Sunscreen might not seem like the most exciting step in your skincare routine, but it’s by far the most important. No matter how many trendy ingredients or fancy products you incorporate, only SPF will protect your face from seriously harmful sun damage.
Sunscreen helps to prevent wrinkles, saggy skin and dark spots, and most importantly, is absolutely imperative in lowering the risk of skin cancer. You should use sunscreen every single day, not just when you’re heading to the beach during summer.
“All day long, your skin is coming in contact with different energies, including ultraviolet, visible light and infrared heat. The more contact you have with different energies, the more damage you can build up in your skin that leads to signs of aging and sun damage,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Deirdre Hooper told Observer. “Radiation from the sun is not just harmful on a sunny day. From your walk outside in the morning for coffee until evening when you’re sitting around with your friends outside, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can still affect your skin. It even penetrates through most windows! So it’s really important when you wake up in the morning to apply your sunscreen to keep your skin as healthy as possible, no matter what your day has in store.”
It’s also key to make sure that you’re using a sunscreen with a high enough SPF; Dr. Hooper recommends using SPF 30 at the minimum, but notes that even if you’re using a super high SPF, reapplying is of the utmost importance. “No matter what SPF you’re using, you need to reapply because that protection only lasts a few hours. Sometimes, people think that putting on sunscreen once in the morning is going to do it. What I recommend is to put your sunscreen on first thing, and then whenever you make a transition— whether you’re going to pick up your kids or going out to run errands—be sure you take a moment to reapply.”
Despite everything we know about just how crucial sunscreen is, some people tend to get a little nervous at the mere thought of adding a layer of greasy SPF onto their skin. For those of us with particularly blemish-prone or sensitive skin, slathering on an oily, pore-clogging and pungent sunscreen feels like a breakout just waiting to happen, especially when we’ve had a bad experience with certain formulas in the past.
“Today, there are so many companies that are making such great sunscreens. What I love to tell my patients who say every sunscreen breaks them out is that they just haven’t found the right sunscreen yet, and it’s most likely not the sunscreen itself but some ingredient in the formulation that is irritating their skin,” Dr. Hooper said. “It’s just a matter of finding a sunscreen that feels good to you, and one that you will wear every single day. If you have dry skin or eczema, you may want to look for products that say sensitive skin and are more creamy. If you’re acne-prone, or a person who doesn’t like to feel products on your face, look for gel, clear, or lotion formulas.”
When it comes to choosing between chemical or physical sunscreens, Dr. Hooper says that both are safe (though mineral are usually considered better for the environment), but there’s a “time and place for each. I typically recommend physical sunscreens to my patients with sensitive skin, as they are usually less irritating, very gentle and nonreactive.”
And don’t worry, there are plenty of sunscreen formulas that won’t cause breakouts. While Dr. Hooper recommends that anyone with concerns speak with a board-certified dermatologist to find the best formula for their specific needs, there are also a few basic rules to follow when it comes to finding the best SPF that won’t irritate your skin.
“I recommend a non-comedogenic sunscreen for those that feel like sunscreens tend to clog their pores or cause acne,” Dr. Hooper suggested. “Comedogenic oils tend to clog your pores, and contain ingredients like lanolin and beeswax. Many patients notice certain non-comedogenic sunscreens still cause them to break out in red bumps, and this is more likely an irritant reaction to that specific sunscreen formula.”
Below, see all the best sunscreens for your face that won’t cause breakouts or irritate sensitive skin, and will keep you safe and protected all summer (and year!) long.
Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35+
Tatcha’s ultra-lightweight SPF 35 sunscreen works for all skin types, but it’s especially great for oily, acne-prone skin, as the combination of silk extract, Japanese wild rose and loquat leaf works to tighten the appearance of pores while smoothing and softening skin. We also like the matte (yet not chalky) finish. $65, Tatcha.
Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+
Avène is one of our favorite French drugstore brands; all the products are hypoallergenic, which is ideal for sensitive skin. Their new 100 percent mineral sunscreen is a superb choice for reactive skin, and we love that the formula is ultra lightweight, so there’s no need to worry about the unsightly white cast that’s left behind with so many mineral SPFs. $32, Avène.
SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50
You can’t go wrong with SkinCeuticals, which is a longtime favorite of dermatologists. While we love all of the brand’s face sunscreens, this particular SPF 50 is great for when you want to stick with a mineral formula, and it’s also tinted, for a little coverage. $35, Skinceuticals.
Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
We’re longtime fans of Supergoop, and the brand has tons of different options depending on your skin type or just the general beauty vibe you’re going for on any given day. If your skin is on the sensitive or blemish-prone side, we recommend reaching for the oil-free Unseen Sunscreen. The incredibly sheer formula blends right in, and it also works quite well as a pre-makeup primer. $34, Supergoop.
Charlotte Tilbury Lightweight Magic Cream Moisturizer SPF 20
While we usually prefer the SPF number to go a bit higher, this lightweight version of Charlotte Tilbury’s famous Magic Cream is an actual dream—it’s that perfect combination of a creamy, oh-so-soft moisturizer (that doesn’t clog pores!) as well as an acceptable amount of sun coverage. It’s one of our go-to everyday moisturizers, and it’s also great for packing, since you get a truly two-in-one product. $100, Charlotte Tilbury.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
This dermatologist-adored brand is pretty much universally beloved for good reason; the sunscreens are super effective, but also gentle on sensitive skin. This particular oil-free formula is ideal if you have reactive, acne-prone skin, as it also contains niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, to help soothe and reduce redness. $37, EltaMD.
Volition Mineral Prismatic Luminizing Shield SPF 35
If you want to stick with mineral sunscreen, but also have goals of achieving an effortlessly dewy look, try Volition’s new mineral version of their Prismatic SPF. It blends right in, and you’ll even have that much-coveted glow. $35, Volition.
Sun Bum Original ‘Face 70’ SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion
This is one of our go-to face sunscreens, as it checks off every item on our SPF list—it’s oil free, SPF 70, and doesn’t have an aggressive sunscreen scent. It’s also so sheer and lightweight, and blends easily as the last step in your skincare routine. $12.99, Sun Bum.
Purlisse Blue Lotus Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 Sunscreen
This daily moisturizer-sunscreen combo contains blue lotus, an antioxidant that helps soothe skin while fighting against free radical damage. The white tea aids in calming redness and sensitivity, and it also has soy protein and vitamin E, for the added bonus of refining and softening skin texture. $45, Purlisse.
Evereden Sheer Botanical Facial Sunscreen SPF 30
Not only is this botanical sunscreen both 100 percent mineral and nontoxic, but it also has a lovely rose scent, which is a truly amazing alternative to the typical sunscreen-y smell that so many of us desperately try to avoid. If you’re avoiding fragrance, however, this isn’t for you. $28, Evereden.
Eminence Organics Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40
This is another great option for those who want a combination moisturizer and sunscreen all in one; it’s a lightweight, mineral formula that protects and hydrates. The antioxidant-rich lilikoi seed oil (also known as passion fruit) helps smooth and tighten your complexion. $68, Eminence Organics.
Origins GinZing SPF 40 Energy-Boosting Tinted Moisturizer
Instead of layering on three different products, try this tinted moisturizer with SPF 40, which gives just a bit of coverage on those days you don’t want to paint on the foundation. $41, Origins.
Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 30+
This super light, matte sunscreen is a great option if your skin is on the oily side. $33, Paula’s Choice.
Eve Lom Daily Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Yes, this is a splurge, but aside from protecting from harsh sun rays, this sunscreen also contains niacinamide, paracress flower extract, vitamin c and lactic acid, which work together to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, plump and hydrate, even out tone, reduce the look of dark spots and gently exfoliate, to help fight breakouts. $90, Eve Lom.
Odacite Sun Guardian Oceanic Glacial
Water Day Crème SPF 30
We love that Odacite’s new Sun Guardian is a combination mineral sunscreen and moisturizer, for clean and sustainable protection from harmful rays. It also includes aloe and calendula, which calm soothe and calm skin, as well as antioxidants green tea and vitamin E, to protect skin from free radicals. $65, Odacite.