Sun exposure and ultraviolet rays are the leading causes of skin cancer, but using the best sunscreens available can greatly reduce your chances of harm. You’ll want sunscreen that’s powerful enough to protect your skin for hours and can withstand water if you’re going swimming at the beach or in your pool. On top of providing protection from skin cancer, sunscreen also helps keep your skin youthful and prevent skin issues such as wrinkles, sagging and hyperpigmentation.
When it comes to sunscreen there are a number of myths out there. One of the bigger ones is that sunscreen is only necessary during the summer months. The sun has an incredible amount of power; even if you’re inside your home (yes, inside too), you should protect yourself from harmful UVA and UVB rays by wearing sunscreen at all times. Another one is that darker complexions don’t need to use sunscreen, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there’s a real sunscreen gap for Black people (and other people of color) that has led to them being less likely to wear sunscreen and therefore more likely to develop skin cancer in later stages.
A good way to start your new sun care routine is by buying a fresh bottle of sunscreen tailored to your skin needs. Only a tiny number of sunscreens are on our list, but we’ve chosen some of the best that are currently available, effective and won’t leave your skin feeling weighed down. Most of the prices and links are for 3-ounce bottles, but some are for smaller or larger. Many have larger, more cost-effective options. And if you’re looking for sun protection for your face, we’ve got you covered — check out our guide on the.
Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer is a bestseller for a reason. The lightweight formula has been around for years, doesn’t feel greasy and rubs in clear on all skin tones. You can find it in a spray, lotion or stick, in many different SPF formulas. For an everyday sunscreen at a good price, you can’t go wrong with this.
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Greasy sunscreens are no longer the norm, thankfully. Now you can find many sunscreens that feel like (and blend into your skin like) a moisturizing lotion. One of them is Banana Boat’s Light as Air sunscreen. This SPF 50 sunscreen promises to absorb quickly into your skin and absorb oil so that it actively keeps you feeling dry while providing sun protection.
It’s available in a spray, lotion and face sunscreen formula, as well as a spray sunscreen for your hair and scalp.
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Zinc sunscreens have come a long way from those pasty lotions that left a sheen of white behind. EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen uses only zinc oxide to reflect harmful UV rays off your skin so they don’t cause skin damage. This sunscreen is loved by Amazon reviewers because it rubs in clear. It’s also oil-, fragrance- and paraben-free, so it’s a good sun protection choice for anyone with sensitive skin or oily skin.
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CeraVe is already a great brand for simple, budget skin care so the effectiveness of this sunscreen is no surprise. CeraVe’s hydrating mineral sunscreen is effective for the entire body and suitable for sensitive skin. You can also expect the non-greasy, lightweight consistency to melt right on your body.
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One myth is the idea that Black people don’t need sunscreen and that couldn’t be further from the truth. While there’s melanin protecting Black skin, it doesn’t mean immunity from harmful rays. And keep in mind that if hyperpigmentation is an issue, a good sunscreen can help with that. Black Girl Sunscreen not only moisturizes, it doesn’t leave a white residue on the skin. And if you’re worried about Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, neither are in this sunscreen — all you’ll find are natural ingredients in this SPF 30 bottle.
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Doctors recommend that you limit your baby’s sun exposure by having them wear a wide-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing and keeping them in the shade. But even with those precautions, it’s still recommended to use sunscreen, generally when they are six months and older.
Once they reach the six-month milestone, you can use sunscreen to protect them from the sun’s rays, but stick to formulas that are free of dyes and scents and that use minerals (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) for sun protection.
This Blue Lizard mineral sunscreen formula checks all of those boxes for sunscreen for babies and the bottle turns pink in the sun, to give you a nudge to reapply.
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Photos by Unsun Cosmetics/Composite by Robin Mosley/CNET
A moisturizing sunscreen for your whole body, this full-coverage mineral SPF 15 lotion from Unsun is made with hydrating ingredients like prickly pear cactus and cucumber to deliver quality sun protection from UV rays while keeping your skin residue-free.
Looking for a sports sunscreen that doesn’t feel sticky or oily? This is a good bet. Coppertone’s Sport Sunscreen is a popular lotion that’s both water-resistant and moisturizing, thanks to vitamin E. It’ll protect you from UVA/UVB rays for up to 80 minutes if you’re in the water or sweaty, and promises it won’t sting your eyes.
The state of Hawaii, Key West in Florida and a few island nations have banned the sale sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate because scientific studies found that those ingredients can damage coral and other sea life. In response, many companies started selling “reef-safe” sunscreens that abide by the various bans.
If you are heading somewhere that requires reef-safe sunscreen, this non-aerosol SPF 50 sunscreen spray from Supergoop is a good pick to protect you from the sun’s UV rays. This sunscreen is not a mineral sunscreen but contains “clean chemicals” which Supergoop formulated without oxybenzone or octinoxate.
This sunblock also contains vitamin C for an antioxidant skin boost and is suitable for sensitive skin (although it is not fragrance-free). The Sephora link below is for a 5-ounce bottle; the Amazon link for a 3-ounce bottle.
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If you’re looking for a budget tinted mineral facial SPF 30 sunscreen, then this one from Buttah will fit the bill. This is another sunscreen that vanishes and dries clear. And it’s formulated with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium that protects your skin from harmful rays. Since this is made for your face, it’s safe to use around your eyes.
Sometimes the best sunscreen is the one that’s lightweight and feels like it’s not weighing down the skin. The SPF 35 water-gel sunscreen from Glossier is exactly what people who want a simple shield from the sun should wear. It’s not greasy, white cast-free and is more like a skin care product like a thin serum that works for all skin types.
Kids rarely want to sit still long enough for you to apply (and reapply) sunscreen. But this sunscreen for kids goes on quickly and is meant to work on wet skin. The spray cuts through water to adhere to skin, so applying sunscreen is easy and your kids stay protected even as they spend all day getting in and out of the pool or ocean.
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Note that these products are independently chosen by our editors and based on extensive research into the available options in the marketplace. The prices may change.
More skin care and summer advice
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.