A matte option that won't leave you with a sheen or white cast on your face. You may also choose to use it as a primer for makeup, helping your makeup to stay on longer.
Can be a little on the pricier side compared to other sunscreens.
Features a smooth texture that spreads easily. The product can be used alone or under makeup. Suitable for sensitive skin, and it won't make your skin greasy.
Runs easily when it gets wet.
Uses naturally sourced ingredients. It goes on smoothly, and is also unscented. Has a slight tint, and the sunscreen is lightweight and not greasy. A great light coverage option for those who don't wear makeup.
Some have said it dries out their skin.
This Colorescience sunscreen is SPF 50 and comes in a mineral powder form that is easy to take with you. Ideal for sensitive skin, and formulated with antioxidants. It is also cruelty-free and hypoallergenic.
Sometimes, removing the powder from the container is difficult.
Ideal for the face and body, and is SPF 30. It keeps skin safe from free radicals while also having a cool, water-type effect when applied. This expert- recommended product will not disappoint.
May not absorb properly and isn't always best for sensitive skin.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.
We all know how important it is to use sunscreen every day, but the heavy lotion you use to protect your body from the sun isn’t the best choice for your face. That’s because the skin on the face is more delicate and sensitive, so it requires a special facial sunscreen formula that can offer protection without clogging your pores or irritating your skin.
Facial sunscreen is similar to a formula for the body: it protects against the sun’s UV rays, which can prevent skin cancer and other skin damage like fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. But facial sunscreen is much lighter in texture, so it’s not as likely to cause breakouts or other irritation. Depending on the protection you need, you can find facial sunscreens with a variety of SPF ratings, though it usually ranges from SPF 10 to SPF 110.
But with so many facial sunscreens on the market, sorting through the options can be confusing. If you’re not sure how to choose a facial sunscreen, our buying guide arms you with all the information you need to find the best one for you and offers some product recommendations to make shopping even easier.
A facial sunscreen can include either mineral (physical) sun blockers or chemical sun blockers. Both types can effectively protect your skin, but they do it in different ways.
Mineral sunscreen: Also known as physical sunscreen, this uses natural ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to deflect the sun’s rays away from your skin. It’s usually a better option if you have sensitive skin, though it can leave a white cast on the skin that’s particularly apparent on darker skin tones. Physical sunscreens are typically more expensive and harder to blend into the skin, too.
Chemical sunscreens: These use several different chemicals, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, and/or octisalate, to absorb the sun’s rays and change the wavelength to prevent them from damaging the skin. If your skin is sensitive, chemical sunscreens can cause a reaction. They tend to blend more easily into the skin than mineral sunscreens and are usually more affordable.
The sun gives off a few different types of ultraviolet (UV) light, so any facial sunscreen you consider should offer broad-spectrum protection. That means that it’s able to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, which can cause skin cancer and damage. These days, most sunscreens do provide broad-spectrum protection, but make sure that your facial sunscreen is clearly labeled as “broad-spectrum” to be certain.
When you’re choosing a facial sunscreen, take your skin type into account just as you would with any other skincare product you put on your face.
Oily: If you have oily skin, opt for a facial sunscreen that comes in a lightweight lotion or gel formula. It should be oil-free to avoid clogging the pores. Also look for ingredients like silica, which can help absorb oil.
Dry: Dry skin does best with a facial sunscreen that has a more hydrating cream texture. Look for formulas that contain moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, aloe, lanolin, silicone, and natural oils. Avoid sunscreen that features alcohol, which can strip moisture from the skin.
Sensitive: If you have sensitive skin, stick with physical or mineral sunscreens that are labeled as hypoallergenic. Avoid formulas with alcohol and preservatives.
The most important decision to make when you’re choosing a facial sunscreen is what SPF you need. SPF refers to a sunscreen’s sun protection factor, which measures how much protection the sunscreen offers against UVB rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s crucial to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher because that will block up to 97% of the sun’s damaging rays.
You can find facial sunscreens with higher SPF ratings, which will provide more protection. However, most dermatologists believe that the differences become smaller as the ratings go up. That’s why some doctors don’t think it’s worth paying for a sunscreen with an SPF that’s higher than 60.
Even if you don’t live a particularly active lifestyle, it’s a good idea to choose a water-resistant facial sunscreen. The sunscreen won’t be fully waterproof, but it will be able to stay on sweaty or wet skin for some time before you need to reapply it. Most formulas can last 40 to 80 minutes on wet skin before you need another application.
Sun exposure can reduce the antioxidants in your skin, so you may want to choose a facial sunscreen that contains antioxidants like vitamin E or green tea. Not only do they provide effective sun protection, but they can also fight against free radical damage to keep skin looking fresh and healthy.
Most facial sunscreens don’t have any color, so they work well under makeup. But some formulas have a tint, which helps even out your skin tone, so you can skip foundation or tinted moisturizer. This can be a particularly helpful feature if you choose a mineral sunscreen because it cancels out any possible white cast that the formula might give your skin.
The one problem with tinted sunscreen is you usually have limited shade options, so there may not be a good match for all skin tones. The tint is fairly subtle and sheer, though, so tinted sunscreen is more forgiving than foundation or BB cream.
Some facial sunscreens have a fairly strong chemical scent that isn’t particularly pleasant. You can find unscented mineral sunscreens, which are ideal for anyone with sensitive skin or a sensitivity to fragrance.
Sunscreen lotion: Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion
You don’t want to forget the rest of your body when it comes to sun protection, so you’ll need a heavier sunscreen lotion for below the neck. We like this one from Sun Bum because it’s available in SPF 15, 30, 50, and 70 and has a fun tropical scent.
Sun hat: Columbia Unisex Bora Bora II Booney Hat
Even with a facial sunscreen, it’s a good idea to up your sun protection with a wide-brimmed hat that’ll shield your face from the sun. We love this option from Columbia because it’s designed for both men and women to wear and features UPF 50 sun protection.
Sun shirt: Vapor Apparel Women’s UPF 50+ Long-Sleeve T-Shirt and Men’s UPF 50+ Sun Protection Long-Sleeve T-Shirt
A sun shirt can offer protection for your upper body, so you don’t have to reapply sunscreen constantly. These from Vapor Apparel are favorites because they’re moisture-wicking and antimicrobial to prevent odors, which makes them ideal for outdoor activities like running, hiking, and other sports.
Facial sunscreens vary in price based on the type, SPF, and ingredients. Most cost between $7 and $265.
Inexpensive: The most affordable facial sunscreens are usually those that feature chemical sun blockers with broad-spectrum protection. They typically don’t contain antioxidants or other skincare ingredients and cost between $7 and $18.
Mid-range: These facial sunscreens are usually natural or chemical formulas with broad-spectrum protection. They may contain antioxidants and/or other skincare ingredients and have a tint. You’ll usually pay between $18 and $65 for these formulas.
Expensive: The most expensive facial sunscreens are those from luxury skincare brands. They typically contain chemical sun blockers with broad-spectrum protection and contain many other skincare ingredients, including antioxidants and emollients. You can expect to pay between $65 and $145 for a luxury facial sunscreen, though you can find some formulas that cost as much as $265.
Q. How much sunscreen should I apply to my face?
A. For your face and neck, dermatologists generally recommend applying 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen. It’s a good idea to measure out the amount at least once, so you can get a visual sense of how much sunscreen that is.
Q. When do I need to apply facial sunscreen?
A. Any day that you plan to go outside, you should apply sunscreen to your face (and the rest of your body). The sun’s rays are potentially damaging year-round, even on overcast or cloudy days, so you should never skip a day.
Q. Can I wear makeup over sunscreen?
A. You should apply sunscreen after you moisturize your skin, so it’s perfectly fine to apply foundation and other makeup over it. But wait a few minutes for the sunscreen to set before applying your makeup.