Searching for that perfect sunscreen can be a daunting journey. Finding ‘the one’ however, is an incredibly satisfying self-care experience. And since daily sunscreen application is a non-negotiable step in an effective skincare routine, I am here to share with you some of my biggest hits. Trust me, I’ve tried dozens and often times, the hype led to disappointments. More below. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the texture of each formula on the back of my hand.
- Since protection from both UVA and UVB rays is crucial, I only consider broad-spectrum sunscreens.
- My ideal sunscreen is traceless upon application. It’s fine if the product needs a few minutes ‘to set’ but no white cast or purple sheen, please.
- I don’t demonize chemical filters, so I am happy with physical or chemical UV filters. Or hybrid formulas.
- I avoid wearing mineral filters or recommending Zinc Oxide formulas under 5% concentration. Plumscreen is my exception because it’s flawless and clocks in at 4.7%.
- To justify a splurge (when a product is more than $30 per ounce), the formula must contain skincare ingredients such as antioxidants, peptides, Niacinamide, to name a few.
- Ideally, my go-to everyday sunscreen layers great over my favorite Vitamin C serum without any pilling or flaking.
Le Prunier Plumscreen SPF 31
Zinc Oxide 4.7%
This gorgeous moisturizer smells like almonds, melts into the skin in seconds, and provides a beautiful satin finish alongside mineral filters that ward off UV rays. This beauty actually earned itself a dedicated post, which you can read here, but if you’re looking for a moisturizer sunscreen hybrid, there’s nothing better than Plumscreen by Le Prunier. Powered by the brand’s patent-pending Superfruit Plum Complex, it also contains Brown Algae Extract, known for its blue light blocking properties. Best part? It works phenomenally well year-round on my combination skin. $78 (50ml) at beauty-heroes.com
Live Tinted Hueguard SPF 30
Zinc Oxide 18.23%
I learned about this one from a piece in The Cut and picked up a tube at Ulta that same afternoon. If you’re looking for a tinted, ultra-sheer, all-mineral sunscreen with a radiant finish, this lightweight formula is one I have reached for most often during the warmer months. For those seeking coverage, this tint is less about pigment payoff and more about unifying the skin tone. I’m very impressed. Layered over my morning Vitamin C serum, it is all I wear most days. It has a very light sunscreen scent that does not bother me at all. $32 (50ml) at ulta.com
ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50
Zinc Oxide 10.7%
The emulsion texture and the spot on tint are the two things I love most about this particular ISDIN formula. If you prefer thicker and creamier sunscreen, this one is not for you. For those who are very fair, the pretty-sure-it-is-a-medium hue may be too dark for your skin. Personally speaking, the sheer coverage and hint of color make my skin look rested and radiant. Eryfotona is also available in a clear formula, but I much prefer the tinted version. It’s extremely lightweight, and blends easily even around my hairline, brows, and facial hair. Most importantly, it won’t oxidize (turn orange) by lunch time. In addition to superb UV protection, this formula is packed with peptides, antioxidants, and plankton-derived enzymes called DNA Repairsomes® that repair visible sun damage. Bonus points for a generously-sized bottle, too. $70 (100ml) at isdin.com
Clark’s Botanicals Invisible Hero SPF 30
Zinc Oxide 15%
I’ve been a fan of the Clark’s Botanicals face masks since the brand’s early days, so I was quite excited by this launch last year. If you enjoy a multi-tasking yet lightweight moisturizer that doubles as an all-mineral sunscreen, Invisible Hero SPF 30 is pure excellence. This silky formula is infused with Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide, Red Algae, Arnica, and Jasmine Extracts to plump and brighten the skin. It dries down to an invisible satin finish, keeping my overzealous T-zone in check on hot and humid days. Another greatly appreciated small detail: the slim tube with pump dispenser, making it a perfect fit in any sized travel bag. $85 (50ml) at clarksbotanicals.com
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer SPF 30
Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 5%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%
La Roche-Posay Toleraine face moisturizer with SPF 30 is always my best bet for a budget-friendly sunscreen. It’s oil-free, creamy yet fast-absorbing, and feels very soothing on the skin. It’s ideal on lazy days on which I have no patience for extra steps. It contains biome balancing prebiotics, replenishing Ceramide-3, and Niacinamide, which will strengthen and brighten the skin over time. This straightforward moisturizer with sunscreen is popular with dermatologists and is a great addition to anyone’s skincare routine. $22.99 (100ml) at ulta.com
True Botanicals Skin Barrier Sun Shield SPF 30
Zinc Oxide 19%
Truthfully, it took me a few good tries before I warmed up to the True Botanicals Sun Shield SPF 30. Now, I refuse to be without it. I’m no expert but I imagine this one works best on normal-to-combination-to-oily skin types. There is a lovely dry-touch finish, and while it takes a couple of minutes ‘to set’, once it does, it is absolutely traceless. The pinkish hue isn’t a tint per se but it does add some brightness to my complexion. At a recent industry event, a UV scan of my skin revealed my broad-spectrum coverage was absolutely spot on. I credit True Botanicals, which I had applied earlier the same morning. $65 (50ml) at beauty-heroes.com or truebotanicals.com
Saint Jane Luxury Sun Ritual SPF 30
Zinc Oxide 10%
The full name of this gem is actually Luxury Sun Ritual Pore Smoothing SPF 30 and you guessed it, the pore promise got me hook, line, and sinker. Very luxurious indeed is the whipped creamy texture that almost feels like a primer. It magically blurs enlarged pores and has a natural-looking matte finish. Ingredient highlights include Jasmine, Desert Rose, Green Tea Leaf, and Hibiscus Extracts–all of which hydrate and provide antioxidant protection. Remember to shake the tube before each use since the ingredients in this one can separate. $38 (50ml) at sephora.com
iS Clinical PerfecTint Powder SPF40
Zinc Oxide 25%
I’m probably most picky about brush-on sunscreens. I‘ve never been ‘that guy’ who reapplies his liquid SPF every two hours, so having an easy and practical solution I can use on-the-go is a huge perk. The iS Clinical PerfecTint is available in five shades: Ivory, Cream, Beige, Bronze, and Deep. I wear Beige in the summer and Cream the rest of the year. The base of the brush twists and offers a range of intensity at which you dispense the product. I usually keep it somewhere in the middle to avoid a huge cloud of powder coming out— and looking patchy. In defense of the product, I admit to lacking skill at applying makeup well. Silky and featherlight, the pigment provides sheer coverage with a satin finish. There is absolutely no shimmer–a huge perk for me. Of the sunscreens in my skincare arsenal, this one is always in my to-go bag since it makes reapplying SPF anytime, anywhere just too easy. $78 (3.5g) at skinstore.com
Best SPF Finds From Europe
Unfortunately, the FDA will most likely never approve a vast number of brilliant SPF formulas for distribution Stateside. With ingredient regulations varying country to country, I highly recommend exploring the pharmacy shelves whenever abroad. Surprisingly, a product sold in Europe can offer a superior user experience ode to its formulation, efficacy, and price. They won’t try to scare you off from chemical UV filters, which is all too common in the US, especially in the ‘clean beauty’ space. Over the past few years I have consistently stocked up on La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C UV SPF25, ISDIN Fusion Water Magic SPF 50, and Korres Yoghurt Sunscreen Face Cream-Gel SPF 50. Some of my favorite EU online retailers where I order from include caretobeauty.com, cosmetis.com, and perfumesclub.us (this one has the best deals but shipping may take up to 2 weeks).
Side note: if you’re traveling this summer or need a new travel bag, please consider the wellinsulated brand. These brilliant bags keep my most precious topicals stable during harsh travel-related pressure and temperature changes. I’ve been impressed ever since my introduction to the collection circa early 2020.