Just because the sun is harsh doesn’t mean our sunscreen needs to be. The best sunscreens for your face are gentle and effective.
How many times have you reached for a bottle of sunscreen in the morning only to realize that what you’ve poured out is a greasy, milk-colored, liquid substance? Or worse, it smells… like sunscreen… and then it gets in your eyeball and stings for hours.
We get it. With so many common downsides, it’s easy to be deterred from putting on sunscreen every day.
The bad news is: The sun doesn’t really care about your inconvenience level. The harmful effects of its rays quietly and slowly take their toll on our skin.
The good news is: There are some true sunscreen gems out on the market today that are lightweight, non-greasy, and perfect for daily wear.
To get a well-informed sample of the best sunscreens for your face, we went to the pros: Beauty editors and writers. Keep reading for which sunscreens have won them over.
Glossier Invisible Shield (SPF 35)
(Editor’s note: Glossier makes a sunscreen so nice, they crowned it twice! Both Jacqueline and Maddie chose the line’s “invisible shield.”)
I remember hearing a little buzz about the product before it launched, and next thing you know, we had samples in the office to try. I was working on a story highlighting the best sunscreens for darker skin and, as I tried on lots of different picks, Invisible Shield was absolutely amazing on my deeper toned skin. I couldn’t believe how clear the texture was.
It’s a mainstay in my beauty routine because I can easily wear it under makeup without it giving me a weird ashy cast on my face. It melts right into my skin, doesn’t budge, and doesn’t oddly ooze through foundation. It can also work as a primer on a lot of days, giving my makeup a great base. Another bonus: it’s travel friendly!
—Jacqueline Laurean Yates, editor, Yahoo! Beauty
I’m not going to lie, my a.m. skincare routine is elaborate. And with that many serums, lotions, and potions layered underneath, the final sunscreen step has a tendency to pill right up. So, when this gem came across my desk, I was game to give it a go, and I haven’t stopped using it since. The clear, gel-like lotion sinks right in, feels like nothing on my skin, and I have yet to see one trace a pill. We have a winner!
—Maddie Aberman, beauty editor, Hearst Women’s Beauty Group
Dermalogica Sheer Tint, (SPF 20)
Asking a beauty editor to name her favorite sunscreen—as in “please pick one”—is impossible. I have different products for different uses! For everyday, when I’m mostly indoors, I use the best tinted moisturizer in the world on my face: Dermalogica Sheer Tint SPF 20 in Medium. On days I’ll be outside for a while, I like Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 for my face because it’s sheer, lightweight, and doesn’t cause breakouts. Almost every dermatologist I’ve ever interviewed recommends the Elta MD, so that’s how I heard about it. As for the others, it’s all just trial and error.
But if it’s really hot and my rosacea is flaring, then I go for Colorescience Skin Perfector Calming Primer SPF 20 because it calms some of the redness and doesn’t sting. For body, I like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 30; it’s truly invisible, the nozzle never clogs, and the formula really seems to stay put in the water. But if my legs are dry or I have bruises, which I almost always do, I like an oil because it leaves a reflective finish that kind of hides the imperfections (Clarins makes a great one called Sun Care Oil Spray SPF 30).
Lagom Sun Gel, (SPF 50)
My favorite sunscreen is Lagom Sun Gel, a Korean sunscreen I found through the Korean beauty site Peach & Lily, although this product is no longer available through them. (Editor’s note: The sunscreen which dries matte is so popular that it sold out 11 times in 8 weeks, Peach and Lily founder Alicia Yoo told PopSugar.)
It feels like a serum, not a sunscreen, and it’s the fastest absorbing SPF I’ve ever tried. It also doesn’t smell like sunscreen and isn’t sticky, which is a plus!
— Olivia Muenter, fashion and beauty editor, Bustle
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion, (SPF 50)
My favorite sunscreen of the moment is a new one I just tried, Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion, (SPF 50). It’s a new launch for the brand, an extension to the Hydro Boost line which I already loved. I received it in a press mailing and immediately knew I had to try it.
It’s a completely revolutionary texture for a sunscreen: It’s a super-light gel that smooths over skin easily and leaves it plump and dewy (but not greasy), like a great moisturizing serum would. And yet, it has incredible sun protection somehow. It’s become a fast favorite, and I’ve been wearing it under my makeup every day lately.
— Stephanie Saltzman, beauty editor, Fashionista
Clarins Ecran Multi-Protection, (SPF 50)
Sunscreens are a must for me especially because I’m prone to dark marks (as most women of color are). Sadly, most women of color don’t wear sunscreens because they don’t think they need it or because, as a brown girl, sunscreens can be so hit or miss. Some leave a white-ish cast all over our face and we end up looking like an ash ball.
This one is not only sheer, but it has added ingredients that protect against pollution which we now know is one of the biggest causes of aging and hyperpigmentation.
— Milly Almodovar, former senior beauty editor, Cosmo for Latinas
Volition Beauty Prismatic Luminizing Shield, (SPF 50)
Volition Beauty—which is this super cool beauty incubator of sorts, where products are crowdsourced and created by different individuals—just released this super lightweight sunscreen that I am officially obsessed with.
It is everything that old-school sunscreen is not: It goes on super smooth, as opposed to sticky; it’s sheer and luminescent, rather than gloopy and pale; and it works wondrously under makeup. I’m in my early thirties (aka the age at which one finally starts taking incessant admonishes to use SPF seriously), and this is one of the most effortless, easy-to-integrate-into-your-routine products I’ve come across. It’s so easy to use, in fact, that it might even be possible to abide by the recommendation to re-apply it every two hours.
— Deena Drewis, former editor, Girlboss
Karyng Complete Broad Spectrum (SPF 50)
I’m obsessive about SPF, and I test every bottle that comes across my desk—but I keep going back to this one. It was created by NYC dermatologist Karyn Grossman, and I first learned about it when she came to my office for a ‘deskside’ meeting to present her new line of skin care a couple years ago.
As she explained the blend of science and natural ingredients in the sunscreen, I realized the formula had everything I’d ever wanted: It’s lightweight and silky, blends in instantly, has just the slightest tint, is made with mineral filters and contains other skin care ingredients that help with things like redness and pore size. It’s a great moisturizer and makeup primer, so there’s no reason not to use it every day—and I do.
It’s definitely pricey, but a bottle always lasts longer than I’d expect, and it’s such a multi-tasker that it’s worth it.
— Dawn Davis, senior editorial director,