Beauty Skincare We Tested 52 Sunscreens, These 12 Are the Absolute Best EltaMD Facial Sunscreen SPF 46 covered all our bases. By Audrey Noble Audrey Noble Twitter Audrey Noble is NYC-based contributing beauty commerce writer. She covers all things beauty, hair products, and makeup. InStyle's editorial guidelines and Caitlyn Martyn Caitlyn Martyn Instagram Caitlyn Martyn is responsible for writing tested product recommendations and reviews InStyle's editorial guidelines Updated on March 2, 2023 @ 10:43AM Pin Share Tweet Email In This Article Expand Jump to a Section Our top picks Reviews Our Testing Process What to Keep in Mind Your Questions, Answered What is InStyle Picks? Why Shop With Us We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more. InStyle / Jhett Thompson Let's get one thing straight: You should be wearing sunscreen everyday, rain or shine. Protecting your skin from the sun is essential — no matter your skin tone, location, or the forecast. Wearing sunscreen is our number one defense against skin cancer and comes with a variety of skin benefits, too. Want to protect the skin barrier? Sunscreen can do that, no problem. How about limit acne scarring? Yup, sunscreen can aid with that, too. And as for reducing fine lines, sunscreen has you covered there as well. Trust us, there's really no reason to ever skip it. Both a blessing and a curse, there are plenty of sunscreens on the market. It's easy to get your hands on any SPF, sure, but it can be tricky to find the right one for your needs. To help you out, we tasked InStyle testers to put 52 of the most popular sunscreen formulas to the test. Keeping feel, transfer, opacity, and water resistance top of mind, the testers narrowed down the lengthy list to the 12 best sunscreens. In the end, the EltaMD Facial Sunscreen SPF 46 took the top spot thanks to its non-greasy, transfer-proof formula and high scores in all of the aforementioned categories. Keep reading for the full list of the best sunscreens, according to InStyle testers. Our Top Picks Best Overall: EltaMD SPF 46 Clear Tinted Face Sunscreen at Amazon Jump to Review Best Value: Banana Boat Face Sunscreen at Amazon Jump to Review Best Spray: COOLA Sunscreen Spray at Amazon Jump to Review Best Lotion: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen Spray at Walmart Jump to Review Best Mineral: SkinCeuticals UV Defense SPF 50 at Dermstore Jump to Review Best Chemical: Bare Republic Clearscreen Sunscreen Spray at Amazon Jump to Review Best Sport: Hawaiian Tropic Everyday Active Sunscreen Lotion at Amazon Jump to Review Best for All Skin Tones: Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum at Amazon Jump to Review Best Multitasker: Live Tinted Hueguard Broad Spectrum Primer at Credo Beauty Jump to Review Best for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 at Amazon Jump to Review Best Overall EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Walmart View On Amazon View On Walmart View On Dermstore What We Love This effective sunscreen with skin-loving ingredients works well for all skin types, even those with acne-prone and sensitive skin. What We Don't Love It has a tendency to peel when layered on top of other skincare products. For an everyday sunscreen you can use on your face (even if you experience acne or eczema flare-ups), reach for EltaMD Facial Sunscreen SPF 46. The light, creamy texture is fast-absorbing and non-greasy, making it easy to apply throughout the day without making your skin feel oily. Along with broad-spectrum sun protection, it also contains skin-loving ingredients like hydrating hyaluronic acid, soothing niacinamide, and antioxidant-rich vitamin E to further protect and soften skin. "The best part is that this sunscreen doesn't transfer, even when you get it wet," our tester says. "It doesn't leave any weird residue on your clothes, either." One thing to note: It has a tendency to peel or flake when layered on top of other skincare products, so be sure to give your skin adequate time to absorb serums before adding the sunscreen on top. Price at time of publish: $43 SPF Protection: SPF 46 | Type: Mineral | Size: 1.7 oz. | Scented: No InStyle / Jhett Thompson Best Value Banana Boat Light As Air Faces 5 Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart View On CVS Our Ratings Feel 5/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 5/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love This lightweight facial sunscreen offers shine-free, broad-spectrum sun protection for under ten dollars. What We Don't Love The banana fragrance can be unpleasant for some people. Sunscreen doesn't have to be a splurge. This drugstore classic offers safe and effective broad-spectrum sun protection without weighing on the skin. "It felt super lightweight and I honestly forgot it was on my face," our tester says. "It was sheer and easy to apply, very little blending was needed." It gets better: It's completely waterproof, so you can swim and surf to your heart's content without fear of getting burnt. "There was no transfer both before or after getting wet," the tester adds. "Water beaded on top of the product, but it didn't run at all." Though our tester found the eponymous banana scent inviting and summery, not everyone feels that way towards fragranced products, especially those with sensitive skin or allergies. Price at time of publish: $13 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Chemical | Size: 3.0 fl. oz. | Scented: Yes InStyle / Jhett Thompson InStyle / Jhett Thompson Best Spray COOLA Organic Sunscreen SPF 30 Sunblock Spray 5 Amazon View On Amazon View On Nordstrom View On Target Our Ratings Feel 5/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 5/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love This organic, antioxidant-rich sunscreen spray is cooling which makes reapplying it more enjoyable. What We Don't Love It goes on clear, so you might miss a spot if you're not too careful. COOLA, a sunscreen brand dedicated to formulating products with organic ingredients, took their bestselling lotion sunscreen and turned it into this easy-to-use spray that's perfect for long days in the sun. While you should be reapplying sunscreen every two hours, not everyone does. So, to make reapplication quick and painless, try a spray sunscreen, like this one. "This spray feels refreshing on the skin and blends in really well," our tester shares. "It doesn't come off when it comes into contact with water, despite being a super fine mist." Just be sure you're applying the spray evenly across your entire body — it can be easy to miss a spot when you're rushing. Price at time of publish: $28 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Chemical | Size: 2 or 6 fl. oz. | Scented: Yes InStyle / Jhett Thompson InStyle / Jhett Thompson Best Lotion La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen Lotion Spray SPF 60 ULTA View On Walmart View On Ulta View On Dermstore What We Love A little bit goes a long way when it comes to this easy to blend, milky sunscreen. What We Don't Love The runny formula has a tendency to leak out of the tube. For an everyday sunscreen you can use on your face and body, reach for La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in-Milk SPF 60. The milky texture is fast-absorbing and velvety, making it easy to reapply throughout the day without making skin feel greasy or heavy. "I love the consistency and how velvety yet hydrating it feels," our tester says. She also notes that a little bit goes a long way, which means you get more bang for your buck. The formula, although light and airy, packs broad-spectrum sun protection and antioxidants to further protect your skin from damaging free radicals. Not only that, but it also contains hydrating ingredients like glycerin, and the brand's thermal spring water to simultaneously moisturize skin. Be sure to properly store the tube in your beach bag: Though the liquidy texture is great for rubbing into skin, it has a tendency to leak out of the packaging, especially if it's left upside down or with the cap ajar. Price at time of publish: $29 SPF Protection: SPF 60 | Type: Chemical | Size: 3 or 5 fl. oz. | Scented: No InStyle / Jhett Thompson Best Mineral SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 5 Dermstore View On Dermstore View On Howl.me View On Skinstore.com Our Ratings Feel 5/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 5/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love This liquidy sunscreen blends in well, regardless of skin tone. What We Don't Love The formula is only water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, so you need to remember to reapply if you're swimming or sweating. Mineral sunscreens tend to be goopy and thick, making them close to impossible to blend in. And, lest we not forget the fact that they almost always leave behind a white cast (thank you, zinc oxide). The Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 sunscreen from SkinCeuticals basically defies everything we thought we knew about mineral sunscreens, though: It has a thinner consistency and doesn't leave a white cast. "It's liquidy upon application, which I was surprised about, but it feels so nice and lightweight on my skin," our tester says. "Water beads on contact, but otherwise the sunscreen doesn't change, run, or transfer." The only downside is that this sunscreen remains water-resistant only up to 40 minutes, so if you're swimming or sweating a lot, you'll have to be diligent about reapplication. Price at time of publish: $42 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Mineral | Size: 1.7 or 4.2 fl. oz. | Scented: No Best Chemical Bare Republic Clearscreen Sunscreen Spray SPF 50 5 Amazon View On Amazon Our Ratings Feel 5/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 5/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love It's undetectable on all skin tones, from fair to deep. What We Don't Love The formula can feel oily. If you're looking for a chemical sunscreen that allows you to spray and go, this is the one for you. It feels comfortable and lightweight, so much so that our tester completely forgot she had sunscreen on. "It goes on completely sheer — you wouldn't be able to tell I'm wearing sunscreen at all," she says. So, if you have a hard time finding an invisible sunblock, this is a great option. Not only does it offer SPF 50 sun protection, it also contains antioxidants, like vitamin E, as well as raspberry and goji berry extracts to protect the skin from aggressors in the environment (like pollution and radiation). Even though you can't see the sunscreen on skin, the formula can start to feel oily as the day goes on, so if you prefer a more matte finish, you might want to skip this one. Price at time of publish: $13 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Chemical | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Scented: No Best Sport Hawaiian Tropic Everyday Active Sport Sunscreen Lotion 5 Amazon View On Amazon Our Ratings Feel 5/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 5/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love For under ten dollars, this sunscreen boasts sweat-proof SPF 50 sun protection without clogging pores or stinging sensitive eyes. What We Don't Love The formula has a potent fragrance, which might not be for everyone. As far as sport sunscreens are concerned, you'll want to look for something that stays in place, no matter how much you sweat. This pick from Hawaiian Tropic does just that with the help of broad-spectrum SPF 50. Whether you're on the court or field, on the waves, or in the pool, this one keeps skin protected from the sun's harmful rays for up to 80 minutes. Because it's a bit thick, it involves a bit of elbow grease to spread evenly across your body, but once it's blended in, you'll forget you're wearing sunscreen, save for the fact that it smells like a tropical island. While some people might love the scent, those with sensitive skin might prefer a less fragranced option. Price at time of publish: $14 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Chemical | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Scented: Yes Best for All Skin Tones Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SFP 30 4.7 Target View On Amazon View On Target View On Walmart Our Ratings Feel 4.3/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 4.7/5 Water Resistance 4.5/5 Removal 5/5 What We Love It was designed with Black and brown skin in mind. What We Don't Love We wish the name was more inclusive. Formulated by people of color for people of color, this sunscreen is a great option for those with Black and brown skin — but that doesn't mean it won't work for everyone else, too. The formula, which contains hydrating jojoba and avocado, leaves skin supple and smooth, as well as protected with SPF 30. Best of all: It doesn't leave behind a white cast or cause a purple discoloration on deeper skin tones like most other mineral sunscreens do. "This creamy sunscreen didn't leave a weird film on my skin or make me look dull," our tester shares. "In fact, it added a glow and radiance to my skin." Price at time of publish: $16 SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Type: Chemical | Size: 3 fl. oz. | Scented: No InStyle / Jhett Thompson Best Multitasker Live Tinted Hueguard 3-in-1 Broad Spectrum Mineral SPF 30 Primer 4.5 Ulta View On Credo Beauty View On Ulta View On Sokoglam.com Our Ratings Feel 4/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 4/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love This all-in-one sunscreen, moisturizer, and primer helps cut down on the time it takes to get ready. What We Don't Love The orange tinted sunscreen, which is geared towards eliminating a white cast for those with olive undertones, can sometimes leave a gray-colored cast on other skin tones. Looking to pare down your skincare routine and spend less time getting ready in the morning? The Live Tinted Huegard helps you do that: It's a three-in-one daily mineral SPF 30, moisturizer, and primer that protects skin from the sun while imparting a natural glow that looks beautiful both on its own or as a prep step for makeup. It comes out of the bottle with a subtle orange tint (which helps offset the look of a white cast on darker skin tones), and requires a bit of blending, but, according to our tester, feels lightweight nonetheless. "I liked how the orange tint allowed me to see where I was applying the sunscreen, ensuring that I applied it evenly," she explains. "It applied nicely on my olive skin, but it may not be the best for all undertones and skin tones." Price at time of publish: $32 SPF Protection: SPF 30 | Type: Mineral | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | Scented: No InStyle / Jhett Thompson Best for Sensitive Skin Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 4.5 Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart View On CVS Our Ratings Feel 4/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 4/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love This mineral sunscreen was formulated with non-irritating ingredients, like naturally-sourced zinc oxide and nourishing oat, to keep sensitive skin calm in the sun. What We Don't Love It might leave behind a subtle white cast on some skin tones. Those with sensitive skin should look for sunscreens that are hypoallergenic, made with non-irritating ingredients, and are fragrance- and paraben-free, says Dendy Engelman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City. She recommends mineral sunscreens to her patients prone to sensitivity, because they don't cause as much irritation. This true mineral sunscreen is formulated with 21 percent zinc oxide and calming ingredients, like oat, to keep sensitive skin calm — even in the sun. Since it has such a high percentage of zinc oxide, it may leave behind a subtle white cast on some skin tones. "It goes on thick, so I really had to rub it in," our tester says. "It's definitely opaque, but once it's blended, it's barely noticeable." Price at time of publish: $13 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Mineral | Size: 2.0 fl. oz. | Scented: No Best Vegan Sun Bum Original Scent SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion 4.8 Amazon View On Amazon View On Target Our Ratings Feel 4/5 Transfer 5/5 Opacity 5/5 Water Resistance 5/5 What We Love It provides strong sun protection while being formulated with vegan ingredients. What We Don't Love The formula is thick, so you may have to shake the bottle to get product out. Dermatologists praise Sun Bum for their vegan formulas that provide SPF protection and skin-loving ingredients. Board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss, M.D., for one, loves Sun Bum because it provides SPF 50 sun protection and contains vitamin E to neutralize environmental aggressors known to cause fine lines. Our tester raves about how transfer-resistant it is. "It didn't transfer at all, even when I got wet," she says. She also found the smell — a tropical scent reminiscent of coconuts — a great part of the experience. However, those with sensitivity to fragrance may want to steer clear of this one. You should also keep in mind that the formula is somewhat thick, so you may have to shake the bottle a bit to get product out. Price at time of publish: $19 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Chemical | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Scented: Yes Best Japanese Beauty Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Sunscreen SPF 50+ Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart View On Yesstyle.com What We Love This clear, watery sunscreen melts into skin leaving it feeling soft and protected. What We Don't Love It has a more dewy finish, which isn't the best for those with oily skin. Japanese sunscreens have become a cult favorite among beauty lovers worldwide. Why? Between their high SPF ratings, light-as-a-feather consistencies, and the fact that they often moonlight as makeup primers, there's a lot to love. This option from Biore is exactly what it sounds like: A clear, watery sunscreen that melts right into the skin. "Application is effortless and it feels smooth on the skin," our tester says. "It blended into my skin so well, it was practically translucent." The formula's "watery essence" isn't for everyone, though. Those with oily skin or perfer matte finishes might want to look for a different option as this one leaves the skin looking dewy, like a glazed donut. Price at time of publish: $15 SPF Protection: SPF 50 | Type: Chemical | Size: 1.76 fl. oz. | Scented: No InStyle / Jhett Thompson Our Testing Process To start, we spent about a week researching the top-rated sunscreens on the market. After honing in on online ratings, we spent 48 hours putting the 52 most popular sunscreens to the test. We had all of our testers try the sunscreens so that they could analyze the performance of each and write down their insights during the process. In doing so, our testers rated every sunscreen on a scale of 1 to 5 in four key categories: Feel, transfer, opacity, and water resistance. Once the data was collected, we were able to narrow down the original pool of products to the 12 best sunscreens. What to Keep in Mind SPF Level "The sneaky thing about sun damage is that it accumulates over time, and we may not even notice that our skin has sustained small amounts of damage until it's too late," says Dr. Engelman. "Protecting your skin everyday with sunscreen should be an automatic part of everyone's routine." Some of the best sunscreen practices include wearing it every single day (not just on hot days or when you're at the beach), and reapplying it every two hours to keep skin protected. Most experts recommend looking for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has SPF 30 or higher because it prevents 97% of UV rays from penetrating your skin. The EltaMD Facial Sunscreen, our best overall, has an SPF of 46, which is the perfect level of protection for everyday wear. Type of Sunscreen There are two kinds of sunscreen — mineral (aka physical) and chemical. Even though both types are safe and have the same efficacy, which one you choose may depend on your skin tone and type, says Dr. Idriss. Mineral sunscreens, like Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Daily Sunscreen Lotion for Face SPF 50, can leave a white cast. "There's been some innovation in this category, but we still haven't perfected it. So darker skin tones often opt for a chemical sunscreen because it's more cosmetically elegant," says Dr. Idriss. "However, chemical sunscreens are not always great for sensitive or acne-prone skin as they can be irritating." Looking for a non-irritating chemical sunscreen? Check out COOLA Organic Classic Sunscreen SPF 30 Sunblock Spray — it contains calming ingredients like cucumber. Board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartmann M.D., previously told InStyle that performing a patch test is key to determining if you'll be reactive to a sunscreen. "Apply a small amount of sunscreen to the underside of your wrist, as the skin in this area is super thin and sensitive so it reacts similarly to the skin on the face," he says. "If you have no reaction, the sunscreen should be fine to use on other parts of the body." Scent and Texture In the end, the best sunscreen is the one that you'll actually wear. "Your sunscreen use should be dictated by what you're actually going to use and what your personal preferences are," says board-certified dermatologist Harold Lancer, M.D. "Everybody has a different taste for the feel and scent of the sunscreen they like, so whatever you're going to want to put on daily is what you should use." For example, if your skin is generally reactive to products with fragrance, steer clear of sunscreens that have a scent — like Banana Boat Light As Air Face SPF 50 — and opt for an unscented option, like La Roche Posay Anthelios Melt-in-Milk Sunscreen SPF 60. The same goes for if you have oily skin and want to limit the look of shine — a matte option might be best for you. InStyle / Jhett Thompson Your Questions, Answered What is the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a chemical sunscreen contains ingredients like avobenzone and octisalate, which absorb UV rays before it damages your skin, while a mineral sunscreen contains ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which block and scatter UV rays before it penetrates your skin and is less likely to cause skin irritation. How much sunscreen should you apply? SPF is a measurement of how well a sunscreen protects the skin from the sun's rays, not how many minutes you can stay in the sun or how long it takes to get a sunburn, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. A broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen blocks 97% of the sun's UV rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun's rays, but no sunscreen can block 100%. Most adults need about an ounce of sunscreen — enough to fill one shot glass — to cover their whole body. How often should you reapply sunscreen throughout the day? While sunscreen is often the first thing people reach for in terms of protection, remember that covering your skin is even more effective. Protective clothing, like sun hats or UPF clothing, are another tool to keep in your sun safety arsenal. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, but be extra careful during peak sun times — 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. — depending on the season of the year. Can you use the same sunscreen for your face and body? While you can use the same sunscreen for face and body, there may be a case for having separate products. The first being formula type: You may want the blendability and texture of a chemical SPF for your face, but prefer the ingredients of a mineral for your body. Second, consider your skin type: If you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, you may want to opt for a mineral formula, or one specifically designed for your skin type. And finally, consider your application method: Do you want a spray to reach your back? A luxurious feeling lotion that hydrates as you apply? Those decisions can guide you to the right SPF for your needs. What is InStyle Picks? Did you notice the InStyle Picks seal of approval at the top of this story? That means our team of testers has reviewed every product on this list using a unique methodology to ensure it's really worth your time, money, and attention. We may get samples for free to try but we never promise positive (or any!) coverage in exchange. Put simply: InStyle picks are products we love, and we've put them to the test to be sure you will too. Want more product recommendations? From best-in-class concealer to the black pants you need for work, check out all of our InStyle Picks content. Why Shop With Us Caitlyn Martyn is a commerce writer for InStyle, where she covers skincare, makeup, hair, and fashion. With expert insight from board-certified dermatologists and tester first-hand experience, she poured over product specifications and rounded up our top picks for this story. Caitlyn has experience researching, testing and writing about beauty products and has tried tons of different sunscreens, including several from the above brands, including SkinCeuticals, Sun Bum, and La Roche-Posay. Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City that specializes in skin cancer treatment. Shereene Idriss, M.D. is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist that focuses on facial aesthetics and rejuvenation. A board-certified dermatologist, Harold Lancer, M.D, is a pioneer in the industry, particularly where it pertains to anti-aging.