A No-Nonsense Guide to the Best Face Sunscreen
No matter your age or level of interest in beauty, sunscreen is one of three things (along with cleanser and moisturizer) that everyone can benefit from using. It is the single most effective product you can use to prevent premature aging and, vanity aside, it protects against sunburn and skin cancer.
Alas, the sunscreen aisle is a crowded one, and you may be wary of trying just anything given that most of us have less-than-favorable associations with the stuff. So, we narrowed it down to five of our favorites, ranking them against five 20-point factors—from price to initial texture to ingredients and scent and how it wears on your skin.
1. Elta MD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40
We were first introduced to this brand by a dermatologist years ago following a particularly bad bout of hormonal acne in our twenties. It’s non-comedogenic (read: it won’t clog your pores), has niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) and lactic acid to help clear up and calm your skin, and a subtle tint that softly blurs any redness on your face. As far as the user experience goes, it’s creamy to the touch, blends easily and has no trace of fragrance. Which is why, eight years later, it’s still in our medicine cabinet. (Note: It also comes in a non-tinted version that blends better on darker skin.)
Total PureWow100 Score: 96/100
2. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+
If you don’t know, now you know. This Japanese import has a loyal following thanks to its lightweight, damn-near invisible texture. Seriously, it feels more like a serum (or perhaps a watery essence?) than a sunscreen because it quickly melts into your skin without leaving behind any greasy residue or chalky cast. The scent is vaguely citrus-y and fresh and the price point is just right (especially at the rate we go through a tube).
Total PureWow100 Score: 95/100
3. Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
If you have oilier skin and fear #shinyface, this gel formula is a solid choice. It’s a staff favorite thanks to the way it glides onto your skin, leaving behind a matte, yet somehow never flat finish. The translucent formula requires zero rubbing to blend in, making it a top pick for deeper skin tones, and is a makeup lover’s dream because it wears well underneath any base or color. In fact, it performs quite like a primer and actually helps your makeup stay put longer.
Total PureWow100 Score: 96/100
4. Neogen Demalogy Day-Light Protection Sunscreen SPF 50/PA+++
For our friends with dry skin (or for colder, less humid months), this K-beauty bestseller is a bit more emollient than the others on the list. A closer look at the ingredients and you’ll see ingredients like rose and raspberry extracts for added hydration and beta-glucan—which is a lesser-known but possibly better humectant than hyaluronic acid—to lock moisture in. We subtracted a couple points from the total score because it requires a bit more blending to get it to absorb properly and it has a more, shall we say, noticeable (though not entirely unpleasant) scent.
Total PureWow100 Score: 87/100
5. Eleven by Venus Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35
Earlier this year, tennis star Venus Williams partnered with clean beauty leaders Credo Beauty to create two mineral sunscreens that could withstand the elements. We were particularly impressed by the “sun serum” here because of its sheer texture and elegant application. The dropper top dispenses a silky fluid that sinks into your skin nicely, leaving a semi-matte finish. The only knock we have on it is the steep price tag ($50 for one ounce) though it does look and feel more luxe than most spfs we’ve tried.
Total PureWow100 Score: 90/100