Slather it on! Our Picks for the Best Sunscreen

family applying sunscreen beach
family applying sunscreen beach

Family applying sunscreen at the beach (Photo: Thinkstock)

Summer is sunblock season, but figuring out which one to buy can be a challenge. Beyond SPF 15 or 50, there are so many formulations and brands out there that what should be a quick pre-travel purchase presents an onslaught of options.

The key to sunblock is simple: find one you like and wear it every single day, even if your vacation takes you to a busy city instead of a beach resort — and even if it’s cloudy. Apply it everywhere: don’t forget spots like the tops of your feet (which are exposed in flip-flops and sandals), the back of the hands, and your scalp, including the thin line where you part your hair. (There are also UV shields for the hair itself: cult-favorite SachaJuan recently introduced a lovely one called Hair in the Sun ($29) that also acts as a styling cream.)

When you’re traveling, keep sunscreen in your purse or pocket: a face moisturizer with SPF is fine to use on arms and legs. An SPF lip balm — like one of the inexpensive matte-finish choices from Yes To — is also great to bring along, and you can wear alone or under lipstick.

To make the shopping process a bit easier, here are our picks for this season’s best sunblocks:

Malin+Goetz SPF 30 Face Moisturizer
Malin+Goetz SPF 30 Face Moisturizer

Malin+Goetz SPF 30 Face Moisturizer. (Courtesy: Malin+Goetz)

Best for Guys

Malin+Goetz, the sleek, unisex skin care brand that’s a favorite of beauty editors, recently introduced SPF 30 Face Moisturizer ($36), a light cream that’s a lot like its packaging: unfussy, effective, and quietly stylish. Kiehl’s— a brand that many men love — has a handful of guy’s products with sun protection; a standout is Facial Fuel UV Guard SPF 50+ ($38), which is small enough to slip in a quart-sized plastic bag for carry-on, or just into a jacket pocket when you reach your destination. For both body and face, there’s Neutrogena’s new UltraSheer Face & Body Stick Suncreen ($10.99). Admittedly, the container looks a lot like a stick of deodorant, but this unisex sunblock is SPF 70 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays.

Kiss My Face’s new Kids Defense Air Powered Spray
Kiss My Face’s new Kids Defense Air Powered Spray

Kiss My Face New Kids Defense Air Powered Spray. (Courtesy: Kiss My Face)

Best for Kids

Slathering SPF on the little ones is, of course, a big priority, but sometimes the process can feel like it’s more about squirming than sun protection.  Many parents find a spray easiest to use; an ideal option is Kiss My Face’s new Kids Defense Air Powered Spray SPF 50 ($16.99), which also has no parabens or artificial fragrances. If you (or your kids) prefer a cream, Coppertone’s ClearlySheer Beach & Pool Body Lotion ($10.99) is SPF 50, not gloppy or heavy, and promises to be water resistant for 80 minutes. Another good option is SuperGoop!’s Everyday Sunscreen with Cellular Response Technology ($19), a light lotion that comes in a slim tube that easily fits in even a tiny beach bag. (This one’s also excellent for sensitive skin, so it’s good for the whole family, including acne-prone older siblings.)

 

Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti-Aging Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti-Aging Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti-Aging Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50. (Courtesy: Peter Thomas Roth)

Best to Carry-On

The tragic flaw of many sunblocks is that the bottle or tube clocks in at over three ounces, so they can’t go in your carry-on. One solution: Peter Thomas Roth’s newly introduced Anti-Aging Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($26), a skinny stick that’s also ideal to keep in your purse on an urban getaway. Also small but effective is L’Oreal Paris Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Face Lotion 50+ ($10.99), which can be used under moisturizer. 

If you’re going somewhere glamorous, tuck Soleil Toujours’ Daily Moisturizer for Face SPF 20 ($55) into your designer bag: it comes in a sleek black and gold tube that looks like something you’d bring back from the south of France, circa 1975. Also chic and effective: Fresh Peony Brightening UV Shield Sunscreen Spf 50+ ($50), which is lightly tinted like a BB cream, and packed with moisturizing shea and ayaluronic acid.

Eve Lom Daily Protection + SPF 50
Eve Lom Daily Protection + SPF 50

Eve Lom Daily Protection + SPF 50. (Photo: Eve Lom)

Best for Beauty Addicts

Although sunscreens are, of course, about preventing skin cancer and sunburn, many beauty companies infuse their SPF products with ingredients that multi-task. The British brand Eve Lom recently introduced Daily Protection + SPF 50 ($90), that contains lactic acid and paracress flower extract, to exfoliate and tighten skin. Admittedly it’s splurgy, but it can, when you’re traveling, eliminate the need to bring along other products like toners. Similarly indulgent is Restorea’s Rejuventating Day Lotion SPF 30 ($150), which includes a patented anti-aging ingredient alongside sun-protecting zinc oxide. Also worth noting: the French brand Caudalie’s new Polyphenol C15 SPF20 Anti-Wrinkle Protect Fluid ($49), a delicately scented moisturizer that comes in a slender tube that’s easily portable.

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