How to Choose the Perfect Sunscreen for Your Skin

You know those summer days where you’re out by the pool or the beach, and you’re just too busy having fun and forget to reapply your sunscreen every time you get out? Is it too much to ask of my sunscreen to protect me while I’m out having fun? We need something with all the sun protection that won’t turn your face white or make you break out. Oh, and it needs to be lightweight because if not, we’ll just sweat it off.

Finding the best sunscreen can prove to be a challenge (we’ve all been there), so we’ve made it easy by rounding up the best ones depending on your needs and skin type. So go ahead, spend your day in the sun without any worry except where you’re getting margs later.


The right way to wear it

First, a few application reminders. “It’s important to apply sunscreen all over before getting dressed,” says Dr. Vivian Bucay, a dermatologist in San Antonio. “Most people don’t use enough or miss areas during application. I tell my patients to apply sunscreen in a circular motion to ensure good coverage.”

We’re also more likely to wear sunscreen if it feels good. So make adjustments when necessary, choosing a formula that makes sense for the climate or time of year. During the hot and humid months, an oil-free sunscreen may work best. Likewise, switch to a hydrating option during the winter when skin gets dry.  

And, because multitasking skincare is the best skincare, choose an SPF with anti-aging ingredients or antioxidants. “Sunscreens are not perfect. Since we’re often not applying enough to get the protection mentioned on the label, antioxidants can enhance their protective benefits,” says Bucay. Some newer formulas also contain DNA repair enzymes, which are believed to help reverse sun damage.


If you have sensitive skin…

“Physical or mineral sunscreens are excellent for people with sensitive skin because the minerals are inert and will not trigger contact sensitivity,” says Bucay. Unlike chemical formulas, which absorb solar radiation, physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin to deflect UV rays.

The main players in the mineral sunscreen family are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide; the latter offers broader protection. “If there is only one mineral listed on the label, I tend to favor zinc oxide,” says Bucay.

It’s also worth noting that certain sunscreen chemicals, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been linked to allergic reactions and irritation, and may be disruptive to the body’s endocrine system, according to the EWG. Oxybenzone is also thought to have a harmful impact on vital coral reef ecosystems by causing bleaching, which can ultimately kill coral and harm marine life.


The Sun Protector

This sheer, 100-percent mineral sunscreen contains vitamin C and E and forgoes oxybenzone, avobenzone, fragrance and dyes.

Source: @suzyshattuck


If you’re spending a lot of time outdoors…

Waterproof, sweat-proof, and rub-proof are terms of the past. The FDA permits “water-resistant” claims for 40- or 80-minute intervals, meaning you’ll need to reapply, and often if you’re outside all day.

Sunscreens that work well on wet or sweaty skin will help to make reapplication easier. Stick formulas, too, are less likely to run and sting the eyes.

Beauty Counter

Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 30

With non-nano zinc oxide and cocoa butter, this moisturizing option glides on smoothly, stays put and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

If you’re oily or prone to breakouts…

Again, go the mineral route. Zinc oxide is known to be soothing on sensitive skin, so it won’t aggravate active breakouts. Other features to look for: oil-free, non-comedogenic and matte.

A sunscreen powder will help absorb excess oil when you reapply throughout the day. Bucay likes Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, which is non-comedogenic and also has antimicrobial bristles, a bonus for acne-prone skin.

Elta MD

UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen

This sheer formula has the major “free-of” categories (oils, chemicals and fragrance) covered. It’s also lightly tinted to help even out redness.

Source: @lola_akw


If your skin is dry…

Opt for a sunscreen that contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts water to the skin. Ingredients like shea butter or argan oil are also beneficial to replenish and nourish the skin.


Prismatic Luminizing Shield SPF 50

This moisture-rich fluid contains sodium hyaluronate and prismatic powders to give skin a gorgeous, radiant finish.

If you’re wearing it under makeup…

There’s a time and a place for chemical sunscreens, and this is it. “These formulas are typically more cosmetically elegant and disappear into the skin, while physical sunscreens can leave a whitish residue, especially on darker skin,” Bucay tells us.

She also likes Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist Broad Spectrum SPF 50 to set makeup and control shine breakthrough throughout the day.


Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40

This transparent, oil-free gel leaves skin with a soft matte finish and acts as a primer to help makeup stay put.

What’s your favorite sunscreen? Tell us in the comments!