Stay safe with these dermatologist-approved options. ☀️
This article was medically reviewed by Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board.
Whether it’s cold or hot, sunny or rainy, sunscreen is the one step you should never skip before heading outdoors for the day. Applying (and reapplying!) SPF protects your skin from the sun’s powerful UV rays, minimizing your risk of painful sunburns, skin cancer, and premature signs of aging, such as dark spots and wrinkles.
But with so many options on the market, shopping for the best sunscreen can be extremely overwhelming. Do you go for chemical or physical sunscreens? Lotions or sprays? That’s why Prevention consulted top dermatologists to recommend the best sunscreens of 2019. Whether you’re looking for the best natural sunscreen, the best sunscreen for babies and kids, tinted sunscreens, or something that’s compatible with sensitive, finicky skin, there’s an option for you.
Important reminder: Sunscreen can expire, which makes it less effective. Even if last year’s bottle hasn’t hit its expiration date, that date is only valid if the product is stored in a cool, dry place, says board-certified dermatologist Lauren Ploch, MD, fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). So, be prepared to pick up a fresh bottle for the warmer months ahead.
Look for broad spectrum on the label: This ensures your SPF protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays. (UVA rays prematurely age skin and UVB rays burn; both can cause skin cancer.) Our experts recommend choosing SPF 30 or higher for daily use.
Go for water-resistant options: Even if you won’t be jumping in for a swim, a water-resistant sunscreen will stay on longer while you’re sweating. If you are doing extensive outdoor activity, choose an SPF of 50 or higher to ensure you stay protected, recommends Henry W. Lim, MD, immediate past president of the AAD. You should always reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
When in doubt, choose lotions: They’re easy to apply generously and evenly—which is key in order for them to work effectively. “Sprays are inconsistent; I find that no one puts sprays on heavy enough to reach the stated SPF level on the bottle,” Dr. Ploch says. Similarly, wipes don’t typically provide even, adequate coverage and stick sunscreens require at least four swipes on each area of the skin to get the job done. Ideally, you want to apply a shot glass-sized amount to your whole body.
Formula matters: Physical or mineral sunscreens (made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) sit on top of the skin and deflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens (made with ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone) work by absorbing them. If your skin is sensitive or acne-prone, mineral sunscreens are typically your best bet, says Ramsey Markus, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Westside Dermatology. Plus, they’re a great option if you prefer a more “natural” product (they’re reef-safe!). “All that said, there is no denying that the chemical sunscreens are more transparent, which sometimes trumps everything. It’s really a personal choice more than anything,” he says.
Too much to keep in mind? We did the work for you and rounded up the best sunscreens of 2019, all recommended by board-certified dermatologists.