woman applying sunscreen to face

These Facial Sunscreens Will Change Everything You Know About the Category

Experts share their top picks to keep your skin protected.
By Faith Cummings
March 19, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

There's no denying that applying sunscreen should be a crucial step in your skin care routine, and that's true whether you're spending time outdoors or sitting in front of a screen all day. Luckily, beauty brands have made serious innovations when it comes to SPF. Long gone is the white cast that would deter even the most sun-conscious beauty lover from wanting to apply their daily helping of sunscreen and the formulations are no longer thick and greasy which can clog pores. Today's offerings are plentiful, infused with skin-loving ingredients and are light enough to wear under makeup. No matter your skin type or need, there's bound to be a facial sunscreen on the market that will work or you.

Before you make your purchase, make sure that you select a sunscreen for the face that has at least SPF 30. You should also think about whether you'd prefer a chemical or physical sunscreen: The former is gets absorbed by the skin and works to soak up the sun's UV light while the latter provides a shield-like function between the sun and your skin. So, which facial sunscreen to choose? We tapped skincare experts for their picks on the best products available.

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Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 tube
Credit: Courtesy of Black Girl Sunscreen

Cast-Free

Women of color have been on the hunt for sunscreen that leaves no cast for years, and this one has emerged as a cult favorite. Its combination of UVA- and UVB-absorbing ingredients helps deliver invisible protection, as opposed to the zinc oxide and titanium oxide that exists in formulations that leave a cast. "This face sunscreen is Black-owned, leaves absolutely no cast, and delivers a very pretty glow on the skin," says Tiara Willis, esthetician and Makeup for WOC founder.

Shop Now: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30, $18.99, blackgirlsunscreen.com.

tube of Image Skincare Prevention+ Daily Ultimate Protection Moisturiz
Credit: Courtesy of Image Skincare

A Hybrid Option

"Sun protection formulation has evolved so much that hybrid face sunscreens are becoming more common," says Heyday skin therapist Bryan Cortes. This product falls into that category, offering broad spectrum protection against UVA, UVB radiation, and blue light, as well as SPF 50+. "Best of all, it doubles as a moisturizer, making your skin care routine one step shorter."

Shop Now: Image Skincare Prevention+ Daily Ultimate Protection Moisturizer, $44, imageskincare.com.

Dermalogica Age Smart Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF 50 bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Dermstore

The Luxe Choice

Ask Chillhouse lead esthetician Tomás Glenn, and he'll tell you that this luxe facial sunscreens is among the best. "This formulation is ideal for dry, normal, and combo skin types and perfect for skin tones across the board as it doesn't leave an ashy, chalky film," he says. "It's supremely nourishing and offers broad spectrum coverage to protect against skin aging and burning."

Shop Now: Dermalogica Age Smart Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF 50, $75, dermstore.com.

Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream with SPF 30 bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Josh Rosebrook

One That Doubles as a Day Cream

A dual-action moisturizing day cream and broad-spectrum sunscreen, this product will get tons of use in your routine. "This is a 12 percent zinc oxide-based mineral face sunscreen that is so lightweight yet hydrating without causing irritation," says esthetician and Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon.

Shop Now: Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream with SPF 30, $50, joshrosebrook.com.

Paula's Choice Skincare Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 tube
Credit: Courtesy of Dermstore

Great for Summer

Long gone are the days of sunscreen with this just SPF, as brands now understand the importance of infusing their sun protection products with skin-loving ingredients. This one is perfect for those sensitive skin and is full of antioxidants. "It's great for those hot summer days and for those who have oily skin," says Willis.

Shop Now: Paula's Choice Skincare "RESIST" Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50, $28.05, dermstore.com.

Supergoop! Sunscreen SPF 40 tube
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

The Cult Favorite

"This is perfect for all skin types especially combination, oily, or breakout-prone skin looking for a lightweight alternative to a heavy SPF cream," says Heyday skin therapist Elle Ng. This gel-based SPF formulation is gentle, oil-free, reef-safe, weightless, leaves no white cast, and protects against blue light.

Shop Now: Supergoop! "Unseen" Sunscreen SPF 40, $34, sephora.com.

bottle of Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46
Credit: Courtesy of Dermstore

The Industry Fave

"This was the first face sunscreen I purchased and it's a beauty industry classic," says Glenn. This sunscreen features hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, and niacinamide which boost moisture retention and will deliver that quintessential glow so many of us are searching for.

Shop Now: Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46, $36, dermstore.com.

Rootree UV Sun Shield tube
Credit: Courtesy of Peach and Lily

The Korean Beauty Game-Changer

The hero ingredient of this face sunscreen is the calming Korean Dendropanax plant. Yoon describes the product as "weightless on skin" and its result leaves your skin "supple and soothed."

Shop Now: Rootree "Mobitherapy" UV Sun Shield, $23, peachandlily.com.

garnier Green Labs Canna-B Pore Perfecting Serum Cream Fragrance Free SPF 30 bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

The Drugstore Pick

Accessibility and affordability matter and this face sunscreen can be found right at your local drugstore. "The addition of niacinamide is great for reducing excess oil production and brightening your skin," says Willis.

Shop Now: Garnier Green Labs "Canna-B" Pore Perfecting Serum Cream, $21.99, ulta.com.

PCA Skin Weightless Protection Broad Spectrium SPF 45 tube
Credit: Courtesy of Dermstore

Weightless + Broad Spectrum

"According to the FDA, your skin doesn't experience any continued protection above SPF 50," Kerry Benjamin, an esthetician and StackedSkincare founder and CEO, explains. Thus, you should be looking for a face sunscreen somewhere between SPF 30 and 50, which you should plan on reapplying every two hours that you're exposed to the sun. "This product is broad spectrum, which is super important as you need to protect against both UVA and UV."

Shop Now: PCA Skin Weightless Protection Broad Spectrium SPF 45, $44, dermstore.com.

SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 35 bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Skinstore

For Sensitive Skin

This sheer, mineral face sunscreen is just the shield for sensitive skin as it was developed for post-procedure patients. According to Yoon, "This broad spectrum SPF 35 looks and feels invisible."

Shop Now: SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 35, $38, skinstore.com.

SUNTIQUE Sunscreen tube
Credit: Courtesy of Soko Glam

Mineral + Cast-Free

Finding a mineral face sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast is difficult, but Willis says this is among her favorites. "It doesn't have a super thick feel like a lot of other mineral sunscreens," she states.

Shop Now: SUNTIQUE "I'm Safe for Sensitive Skin" Sunscreen, $24, sokoglam.com.

Supergoop 100 Percent Mineral Powder SPF 35 brush
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

SPF in Powder Form

Not to be ignored are sunscreens in powder form. Yoon suggests this product "for anyone looking for one to wear over makeup as they reapply through the day."

Shop Now: Supergoop! "(Re)Setting" 100 Percent Mineral Powder SPF 35 PA+++, 30, sephora.com.

Krave Beauty The Beet Shield Sunscreen bottle
Credit: Courtesy of Krave Beauty

For Year-Round Wear

Many of your beauty products will switch in and out based on the season, but not this product. "This is a lightweight face sunscreen rich in antioxidants that I love to use all year round," says Willis.

Shop Now: Krave Beauty "The Beet Shield" Sunscreen, $20, kravebeauty.com.

tube of Dermalogica Age Smart Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF 50
Credit: Courtesy of Dermstore

The Experts' Top Pick

Several of the skin experts recommend this sunscreen, including Heyday skin therapist Nicole Nizza who says, "I really love this product and find it works perfectly for so many different skin types."

Shop Now: Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF 30, $36, dermstore.com.

Avéne Mineral Tinted Compact SPF 50 in Beige
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Mineral Tinted Compact

For a face sunscreen that's built into your makeup routine, Dr. Kavtia Mariwalla, a board-certified dermatologist, recommends this compact but powerful product. "Haute Protection Mineral Tinted Compact SPF 50 is 100 percent mineral sunscreen in a light, non-greasy, cream-to-powder formula. It is enriched with a powerful antioxidant and provides broad spectrum SPF 50 UVA/UVB protection," she says.

Shop Now: Avéne Mineral Tinted Compact SPF 50 in Beige, $36, ulta.com.

La RocLa Roche Posay 50 Mineral Ultra Light Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 50he Posa 50 Mineral Ultra Light Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 50
Credit: Courtesy of Target

A Dash of Coverage

A slightly tinted and easy to wear option, this face sunscreen "is formulated with exclusive Cell-Ox Shield® Technology: UVA/UVB Protection + Antioxidants and provides 100 percent Mineral Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 protection in an ultra-light, fast-absorbing texture with light tint for a healthy glow," says Dr. Mariwalla.

Shop Now: La Roche Posay "Anthelios" 50 Mineral Ultra Light Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 50, target.com.

Black Girl Sunscreen Make it Matte Sunscreen tube
Credit: Courtesy of Black Girl Sunscreen

Make It Matte

Matte sunscreens exist, and this one is at the top of the list. "Black Girl Sunscreen Make It Matte is a broad-spectrum SPF 45 specifically crafted for women of color with a formula infused with natural ingredients such as aloe, squalene, and shea butter that help moisturize, soothe and heal your skin," explains Dr. Mariwalla.

Shop Now: Black Girl Sunscreen "Make it Matte" Sunscreen, $21.99, blackgirlsunscreen.com.

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch Face Sunscreen SPF 50 tube
Credit: Courtesy of Walgreens

Zinc-Filled

There's a reason why zinc has been a go-to sunscreen ingredient for generations. "[This] features a naturally sourced 100 percent zinc oxide sunscreen formula that offers superior broad-spectrum protection against burning UVB and aging UVA rays," says Dr. Mariwalla.

Shop Now: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch Face Sunscreen SPF 50, $10.99, walgreens.com.

The Sunscreen Company Ava Isa Sun-E-Serum Drops SPF 35
Credit: Courtesy of The Sunscreen Company

Sunscreen Drops

Sunscreen can also be nutrient-rich. "Ava Isa Sun-è-Serum Drops SPF 35 is a mineral sunscreen powered with 25 percent zinc oxide and potent antioxidant Micah proven to reduce the negative effects of blue light," says Dr. Mariwalla.

Shop Now: The Sunscreen Company "Ava Isa Sun-E-Serum" Drops SPF 35, $50, thesunscreencompany.com.