7 Beauty Editors and Experts Reveal Their Holy-Grail Sunscreens and SPF Tips
The hunt for a face sunscreen that isn't a total chore to slather on is year-round—and it's a question constantly at the tip of Who What Wear readers' tongues. Where oh where are the sunscreens that won't clog your pores, leave a white cast, smell weird, or feel like liquid chalk on your face? Of course, the easy answer is to say they don't exist and to forgo daily face sunscreen altogether—though skin health experts caution against it. Even on days when you're not hiking or at the beach, UV damage can accumulate to cause dark spots, wrinkles, and a ruddy complexion (not to mention more seriously health-risking issues). "When out in the sun or even outdoors on a cloudy day, you should reapply a generous layer every 90 minutes," advises celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau.
But being good about sunscreen is only feasible once you've found a product or two you can actually stand. In order to provide the best recommendations, we hit up fellow beauty editors from all our favorite publications—from Allure to Teen Vogue to Bustle—and asked them to share their holy-grail sunscreens (plus their wisest SPF advice). These selective folks have tried practically every sunscreen on the market while acquiring smart suncare intel from the industry's leading experts. Read on to see their top products and tips.
"This is great for those with darker skin tones — consumers who have often been overlooked and underserved in the beauty market, particularly as it pertains to suncare. Plus, it mixes incredibly well with foundation, which is great for when I'm super busy (more on that below)."
Pro tip: "I'm not the biggest fan of most tinted moisturizers simply because most are on the lighter side, and I favor a fair amount of extra coverage. So, when I'm in a big hurry (pretty much every morning), I like to mix liquid foundation and a clear sunscreen together on the back of my hand, then apply it with a buffing brush. Since the sunscreen tends to dilute the foundation's coverage, I typically mix it with a medium- to high-coverage formula. It doesn't offer the best sun protection, of course, so I usually only do this on cloudy days—when it's sunny out, I just suck it up and do the extra step."
"I love this one because it’s budget-friendly, super hydrating (and I have really dry skin, so I need it!), and gentle on my sensitive neck and chest areas."
"This is lightweight and offers good hydration, too."
Pro tip: "My father's skin is quite a bit darker than my own, and I don't have many memories of him putting sunscreen on when I was a kid, but I do recall him nevertheless experiencing peeling and irritation from being in the sun (he coached soccer, so that meant being outside for days on end). Unfortunately, there's a big misconception that people with darker skin tones don't need sun protection, so one of the most important things (which needs to be emphasized more in the beauty industry, though it's made strides in recent years!) is that everyone needs to wear SPF and practice suncare."
"I've had so many people tell me that they don't wear sunscreen because they can't wear it under makeup. Excuses! There are so many amazing sunscreens on the market that feel amazing on my skin, but also act as a primer and make my makeup look even better! I swear by Prem’s sunscreen—the Glow Recipe team turned me on to this one. It makes my skin look so good, I even wear it alone without any makeup. I feel the same way about Tatcha's sunscreen."
"It's so important to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, and it's easier than ever, thanks to some game-changing products. Supergoop makes an amazing that will not only refresh your makeup but will also give you SPF 40 protection. Amorepacific also makes a sunscreen cushion compact that you can easily dab on top of your makeup throughout the day. There are zero excuses to protect your skin with these easy-to-use products."
"As a black woman, it's hard to find a sunscreen that doesn't make my face look pasty. I love Supergoop's Sunscreen Unseen; it's clear so white residue doesn't show up on my face. Plus it's waterproof, which is great for when I surf during the summer."
"Clearly, not being ashy is a priority for me, and it should be for everyone who prefers to stay moisturized. At the beach, this is a hard thing to do from going in and out of the water to just not wanting to apply both sunscreen and regular lotion to your body multiple times. So, last summer when I started using Supergoop's Sunscreen Oil my life changed. It's the perfect blend of the two. An oil to keep your skin moisturized and SPF 50 to protect you from the sun. It's also a spray bottle, so you don't have you get your hands all icky with sunscreen lotion and sand. It's a must for any beach trip."
Pro tip: "A few summers ago, I went to Antigua and spent most of my time getting in and out of the pool and ocean. I was drinking, lounging, and being really lazy about re-applying sunscreen. I came back home with my face peeling instead of what I wanted: my post-vacation glow. So lesson? Always reapply sunscreen, especially in sensitive areas like your face."
"I'm definitely one of those 'better late than never' sunscreen people. I don't think I ever really used sunscreen in my 20s unless I was going to the beach or walking around in the sun. It wasn't until I got sun poisoning twice (once from laying out by the pool reading The Dirt) that I realized, 'Hey bish, maybe you should protect your damn skin!' Now I wear it every day."
Pro tip: "My tips are to make SPF as much a part of your beauty routine as putting on moisturizer or wearing eyeliner. And whether or not you're concerned about hormonal disruption caused by chemical sunscreens, it's good to find a sunscreen with zinc or titanium oxide. Of course, now we have to also think of reef-safe sunscreens, so if you want to help the ocean, don't use sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate.
"These are my current favorite sunscreens, though I'm going to start researching reef-safe ones."
"My favorite facial sunscreen is Image Skincare’s Prevention+ Daily Ultimate Protection Moisturizer SPF 50 lotion. It smells amazing (kind of like a pineapple, but a bit lighter and less on the nose) and makes my skin look healthy and glowy but not greasy. It's light enough that I can layer it over a toner, serum, and oil, and it leaves absolutely zero whitish cast. It's so good that most of the time I don't even bother to follow up with foundation!"
Pro tip: "This is kind of nerdy, but I read a study once that found that you're more likely to use sunscreen if you put it next to your toothbrush. And it really works! I still do it to this day. You're never going to forget to brush up in the morning, and it makes putting on sunscreen second nature."
"For my body, I like Coola's sprays. It's not easy to find a spray-on physical sunscreen (you know, one you're sure is reef-safe), but these fit the bill and you can find them at convenient stores, like Target, rather than specialty beauty boutiques."
"I completely understand the qualms people have with face sunscreen, keeping them from ever wanting to wear it—the chalkiness, the thickness, the white cast. It's bad! I get it! Even the fanciest and most expensive sunscreens I've tried over my beauty editing years leave something to be desired. Truly, the only sunscreen that's not only not a chore to put on but actively a pleasure is this Japanese-made drugstore pick from Nivea. It has the texture of an ultra-lightweight, non-greasy, non-sticky gel moisturizer—but even more featherlight and fast-absorbing. It's hard to believe there's SPF in here at all, much less SPF 50. Whenever I hear a friend is going to Japan, I kick them $30 to stock up for me. I'm that hooked."
Pro tip: "Make the most of your face sunscreen by layering it on top of an antioxidant serum, like this one by Renée Rouleau, which contains vitamins C and E. I swear by this protective duo to stave off sun damage, dark spots, and fine lines."
"If I'm doing a beach or pool day, I always double down. Before I go outside, I'll slather my body in this hyaluronic acid-spiked SPF 50—I have never, not once, gotten burnt while wearing it, unlike other sunscreens I've tried. Oh, and coat yourself before you put on your bathing suit, you’ll miss a spot if you don't. Then after a little time in the sun, I will re-up with a spray sunscreen to make sure I'm still good."
"I love hiking. And even though I try not to work out in makeup, I still want to look cute when I take the inevitable 'look at this hike I just did' pic. Enter this mineral SPF that also has a pore-blurring, skin-perfecting benefit. Besides looking great, it performs: It even stood up to a week-long sun-filled trek in the Andes."
"This is my holy-grail face sunscreen. The formula, which was the best of a Good Housekeeping Beauty Lab test of over 20 face sunscreens from drugstore to high-end brands, glides on like silk, feels weightless, and disappears into skin—it's so luxurious, I actually look forward to using it."
Pro tip: "I apply sunscreen to my face every single morning in all seasons, whether it’s raining, snowing, or sunny. I don't rely on makeup with SPF because people usually don't apply enough of it to get the full protection listed on the bottle, and not all the formulas are broad-spectrum. Besides skin cancer protection, studies show that just wearing sunscreen alone every day can make skin look more youthful—fewer lines and dark spots—over time. My trick for body when I'm going to be wearing a bathing suit is to apply sunscreen before I dress so you're sure to cover your skin fully and not miss spots around your suit."
"For body, the best of the lab's sunscreens test was Kiehl's Activated Sun Protector Water-Light Lotion for Face & Body SPF 30 (it works for face, too) and I agree—like its name, the lotion feels like water when you apply it—totally undetectable."
"For more affordable options, I love Neutrogena's UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 100+, which is surprisingly sheer for such a high-level SPF."
"Also, SunBum's Original Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 for its beachy-sweet scent and texture that feels like a moisturizer on skin.”
Up next, read on to see our picks for the best mineral sunscreens.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.