreen smell, even though it’s meant to be fragrance-free.

Price at time of publication: $30 for 5 fluid ounces

Vacation Classic Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

Best Scent

What We Like

  • Summer-in-a-bottle scent

  • Zero white cast or transfer

  • Feel instantly hydrating

What We Don't Like

  • We would prefer a higher SPF

If you’re addicted to that summer sunscreen smell, Vacation’s Classic Lotion SPF 30 takes it to a new level. The dermatologist-tested, broad-spectrum chemical sunscreen was developed in conjunction with ARQUISTE Parfumeur to be “The World’s Best-Smelling Sunscreen” and claims to include notes of coconut, banana, pool water, and swimsuit lycra. We can verify that claim and feel it smells like every good summer memory you’ve ever had in a bottle. Think old-school tanning oils, but much better for you.

It’s just the right consistency for easy application, rubbing in quickly and never feeling greasy. We loved that our skin felt instantly hydrated without any white cast or transfer. The sunscreen is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and if you’re heading to Hawaii, good news–it’s compliant with the state’s reef-safe sunscreen laws. It’s also PEG- and paraben-free, certified cruelty-free and vegan, and a top choice for sustainability fans with fully recycled and recyclable packaging.

Price at time of publication: $18 for 3.4 ounces

MDSolarSciences SPF 50 Mineral Creme

Best Mineral

What We Like

  • Formulated for use on the face and body

  • Hypoallergenic for all skin types

  • True matte finish

What We Don't Like

  • Can't apply immediately after moisturizer

MDSolarSciences’ Mineral Crème SPF 50 Sunscreen contains naturally derived zinc oxide as its active ingredient. It’s also enriched with vitamin C and free-radical-fighting antioxidants, including green tea, cranberry, and pomegranate extract. Its natural, fragrance-free formula makes it a hypoallergenic option suitable for even the most sensitive skin types and conditions–including acne and rosacea. We loved its silky smooth feel and that although it comes out of the tube thick, it’s easy to apply with a little going a long way.

It feels virtually weightless and has a true matte finish meant to even out your complexion and double as a makeup primer. We found that although there was an initial white cast, this disappeared completely after one or two minutes of rubbing the sunscreen in. Other highlights include that it’s meant for use on your face and body (great for minimalist packers) and doesn’t transfer onto other surfaces. It’s also water resistant for up to 80 minutes, cruelty-free, vegan, and reef-safe.

Price at time of publication: $30 for 3.4 ounces

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

Best for Dark Skin Tones

What We Like

  • Specifically formulated for darker skin

  • Dries clear, with no white cast

  • Super lightweight

What We Don't Like

  • Nothing!

The Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 from Black Girl Sunscreen is custom-made for melanated skin. It protects against the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays, helping to prevent signs of premature aging, including hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and comes in a sheer formula that dries completely clear. No ghostly white residue here! In fact, we found that it blended seamlessly with our skin and added a beautiful shimmer. It stayed set, with no transfer throughout our wear period.

The sunscreen doubles as a moisturizing lotion with naturally nourishing ingredients, including jojoba, cacao, and avocado. We liked the creamy consistency and found it easy to dispense and apply (although a little goes a long way, so be careful not to use too much). It felt so light on our skin that we sometimes felt we weren't wearing anything at all, and with no parabens or fragrances, it's also perfect for sensitive skin. Finally, it's water resistant for up to 80 minutes and reef-safe thanks to an absence of oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Price at time of publication: $16 for 3 fluid ounces

Coola Organic Classic Sunscreen & Sunblock Spray

Best Spray

What We Like

  • Ultra-fine mist application

  • Colorless for zero residue or transfer

  • Water-resistant and reel safe

What We Don't Like

  • We would prefer a slightly larger can

COOLA’s Organic Classic Body Sunscreen Spray was our favorite spray product, offering an SPF 30 rating and broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. We loved how easy it was to apply, with an ultra-fine mist that came out evenly with a bit of pressure on the nozzle. This resulted in a lightweight coverage that left our skin feeling moisturized before absorbing for a dry, non-greasy finish. Our skin looked more hydrated thanks to the spray’s enriching antioxidants, and since it’s colorless, there was no white cast or transfer.

This product is rated as water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and indeed, we found that it set well and wasn’t affected by exposure to running water, even after it had dried. With mostly organic ingredients and no harmful chemicals, it’s also reef safe. Finally, the spray has a natural Tropical Coconut scent, which we really liked. We found it subtle and authentic (unlike the overpowering artificial fragrance of many sunscreens) and appreciated that it lasted for hours after application.

Price at the time of publication: $10 for 2 fluid ounces

Shiseido UV Clear Stick Protector SPF 50

Best Stick

What We Like

  • Perfectly sized to fit in your purse

  • Clear stick for invisible application

  • It can be applied over makeup

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive considering the small size

Shiseido’s dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ is an award-winning option designed to provide invisible protection for your face and body. It works under and over makeup–a game-changer for our tester, who said she previously only applied sunscreen once a day before makeup. We loved its compact size and ability to fit easily in a purse for daily touch-ups. It’s non-comedogenic and suitable for all skin types, and since the stick itself is clear, there’s no risk of a white cast.

When first applied, we noted a slight sheen and greasiness. However, it absorbed within a few minutes (even quicker when rubbed in by hand), and the sunscreen was completely invisible. It didn’t cause any redness or dryness, didn’t transfer onto our clothes and had a pleasant yet very subtle floral scent. It’s rated for up to 80 minutes of water resistance and stood up well to a long bath and 45-minute spin class during testing. Finally, it’s reef-safe and compliant even with Hawaii’s strict regulations.

Price at the time of publication: $30 for one stick

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+

Best Splurge

What We Like

  • Rubs in clear to match all skin tones

  • Protection increases with exposure to heat and water

  • Truly fragrance-free

What We Don't Like

  • The considerable price tag

The Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+ Sunscreen, also from Shiseido, comes in several sizes–all luxury products with a price tag to match. This is an excellent, broad-spectrum sunscreen in a lightweight, liquid format for those willing to invest. We found it very easy to apply, with just a little going a long way. It rubbed in well, so although it felt a little greasy at first, the result was a soft, slightly dewy texture that glowed beautifully in the sunlight. It comes out beige but rubs in clear, providing invisible protection for all skin tones.

The sunscreen is also meant for all skin types but is incredibly hydrating for dry skin. Our tester particularly appreciated that, unlike many unscented sunscreens, this one is truly fragrance-free–a major benefit for those with sensitive skin. It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, with unique WetForce and HeatForce technology. These innovations mean the lotion’s protective barrier strengthens when exposed to water, sweat, and heat.

Price at the time of publication: $50 for 5 fluid ounces

TripSavvy's Picks

Our top chemical pick is Innisfree’s Daily UV Defense Sunscreen (view at Amazon), while our top mineral pick is Babo Botanicals’ Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion (view at Amazon). Both are easy to apply, non-transferring, and provide lightweight moisture and protection. For those on a budget, we recommend Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 (view at Amazon).

Other Sunscreens We Tested

Sun Bum Original SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion

Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Daily Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Everyday Humans Oh My Bod! Daily SPF 50

EltaMD UV Sport Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Sport Lotion

AbsoluteJOI Daily Hydrating Moisturizing Cream w/ SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen SPF 50

Sun Bum Baby Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray

CeraVe Broad-Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Stick

Bare Republic Mineral Sport Sunscreen Stick

How We Tested

We tested each sunscreen over two weeks, with at least seven full-body applications. On each occasion, we took note of the product’s feel and smell, and how seamlessly it blended into our skin. If any white cast was left after the initial application, we waited 15 minutes to see if the sunscreen continued to blend with time. Other factors that we took note of included how easy the sunscreen was to apply, whether it transferred to clothes or other surfaces (and if so, how easy it was to clean off), whether it was affected by exposure to running water, and how much of it was left after the two-week test period.

Each product was scored from 1 to 5 for feel, opacity, transfer, and water resistance, and the overall score was used to determine our category winners.

What to Look for in Sunscreens

SPF Rating

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and indicates the time it takes for exposed skin to burn. So, if you use SPF 30 sunscreen properly, it should take 30 times longer to burn than without sunscreen. Dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky recommends using SPF 30 or higher for all outdoor use. However, she also indicates that the level of extra protection offered by sunscreens rated higher than 30 is minimal since the curve flattens at 30. Correct application and dedicated reapplication are more effective than purchasing SPF 50, for example.


No sunscreen is truly waterproof since all of them will eventually wash off. However, levels of water resistance vary. If you plan on spending lots of time in the water (perhaps on your next beach or lake vacation), opt for a product marked “water-resistant” for up to either 40 or 80 minutes of protected swimming. Dr. Wolinsky also points out that mineral sunscreen tends to stand up better to water and sweat than chemical sunscreen since it forms a physical barrier on your skin and is harder to wash off.


Sunscreen can generally be divided into two categories: mineral, which includes ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that act as a physical barrier to prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin, and chemical, which uses ingredients such as avobenzone or octisalate to absorb the rays before they can do harm. Dr. Wolinsky prefers mineral sunscreens since they are naturally more water-resistant, less likely to cause skin irritation, and don’t require a 30-minute waiting period before safe sun exposure.

However, she acknowledges that many people don’t like the white residue left by mineral sunscreens and says that “the best sunscreen is the one you like and will actually use.” If you opt for chemical sunscreen and are heading to the coast, bear in mind that some ingredients (including oxybenzone and octinoxate) are not considered reef-safe. Mineral sunscreens are the only ones acceptable for babies of six months or less.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I reapply sunscreen?

According to Dr. Wolinsky, remembering to reapply your sunscreen correctly is often more important than the kind of sunscreen you use or the initial quantity applied. All types of sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating. It’s also a good idea to reapply to your whole body (in case you take layers off later). You should also remember that even if the clouds come out, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation can still penetrate so as long as you’re outside, reapplication is necessary.

How can I tell if my sunscreen has expired?

Many sunscreen brands clearly print expiration dates on their containers. Others use an open jar symbol (usually found on the back) with a number and the letter M, e.g. 12M. This number represents how many months the product can be safely used for after opening. If your sunscreen doesn’t have either of these, bear in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all American sunscreens keep their original strength for at least three years. Changes in color and consistency indicate that your sunscreen may have expired and is no longer safe to use.

What should I keep in mind if I have darker skin?

It’s a common misconception that because darker skin contains more melanin, a chemical that absorbs the sun’s harmful UV rays, people of color do not need to wear sunscreen. However, while it’s true that dark skin does enjoy more natural protection than light skin, sunburn, skin cancer, and other forms of skin damage (including wrinkles and age spots) remain a concern for people of all skin tones. Regular application of sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF 30 is recommended for everyone.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Jessica Macdonald is TripSavvy’s Africa travel expert and a regular contributor of commerce articles relating to adventure and family travel. After eight years living in South Africa and several more spent working as a scuba diving instructor in tropical destinations around the world, she has a keen appreciation for good sunscreen. Each product included in this article was subjected to two weeks of real-world testing, while medical insight was provided by expert dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky.