Sunscreen is the most essential step in any skin care routine; but since so many tend to be heavy, greasy, and thick, it's also the step that people are the most inclined to skip. The solution is simple: invest in one of the best lightweight sunscreens, of course. With the right one, it'll feel like you're wearing nothing on your face at all.
But first, some expert tips on how to choose a good sunscreen in the first place. Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care in Beverly Hills, tells Bustle that you should always select a sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum,” meaning it helps block both UVA and UVB rays. Go for an SPF of at least 30, but she does note that the SPF number only reflects the UVB protection, not the UVA. “SPF 30 means that only 1/30 (~ 3%) of the UVB rays can reach the skin to cause damage," Dr. Shainhouse explains. Just something to keep in mind!
Then, there's the chemical versus physical (or mineral) sunscreen debate. Both are effective as sunscreen agents, and choosing between the two mainly comes down to skin type and formula preference. Chemical ingredients, like avobenzone, work to break down UV rays, while mineral ingredients, like zinc oxide, deflect and dissipate the rays. Mineral sunscreens are often the go-to choice for people with sensitive skin, since they don't sink into skin like chemical sunscreens do (instead, they basically act as a reflective shield), but they also tend to leave more of a white cast behind. This isn't always the case, though; there are some mineral sunscreens out there that blend in totally transparent. For people who are all about lightweight sunscreen formulas, you may find that chemical sunscreens are less heavy than their physical counterparts (but again, there are exceptions to this rule).
All sunscreens should be reapplied every two to three hours if you’re out in the sun, and more frequently if you sweat profusely or go swimming, Dr. Shainhouse says. And other sun-safe choices, including limiting your time in the sun, particularly during peak hours, and wearing hats and other protective clothing, are recommended, too.
Now that you're fully informed about how to practice safe sun, scroll on the shop six of the best lightweight sunscreens on the market right now.
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1. The Overall Best Lightweight Sunscreen (Face & Body)
This sunscreen from derm-favorite brand, EltaMD, can be used on both the face and body. It uses the mineral ingredient zinc oxide, as well as the chemical ingredient octinoxate, to provide UVA/UVB protection with an SPF of 45. What's more, the oil-free, fragrance-free formula won't aggravate breakouts or allergies if your skin is acne-prone or sensitive. Dry skin types might not find it moisturizing enough, but if your skin is on the oily or combination side, you might have just found your perfect sunscreen match.
Choose from two sizes: 3 ounces, if you plan on using it mostly on your face and neck, or 7 ounces, if you're going to use it all over your body as well.
2. The Best Budget Lightweight Sunscreen (Face & Body)
Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen is a drugstore classic (Dr. Shainhouse likes it, too). It's an affordable, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 100+, and like the EltaMD sunscreen, above, it can be used on both the face and body. In addition to offering a super high amount of sun protection, it was formulated to be noncomedogenic and non-greasy, thanks to its lightweight, mattifying formula. And though it's a white lotion, it has a sheer finish, so it won't leave your face looking chalky.
3. The Best Lightweight Face Sunscreen With SPF 30
For an elegant, face-specific sunscreen formula, you can't do much better than this Control Corrective Oil-Free Sunscreen. It's a moisturizer and sunscreen in one, but its silky, breathable formula is non-greasy and lightweight, making it a great choice for people who hate the feeling of thick, traditional facial sunscreens. Key ingredients include soothing aloe vera, moisturizing panthenol, and the humectant glycerin, in addition to the actives zinc oxide, octinoxate, and octisalate for sun protection. Most people should be able to use this fragrance-free sunscreen safely — even those with acne-prone or sensitive skin.
4. The Best Lightweight Face Sunscreen With SPF 50
Another great, moisturizing, lightweight sunscreen, this fan-favorite formula from Korean brand, Purito, offers a bit more sun protection with an SPF of 50+ PA++++. (PA ratings are used in Asian sun care products to reflect the amount of UVA rays against which the sunscreen protects, and PA++++ is the highest rating possible, making this sunscreen an extremely skin-safe choice). In addition to its lightweight, water-based formula (you'll find no oils here), people also love this fragrance-free sunscreen because of its skin-soothing abilities, courtesy of its hero ingredient, centella asiatica. Because of this, it's an excellent choice for people with dry and/or sensitive skin.
5. The Best Lightweight Sunscreen Lotion (Body)
With its delicious, tropical scent, affordable price tag, and SPF of 50, this Hawaiian Tropic AntiOxidant+ Sunscreen Lotion is the best beach companion around. Rich in good-for-skin antioxidants, the formula is lightweight and silky, so it won't make your skin feel greasy or suffocated. Keep in mind that this formula does contain fragrance, in case you have a known sensitivity to added scent. "It felt like applying a light lotion rather than a sunscreen," noted one reviewer.
6. The Best Lightweight Spray Sunscreen (Body)
Spray-on sunscreens can feel sticky or tacky, but Banana Boat Dry Balance feels super lightweight, thanks to its breathable, oil-absorbing formula. This means that it leaves skin looking matte and feeling fresh, as opposed to richer lotions that tend to make skin look and feel greasy.
Keep in mind that spray sunscreens are only effective when applied properly, Dr. Shainhouse notes. Hold the bottle 2 to 3 inches away from your skin and spray a stream onto one body part at a time. Then, be sure to rub the sunscreen in with your hands, and apply a second layer to ensure no spots were missed.
Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care.