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The Best Sunscreens for Your Face, According to Dermatologists

Photo: Camerique Archive/Getty Images

Sunscreen is a year-round necessity. But when temperatures rise, and our Instagram feeds fill up with Rockaway Beach tacos, we’re all a little more aware of making sure we’re wearing the right sunscreen. Jennifer Stein, a dermatologist at NYU Langone Health, says everyone should generally look for sunscreens with broad-spectrum coverage (which protects against UVB rays that cause burning and UVA rays that cause lasting damage) and an SPF of 30 or higher — but notes that a high SPF doesn’t mean you can go hours without reapplying. You instead should be sure to reapply sunscreen after every two hours in the sun, she says, even if you don’t burn easily. And when you’re shopping for sunscreen for your face, you’ll also want to be conscious of ingredients that address specific concerns like preventing wrinkles and fine lines.

This can be tricky, though, especially if you’re prone to acne or have sensitive skin. To find the best facial sunscreens to use, I asked Stein, Nava Greenfield of the Schweiger Dermatology Group, and five more dermatologists and skin-care professionals to recommend sunscreens for different skin types and activities. Read on for their favorites. (And remember: These sunscreens should be used in addition to hats and protective clothing, and wearing any of them doesn’t excuse you from spending time in the shade, since no sunscreen can completely prevent against sun damage.)

Best overall sunscreen

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

A longtime Strategist favorite, EltaMD UV Clear is also a top pick among dermatologists. Dr. Patricia Wexler says her patients love it because it doesn’t feel greasy like traditional sunscreen. Along with being fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, Wexler says it’s especially effective because it’s rich in antioxidants that help protect against skin-damaging free radicals. Greenfield likes that it includes niacinamide, a vitamin B3 derivative with anti-inflammatory properties that can fight breakouts. Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of Union Square Laser Dermatology adds that it’s “lightweight and oil-free, so it won’t clog pores.”

Best sunscreens for acne-prone skin

Tizo 2 Non-Tinted Facial Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40

As an acne sufferer, I’m majorly anxious about putting sunscreen on my face. Will this clog my pores? Will it make me break out? Greenfield advises that, “as a general guideline,” those with acne-prone skin “stay away from any generic pharmacy brands, because they tend not to have the best formulations.” Additionally, Stein recommended that acne sufferers look for liquid sunscreens over thicker creams: “Liquid is just not as thick, so it’s less likely to clog your pores” she says. Tizo, which Greenfield called “really gentle on acne,” has a silky, smooth feel that will work for oily skin. Strategist writer Lori Keong also wrote about how Tizo can prevent body acne.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60

While Tizo uses physical sunscreens like zinc oxide to block the sun’s rays, another option is a chemical sunscreen that absorbs rays instead. It may sound ideal for acne-prone skin, but unfortunately, there are few broad-spectrum chemical sunscreens that protect against UVA rays. Greenfield says one of the few FDA-approved chemicals for UVA protection is avobenzone, a main ingredient in this oil-free sunscreen. And she adds that “chemical sunscreen has a nice formulation that doesn’t feel sticky.”

Best sunscreen for oily skin

Jan Marini Physical Protectant Broad Spectrum SPF 45

Kim Zimmerman, director of ecommerce and marketing at Rescue Spa, says this sunscreen gets “unanimous love” from the spa’s estheticians. While they recommend it for all skin types, Zimmerman says it’s especially beloved by customers with oily skin, who like that it’s tinted for a matte finish and that it contains “microscopic sponges” for oil absorption.

Best sunscreens for dry skin

EltaMD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

If you have dry skin and wear moisturizer with SPF, you may think you’re protected, but Greenfield says that “it’s never enough to just get sunscreen from your moisturizer because it gets diluted.” Instead she recommends layering a moisturizing sunscreen for adequate protection. The hyaluronic acid in this EltaMD sunscreen will keep skin hydrated as well as protected.

SkinCeuticals Ultimate UV Defense SPF 30

Greenfield also recommends this SkinCeuticals sunscreen to her patients with dry skin. It has a moisturizing base with a matte finish that won’t feel greasy.

Best sunscreen for mature skin

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Sunscreen SPF 50+

While any good sunscreen will protect against wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots caused by sun exposure, Dr. Francesca Fusco likes that this one will actually work to reverse existing sun damage. She says it’s “spiked” with antioxidants and photolyase enzymes, which have “been shown to reverse the specific DNA mutations caused by ultraviolet [light].” MacGregor calls the brand’s sunscreens “elegant formulations which combine skin-protecting, anti-aging ingredients with your daily SPF.”

Best sunscreen for sensitive skin

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen — Baby SPF 30 Plus

Greenfield is a big fan of Blue Lizard sunscreen: “They’re an Australian brand, so they take their sunscreen very seriously as [Australia] has the highest rate of melanoma.” While made for babies, this sunscreen is also good for adults with sensitive skin as it’s free of any parabens, chemicals, or fragrances that can cause irritation. It’s also rich in the physical blockers that give you the most protection.

Best sunscreens for exercising outdoors

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Active, SPF 30+

For working out, Greenfield uses the Blue Lizard Active sunscreen. Because the active formulation is water resistant, it will still be protective if you get sweaty exercising in the sun. Stein says that while no sunscreen is waterproof, water-resistant claims are regulated by the FDA, so you can rely on a sunscreen with this label for swimming or sweaty activities.

Coola Mineral Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick

If you’ve ever put on sunscreen before a run, you’re probably familiar with the stinging sensation in your eyes as the sunscreen drips down your face. According to Stein, “A stick is a good way to get a sunscreen that doesn’t run as much.” We like this stick from Coola because of its high SPF protection, and it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes in the sun.

Best sunscreens for swimming outdoors

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion WetForce Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50+

Dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Howe says this sunscreen offers protection even after spending hours in the water. His wife, an avid surfer, likes the formula because it feels smooth and doesn’t leave a white cast.

EltaMD UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen — Tinted

Similar to the EltaMD UV Clear formula, this version offers broad-spectrum protection in a gentle formulation, with the additional benefit of being water resistant. Greenfield likes this sunscreen for when you’re swimming in the pool or the ocean, but all the doctors we spoke with stressed the importance of reapplying. “When you get out of the water and you’re toweling off, that’s a good time to reapply the sunscreen,” says Stein.

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The Best Sunscreens for the Face According to Dermatologists