Best Sunscreens of 2022
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How to choose (and use) the best sunscreen for your skin
The best sunscreen for your face is the one you apply consistently—it’s the sure-fire way you can protect your skin against cancer and premature wrinkles. An SPF for your body will work the same way on your face, but they can feel heavy and slick. Especially for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin, mineral-based formulas will reduce the risk of irritation or clogged pores. (Check out our top sunscreens for acne-prone skin.)
Some other tips to follow when you’re shopping for sunscreen are:
✔️ Look for broad spectrum on the label: This ensures your SPF protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays. (UVA rays prematurely age skin and UVB rays burn; both can cause skin cancer.) Our experts recommend choosing SPF 30 or higher.
✔️ Go for water-resistant options: Even if you won’t be jumping in for a swim, a water-resistant sunscreen will stay on longer while you’re sweating. If you are doing extensive outdoor activity, choose an SPF of 50 or higher to ensure you stay protected, recommends Henry W. Lim, M.D., past president of the AAD.
✔️ When in doubt, choose lotions: They’re easy to apply generously and evenly—which is key in order for them to work effectively. If you use a stick sunscreen, it requires at least four swipes on each area of your skin to get the job done. On the other hand, many “sprays are inconsistent” Dr. Ploch says. If you opt for a spray, be sure to apply an even coat and rub in well.
✔️ Formula matters: Physical or mineral sunscreens (made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) sit on top of the skin and deflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens (made with ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone) work by absorbing them. If your skin is sensitive or acne-prone, mineral sunscreens are typically your best bet, says Dr. Markus. Plus, they’re a great option if you prefer a more “natural” product (they’re reef-safe!). “All that said, there is no denying that the chemical sunscreens are more transparent, which sometimes trumps everything. It’s really a personal choice more than anything,” he says.
✔️ Rub it in well: “Apply the amount of sunscreen you can rub in first,” says Dr. Waldorf. “Let it sink in, then apply a second time. That’s the easiest way to get the full recommended amount of sunscreen to ensure you get the protection on the label.” Ideally, you want to apply a shot glass-sized amount to your whole body and you should always reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
Your top sunscreen questions—answered!
How do I choose the best sunscreen for my kids?
Your babies and kids have thinner skin, meaning they’re more prone to irritation from chemical ingredients. Choose mineral-based SPF lotions and apply them liberally. It’s important to note that both both the AAD and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend keeping your infant out of the sun (and avoiding sunscreen if you can) if he or she is less than six months old. Instead, opt for sun-protective clothing—like pants, hats, and sunglasses—to avoid premature sun damage. Check out our top sunscreen picks for kids.
How often should I reapply sunscreen?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outdoors. Aim to apply a shot glass-sized amount to your whole body, reapplying the same amount every two hours. It’s also crucial to reapply immediately after you go for a swim, sweat heavily, or dry yourself off with a towel.
How can I tell if my sunscreen is expired?
Like any other skincare product, sunscreen has an expiration date. If one is not listed on the product, write the date of purchase on the bottle—it should maintain its original strength for at least three years, per the FDA’s standards.
However, your sunscreen can actually go bad before this time, especially if it sits in the heat or direct light (very likely!). Any changes in formula—funky smells, colors, or texture—should be your sign to toss it. Using an expired sunscreen is risky and can increase your risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Do people with darker skin tones need sunscreen?
Yes. People with darker complexions still need to apply sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and hyperpigmentation. Many sunscreens, however, are notorious for leaving white streaks. To find a melanin-friendly formula, check out our top sunscreens for darker skin—all approved by dermatologists of color.