Table of Contents
The Best Sunscreens for 2021
Your Ultimate Guide to Sunscreens
Wearing sunscreen is a highly important step in skin care. Whether it’s sunny or cloudy, or if you’re staying inside or spending time outdoors — no matter the season, one should always be wearing sunscreen. This is the one step in skin care that no one should ever, ever skip. Sunscreens not only protect the skin from the sun’s harsh rays, but they also lessen the risk of skin issues such as dark spots, fine lines, or even worse, skin cancer.
In this article, we’ve rounded up the best sunscreens in the market. Whether you’re someone who hasn’t included a sunscreen in your routine or maybe you just want to switch it up, you might stumble upon the best sunscreen for you in this list. Let’s go and dive in!
In a Hurry? This is the Best Sunscreen:
Highly recommended by dermatologists, the EltaMD UV sunscreen sets itself apart from traditional sunscreens with its lightweight and non-greasy texture. The EltaMD sunscreen formula contains a host of antioxidants, as well as common sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, ensuring that its wearer is well-protected from any kind of sun damage.
It’s also lightweight on the skin and doesn’t clog the pores, making it an ideal face sunscreen for those with sensitive skin or acne-prone skin.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for the Best Sunscreens
We usually hear sunblock and sunscreen used in an interchangeable manner. But actually, the two words refer to two different types of protection. A sunscreen is a chemical-based defense that absorbs UV rays penetrating the skin before it can damage the dermal layers.
On the other hand, sunblock refers to a physical way of protecting the skin against UV rays. Sunblock sits on top of the skin and acts as a barrier that bounces off the UV rays. It typically contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and it’s often opaque and noticeable when applied on the skin.
Both sunscreen and sunblock provide great protection from the sun so there is no “better” one between them. However, when choosing which one to use, one should consider their skin type and the amount of SPF a product has. People with sensitive skin or skin conditions like rosacea are recommended to use sunblock as their skin can tolerate titanium dioxide as well as zinc oxide better.
If your skin isn’t sensitive or you don’t have underlying skin conditions, you can use either sunscreen or sunblock. As for SPF, it’s best to acquire a product that has SPF 30 or higher and broad-spectrum protection that can protect you from UVA and UVB rays.
Is SPF 30 or 50 Better?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a sun lotion with an SPF of at least 30 is the most ideal. Between SPF 30 and SPF 50, both are equally good as there is no added benefit in choosing a higher number. The difference between them is very minimal. A higher number can block just a little more of the sun’s UVB/UVA rays, but there is no existing sun protectant that can block 100% of the sun’s harmful UV rays.
What Sunscreen do Dermatologists Recommend?
When it comes to choosing sunscreens, dermatologists have provided a checklist of what your sunscreens must have.
SPF 30 or Higher
Board-certified dermatologist and Curology CEO Dr. David Lortscher mentioned that a sunscreen must have SPF 30 or higher. This ensures your sun lotion can very well protect you from damage due to sun exposure.
Always, always look for sun products that are broad-spectrum to have a shield up against UVA/UVB rays. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Caren Campbell of San Francisco, UVA causes premature aging while UVB causes burning of the skin.
While a spray sunscreen or a sunscreen stick is easier to use for reapplication, most dermatologists prefer lotions and creams over them. Lotions and creams tend to last longer and can provide a more uniform protection. Dermatologist Lucy Chen also added that creams can help with moisturization if you’re on the dry side. A spray sunscreen might be convenient but they’re inconsistent and need double or triple coating for it to apply evenly.
While there’s exactly no sun-defense product that’s completely waterproof, it’s highly important to have a sun lotion that has water resistance. This ensures that your sun-dense products don’t melt off when you sweat or get washed away while you’re swimming in water. Always look for products that are labelled “water-resistant for 40 minutes” or “water-resistant for 80 minutes” and reapply after the mentioned minutes are up.
Chemical or Mineral
There are two types of sunscreen formulas, chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing rays, while mineral sunscreens work by deflecting them. According to dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara, mineral sunscreens are your best bet if you’re of the sensitive or prone to acne type. Otherwise, you can go for chemical sunscreens as well. At the end of the day though, it’s still up to your preference whether you pick out a mineral sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen.
Top 10 Best Sunscreens
Let’s Go Over Each Sunscreen
There’s a reason why this sunscreen is recommended by dermatologists. The EltaMD Clear sunscreen is oil-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, and lightweight.
Formulated with niacinamide, the EltaMD clear claims to be able to improve skin tone and discoloration too, apart from its sun-protecting properties.
Not only can this sunscreen protect its wearer from UVA and UVB rays with its SPF 46 rating, but it can also help calm the skin of people who have sensitive skin and are acne-prone. Aside from niacinamide, it also contains hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, two active sunscreen ingredients that promote healthy-looking skin. While its name implies that this sunscreen is untinted, a tinted version of it is available as well.
Pros and Cons of the EltaMD Clear
|✔️ Best for sensitive and acne-prone skin types |
✔️ Has beneficial antioxidants
|✖️ Pricey |
Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer sunscreens are available in SPF ranges of 45 to 70. No matter which SPF range you choose, you’re sure to be protected from any harmful sun exposure.
The brand claims that their Ultra Sheer sunscreen is formulated with a Helioplex Technology, meaning that their lineup of sunscreens can protect you from both UVB and UVA rays.
As what the product’s name implies, this sunscreen is dry touch, meaning it applies easily and sinks in quickly. The best thing about the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer is that it’s ultra lightweight and non-greasy, ideal for those who dislike shine. This also means that this sunscreen can go well under makeup.
Pros and Cons of the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer
|✔️ Non-greasy |
✔️ SPF 45 to SPF 70
|✖️ Pricey |
✖️ Can have a slightly noticeable residue when not blended in properly
Do you hate that waiting time after applying your sunscreen, wishing it would sink in quickly? Well then, La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios fast-absorbing sunscreen might be for you!
This broad-spectrum sunscreen provides SPF-50 protection and also gives a healthy glow with its tint. According to La-Roche Posay, the sunscreen has a fast-absorbing and non-greasy formula that dries with a matte finish.
Blended in it is its Cell-Ox Shield technology which is, according to the brand, a 100% mineral UV filter made of titanium dioxide. It also has Senna Alata in its ingredients, a tropical leaf extract that can defend skin cells against damaging free radicals. As this sunscreen is tinted, it’s available in a range of three shades, with 01 as the lightest and 03 as the darkest.
Pros and Cons of the La Roche-Posay Tinted Sunscreen
|✔️ Available in 3 shades|
✔️ Fast-absorbing texture
|✖️ Pricey |
✖️ Shade range is limited
Want a sunscreen that can moisturize your skin while protecting you? Then this CeraVe sunscreen is a must-have in your skincare stash!
The CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen is a 100% mineral, oil-free sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It can protect you from both UVA/UVB, thanks to its broad-spectrum protection and SPF 50 rating.
CeraVe is a brand known for its inclusion of ceramides in its products, and this sunscreen isn’t an exception. Its ingredients include three essential ceramides to restore the skin’s barrier and to lock in moisture. Moreover, it also has hyaluronic acid to retain the skin’s moisture and niacinamide to help calm the skin as well. This moisturizing sunscreen is also allergy-free, fragrance-free, and paraben-free.
Pros and Cons of the CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
✔️ Has ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide
|✖️ Can be pricey |
✖️ Leaves a white cast
Japanese sunscreens are highly popular, thanks to their incredible quality and formula. When it comes to the most popular and highly-raved one, the answer is always Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen. This sun lotion comes with a technology that turns water, sweat, and heat into UV protect veil, strengthening its UV-defense properties.
Shiseido, the manufacturer of Anessa, claims that 50% of their sunscreen lotion is made up of skincare ingredients. It’s also highly water resistant, able to survive underwater for about 80 minutes. While it’s resistant to water, it can be easily washed away with soap, so there’s no need to use an oil cleanser or micellar water with it.
Anessa Perfect UV can also be used as a makeup primer and has a radiant finish that makes its wearer’s skin glow. No wonder it’s an absolute favorite in Japan.
Pros and Cons of the Anessa Perfect UV
✔️ Water-resistant for 80 minutes
✔️ Easy to remove
|✖️ Can be pricey |
✖️ Citrus scent may be off-putting for some
It’s not only our face that needs sun protection, but our body as well! The Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen is a lotion that provides sun protection from head to toe. This broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen lotion’s formula contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, providing a wide-spectrum protection from extensive sun exposure.
With its sensitive formula, this body sunscreen doesn’t contain any skin-irritating chemical ingredients. It’s also free from parabens and fragrances. Additionally, this sunscreen lotion is also sweat and water resistant for 80 minutes. It’s reef-safe as it contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate.
One of the best things about the Blue Lizard sunscreen is its Smart Bottle technology; the bottle turns blue when there is UV exposure, a signal to remind its users to reapply.
Pros and Cons of the Blue Lizard Sensitive
|✔️ Ideal for sensitive types|
✔️ Water resistance of up to 80 minutes
✔️ Smart Bottle technology
|✖️ Leaves a chalky white cast |
✖️ Not suitable for darker skin tones
Here’s a sunscreen that’s protective and won’t break the bank! QuickFX, a fan-favorite brand, has a sunblock product among its lineup of affordable products. For just under PHP 400, this sunblock offers SPF 50 PA+++ UVA/UVB sun protection that helps protect you from skin cancer and other diseases.
Despite its highly affordable price, QuickFX doesn’t skimp on the quality of their sunscreen. It’s loaded with almost all-natural ingredients that offer hydration and soothing properties for the skin. Some notable ingredients of this sunscreen lotion include:
- Adenosine to prevent aging,
- Niacinamide to fade dark spots,
- Herb extracts to reduce appearance of pores, and
- Sodium chloride to make it lightweight.
Moreover, this sun lotion is perfect not only for dry types, but also those on the oily side. Need a little more convincing to get this product? Check out our full review of the QuickFX sunscreen.
Pros and Cons of the QuickFX Sunblock
|✔️ Highly affordable|
✔️ Soothing and hydrating
✔️ Lightweight and quick-absorbing
|✖️ Leaves a slight white sheen |
If you’re tired of traditional protectants, this water-based one may just be what you’re looking for.
As its name implies, Biore’s UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is a water-based sun lotion that has a transparent texture to it, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the skin. This drugstore sunscreen is lightweight and has a silky gel-serum look to it, almost feeling like jelly upon first touch and feeling like a splash of water upon application.
Biore claims that the UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence provides even coverage for the skin, including fine lines and uneven surfaces. This face sunscreen contains ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and royal jelly extract to moisturize. Thanks to its watery formula, it absorbs in a really quick and smooth manner, resulting in a fresh, dewy look.
Pros and Cons of the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence
✔️ Watery formula
✔️ Easy to absorb
|✖️ Not for people with alcohol sensitivity |
✖️ Citrus scent may not be for everyone
If you’re struggling to find the right sunblock for you due to your skin type or skin tone, worry not for this one may be the solution to your problems. Moreover, if you’re experiencing actinic damage, or sun damage as a result of excessive exposure to the sun, this protectant is for you.
Isdin’s Eryfotona Actinica sunscreen lotion is formulated with photolyase, a repair enzyme that’s derived from plankton which helps repair skin damage caused by sun exposure. Aside from zinc oxide, this doubles as a skincare product as it also contains vitamin E, aiding in boosting the skin’s natural defenses and fighting the early signs of skin aging.
The Eryfotona Actinica has SPF 50 and is ultralight, sinking into the skin without feeling heavy. It can be used as standalone or as a makeup base as well. Best of all, it doesn’t leave any white residue, making it ideal for all skin tones.
Pros and Cons of the ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica
|✔️ Leaves no white cast|
✔️ Contains photolyase
|✖️ Expensive |
Need a handy sunscreen that you can just take out of your bag and reapply easily? Then the Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On might be the one that you need. Unlike most sunscreens, this mineral powder sunscreen comes in powder form and as it says on the tin, this is something that you can easily brush over your face as a final step after makeup or for reapplication.
This sunscreen’s packaging looks like a thick makeup brush, allowing it to conveniently fit into any bag or makeup kit. Since this product is meant to go over after makeup or as a standalone, it’s available in four shades. It has SPF 50 and despite being powder, Colorescience claims this product is water-resistant for about 80 minutes.
It’s also formulated with an EnviroScreen Technology, protecting its wearers not only from sun damage but also from pollution, blue light, and even infrared radiation. What’s more, this product is the only brush-on powder protectant that’s recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, making it truly remarkable.
Pros and Cons of the Colorescience Sunforgettable
|✔️ Convenient for reapplication|
✔️ Leaves no white cast
✔️ Extremely lightweight
|✖️ Powder may spill |
✖️ Needs to be tapped to deposit
Best Sunscreens Comparison
We hope that this best sunscreen guide was able to help you in narrowing down and choosing the best sunscreen suited for your face! Always remember to hit all the marks in this checklist in picking a sunscreen:
- SPF of 30 and above,
- Chemical or mineral
- Lotion or cream-based.
Additionally, remember to apply a shot-glass sized amount to ensure you get full protection. Also, seek your dermatologist if you feel any adverse effects or if you need more advice on what suits you best. Stay safe under the sun!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the best face sunscreen?
The products listed here are what we consider as the best ones to use for the face, with only one of them being an exception. Apart from the ones in this guide, you can also check for chemical sunscreens such as YourGoodSkin Antioxidant Day Cream, Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector, or Julep No Excuses Invisible Facial Gel. Do take note that the best sunscreen for your face will always be the one that you’re most comfortable with.
Which sunscreen is most effective?
As long as you take into account a certain criteria, both mineral and chemical sunscreens are effective. It’s important to remember that they must:
- Have an SPF of 30 and above,
- Must be broad-spectrum, and
- Have water-resistant properties.
Do remember to take note of the type of skin you have as well.
What is the best sunblock to use?
Ira Arellano graduated with a degree in Multimedia Arts from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. When she’s not busy writing, Ira uses her remaining free time fawning over groups with too many members, reading three books simultaneously, crying over animated shows and fictional people, and being salty over her lack of gacha luck.