Summer’s finally here, and the living sure is easy. Or is it? If you’re planning on spending some fun-filled time in the sun, you might be scratching your head trying to find a good sunscreen to toss in your beach bag. What SPF do you really need? Should you use a mineral sunscreen or one made with chemical filters? And will you be happier with a lotion, spray, or stick?
Of course, it’s good that you’re thinking about this stuff at all, instead of forgoing sunscreen entirely. Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is serious business, not just for guarding against skin cancer but also because the sun’s rays play a large role in aging the skin. So, it’s smart to pick a sunscreen you feel good about using every day and then supplement as needed for special situations (playing sports outside, swimming, etc.).
Before diving into the best picks for 2016, let’s take a moment to point out four key things you should always look for when buying a sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, you should seek out sunscreens that are:
Resist the urge to use a lower SPF for the sake of your tan. In order to really protect against skin cancer, your sunscreen needs to be at least SPF 30. (Higher SPFs offer little additional protection, and they don’t last any longer.)
This means your sunscreen shields against against both UVA rays (which hit the deepest layer of your skin) and UVB rays (which burn the top layers of your skin), giving you the maximum protection against skin cancer and sunburns.
Because even if you’re not going swimming, you’re probably going to sweat. Water-resistant lotions will protect your skin even if it gets wet.
Sunscreens containing chemical filters—like oxybenzone avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate— may mimic human hormones and cause skin irritation or allergies, says the Environmental Working Group,. Instead, look for mineral sunscreens with active ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They’re safer than their chemical filter counterparts, and will do just as good of a job at shielding you from harmful rays.
Of course, some sunscreens that meet these criteria are still better than others. (Chalkiness, weird smells, or gunky textures? No thanks.)
These EWG-approved sunscreens are clean, effective, and all-around great options.
For everyday protection
A solid, all-purpose sunscreen should work for both your body and face, be easy to apply, and fight hard to keep your skin safe all day every day. Kiss My Face Organics Face & Body Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 ($13.99, kissmyface.com) checks all of these boxes, while delivering green tea and sunflower oil for an extra layer of protection. Thanks to the antioxidants and vitamins in these ingredients, they’re a natural source of SPF and also help keep skin moisturized. Prefer a spray? Try Honest Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 30 ($13.95, honest.com).
When you’re active, you need a sunscreen that can keep up with you, no matter how sweaty you get. All Good SPF 33 Sport Sunscreen Lotion ($15.99, amazon.com) is hypoallergenic (meaning it’s unlikely to cause an allergic reaction), leaves zero white residue, and boasts rejuvenating ingredients like organic green tea, rose hip antioxidants, and organic jojoba oil.
If you’re looking for a lotion, try Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 ($22, bellybuttonsandbabies.com). It’s fragrance-free, so it’s gentle on your little one’s skin. Looking for a kid-friendly stick for easier application? California Baby Everyday/Year-Round Sunscreen Stick, SPF30+ is the sunscreen for you ($26.99 for a two-pack, amazon.com).
For when you need a travel-sized option
The best sunscreen is the one you have on hand at all times and actually use. When you’re on the go, try a stick like Badger Unscented Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 35 ($8.55, amazon.com). Its small size makes it easy to stow anywhere, and it’s easier to apply than a lotion or spray.
For acne-prone skin
If your skin is oily, the last thing you want to do is slather on a greasy sunscreen. Derma e Antioxidant Natural Defense Sunscreen ($15.43, amazon.com) is made just for your face—so it’s oil-free and won’t clog your pores. Plus, it’s fortified with antioxidants like vitamin C to promote younger-looking skin.
Of course, whichever sunscreen you pick, it’ll only protect you if you use it correctly. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outside, so you’re fully protected as soon as you step out into the sun. (You should use a full ounce, or the amount that would fill a shot glass, to cover your entire body.) And set your phone to remind you to reapply every two hours, or do so right after swimming or sweating. Your skin will thank you.
Credits: Marygrace Taylor