How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Skin Type, According to a Dermatologist

Protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays with these fantastic sunscreens for your face and body. Plus, a dermatologist tells us which sunscreens are best for each skin type.

By Carly Milne, Marenah Dobin, Kristine Fellizar Mar 11, 2022 10:30 PMTags
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It's time to say goodbye to winter and say hello to spring. With the weather getting much nicer, many of us will be spending a lot more time outdoors. So if you haven't shopped for sunscreen in a while, now's the perfect time to do so. But before you run out to Target or click Buy Now on the cheapest option on Amazon, it's important to know which sunscreen is actually right for your skin type.

As cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Michele Green, MD told E! News, most people buy sunscreens without realizing they're not created equal. "This can mean you're not getting a sunscreen that's optimal for your skin type and/or you're purchasing a sunscreen that doesn't provide the best coverage," she said. 

There are a couple of common mistakes people typically make when purchasing sunscreen. For instance, anything under SPF 30 isn't going to be as effective at protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays than anything higher. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology "strongly recommends" using sunscreens that have an SPF of 30 or more. Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen like Supergoop!'s Unseen Sunscreen, will also help to protect against both harmful UVA and UVB rays that contribute to skin damage and skin cancer.  

Another major mistake people make is purchasing the wrong sunscreen for their skin type, as certain ingredients are better for some skin types over others. 

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How do you choose the best sunscreen for your skin type?

It really comes down to reading labels. "You can have sensitive, dry, oily, or acne-prone skin, and your choice of sunscreen can make it better or worse," Dr. Green said. If you take the time to learn about your skin's needs and the products you're interested in, you'll feel good about the sunscreen you're putting on your face. 

Which sunscreens are best for each skin type and skin tone? 

If you have dry skin, look for sunscreens that contain glycerin, lanolin, oils, dimethicone, hyaluronic acid, and/or ceramides. According to Dr. Green, all of these ingredients are great moisturizers and will lock-in moisture, especially in warmer weather. These ingredients will also help maintain the skin's pH balance and can help with eczema-prone skin. However, you should try to avoid any sunscreens that contain alcohol as it can dry out your skin and cause irritation.

If you have sensitive skin, look for products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free to avoid triggering any allergies or skin irritations. Mineral sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are usually good options. Other chemical sunscreen options should be avoided since these are more likely to cause adverse effects like burning, stinging, and red itchy bumps. You may want to avoid any sunscreens with alcohol and preservatives as well since these ingredients can cause skin irritation. 

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, stick to matte sunscreens. Matte and even water-based sunscreens can help to keep excess oil under control and ensure your makeup doesn't come off. Also look for sunscreens that state they're non-comedogenic, which means they won't clog your pores and cause breakouts.

If you have a dark skin tone, opt for chemical sunscreens over mineral ones, which are more likely to leave a visible white cast. 

Now that you know which ingredients are best for your skin, we've rounded up some of the best sunscreen options out there right now. Check those out below. 

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Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

Vegan, cruelty-free, reef-safe, and gluten-free, this unique gel formula is weightless, scentless, and totally invisible. In addition to offering sun protection with broad spectrum SPF 40, it also protects from blue light, preps your skin for makeup, and increases hydration to give your skin a more even texture.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sunscreen SPF 50

Glow Recipe's Watermelon Glow Sunscreen is a multipurpose product that not only protects the skin from the sun, it also reduces the appearance of blemishes, dark spots and winkles. If you're familiar with the other products in this line, this sunscreen also has the yummy light watermelon scent.

Innisfree UV SPF 36 Sunscreen

This water-based sunscreen from Innisfree is made with a blend of green tea, cica and sunflower seed oil so you'll get extra benefits while your skin is being protected. According to one Amazon reviewer, it works like a dream.

Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Tinted Face BB Cream SPF 50

Australian Gold's top-rated tinted mineral sunscreen will protect your skin from harmful UV rays while improving the overall look. According to Amazon reviewers, it doesn't cause breakouts on sensitive skin and it's long-lasting.

Laneige Hydro UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Laneige's Hydro UV Defense Sunscreen is a lightweight sunscreen that was formulated to protect your skin while keeping it hydrated. It features ingredients like centella asiatica, which soothes the skin, and hydro ionized mineral water to help retain moisture. According to Sephora reviews, it's a good option for acne prone dry skin and it also smells really nice. 

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

Pretty much everything Drunk Elephant has to offer is amazing, and this sheer sunscreen is no exception. It's a lightweight cream that melts into skin for sheer coverage, offering powerful broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection that helps prevent free radical and oxidative damage. It's also free of numerous irritants, like essential oils, silicones and fragrance.

Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 PA+++

Want a more matte look while you're protecting yourself from the sun? Then this is the sunscreen for you. While doubling as a primer, his lightweight mineral sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection from UVA and UVB rays. It also features skin-loving ingredients such as silk extract for smooth skin, Japanese wild rose to minimize pores, and loquat leaf extract for extra protection.

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 PA +++

This 100% non-nano zinc SPF 30 sunscreen protects and hydrates even the most sensitive skin in a lightweight lotion that blends in without a trace. Not only is it fast-absorbing to the point of invisibility, it's also vegan, cruelty-free, reef-safe, and gluten-free, and comes in recyclable packaging.

Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen

Another awesome invisible broad-spectrum SPF 30 mineral sunscreen, this one from Farmacy is a non-greasy lightweight lotion that features marigold, and black chokeberry, antioxidants known to help guard against pollution and blue light. Plus, it's cruelty-free and gluten-free.

Coola Full Spectrum 360° Sun Silk Drops Organic Sunscreen SPF 30

Sunscreen in a serum? It's a thing! Featuring Coola's Full Spectrum 360° Complex, this serum is designed to defend from damage from exposure to blue light, infrared, and pollution. It's traceless, blends into all skin tones and types, and it's vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free, and comes in recyclable packaging.

Coola Classic Face Sunscreen SPF 50 White Tea

When you're breaking a sweat in the summer sun, you want a sunscreen that will last... and this one is the one. It's light and non-greasy with sheer coverage, and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. And not only is it organic, it offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen protection using plant-derived ingredients, effectively bringing the farm to your face. If you buy one at Amazon, you'll get a second one or 50% off.

Ren Clean Skincare Clean Screen Mattifying Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Another mattifying option for those looking for a less dewy complexion and oil management, this cream from Ren features non-nano naturally derived zinc oxide for broad spectrum protection. Plus, skin's natural free-radical defense system is supported by antioxidant passion fruit extract, while rice starch helps to mattify and keep your sunscreen where you apply it. And it's super clean and green... the list of ingredients it doesn't have is longer than the list of what it does!

Coola Mineral Body Organic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 Tropical Coconut

Channel the tropics with this coconut-scented mineral lotion, offering sheer reef-safe protection with SPF 30 coverage. The formulation is designed to help disperse non-nano minerals evenly, with zinc-oxide protection and antioxidant-rich Plant Protection to help fight free-radical damage, nourish, and support the skin barrier.

Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation

At first glance, you might look at this sunscreen and think, "But it's a foundation!" It's actually a clean, tinted mineral SPF 40 serum with light, dewy coverage in a vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free and recyclable package. Fusing makeup, skincare and sun protection into one innovative product, this serum is weightless, safely shields your skin from UVA, UVB, UVC, blue light, and infrared light, and even hydrates as it protects you.

Supergoop! Lipscreen SPF 40

Make sure your lips get some sunscreen love, too! This luxurious yet powerful broad spectrum SPF topcoat transforms any lip color into a UV shield, with SPF 40 protection. It also hydrates and defends against dehydration and photoaging, imparting a soft shine and water-resistant finish.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46

We love the EltaMD UV Clear sunscreen because it won't cause break out and it doesn't leave an unsightly white-cast. It has 16,000+ 5-star reviews from satisfied Amazon shoppers.

 

Kylie Skin Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

The broad spectrum sunscreen from Kylie Skin has Vitamins A, C, and E for hydration that feels light on your skin without that greasy feeling from other sunscreens. The formula is silky soft, creating the perfect canvas for an even makeup application.

Colorscience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 30

This is the only powder sunscreen recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for active use. It has a brush attached for easy application over makeup or on bare skin. It even helps set makeup and keep your look in place. This sunscreen protects from UVA/UVB rays, pollution, blue light, and infrared radiation. It's available in multiple shades to accommodate different skin tones.

The Bachelor alum Cassie Randolph has been using this since middle school and she highly recommends it.

Eir NYC Surf Mud

Eir NYC Surf Mud is an all natural sun protection balm, which has received rave reviews. One fan said, "I've tried hundreds of sunscreens in my attempts to protect my maturing skin from the Texan sun during my hours of outdoor activities in 100+ degree weather and high humidity. This one ticks all the boxes: from its smart, reusable packaging (no melting and leaking in the car or a pack), to its super clean formulation, to its creamy texture and unisex scent (tea tree), to its refusal to run down my face in sweat rivulets, this is the one."

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-Originally published May 27, 2020 9:50 AM PT