Best Facial Sunscreens

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best facial sunscreens

Last Updated September 2020

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.             

Skin cancer can also affect the lips, so be sure to apply a lip balm with SPF, in addition to your facial moisturizer, before leaving the house.

Key considerations

Mineral vs. chemical sunscreen

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.

Broad-spectrum protection

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.

Skin type

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.

EXPERT TIP

Apply sunscreen to your face with a makeup sponge. That way, you can avoid accidentally getting sunscreen in your eyes, and you won’t have any sunscreen residue on your fingers that you might inadvertently rub in your eyes.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

SPF

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.

Water resistance

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.

Antioxidants

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.

Tint

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.

Scent

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.

A 2011 study showed that you can reduce your risk for melanoma by 50% if you wear sunscreen daily.

Accessories

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 sunscreen prices

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.

EXPERT TIP

While applying two products with sunscreen doesn’t combine the sun protection factors — applying a foundation with SPF 15 over a facial sunscreen with SPF 30 doesn’t give you SPF 45 — but you’ll get an extra layer of protection by doubling up.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Apply facial sunscreen after you’ve moisturized your face. But apply it before you put on any foundation or other makeup.
  • Apply sunscreen to your face at least 15 to 20 minutes before you go outdoors.
  • Reapply sunscreen every couple of hours. If you’re wearing makeup and don’t want to disrupt it by applying a lotion or cream formula over it, use a sunscreen powder or setting spray to touch up throughout the day.

Other products we considered

With so many high-quality facial sunscreens available, we couldn’t include all the formulas we liked on our short list. The IT Cosmetics Anti-Aging Armour Tinted Sunscreen is a multitasking natural SPF 50+ sunscreen with plenty of other ingredients that have skincare benefits, such as peptides, collagen, niacin, and antioxidants. It’s also tinted, so it evens out your skin tone and allows you to skip tinted moisturizer.

We also love the oil-free, broad-spectrum SPF 110 Neutrogena Age Shield Face Lotion Sunscreen for anyone who’s on a budget. It's a moisturizing formula that’s perfect for dry skin but is still noncomedogenic to avoid clogging the pores. 

Sun exposure is most dangerous between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but you should wear sunscreen during all daylight hours.

FAQ

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.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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