No matter what your skin type is, there is one product that we can all agree that we need to be wearing year round: Sunscreen. But the sunscreen aisle at any local drugstore may feel like a hot mess of bright packaging and tropical odors, and it's pretty tempting to pick the one with the cutest, beachiest name and call it a day. As it turns out, though, all sunscreens are not created equal, even those that boast the same SPF. So how are you supposed to know which one, exactly, to use? For help on how to see past the coconut-scented branding, I consulted six dermatologists about which sunscreens they recommend.
In general, there are two different types of sunscreen: Chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun's rays, while physical sunscreens — which are usually thick and opaque, like zinc — work by blocking them. For your face especially, physical sunscreen is usually the better choice (for all seven of the products listed below, only one is a chemical sunscreen) because it protects you from all of the different types of harmful solar rays.
With that in mind, here are seven dermatologist-approved sunscreens for you to add to your daily skincare routine.
1. Blue Lizard
"I love Blue Lizard," says Dr. Nava Greenfield of Schwieger Dermatology Group. "A fragrance-free sunscreen that uses a physical blocker to protect against broad spectrum UVA and UVB sunlight, Blue Lizard is made in Australia where they take sun protection very seriously! Impressively, it comes in a bottle that changes color when exposed to UV rays so you will know when protection is important. Although thick at first, the cream rubs in very smoothly and does not leave a pasty residue behind. This cream is also great for sensitive skin which makes it a great choice for most people!"
"When choosing a sunscreen it is important to choose one with UVA and UVB coverage as this protects against aging as well as sun damage that can lead to skin cancer," says Dr. Michele J. Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group. "I recommend EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, as this covers both types of UV rays and is also gentle on sensitive skin. It is non-comedogenic, or will not clog pores, and it has niacinamide which helps with redness in more rosacea-prone skin."
"For the day to day, the best sunscreens are the ones that are easiest to apply and reapply seamlessly throughout the day," says Dr. Shereene Idriss of Wexler Dermatology. "My personal favorite is the Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-on Sunscreen with SPF 50. Its a mineral-based SPF and therefore works better to protect your skin as a physical blocker, versus the dreaded chemical sunscreens that can be irritating. Plus, it comes in a variety of shades to match your skin tone, and doesn't cake throughout the day."
"It's not sticky or stinky!" says Dr. Cheung. "And as a chemical blocker, it has Helioplex for more sun-stability"
6. ZO Skincare
"It is critical that, even if your skin feels dry or acneic, or sensitive, that you use a sunscreen every day," says Dr. Zein Obagi. "I like ZO sunscreen like ZO Medical Oclipse-C™ Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50. It will protect against not just the elements but also those indoor lights as well. Plus, it’s a physical sunscreen so it’s non-irritating if you do have compromised skin."
"One of my favorite sunscreens is actually the NEW Dr. Brandt Multi-Performance Stick," says Dr. Whitney Bowe. "It’s a 5-in-1 product, formulated with SPF 45 to block damaging UVA and UVB rays. It also blurs pores and fine lines, hydrates and locks in moisture, evens out skin tone and visibly re-texturizes skin to create a smooth and seamless finish. I love that I can throw it in my bag and take it with me on the go."
If you're still looking for more advice on how to pick the best sunscreen for you, check out these tips from dermatologists.