When you love spending time at the beach, you’ll need to invest in a high-quality sunscreen that’s right for your body. But, not every sunscreen will protect the delicate tissues of the skin on your face as effectively as a sunscreen that’s designed specifically for the job.
That means you’ll need to grab a sunscreen for your face that’s sensitive enough to keep your face feeling good but tough enough to deflect the sun for as long as you’re lounging on the beach.
You’ll also need to find a sunscreen that won’t wash off in the ocean or drip away while you’re sweating — and not every sunscreen you find will be up to the task.
Unless you’re a dermatologist, however, picking the best face sunscreen might be tough for you. In this article, we’ll break down ten of the best face sunscreens so that you’ll know which sunscreens will help your face stay fresh and which will leave you with irritated or greasy skin
Before we teach you about what features to look for in a sunscreen for your face, we’ll roundup a handful of the greatest face sunscreens on the market so that you’ll have a good idea about the product ecosystem.
Our top pick for the best face sunscreen is the Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen as a result of its environmental friendliness and high-quality protection for sensitive skin.
When you’re looking for a sunscreen that’s ready to help your face stay protected for an entire day of laying on the beach, the Blue Lizard sunscreen is a great choice because of its mineral-based chemical makeup.
Because the sunscreen incorporates minerals into its gel, it provides wide-spectrum protection that gives more punching power to its SPF 30 rating.
At the same time, the chemical makeup of the sunscreen won’t irritate your pores, even if they’re easy to set off because of your sensitive skin.
The only disadvantage of the Blue Lizard sunscreen is that it doesn’t fare well in salt water.
Chlorinated pools or freshwater bodies won’t cause the protection of the sunscreen to wear off any faster, but salt water tends to lead to faster dissolving of the protective layer.
The Sun Bum Clear Zinc Oxide lotion is a highly water-resistant sunscreen which you can also use to keep your skin moisturized when you’re on a beach with whipping winds and abrasive particles of sand flying around.
Thanks to the zinc oxide included in the Sun Bum sunscreen, you’ll get full-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays.
You’ll also nourish your skin with Vitamin E to help guard against wrinkling and leatherization which occurs when your skin is exposed to the sun for a long time.
The winning element of this sunscreen is its water resistance, however. You can swim for around 80 minutes before the sunscreen is mostly washed off.
Sweat is always a little bit more effective at removing sunscreen than dipping in water, however, so if it’s a scorching hot day you should probably re-apply this sunscreen more frequently.
The issue which you may face with this sunscreen is that it isn’t very effective at protecting areas other than your face. Your arms and torso will be protected by the sunscreen, but the moisturization and anti-aging properties of the lotion may be wasted
The Neutrogena Ultra Sheer sunscreen stick is a powerful and convenient tool that you can use to protect your face and neck from the sun.
You’ll find that the easy application process via the stick ensures that you are frequently re-applying the lotion rather than procrastinating.
As a bonus, this is the best face sunscreen for oily skin and won’t leave you greasy.
The sheen that the sunscreen leaves behind is closer to the feeling of a spray-on sunscreen than a thick or lathered lotion sunscreen.
This means that you won’t feel like you’re making your skin shine like a mirror after a quick application of the sunscreen.
On the other hand, the stick-based format and light residue left by the Neutrogena sunscreen may not be right for everyone.
As a result of the stick, you’ll need to be careful about applying it to your body because it is easy to leave uncovered areas.
If you leave an area uncovered, it’ll get burned even though you thought you were all set.
So, if you choose to use the lotion on the rest of your body, pay attention to your coverage.
The DRMTLGY spray-on sunscreen is easy to use, great for keeping your skin lightly moisturized, and effective at protecting your face from getting sunburned.
Applying the spray to your face can be a bit daunting the first time. You can close your eyes and spray the sunscreen directly into your face, or you can spray some on your hand and then rub it onto your face if you’re skittish.
The protective results should be the same with either application method, but the moisturizing effects will be the strongest if you spray the sunscreen directly.
You won’t need to worry about aggravating your acne or sparking any bad reactions from your skin.
But, this sunscreen isn’t perfect. The aerosolizing agents used to make the sunscreen into a spray are bad for the environment, and the sunscreen’s claims regarding anti-aging properties are probably not true.
Furthermore, you should probably look elsewhere if your skin is notorious for being oily, as this sunscreen won’t stick to your skin as effectively as others might.
This Zealios Sun Barrier sunscreen is great for people who like to go for a run along the beach but who don’t want their sunscreen to slough off into the sand when they sweat.
No matter how much you sweat, the sunscreen will keep protecting you thanks to its sweat-resistant chemicals.
As you sweat, the sunscreen will channel your sweat rather than dissolving.
The result is that you will be safe for up to an hour when sweating in the hot sun during a run on the beach.
The problem that you may face while using this sunscreen is that it tends to get greasy once it mixes with sweat.
If you plan to use this sunscreen while you’re working out on the beach, you probably don’t mind the additional layer of mess on top of the sweat.
But, if you’re only looking for a light workout that will leave you in good shape to schmooze for a few hours afterward, you will probably find that the Zealios Sun Barrier is too greasy to be presentable
EltaMD’s UV Facial Sunscreen is a deluxe sunscreen solution which will provide your skin with robust moisture and protection such that you’ll have a powerful barrier between you and ultraviolet rays.
People with dry skin tend to suffer more when they apply sunscreen because many sunscreens are slightly irritating to dry skin and can exacerbate dryness over time.
But, with the EltaMD sunscreen, you’ll get a sunscreen that moisturizes your skin at the same time as protecting it.
So, you don’t need to worry about leaving your skin in worse condition than before you applied the lotion.
The soft texture of the sunscreen means that you won’t feel sticky or greasy. This is especially important because many of the sunscreens that also provide moisturization have a tendency to leave you feeling gross.
You should be wary of how you apply this sunscreen, however.
If you apply the sunscreen carelessly and get it into your eyes, you’ll need to wash it out promptly to escape the stinging sensation that results.
The Neutrogena Sport Face sunscreen is named very accurately because it’s a fantastic option which you can use to protect your face from the sun while you’re doing vigorous sports.
The single biggest feature of this sunscreen lotion is that it is resistant to wiping or rubbing off as a result of the fact that it forms a caked film on your face.
So, if you happen to wipe your face during an exercise session in the sun, you won’t need to worry about getting a band of sunburn.
The other feature that you will appreciate is that the sunscreen is highly concentrated. You won’t need to slather on large amounts of the lotion to be protected.
In fact, a pea-sized amount will probably be enough for your forehead and other sensitive areas.
You also won’t need to apply this sunscreen very frequently, even when you’re sweating or splashing around in the pool.
This Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid facial sunscreen is remarkably comfortable to wear. As a bonus, it also plays nice with many forms of makeup, unlike most other sunscreens.
Furthermore, the protection provided by this sunscreen won’t dry out your skin. The chemical composition of this sunscreen also absorbs into your skin very quickly. So, you don’t need to worry about rubbing in the lotion for a long period of time.
You also don’t need to worry about streaking or excess lotion accumulating visibly. Once the lotion is absorbed into your skin, you won’t realize that it’s there thanks to its silky feeling.
You should be careful not to use too much lotion during the application process, however.
The liquid format of the sunscreen makes it great for soaking into your skin, but it’s also very easy to try to apply too much.
If your skin gets saturated, the invisibility of the lotion may be compromised.
The Vanicream Sunscreen Sport lotion might be the right choice for you if you routinely struggle with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis as a result of its gentleness.
When you have a skin condition, finding the right sunscreen can be very difficult. Nearly every sunscreen can seem like it causes a flare up of dry skin or stinging pain.
That’s where this Vanicream Sunscreen shines: your skin condition won’t get in the way of protecting it from the sun.
The thickness of the sunscreen’s protection will ensure that there’s no chance of UV rays getting through.
But, you may find that the thickness is a bit uncomfortable for your skin if you’re more accustomed to the lighter feeling of a spray-on sunscreen lotion.
Choosing the best face sunscreen for your needs is easy when you understand what your skin needs to flourish when you’re on the beach.
There are a few features which you’ll need to pay attention to when you’re shopping for the right sunscreen, including:
In this section, we’ll dive into each of these factors so that you’ll know which matter the most to your body.
The sun protection factor (SPF) of a sunscreen lotion for your face is important because if the SPF rating is too low, you’ll get a burn despite putting on sunscreen.
But, many sunscreens use SPF ratings as marketing techniques by advertising higher and higher SPF values. However, this betrays a poor understanding of how your skin absorbs ultraviolet radiation.
The SPF measurement on a sunscreen dictates the percentage of the sun’s UV rays that makes it through the sunscreen and your layers of dead skin to reach the layers of living skin underneath over a specified period of time.
Higher SPF ratings ensure that longer periods of time are needed to reach the same level of ultraviolet absorption. So, an SPF 45 sunscreen lotion will mean you take longer to get a burn than if you were using an SPF 5 lotion.
But, an SPF 45 lotion doesn’t block 100% of the sun’s rays from reaching your skin. Nor does a higher SPF rating guarantee that your skin won’t burn from the small fraction of the exposure which it receives in a given interval of time.
All a higher SPF rating does is buy your skin more time before it absorbs enough UV to get a burn.
This means that people with paler skin will still burn faster than someone with darker skin even if they both use the same powerful sunscreen.
SPF also doesn’t tell you how frequently you need to re-apply your sunscreen to maintain protection.
Most sunscreens are rated for around two hours of protection before it is assumed that enough of the sunscreen has been sloughed off that it is no longer effective.
For a hypothetical sunscreen with an SPF of 100 or more, this means that the amount of protection provisioned by the sun-blocking impact of the sunscreen is not helpful because the duration of sun protection which it provides is shorter than the time it takes for the sunscreen to be washed off by sweat or liquid.
So, aim for a sunscreen with an SPF which protects you for the right amount of time for your skin type.
The texture of a sunscreen is an important factor because you’ll need to live with the feeling of whichever sunscreen you use on your face for at least a couple of hours.
Thick and creamy sunscreen lotions typically irritate your skin the least, but they can quickly blur the line between greasiness and feeling crisp.
Likewise, spray-on sunscreens usually have the easiest texture to bear on your skin, but some people may find them to feel a bit sticky.
The choice of texture is up to you. There aren’t any specific benefits or problems that are inherent to different textures, but you should pick a sunscreen lotion with a texture that works for you.
People with sensitive skin may also find that thicker or thinner textures are more comfortable, but the only way to know is to try.
Many sunscreens irritate your skin, especially on the sensitive skin of your face.
Thus, you should opt for a sunscreen that doesn’t leave your face feeling like it is stinging.
Different people will have different reactions to the chemicals contained in sunscreen lotion. Some people find that mineral-based sunscreens are less irritating than synthetics, but others may find the opposite.
The modality of the sunscreen may make a difference as to how irritating it is to apply depending on your skin. Spray-on sunscreens tend to irritate the skin less than others because they apply less liquid.
Creamy sunscreens, while often being targeted to people with sensitive skin, often contain a bunch of chemicals that will leave your face feeling swollen.
Many sunscreens also contain various types of mild acids which help the sunscreen to reach the deeper layers of your skin. While these sunscreens can provide better protection, they can also lead to worsening of irritation.
In other words, pick a minimalistic sunscreen if you tend to get irritated skin. Fewer ingredients means that there are fewer potential triggers.
You’ll need to apply your sunscreen multiple times over the course of your time in the sun if you want to maintain a high degree of protection.
This means that sunscreens which are easy to apply have a major advantage with regard to your compliance with a regular application schedule.
Especially for children and people who can’t be trusted to re-apply sunscreen on themselves, easy application can mean a spray-on sunscreen or a rub-on sunscreen stick.
There isn’t a big difference in terms of the effectiveness of these two methods, as you’ll need to ensure that the coverage is complete with both.
Typically, the sunscreens that are the most difficult to apply are the dermatologist-rated creams which are sold in small jars rather than tubes.
These are difficult to apply because you have to unscrew the jar and then lather the sunscreen rather than simply popping the cap.
Water resistance is a chief concern among anyone shopping for a good face sunscreen because water and sweat washes away sunscreen.
You’ll also be exposed to a lot of sweat or water if you’re at the beach.
Water resistance has two components: sweat resistance and swim resistance.
Sweat is secreted from your face which means that it can push non-absorbed sunscreen off of your face.
Sweat also has a different chemical composition than normal water, meaning that it can sometimes dissolve sunscreen lotion independently of its ability to wash it off.
Swimming in bodies of water is different from sweating because the immersion in water doesn’t immediately penetrate into the deeper layers of your skin.
So, if the sunscreen lotion is effectively absorbed into your skin, it won’t be washed away immediately upon contact with water.
But, once you’ve been in the water for a while, the chance of the sunscreen being washed away rises precipitously.
While many sunscreens advertise that they are rated for up to two hours of use in water, you should be extremely skeptical about your sunscreen lasting much more than 15 minutes.
Obviously, you’ll need to take the amount of your water exposure into account. A small splash of water onto your face will not wash off most lotions. Submersion will wash off even the most water-resistant lotions.
In general, you’ll have better water resistance results when you use a sunscreen that rapidly absorbs into your skin and leaves behind a nearly undetectable layer on your face.
Thicker lotions are easier to wash off, and they may not always absorb as evenly.
The environmental friendliness of the sunscreen lotion is a minor factor which you should consider when you’re shopping.
Sunscreens have several ingredients which may be problematic for the environment. These ingredients include aerosolizers in spray-on sunscreens as well as the chemical components in the lotion which helps it to penetrate your skin and provide protection from the sun.
In particular, mineral-based sunscreens may be less environmentally friendly than others because of the way that minerals are harvested.
Frequently, companies purchase minerals from mining operations which are insensitive to the environment.
In some situations, this means that the minerals in your sunscreen lotion are produced from the destruction of coral reefs or other critical habitats.
While many manufacturers have moved away from these practices, some still continue, so check your brand carefully.
In contrast, the aerosolizers included in spray-on sunscreen lotions are terrible for the environment because aerosolizers are greenhouse gases which accelerate climate change when they are disbursed into the atmosphere.
So, you should understand that your choice of sunscreen can influence the destruction of the environment and the planet.
But, your contribution as an individual is most likely not very large. In other words, if you find an environmentally unfriendly sunscreen lotion that works for you when others won’t, you should keep using it.
You should be reapplying sunscreen lotion on a regular basis and modulating your application schedule depending on your level of activity and your skin type.
If you have pale skin and you’re working out in the heat or swimming in the ocean, you should be re-applying your sunscreen lotion once every 60 minutes, even if it feels like you don’t need to add another layer.
In contrast, if you have a darker skin type and you’re not doing strenuous activity, you should re-apply your sunscreen once every two hours.
Most people shouldn’t expect their sunscreen to last more than two hours under the best of conditions.
The rule of thumb is to re-apply your sunscreen more often the more activity you are performing and the higher the UV index of the day.
You shouldn’t trust the claims of many sunscreen lotions regarding their extra-long protection.
While there are differences between short-acting and long-acting sunscreen lotions, these differences are minor when compared to the variability caused by sweating or rubbing.
In other words, you should still apply your long-lasting sunscreen lotion on a regular basis.
The advantage of the extra duration is that there is a higher chance of an area you missed during the second phase of application remaining protected as a result of your initial slathering.
So, while longer durations of sunscreen may mean you avoid a burn or two, it isn’t something that you should be relying on.
Instead, rely on your discipline for reapplying sunscreen on a routine schedule on long days that you plan to spend in the sun.
Take note that you can’t escape a day with a higher UV index by slathering on a thicker layer of sunscreen lotion upon each application. Adding more lotion does not provide more protection beyond a very small initial amount.
The point of applying more frequently during a high-UV day is that there is a lower chance of your protection lapsing for a significant period of time, which would cause you to burn faster than on a day with low UV.
Also, be aware that you don’t need to reapply sunscreen lotions with lower SPF ratings more frequently.
The SPF has no bearing on how frequently you need to reapply the lotion, it only determines the time it will take for the sun to burn you when the sunscreen is in full force.
On the other hand, there’s no disadvantage to applying more sunscreen lotion than you need. The excess sunscreen will probably be sloughed off as you sweat, but at least you can be sure that you will get the minimum amount necessary to protect your skin.
That wraps up our discussion of the best face sunscreens. We chose the Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen as our favorite sunscreen because of its all-around effectiveness, water resistance, and lack of irritation for people with sensitive skin.
Our runner up was the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick for Face & Body because of its easy application and non-greasy sheen which will protect you from the sun.
If these two sunscreens don’t appeal to you, feel free to try several of the others on our list. Especially if you have a skin condition or a preference for a specific type of texture in your sunscreen lotion, the other options will serve you just as well.
Remember to always re-apply your sunscreen lotion every two hours, especially if you’re sweating a lot or taking frequent dips into the water.
Protecting your skin is a lifelong activity, and you’ll need to be prudent if you want to keep it in good condition.