The 16 Very Best Sunscreens (2024)


By Tembe Denton-Hurst, a writer at the Strategist covering beauty and books. She joined the site in 2020. Previously, she wrote about beauty and culture for Nylon and Elle.

The 16 Very Best Sunscreens (2)

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

In this article

  • Best overall
  • Best chemical for face
  • Best mineral for face
  • Best for sensitive skin
  • Best for body
  • Best spray on
  • Best oil
  • Best powder

It’s a truth universally known that sunscreen is a nonegotiable, but what might a bit less obvious is that not all of them are created equal. The world of sunscreen is vast and unwieldy, filled with a range of formats and formulas. Finding one that works for your skin type or concerns can true that wearing any sunscreen at all is better than nothing — even more so if you make it part of your daily routine. But once you’ve crossed that threshold, there’s a whole wide world of sunscreen (that’s constantly growing and changing) to explore. And I wouldn’t be a Strategist writer if I didn’t keep constantly searching for the newest and best sunscreens on the market. Below, my picks for the 17 best sunscreens at various price points. Every one of them can be used all over the body, but we’ve categorized them considering other details, including price, ingredients, ease of use, and availability. (For more sunscreens for hyperspecific uses, see our lists of the best ones for lips, face, and kids and babies; we’ve even got some picks for bald men’s heads.)

What we’re looking for

SPF Level

Sunscreens tend to be judged on how much protection they offer — which is conveyed by SPF, or sun protection factor. This is the measure of how much sunscreen protects skin against UV rays. SPF acts as a multiplier and extends the time it will take for your skin to burn. So SPF 30 offers 30 times more protection than uncovered skin, and so on.According to our experts, you should be using an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of UVB rays. SPF refers specifically to UVB rays, but you should be looking for broad-spectrum formulas, which protect from both UVA and UVB rays. No matter what SPF level you choose, you need to make sure you reapply — more when the sun is at its most intense, but at least every two hours.

Chemical or mineral

Our experts say to look for mineral (also known as physical) sunscreen if you’ve got sensitive skin or heat sensitivities, or if you’re using the sunscreen on babies 6 months or younger because the mineral formulation sits on top of skin to physically block UVA and UVB rays, as opposed to chemical formulations that sink into skin and absorb rays, which can cause irritation in more sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens use ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, hom*osalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, and octisalate for sun protection. When applied, it triggers a chemical reaction that absorbs the sun’s rays and turns it into heat before releasing it from the body. This process takes about 15 minutes to get started, so you should wait at least this long post-application before heading into the sun. Mineral formulas, on the other hand, sit on top of the skin and work immediately. Chemical formulas have been under scrutiny as of late, due to the fact that some studies suggest ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been shown to bleach coral reefs. Some ingredients have also been linked to endocrine disruption, although it hasn’t been deemed conclusive, and the FDA (which regulates sunscreen formulations generally) continues to allow their use. Mineral sunscreens work by scattering light, using physical blockers like zinc and titanium oxide. Both are often recommended for sensitive skin because they don’t tend to be sensitizing. Zinc oxide is good for hyperpigmentation in particular, and is thus a favorite of dermatologists for patients with melasma. On the flip side, mineral formulas tend to be chunkier and pasty, presenting a challenge for deeper skin tones. Formulas have improved as of late, though, thanks to nano-size zinc- and titanium-oxide particles that rub in and blend more easily. Strategist contributor and longtime beauty writer Hannah Morrill told us that another reason to consider mineral sunscreens is because some chemical ones contain oxybenzone, which research indicates can significantly destroy coral-reef ecosystems.

Contains oxybenzone, hom*osalate, and octisalate

Chemical sunscreens have been a topic of discussion for the past five years or so, with studies linking ingredients like oxybenzone, hom*osalate, and octisalate to endocrine disruption. The data isn’t conclusive here, but we’ve mentioned when and if they’re present, along with the concentration of said ingredients.


When it comes to sunscreens, consistency can be the difference between an SPF you’ll reach for every day and something you’ll only reach for when you have to begrudgingly apply for the beach. Sunscreens with thicker consistencies can be good for the body, but not so much for the face, which tends to be more sensitive and reactive to heavier, greasier formulations. Thick sunscreens might not be great if you have an oilier skin type, and thus a lightweight, serumlike option could be best for you.

Best sunscreen overall

SPF Level: SPF 4 6| Chemical or mineral: Chemical and mineral | Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide 9.0%, octinoxate 7.5% | Consistency: Serum

It’s rare to find a Goldilocks product, especially where sunscreen is concerned, but EltaMD manages to tick all the boxes. I like to think of it as an all-in-one. Not only does it offer broad-spectrum UV protection, it acts as a skin-care product too, thanks to ingredients like lactic acid and niacinamide, which help to brighten and tone skin while also keeping acne at bay. On the texture front, it’s lightweight but nourishing, making it a good option for any skin type, whether you’re oily, dry, or somewhere in between. I also like that it contains both chemical and physical SPF, offering the best of both worlds. It makes sense that it’s a dermatologist and aesthetician favorite — it came up with six of the experts I talked to. Andrew Kelly, an aesthetician and the founder of Skin by ASK, says that he uses this combination mineral-and-chemical sunscreen himself on a daily basis and told me that he loves it because of its “serumlike” texture. Sapna Palep, founder of Spring Street Dermatology, who uses EltaMD UV Clear because it doesn’t clog her pores, adds that niacinamide is an added bonus for correcting hyperpigmentation from acne scars or prior sun damage. I’ve used the tinted version consistently for a few months and have seen a noticeable different in overall skin tone — my dark spots look a bit lighter and I haven’t noticed any new ones. The only downside to this is the price, especially if you’re using it all over your body. I’d recommend using this on your face and anywhere else you might have hyperpigmentation, and then using a cheaper body sunscreen everywhere else.

Best overall less expensive sunscreen

SPF Level: SPF 55 | Chemical or mineral: Chemical | Active ingredients: hom*osalate 10%, Octisalate 5% | Consistency: Lightweight lotion

For all its merits, the EltaMD sunscreen is expensive, and isn’t readily available at your local drugstore. This sunscreen from Neutrogena, however, is. It’s a bit thicker than the EltaMD and designed to be used on your body. I slathered it on before sitting poolside and was impressed with how lightweight it feels. Prior to this, I was picking up whatever Target had available, usually Coppertone or Banana Boat, and noticed that this felt nicer on my skin. It’s also a dermatologist favorite. Six experts I spoke to mentioned it — including cosmetic surgeon Kenneth Rothaus; cosmetic dermatologist Sonam Yadav; Kelly; dermatologist Yoram Harth; and dermatologist Kenneth Mark. Yadav and Harth both recommend Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch because of its lightweight, mattifying feel that won’t clog your pores. In addition to a liquid version, it also comes in a stick and spray-on format, which Palep prefers for getting full-body coverage as well as applying sunscreen to kids who can be “moving targets.” She says it spreads easily and is very water resistant, so it’ll stay on when you’re getting in and out of the pool or ocean. And if you want to stay away from chemical blockers altogether, you can also buy a mineral formulation with zinc oxide.

Best chemical sunscreen for face

Photo: Supergoop!/

SPF Level: SPF 40 | Chemical or mineral: Chemical | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, hom*osalate 8%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 4% | Consistency: Gel

In our best sunscreens for face story (which I also wrote), I said Supergoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen is the best option for oily skin. My opinion there still stands, but I think it’s a good overall choice for most people. The consistency is akin to thin Vaseline (it’s the silicone), and it has an almost velvety skin feel. It works incredibly well under makeup and protects against blue light too. It’s a crowd favorite for a reason.

Best mineral sunscreen for face

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Consistency: Lightweight lotion

Spanish brand Isdin’s mineral sunscreen comes recommended by three of our experts (Kelly, Mark, and Dr. Anna Karp, dermatologist atthe Skin Institute New York). It’s on the thin side, so it doesn’t leave a white chalky film behind, and it has the added benefits of antioxidants, vitamin E, and DNA-repair enzymes that help combat previous sun damage. Mark really likes this sunscreen because the company “did a study where people who used it on a consistent basis saw a reduction in the number of precancerous lesions on the treated area.” It can be used all over, but since it’s much more expensive than many other brands, Mark recommends using it on the face or other specific parts of the body that tend to see the most sun damage.

Best (less expensive) sunscreen for face

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide | Consistency: Lightweight lotion

Morrill told us she loves this sunscreen from La Roche-Posay for her face, which comes in both chemical and mineral formulations. Three other experts recommend it, too, with Harth saying, “I like the La Roche-Posay because it’s suitable for the face and body. It contains vitamin E, herbal extracts, and antioxidants to soothe stressed-out skin and shield you from the sun.” It has a lightweight, matte finish, so it goes on nicely under makeup too.

Best sunscreen for sensitive skin

SPF level: SPF 30 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | Consistency: Rich lotion

When we asked about mineral sunscreens you can buy at any drugstore in a pinch, this one from Blue Lizard was the first thing mentioned by Harth and Kelly (the brand also makes one of our top recommended facial sunscreens, too). Kelly suggests keeping a tube of it in your car, since a lot of people forget to apply when they’re driving. “You get so much sun damage on the driver’s-window side of your face and body. Once you hit 50 or 60 years old and your collagen and the elastin starts breaking down, you’ll start to see that damage a lot more.” He likes Blue Lizard because it doesn’t have any chemicals, fragrance, or commonly known irritants in it. Plus, the bottle turns blue in harmful UV light to remind you to apply. Because it’s a thick mineral sunscreen that doesn’t budge on the skin, Palep loves Blue Lizard for athletes who sweat out in the sun for hours.

Best mineral sunscreen for the body

SPF level: SPF 47 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide | Consistency: Rich lotion

Every time I ask dermatologists about sunscreens, Elta MD comes up. The brand’s UV Clear formula — our favorite sunscreen for acne-prone skin, as you’ll see below — is one of the most mentioned for its mix of physical and chemical blockers along with skin-care ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. But the brand also makes a fully mineral body sunscreen, which uses zinc and titanium dioxide to protect skin from UV rays. This one is formulated for both face and body and contains vitamin C for additional protection by way of antioxidants. As with lots of mineral sunscreens, there’s a potential for a white cast, so I’d recommend patch testing before slathering it all over.

Best spray-on sunscreen

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Chemical | Active ingredients: hom*osalate 15%, Octisalate 5% | Consistency: Lightweight spray

This spray-on sunscreen from Sun Bum is reef safe and comes in a variety of SPF levels, ranging from SPF 15 (though dermatologists recommend a minimum SPF level of 30) to SPF 70. In addition to being protective, it’s moisturizing and contains nourishing vitamin E, which has anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing properties.

Best sunscreen oil

SPF level: SPF 30 | Chemical or mineral: Chemical | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, hom*osalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 10% | Consistency: Oil

An oil sunscreen might evoke memories of tanning liquids, but it’s one of my favorite consistencies because it makes my skin look hydrated and renewed. I really like this oil from Vacation, which has a pleasant scent that’s both musky and fruity. It smells like the ’80s but as imagined by the creators of Black Monday. As for the texture, the oil is lightweight and immediately soaks into skin. It has an SPF of 30 (the minimum recommended amount), and while I wouldn’t recommend it for a day at the beach (reapplying with sandy hands is less than ideal), I really like it for everyday use.

Best powder sunscreen

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Consistency: Powder

If you’re looking for a purely physical sunscreen that isn’t a thick cream, Palep recommends Colorescience’s brush-on sunscreen powder. It won’t leave a white cast, and with four different shades, you can choose one that best matches your skin tone. We’ve previously named Colorescience the best powder sunscreen after eight additional dermatologists raved about it — and it’s a must-have for Dr. Pimple Popper. Karen Fernandez, the aesthetics department manager for SkinSpxirit med spas, is a fan, too. She likes that it doubles as makeup, is good for oily or acne-prone skin, and is easy to reapply on the go. “I love using it as the finishing touch of powder to my morning routine and then reapplying as needed throughout the day,” she says. “It is small enough to fit in a pocket or makeup bag and totally mess-free.” It’s also water resistant up to 80 minutes, and Fernandez says, “It doesn’t run into your eyes when you sweat, and stays on in the water.”

Best compact-powder sunscreen

SPF level: SPF 68 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Active ingredients: Titanium dioxide 8.4%, zinc oxide 10.0% | Consistency: Pressed powder

If you prefer compact-powder makeup, there is this one from SkinBetter. It’s a 100 percentmineral foundation with UVA and UVB protection that’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes. It also has an SPF of 68, making it the highest on this list. We’ve written about it before as it protects against blue light from our devices, and is a favorite of writer Kaleigh Fasanella, who has really sensitive skin. Unlike the Colorescience brush-on, this one comes in only one shade, but according to Fernandez, it “adapts to your skin tone for perfect coverage, plus it comes in a beautiful compact you can easily carry in your makeup bag and reapply as needed.”

Best sunscreen for kids and babies

$28 for 3

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | Consistency: Lotion

All of our experts agree that babies should exclusively use mineral sunscreens that are hypoallergenic and have been tested for efficacy. When we wrote about sunscreen for kids and babies , Lindsey Bordone, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Columbia University Medical Center, and three other dermatologists recommended this specific brand from Neutrogena, which is formulated for babies, features a broad-spectrum SPF 50 shield against UVA and UVB rays, and is dermatologist-tested, water resistant, and hypoallergenic. This specific product was also recommended by Mark.

Best sunscreen for dark skin tones

SPF level: SPF 30 | Chemical or mineral: Hybrid | Consistency: Lotion

As I said previously in my piece about the best sunscreens for dark skin, “Although dark skin does have some built-in sun protection (SPF 13.4, to be exact), it’s still imperative to use SPF to protect it.” In addition to preventing skin cancer (which, while less common, is often caught at a more advanced stage in people with darker skin tones), sunscreen helps prevent hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage. My go-to is Black Girl Sunscreen, a hybrid formula that goes on white but dries down clear. It feels and smells like your traditional Coppertone (for me, it’s delightfully nostalgic), but unlike those OG formulas, it leaves behind a noticeable glow. I have a normal skin type that sometimes leans dry, and while it works well for me, my friends with oilier skin have reported that it can leave them feeling a bit greasy.

Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Mineral | Consistency: Lightweight lotion

Chemical SPF can irritate acne-prone skin, which is why dermatologists often recommend mineral SPF instead. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide sit on top of the skin and won’t cause any congestion or clog your pores. I’ve previously recommended this one from Skinceuticals, which uses both titanium and zinc oxide to block UV rays. The consistency is lighter than most other formulas I’ve tested and easily blends into skin. Where many mineral options leave a white cast behind, this one comes in a tinted formula that blends seamlessly into skin. I like that this formula is also water-resistant, making it a good option for humid summer days and beach trips.

Best sunscreen for dry skin

For ultradry skin, a moisturizer with SPF is ideal. This one from Paula’s Choice is a two-in-one — it’s rich enough to replace your everyday moisturizer while still offering significant SPF coverage. The main moisturizing ingredient here is shea butter, which locks in hydration and keeps skin supple. There’s soothing ingredients as well, including aloe, oat, and licorice. It also contains niacinamide, which can help to brighten and tone skin over time.

$38 at Paula's Choice Buy

Best water-resistant sunscreen

SPF level: SPF 50 | Chemical or mineral: Chemical | Active ingredients: hom*osalate 10%, Octisalate 5% | Consistency: Lightweight lotion

We recommended this sunscreen from Shiseido as the best swimming sunscreen for your face, but it’s also a worthwhile option for the body. It creates a veil over skin and gets stronger whenever it’s exposed to heat, water, and sweat. It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and because it’s oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free, it’s reef safe too.

Our experts

Natalie Aguilar, dermatological nurse
Lindsey Bordone, assistant professor of dermatology at the Columbia University Medical Center
Kaleigh Fasanella, writer
•Karen Fernandez, aesthetics department manager for SkinSpirit med spas
Yoram Harth, dermatologist
•Andrew Kelly, aesthetician and founder of Skin by ASK
•Adeline Kikam, founder of @brownskinderm
Rita Linkner, dermatologist and founder of RVL Skincare
Kenneth Mark, dermatologist
• Dr. Anna Karp, dermatologist atthe Skin Institute New York
• Hannah Morrill, freelance writer and editor
•Sapna Palep, founder of Spring Street Dermatology
•Kenneth Rothaus, founder of Rothaus Plastic Surgery
•Sonam Yadav, cosmetic dermatologist

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The 16 Very Best Sunscreens
The 16 Very Best Sunscreens (2024)


What is the number one dermatologist recommended sunscreen? ›

UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen

EltaMD's UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a go-to for Tiffany J. Libby, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the director of Mohs micrographic and dermatologic surgery at Brown Dermatology in East Providence, R.I.

What sunscreen do doctors recommend? ›

Dermatologists recommend physical sunscreens, also called mineral sunscreens, for people with sensitive skin. If your sunscreen doesn't contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, you have a chemical sunscreen.

What is the highest legit SPF? ›

Properly applied SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 98 percent of UVB rays; SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. When used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values between 30 and 50 offers adequate sunburn protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn.

What is the safest most effective sunscreen? ›

Mineral sunscreen may be your safest bet, though it's a hotly debated topic in the research community. The two ingredients often found in mineral sunscreen, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are marked "GRASE" (generally regarded as safe and effective) by the Food and Drug Administration.

Is banana boat sunscreen better than coppertone? ›

Coppertone Sunscreen Vs.

Both Coppertone and Banana Boat offer about the same amount of coverage, but the mineral ingredients in Banana Boat do provide slightly better protection. Coppertone has harsher ingredients being a chemical sunscreen.

What is the best sunblock for face recommended by dermatologists 2024? ›

Best for Face: EltaMD UV Clear Face Sunscreen

Dermatologists tell us it's a go-to because it not only exceeds the American Academy of Dermatology Associations (AADA) recommendation of 30 SPF (sun protection factor) or more, but is also lightweight and noncomedogenic (meaning it won't clog pores).

What sunscreen does the FDA recommend? ›

Wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats. Use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed.

What is the most effective sunscreen for the face? ›

List of 10 best sunscreens for normal skin that provide maximum protection from sun damage:
NameAmazon RatingAmazon Price
Aqualogica Glow+ Dewy Sunscreen4.2/5Explore now
Earth Rhythm Ultra Defence Sunscreen4.1/5Explore now
Foxtale Glow Sunscreen4.2/5Explore now
Deconstruct Face Gel Sunscreen4.2/5Explore now
6 more rows
Apr 21, 2024

Is there something better than sunscreen? ›

If you are looking for a safe alternative to sunscreen, find a UPF 50+ sun hat. UPF 50+ means that this article of clothing will protect you from over 98% of the sun's UVA and UVB rays. If you can't wear sunscreen, be sure to find yourself a UPF hat that has a wide brim.

What kind of sunscreen should I use on my face everyday? ›

The most important thing to remember is that you should always choose an SPF of 30 or higher (anything below that won't protect much) and make sure the formula protects against UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the ones that are responsible for a sunburn, as well as causing skin cancer.

What type of sunscreen is best? ›

We found that physical (mineral) sunscreens are your safest bet for protection, as none of the ingredients absorb into your bloodstream. Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or both, but they are normally thicker and whiter and don't disappear as well into your skin as their chemical counterparts.

Is sunscreen spray or lotion better? ›

In addition, lotions offer more protection because you can tell how much you are putting on your child's skin. On average, people tend to get less sunscreen out of a spray because they only spray for a couple of seconds. Overall, sunscreen lotion is the best way to go.

Is banana boat a good sunscreen? ›

Highly recommend banana boat. This sunscreen is better than Coppertone in terms of water resistance, as long as you let it sit on skin for 15 mins prior to entering water. After an hour and half swimming session, you can still feel there's a lot of sunscreen on you.

Is 50 or 70 SPF sunscreen better? ›

SPF 50 sunscreens block about 98% of UVB rays, while SPF 70 blocks approximately 98.6%. This slight difference may not be as important for those with darker skin tones who have a lower risk of sunburn than those with fair skin.

Which sunscreen is best to use? ›

Top 3 features of the best sunscreens:
Best SunscreenSPFSkin Type
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen SPF 50 PlusSPF 50 plusAll
Aqualogica Glow Plus Dewy SunscreenSPF 50 PA++++All
Deconstruct Face Gel SunscreenSPF 55 plusOily, Combination, Normal
Dr. Sheth's Ceramide & Vitamin C SunscreenSPF 50 plusAll
3 more rows
Apr 21, 2024

Does 70 SPF actually work? ›

Conclusion: Sunscreens with SPF 70 and above add additional clinical benefits when applied by consumers at typically used amounts, by delivering an actual SPF that meets the minimum SPF levels recommended for skin cancer and photodamage prevention.

What is the most effective sunscreen or sunblock? ›

In most cases, sunblock is considered to be more effective because it has zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are the ingredients that meet the FDA's requirements to be labeled as safe and effective. These ingredients, when comparing sunscreen vs.

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