8 Mins Read
on January 31, 2023
Below, we’ve rounded up the best broad-spectrum face sunscreens that will protect you no matter what the weather throws at you.
Sunscreen should be an essential part of your daily skincare routine. When properly applied, it protects you from harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer while also preventing sun damage that can lead to premature wrinkles and visible signs of aging.
Sunscreen is crucial no matter what your skin type -- even if you have darker skin, because melanin simply isn’t enough.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB.
UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin and are responsible for the formation of skin cancer (which includes deadly forms such as malignant melanoma) while also playing a role in photoaging and wrinkle formation.
UVB rays are responsible for burning your skin. Most SPF (sun protection factor) measurements refer to UVB rays, although American sunscreens will include “broad spectrum” in the label if it also protects from UVA rays. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell how much UVA coverage you are getting but sunscreen with zinc or titanium provides UVA protection.
There are three types of sunscreens: physical, chemical, and combination. Physical sunscreens have mineral-based ingredients (such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) that stay on the skin to block UV rays.
Chemical sunscreens usually have one or more active ingredients (such as avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, or oxybenzone) and absorb the sun’s rays to protect your skin. These sunscreens are typically easier to rub into your skin and don’t leave a white cast.
You should be using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, which blocks around 97% of UVB rays. (The higher the SPF after 30, the more incremental the difference is: for example, SPF 50 blocks 98%.) SPF 15 only protects against 93% of UVB rays, which is why SPF 30 is the recommended lowest amount you should apply.
One final note before we get to our review: when you apply sunscreen, you need to apply more than a pea-sized amount. You should be using around ¼ teaspoon on your face and a shot glass full for your body and reapplying every two hours you spend exposed to the sun. (Don’t forget a lip balm with SPF too!)
La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Ultra Light Fluid Facial Sunscreen (SPF 60) is a non-greasy lightweight facial broad spectrum sunscreen with antioxidants that absorbs quickly and has a matte finish (which is great if you want a smooth base for makeup application).
It’s also water resistant (80 minutes) and can be used on sensitive skin. Bonus: there’s no white cast!
This sunscreen from Supergoop has a gel-like consistency that dries quickly and provides a weightless, clear, matte finish. It’s ideal for all skin tones and you can wear it at the pool or beach, as it’s water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
The Unseen Sunscreen has hydrating ingredients such as meadowfoam seed oil and shea butter but it’s light enough to use in the summer as well as the winter.
Sun Bum’s broad spectrum lotion sunscreen protects you from UVA and UVB rays and contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and helps prevent premature skin aging. It’s hypoallergenic, reef friendly (oxybenzone free and octinoxate free), vegan, cruelty free, oil free, gluten free, paraben free, and PABA free.
Sun Bum has additional sunscreens that come in lotion, stick, and spray form, including some with a higher SPF and some that are safe for babies.
Sun Bum sunscreens are tested, approved, and recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF).
The EltaMD UV Sheer sunscreen is a zinc oxide-based broad-spectrum sunscreen that absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn't leave a shine or white cast. The lightweight formula matte finish helps even out your skin tone and is an excellent base for makeup.
EltaMD UV Sheer sunscreen has a sweat and water-resistant formula allows for up to 80 minutes of playtime and has hyaluronic acid and squalene to attract and retain moisture while antioxidants protect skin from free radical damage by providing ultraviolet (UV), infrared radiation (IR), and high-energy visible (HEV) light protection. It’s also dye-free, fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben free, and alcohol-free.
Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ is a popular Japanese sunscreen that is moisturizing but dries quickly without leaving a white cast. It has a light, gel-like formula that can be used as a base for makeup and it’s also sweatproof and waterproof for up to 80 minutes to keep you protected longer. Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, royal jelly extract, and citrus extract keep your skin hydrated.
Cetaphil is known for their hypoallergenic formulas for those with sensitive skin, and the sunscreen is no exception. This zinc-oxide formula leaves a non-greasy finish but also keeps your skin hydrated with ingredients such as vitamin E and allantoin. It’s also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Olay is known for their excellent skincare at drugstore prices and the Regenerist Mineral Sunscreen Hydrating Moisturizer lives up to that. It’s a zinc-oxide based formula that is fragrance-free and goes on sheer while providing moisture with glycerin and niacinamide (vitamin B3).
CeraVe is a trusted brand for effective, no-frills skincare. The CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM is a non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog pores) light combination sunscreen that uses homosalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, and zinc oxide to protect your skin, along with glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide that act as moisturizers. Multivesicular emulsion technology controls the release of the ingredients over 24 hours and the oil-free and fragrance-free formula doesn’t leave a white cast. Additionally, it’s recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen is an excellent drugstore sunscreen that has 100% zinc oxide and dries down to a matte, invisible finish, making it ideal to wear under makeup. It’s an oil-free and non-comedogenic formula that is also water-resistant for 80 minutes and provides broad spectrum protection.
It’s hypoallergenic, fragrancex-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, dye-free and can be used on sensitive skin -- it’s even been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance for individuals with sensitive skin.
Runner up from the same brand: Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50 is a chemical sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection and has antioxidants such as vitamin E to help prevent environmental damage. It’s light, non-greasy, non-comedogenic, and has antioxidants such as vitamin E to prevent environmental damage.
Rihanna’s beauty brand Fenty has been striving for inclusivity and working for skin tones of all types since its beginning; this moisturizer with SPF leaves no white cast or chalkiness, which is ideal for darker skin tones.
The Hydra Visor Invisible Moisturizer has hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and Kalahari melon. The formula has a pink tint and blends into the skin easily. It’s light, oil-free, reef-safe (no oxybenzone or octinoxate), gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan, and non-comedogenic. The chemical sunscreen includes ingredients such as avobenzone, homosalate, and octisalate and dries down to an invisible (but glowy) finish. It can be used under makeup without any pilling.
Added bonus: the inner vial can be refilled (for $30), which saves you from throwing out the whole tube.
Black Girl Sunscreen Make It Matte SPF 45 was formulated with melanin-rich skin in mind -- specifically avoiding the dreaded white cast. It has a gel-like formula and leaves a matte finish, but it still includes soothing and moisturizing ingredients such as aloe, squalene, coconut oil, and shea butter.
Make It Matte is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and reef-safe (free of oxybenzone and octinoxate). It’s also light enough to wear under makeup!
SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 not only gives you broad-spectrum coverage but also includes 0.3% phenylethyl resorcinol and 1% tranexamic acid (which helps fade dark spots and also inhibit melanin synthesis caused by UV), 2% niacinamide (which helps even out your skin tone), and 7% glycerin as a humectant (to attract moisture). It has a light serum-like texture and doesn’t pill, making it ideal as a primer for makeup.
Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense is a non-nano zinc oxide-based physical broad-spectrum sunscreen that is ideal for sensitive skin: it’s oil-free, fragrance-free, cruelty-free, vegan, and reef-safe. It contains nourishing ingredients such as sea buckthorn and lingonberry, which can prevent free radical and UV damage, and leaves a dewy finish on skin.
The Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ is an lightweight mineral sunscreen that absorbs quickly. It provides broad-spectrum sun protection and includes vitamin E for antioxidant protection. Additionally, this sunscreen contains photolyase enzymes, which are naturally occurring enzymes that are clinically proven to repair existing sun damage.
Kinship’s Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing sunscreen is a moisturizing mineral non-nano zinc oxide-based broad-spectrum sunscreen that includes antibacterial turmeric (for blemish-prone skin) and plant-based probiotics. The light, peach-colored formula dries down quickly and leaves a sheer, dewy finish. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, reef-safe, and comes in sustainably packaged 30% post-consumer recycled materials.
Coola's Full Spectrum 360º Refreshing Water Cream SPF 50 provides broad-spectrum sun protection and a burst of hydration with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and coconut water. It’s a chemical sunscreen (using avobenzone 3.0%, homosalate 5.0%, octisalate 3.0%, and octocrylene 5.0%) that is also vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, reef-safe, and includes a blend of antioxidants and plant-derived actives that can help mitigate skin damage due to blue light, infrared, and pollutants.