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Published May. 26, 2021

Whether you’re choosing the best sunscreen for yourself or a loved one, the shelves will be stocked with a broad spectrum (and we don’t just mean broad-spectrum SPF) of sprays and lotions this summer. The multitude of brands and formulas can be confusing, but with a little bit of knowledge and direction, there are great UV protection options available for every skin type and situation (looking at you, coral reef divers). Everybody has different skincare needs and preferences, which may include the safest picks for little ones or environmental concerns. First and foremost, a premium sunscreen should protect skin from harsh UV rays, but there are some other important factors to consider when making your selection. From tattoo-friendly lotion choices to a dermatologist-favorite best face sunscreen, these are the best sunscreens to keep your skin protected all summer long.

Factors to consider when purchasing the best sunscreen

At baseline, a good sunscreen must protect your skin from harmful UV rays. The label should specifically indicate that the formula protects from both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays—otherwise known as “full-spectrum” sunscreen. The best sunscreens not only have SPF levels of 30+, but they also moisturize your skin. Depending on how active you are during a day in the sun or how frequently you go in the water, look for a lotion that is also sweat- and water-resistant. Beyond that, different people will have different skincare and sun-protection needs, so let’s think about goals, health, and lifestyle values and highlight some options. 

Related: The best beach umbrella offers extra sun protection for your oceanside oasis.

Time to face the facts

Dermatologists suggest wearing the best sunscreen every day, so look for a formula that fits into your daily skincare regimen and, if necessary, one that you can wear under makeup. Tinted sunscreens may be a good option for some people. The best tinted sunscreen will easily smooth into your skin and even out your complexion, no foundation or concealer needed.

Best tinted sunscreen: EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer

A Little Something Extra

This No. 1 dermatologist recommended sunscreen can be worn with or without makeup. EltaMD

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EltaMD tinted sunscreen, with broad-spectrum SPF 40, protects your skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun. This best face sunscreen lotion contains hyaluronic acid, which helps to reduce fine lines and boosts moisture retention. The doctor-approved, mineral-based product is lightweight and non-greasy, which means it rubs into your skin easily and can be worn with or without makeup. This best tinted sunscreen keeps your skin tone even and protects your face from the elements whether you’ve planned an active day at the beach or you’re just relaxing by the pool.

Say it, do spray it

Many brands are now developing lotions without oxybenzone and octinoxate, which can be harmful to the beautiful coral reefs in our oceans. Eco-conscious consumers should look for the words “reef-safe” on sunscreen packaging. To further protect the environment, some spray bottles are now non-aerosol-free. And, if you find applying suntan lotion tedious, you might want to consider including spray sunscreen. You may have to work a bit harder to ensure you have full coverage, but it’s a good choice for speedy applications and for those who like to stay active.

Best spray sunscreen: Supergoop! PLAY Antioxidant-Infused Body Mist

Easy Sunscreen Application

This body mist protects your skin from the sun while the non-aerosol spray packaging protects the environment. Supergoop!

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This Supergoop! SPF 50 body mist tops the best spray sunscreen list for many reasons. Reef-friendly, broad-spectrum, and infused with natural ingredients like vitamin C, plus green tea and acai extracts, you can trust you’re protected from harsh UVA and UVB rays while the refreshing scent transports your mind to a tropical oasis (if you’re not already there). As an added bonus, the mist can be sprayed on wet skin, so you don’t have to wait to apply once you get out of the water. It’s also sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Related: A guide to sun protection for people with darker skin

There’s an art to skincare

Individuals with tattoos will want the best sunscreen that works to keep their body art protected so it doesn’t fade over time. You definitely didn’t spend hours in the chair for that ink to last less than a lifetime.

Best sunscreen for tattoos: Tattoo Care Sun Protection

Best for Body Art

Created with tattoos in mind, this sunscreen protects your tink from fading, drying, and cracking. TATTOO CARE

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Tattoo sun protection is an increasing concern for people from all walks of life. This dermatologically tested choice, suitable for all skin types, contains natural ingredients including calendula, cocoa butter, jojoba, and vitamins A and E—all proven to provide multiple skincare benefits. The lotion offers two layers of protection for both your skin and your body art—a 30 SPF with UVA and UVB broad-spectrum sun filter, plus a unique formula that moisturizes your tattoos to ensure they won’t dry out, crack, or fade.

This is a big deal for littles

Babies and toddlers will naturally have more sensitive skin than adults, so the best sunscreen for them has high coverage and is paraben- and fragrance-free. And if you have kids and don’t want to lug 10 different lotions in your beach bag for every family member, there are also options that will work for the majority of your crew.

Best sunscreen for babies: Blue Lizard Baby Mineral Sunscreen

Elmo-Approved

This No. 1 pediatrician-recommended sunscreen has a kid-friendly bottle that turns pink in harmful UV light, reminding mom and dad that it’s time to reapply. BLUE LIZARD

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Blue Lizard Baby Mineral Sunscreen is paraben- and fragrance-free, making it a great choice for your baby’s sensitive skin. Active minerals and ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide offer broad-spectrum SPF 50+ protection against harmful UV rays for your little ones, while leaving out potential toxins like oxybenzone and octinoxate in order to protect the planet’s endangered coral reefs. Your kids will love the Elmo-themed bottle, while you appreciate the 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance!

Naturally curious about budget options?

If you want an organic option, seek out natural ingredients. Many brands, even ones on a budget, now contain vitamins A, C, and E, as well as cocoa butter, green tea extracts, and more beneficial additions. That is great news for your skin because you’re not only getting the UV protection you need from these products, but also boosting moisture and possibly reducing fine lines, too.

Best cheap sunscreen: Two Peas Organics Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Family-Friendly Sun Protection

This affordable organic sunscreen is a one-stop shop for the whole family. Two Peas Organics

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With Two Peas Organics Mineral Sunscreen, you’re getting a lot for an affordable price. The combination of all plant-derived, certified organic ingredients with SPF 50 broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection makes this product a superior choice while remaining wallet-friendly for families on a budget. Two Peas is water- and sweat-resistant for up to 2 hours, plus it offers protection and peace of mind about what you’re applying to your child’s skin. Pro tip: This product contains zinc oxide, which helps to prevent sunburns, but it may require some extra time to rub in.

FAQs

Q: Can I use sunblock every day?

The short answer is yes, and dermatologists strongly suggest you do. UV rays can damage the skin on sunny or overcast days, so the best way to protect yourself is to wear sunblock. If you don’t want that traditionally sticky sunscreen feel on your skin every day, choose a product that is non-greasy, oil-free, and is absorbed like a moisturizer.

Q: Which SPF is best for your face?

Dermatologists recommend using an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of UVB rays. Recent research indicates that SPF higher than 50 will only offer marginally better protection; wearing one that is over 50 may even encourage you to stay out in the sun longer. The most important aspects of sunscreen application are how you apply it (liberally) and how often you wear it (follow directions on the bottle, but it should be daily).

Q: How long does sunscreen last?

The FDA requires sunscreens to keep their original strength for at least three years. Most sunscreen bottles will include an expiration date and should not be used past that date. Ingredients in sunscreen can go bad; you’ll know it’s time to toss it if the lotion has a watery consistency. 

Related: The best beach chairs for lounging by the pool or on the beach

The final word on shopping for the best sunscreen

No matter your skin type—oily, acne-prone, or sensitive—there is a best face sunscreen lotion or best spray sunscreen, etc. out there created specifically for your needs. No matter how active you are and what ingredients appeal to your sense of health and wellness, the best sunscreen will offer maximum protection against UV rays and won’t irritate your skin, nor will it break the bank. Now get out there, get vitamin D, and don’t forget to reapply!

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