13 of the Best Face Sunscreens to Try in 2022

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

01.27.22DISCLAIMER

The sun blesses us in many ways. UV rays help your body produce vitamin D, essential for your bones, blood cells, and immune system. However, when it comes to our skin, it can be less than friendly — this is why the best face sunscreens are so important.

Why is the best sunscreen for the face so vital? UV damage is one of the main, if not the leading, causes of premature aging and, obviously, skin cancer. It accelerates the formation of wrinkles, often forms dark spots that make us look older, roughs up texture, and degrades collagen and elastin to make skin more likely to wrinkle and sag. It’s also cumulative.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

The best sunblock for the face can be characterized as either a physical sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen and which one you choose depends on skin type, tone, and lifestyle habits — more on both in a bit.

Not sure how to choose a good face sunscreen to provide you with optimal protection while fitting into your current product regime? No problem. Here at Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare routine that’s safe and effective.

Sure, glowing tans are often coveted, but they also come at a price. Ahead, 13 of the best face sunscreens to effectively protect your skin from the sun — and premature aging.

Best Sunscreen for Face: The List

Carrot & Stick The Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, $48

SK-II Atmosphere Airy Light UV Emulsion SPF 30, $99

SkinCeuticals Ultimate UV Defense Daily Sunscreen for the Face SPF 30, $34

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Super Fluid Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+, $62

MD Solar Sciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF 50, $39

Dermalogica Pure Light Powerbright TRX SPF 50, $68

Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $68

PCA Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 45, $44

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Suntegrity SPF 30, $34

Clinique Pep-Start Daily UV Protector Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for Face SPF 50, $23

Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30, $19

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 60, $29.99

Elta MD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $36.50

Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $15.99

The Science Behind the Best Face Sunscreens

A good face sunscreen has a sun protection factor to help determine how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from damaging UV rays. There are two types of UV rays — UVB and UVA. UVB rays are shorter than UVA rays. They are the rays that cause the skin to burn and turn red. UVA rays are longer and are primarily responsible for degrading collagen and causing premature aging. 

It can sometimes be confusing to determine which amount of protection is ideal. The truth is, all face sunscreens block more than 90% of UV rays, and the differences between them are relatively negligible. Sun protection factor 15 blocks 93% of all UV rays, sun protection factor 30 blocks 97%, and a level 50 blocks 98%. 

Regardless of age, gender, or race, everyone should use a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. But most experts believe what’s in your sunscreen may be just as important as the level of protection. While a sun protection factor of 85 sounds appealing, higher numbers can be misleading.

Products with protection values greater than 50+ tend to give users a false sense of security. High-level sunscreens not only overpromise protection but, according to the Food and Drug Administration, may also overexpose consumers to UVA rays and raise their risk of cancer.

Physical Sunscreen VS Chemical Sunscreen

Before choosing the best sunscreen for your face, it’s essential to distinguish the difference between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. They both protect, albeit in contrasting ways.

 

Physical Sunscreen

  • Ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both mineral-based. 
  • Physical sunscreens work by sitting atop the skin’s surface and deflecting or scattering UV rays. 
  • They’re sometimes preferable because they are natural and may be less harmful in the long run (some chemical sunscreen ingredients are believed to be endocrine disruptors). 
  • They protect against both UVA and UVB rays and begin working right away — there’s no need to wait 15 minutes after application to let it sink in. 
  • Physical sunscreens are generally gentler on sensitive skin, have a longer shelf life, and are less likely to clog pores or cause breakouts. 
  • However, they don’t last as long as chemical sunscreens when skin gets wet during activity.

 

Chemical Sunscreen

  • Ingredients include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone. These elements work by absorbing UV rays and changing them into heat, then releasing that heat. 
  • Chemical sunscreens tend to be easier to apply than physical sunscreens due to their lighter consistency. 
  • They are also more likely to be water-proof and sweat-proof but may be irritating or pore-clogging. 
  • Chemical formulas feel much less greasy and won’t leave a white film behind.
  • Some research suggests chemical sunscreens may affect hormones, although more research is needed to fully determine whether this is true. 

How to Choose the Best Sunblock for the Face

It depends on your skin type and tone when it comes to figuring out which is the best sunblock for your face. 

  • Normal to Dry Skin: Look for a physical sunscreen for the face with moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or ceramides.
  • Oily or Acne-Prone Skin: The best face sunscreen for oily skin (or acneic) is oil-free, mineral-based, and (or) non-comedogenic. 
  • Sensitive Skin: A good face sunscreen for those with sensitive skin is formulated with zinc oxide or titanium oxide. 
  • Dark Skin: Avoid mineral sunscreen for the face because it leaves a whitish cast that can make darker skin look gray. However, if chemical sunscreens make you break out, opt for a tinted mineral formula that blends into the skin more naturally. 

 

Face Sunscreen Tips

  • Layer your face sunscreen over your moisturizer, but wait approximately three minutes between applications, so your moisturizer has a chance to penetrate your skin. 
  • How much sunscreen to use on the face? Approximately ⅓ to ½ a teaspoon for the face and neck — about the size of a kidney bean.  
  • In general, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours for consistent protection. However, if you’re sweating or swimming, you need to apply more often. If you’re not participating in any activities and are wearing makeup, opt for a mineral face powder with a sun protection factor to keep up with the reapplication process. 

However, see our FAQ section below for more on this topic. 

  • Consider using a more potent sun protection factor if you’re using retinol or a prescription skincare product such as an acne medication. 
  • When choosing a good face sunscreen, skip spray and stick formulas as your first form of application because it can be hard to master perfect coverage — but you can utilize them for reapplication throughout the day, as with the aforementioned mineral powders. 

Best Face Sunscreens

Carrot & Stick The Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, $48
Derived from and formulated with mineral sunscreen; there are no harsh chemicals that can harm the skin and environment, including our oceans.

SK-II Atmosphere Airy Light UV Emulsion SPF 30, $99
SK-II’s super light formula won’t leave you feeling greasy or oily. Yet, it contains numerous moisturizing and anti-aging ingredients (think niacinamide) to boost the protection factor while softening the skin.

While it combines chemical and physical (mineral) ingredients for broad protection, keep in mind that one of the additives, homosalate, has been associated with hormone disruption. However, homosalate is approved worldwide. The U.S. FDA approves usage levels up to 15%.

SkinCeuticals Ultimate UV Defense SPF 30, $34
This nourishing, moisturizing, oil- and fragrance-free sunscreen from SkinCeuticals is ideal for all skin types — especially oily and sensitive. Active mineral and chemical sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide and octinoxate, which work synergistically to protect against UVA and UVB rays.

This formulation is also oil and fragrance-free, making it safe for oily and sensitive skin types. Despite its thick and luxurious texture, it absorbs quickly without leaving any white residue or greasy feel.

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Super Fluid Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+, $62
Kiehl’s popular lightweight sunscreen for the face provides a matte finish. The main ingredients in this chemical sunscreen are avobenzone and oxybenzone. It also contains baicalin and vitamin E to provide antioxidant protection. Baicalin is a Scutellaria root extract often used in Chinese medicine to scavenge free radicals.

MD Solar Sciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF 50, $39
This oil-free physical sunscreen is formulated with 2% titanium dioxide and 17% zinc oxide for maximum protection, yet it won’t leave behind a white residue. Various ceramides help strengthen the lipid barrier to help keep the skin safe and protected from pollutants and irritants that cause such side effects as redness, itchiness, irritation, and dryness. 

Dermalogica Pure Light Powerbright TRX SPF 50, $68
Dermalogica’s popular face sunscreen contains a variety of botanicals, including eucalyptus, to provide hydration and sodium hyaluronate to lock in moisture and keep skin looking plump and youthful. It’s specifically formulated to protect from the type of UV light that creates discoloration and is ideal for those prone to the condition. Oleosome technology helps give a significant boost to provide more excellent protection.

Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $68
This physical sunscreen protects against several types of environmental aggressors in addition to UV light. It’s also formulated to shield skin from pollution and smoke. 

The brand’s proprietary DNA Enzyme Complex fortifies the skin to make it less susceptible to pollutants. At the same time, a potent antioxidant blend (including green tea and ferulic acid) scavenges free radicals to reduce further damage. Are you dealing with discoloration from previous sun damage? The addition of ferulic acid helps brighten and minimize discoloration.

PCA Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 45, $44
Awarded the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation, this sunscreen is light and quickly absorbs the skin for a seamless finish. 

It’s a physical and chemical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and octinoxate to provide broad-spectrum protection. It also includes antioxidants, caffeine, and silybin (milk thistle). Both are powerful free radical scavengers that prevent and help treat UV damage that degrades the skin matrix.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Suntegrity SPF 30, $34
This zinc oxide formulated sunscreen from Drunk Elephant is also chock full of antioxidants. Grape juice extract, sunflower shoot extract, and astaxanthin shield from free radicals and other environmental stressors brought on by pollution. Despite being a physical sunscreen, this formulation will not leave any film or a chalky appearance. It’s also free of fragrances and essential oils —  which can be potentially irritating — making it a good choice for those with a sensitive skin type.

Clinique Pep-Start Daily UV Protector Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for Face SPF 50, $23
This sunscreen meets tint protects while giving the skin a hint of color to help even out all skin tones. This 100% physical formula feels weightless and blends well with makeup. It also contains hydrolyzed wheat protein to help moisturize the skin and provide a plumping effect.

Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30, $19
The Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Correcting Treatment is a green-to-beige color-correcting treatment that corrects redness and helps protect skin from environmental aggressors. It provides SPF 30 protection from UV light, and it forms a dust barrier to protect the skin from the environment while enhancing the skin’s viability. 

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50, $29.99
This light, matte formula quickly absorbs into the skin, making it an ideal makeup base and an effective moisturizer and sun protectant. It’s also chock-full of free radical-fighting antioxidants to help battle the signs of skin aging, including fine lines and discoloration. 

Elta MD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $36.50
Suitable for all skin types (even sensitive), this two-in-one formula contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (a broad spectrum of 44) to provide superior sun protection and hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate and soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. To top it all off, It has a flattering natural tint.

Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $15.99
Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen is the brand’s best-selling oil-free sunscreen for acne-prone skin. It’s formulated with Neutrogena’s Helioplex Technology, meaning it provides a breadth of stabilized sunscreen technologies specifically engineered to deliver broad-spectrum, superior protection from UVA/UVB damage. This liquid sunscreen lotion has a water-light texture that leaves a weightless, matte finish so the skin can breathe.

Best Sunscreen for Face: The Bottom Line

What’s the Best Sunscreen for the face? Overall, we suggest Carrot & Stick The Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, $48.

A good face sunscreen has a sun protection factor to help determine how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from damaging UV rays. It can sometimes be confusing to decide which amount of protection is ideal.

The truth is, all face sunscreens block more than 90% of UV rays, and the differences between them are relatively negligible. Sun protection factor 15 blocks 93% of all UV rays, sun protection factor 30 blocks 97%, and a level 50 blocks 98%.

Regardless of age, gender, or race, everyone should use a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. But most experts believe what’s in your sunscreen may be just as important as the level of protection. While a sun protection factor of 85 sounds appealing, higher numbers can be misleading.

When it comes to figuring out which is the best sunblock for your face — physical or chemical —  it depends on your skin type and tone.

 

FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about face sunscreens.

While ample coverage is essential (especially when sweating or swimming), you really don’t have to reapply your face sunscreen every two hours. Sunscreen effectiveness wears off due to the direct exposure to daylight and activity — not the passage of time — so you have to be mindful of your activity level and time spent in the sun.
  • Oxybenzone, known as benzophenone-3, is a potential hormone disruptor.
  • Avobenzone, also a benzophenone.
  • Homosalate, another hormone disruptor.
  • Octinoxate, known as octyl methoxycinnamate, is a potential hormone and endocrine disruptor.
  • Octocrylene.
  • Octisalate because it stabilizes avobenzone.
Though sunscreen will reduce your ability to tan, you’ll still get some degree of color. If you’re thinking about skipping it, remember that you’re still better off wearing face sunscreen to avoid the harmful side effects of UVA rays. If you really want a bit of color, there are copious at-home self-tanners or professional services that can provide you with a healthy (and realistic-looking) glow.
Wearing sunscreen is one of the best (and easiest) ways to protect your skin’s health at any age. When used regularly (daily), sunscreen helps prevent sunburn, discoloration, skin cancer, and premature aging.
Most dermatologists believe the sweet spot is a level of 30, which blocks about 97 percent of UVB rays. The American Dermatology Association also recommends a sun protection factor of 30 or higher.

Sources:
How Much SPF Do You Really Need?,” Northwestern Medicine.
The Trouble with SPF,” EWG.org.

  • User Original review: Jul 28, 2020. Reply

    Here is another list of best sunscreens moisturisers.

    Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart SPF 50
    This is a mineral moisturizer with SPF (containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) that also protects against pollution to strengthen skin and make it even more prepared against pollutants like smoke. Antioxidants in this formula like ferulic acid, green tea and idebenone, which help neutralize free radicals, protect against collagen degradation to keep skin youthful and perky. This formula also has a universal tint to complement all skin types and help even out skin tone for a flawless finish.

    Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion
    This is a great moisturizer with SPF that becomes even more effective when exposed to water, so if you happen to be engaging in water-based activities, you can rest assured this moisturizer will continue working. This is a non-sticky and non-greasy formula that includes hydrating ingredients like glycerin and botanical extracts like strawberry begonia and sophora angustifolia. Glycerin is an emollient that helps skin retain moisture while strawberry begonia and sophora angustifolia act as skin conditioning agents to provide hydration and softness. Sophora angustifolia has also been shown in studies to be effective against hyperpigmentation.

    Differin Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30
    A great day cream with SPF for oily skin, Differin’s Oil Control Moisturizer hydrates and protects while being lightweight and very gentle. It also won’t clog pores and can be used with Different anti-acne products as well. A chemical sunscreen with protective ingredients of avobenzone, octisalate and octocrylene, this formula also contains hydrating ingredients of glycerin and panthenol (vitamin B5). Panthenol is well-researched and known for its ability to significantly reduce water loss to keep skin deeply hydrated.

    NeoCutis Journee Bio-Restorative Day Cream
    A combination of hyaluronic acid and powerful antioxidants make this face moisturizer with SPF 30 a great choice. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring substance that helps plump up wrinkles and fine lines to make them less noticeable to the eye. Antioxidants, including green tea extract and vitamins C and E (which work better together), help fight off free radicals to prevent collagen and elastin degradation. Collagen and elastin are two proteins that keep skin firm and bouncy. Vitamin C can also help reduce the appearance of sun spots that can make skin look dull and uneven.

    La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60
    Featuring a lightweight, non-greasy texture, La Roche-Posay’s Melt-In Sunscreen Milk is highly protective and highly hydrating. With an SPF of 60, it is sure to protect you adequately from UV rays, while a powerful antioxidant complex (that includes vitamin E) scavenges free radicals to ensure no deleterious effects from oxidative stress (an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals). This is a fast-absorbing moisturizer that is ideal for sensitive skin and will leave skin looking and feeling dewy fresh.

    Eve Lom Daily Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen
    This one doesn’t come cheap, but you may find it’s worth the splurge. Quickly absorbing and lightweight, it won’t leave behind a chalky residue. Key ingredients include niacinamide (vitamin B3), which improves elasticity, helping skin become less prone to wrinkling. Niaicnamide further improves the appearance of hyperpigmentation, fading sun spots or discoloration left from old acne scars. This can help with evening out skin tone for a more radiant complexion. The lactic acid in this formula also gently exfoliates to boost cell turnover and reveal newer, healthier skin cells.

    Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture With SPF35 Sunscreen
    A drugstore brand, Neutrogena is often at the top of dermatologist’s recommended products. This is a very affordable product that will nonetheless provide protection and hydration in equal measure (avobenzone, octisalate and glycerin are among the top active ingredients). For those with oily skin who are prone to breakouts, this is a godsend, as it provides moisture, protects from sun damage and reduces redness without clogging pores. This drugstore moisturizer with SPF also doesn’t contain drying alcohol to further help reduce moisture loss.

    Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen With Cellular Response Technology
    Supergoop is known as a sunscreen brand, and this product is firstly a sunscreen, but one which boasts impressive hydrating benefits. It contains panthenol and allantoin, two known hydrating ingredients. Allantoin is also a very gentle, non-irritating moisturizer that soothes as it quenches skin thirst. It is great for sensitive skin because of these characteristics. Some botanical extracts, like orange peel oil and lemon peel oil, in this formula further help provide antioxidant protection. Citrus ingredients can also help with fading discoloration because they contain vitamin C.

    Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47
    If you’re looking for an all-natural moisturizer with SPF, Josie Maran’s formula is the one for you. This SPF moisturizer obviously relies on mineral sunscreens titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as opposed to chemical sunscreens. As the name suggests, this formula contains hydrating argan oil to provide moisture and skin conditioning benefits. Jojoba seed oil also helps to condition and smooth, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, while green tea extract provides antioxidant help to scavenge free radicals and reduce the damage caused by them. With regular use, skin is left feeling soft and looking luminous.

    First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30
    If you’d like a tinted moisturizer with SPF, try this one by First Aid Beauty. Available in six shades, it helps cover up any imperfections while also offering continued protection against sun damage and providing hydration thanks to ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Other active ingredients include colloidal oatmeal to help soothe and calm dry skin, vitamin E to provide antioxidant protection against free radicals and micro-pearls with light-reflecting qualities that impart a beautiful luminosity to skin. This formula is also free of mineral oil, parabens, artificial colors and fragrance, formaldehydes, alcohol and sulfates.

    EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
    Largely considered among the best mineral moisturizers with SPF, the EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum lotion comes highly recommended by dermatologists. It’s especially great for those suffering from acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation. Another perk is that this formula is extremely lightweight, fast-absorbing and feels quite silky on skin. Active ingredients include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and lactic acid. Hyaluronic acid and niacinamide provide the bulk of the hydration, while lactic acid is gently exfoliating to help refine texture. The lactic acid likely also aids in helping to combat acne.

    SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50
    This is an ultra-sheer mineral moisturizer with SPF. Though it contains mineral ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (which are usually responsible for leaving behind that unwanted white film), it is transparent and goes on silky smooth. Another key ingredient is artemia salina, which is a plankton extract that actually boosts skin’s resistance to UV light and heat-induced stress. Other ingredients include magnesium sulfate (which acts as an inflammatory) and tocopherol (vitamin E) to provide antioxidant protection. This is also paraben-free and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores).

    ColoreScience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF
    If you hate reapplying cream-based sunscreen every two hours, you can use a mineral sunscreen brush instead to dust on some SPF throughout the day. Though it’s a powder, it still moisturizes thanks to hyaluronic acid powder that works by drawing moisture into the skin from the environment and from deeper in the dermis. This sunscreen also boasts antioxidant protection thanks to green tea extract, grape seed extract and oak wood extract. Moreover, you can enjoy blue light protection thanks to the iron oxides in this formula. Blue light is the light emitted by our phone screens and computers that also has deleterious effects on skin.

    Avene SPF 50+ Mineral Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion
    This moisturizer with SPF provides up to eight hours of hydration as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide sun protection. It is great for skin prone to irritation from chemical sunscreens, and has a lovely milky texture that applies easily and absorbs quickly. A key ingredient for moisturization is glycerin, which acts as a humectant to help skin retain moisture, and is often a top ingredient in many moisturizers. Vitamin E, as previously mentioned, acts as an antixodiant. Meanwhile, Avene thermal spring water helps to soothe, calm and soften.

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