Tech & Gear Accessories The 9 Best Sunscreens of 2021 Protect your skin with these dermatologist-recommended formulas By Krystin Arneson Krystin Arneson Instagram University of Edinburgh Krystin Arneson is a writer and editor based out of Berlin, Germany. She covers an array of hotels, products, and destinations for TripSavvy. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 08/11/21 Share Pin Email Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. The Rundown Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen SPF 60 at Amazon "This oxybenzone-free sunscreen gives you great coverage and plenty of protection." Best Budget: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 at Amazon "This value-minded, broad-spectrum sunscreen is formulated with zero parabens." Best Splurge: ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 at Amazon "A favorite splurge option that goes on like a dream." Best for Darker Skin Tones: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 at Black Girl Sunscreen "Made with darker skin tones in mind, this formula doesn't leave a white residue." Best Spray: EltaMD UV Aero Broad-Spectrum Spray SPF 45 at Walmart "With a fantastic formula as well as a well-designed nozzle that eliminates clogs, this spray will be your go to sunscreen." Best Mineral: Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF 30 at Amazon "Only using non-nano zinc oxide, this is one of the smoothest mineral formulas we’ve tried." Best for Sensitive Skin: MDSolar Sciences Mineral Crème SPF 50 at Amazon "MDSolar's gentle formula doesn’t clog pores or leave your skin feeling irritated." Best for Sports: Supergoop! PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50 at Amazon "Even if you work up a sweat, this sunscreen won’t make your eyes sting." Best Natural: Love Sun Body Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 at Amazon "The only formula in the U.S. to be certified a 100 percent natural origin mineral sunscreen." No matter what your skincare routine involves, sunscreen with effective coverage and plenty of SPF should be a constant in it, whether you’re heading to Thailand or having a sunny day out in the city. But if you’re looking for the best sunscreens to buy, there is a lot to consider, from SPF to ingredients to your skin type. “The SPF is a measure of how much ultraviolet radiation or energy is required to produce sunburn on protected (sun-screened) skin relative to the amount of solar energy required to produce sunburn on unprotected skin. As the SPF value increases, sunburn protection increases,” says Robyn Gmyrek, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology. However, it’s not just about avoiding getting sunburned: “there are three reasons SPF is important,” says Beverly Hills-based Tess Mauricio, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of M Beauty Clinic in Beverly Hills and San Diego. First, “sunscreens are important in decreasing your risk for sunburns—which makes your outdoor experience more enjoyable and minimizes pain and downtime after your activity.” Second, she says, “properly using sunscreens regularly will reduce the risk for skin cancers and pre-skin cancers.” And finally, “regular use of sunscreens can slow down skin aging—so it can minimize discoloration, wrinkles, and sagging over time.” To best protect yourself, look for a formula with a decent amount of SPF—and maybe put down the SPF 15. “I tell my patients to look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher,” says Brown University skin cancer surgeon and dermatologist Hayley Goldbach, M.D. When it comes to sunscreen, though, there’s a lot to sort through before you find the formula that works for you. Luckily, we asked for recommendations and advice from dermatologists to help you find the right one for your skin. Read on for our picks of the best sunscreens below. Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen SPF 60 Buy on Amazon Buy on Laroche-posay.us Buy on Ulta The closest formula we've found to weightless is La Roche-Posay’s much-loved Antihelios fluid formula. This oxybenzone-free sunscreen gives you great coverage and plenty of protection without sitting on top of your skin. Plus, it blends easily with other skincare products and makeup (we like blending it with our foundation for a tinted sunscreen). Do be sure to shake it for full benefits, however. Best Budget: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart Recommended by Dr. Gmyrek, this value-minded, broad-spectrum sunscreen is formulated with zero parabens and delivers sun protection through a zinc-based lotion. It's also sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. One thing to keep in mind is that the white cast is a little more pronounced with this formula, so it might not be best for those who prefer well-blended sunscreens. Best Splurge: ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Courtesy of Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart While Dr. Goldbach’s always trying new sunscreens, there’s one SPF splurge she’s obsessed with. “I am currently loving ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen. It feels amazing and goes on like a dream.” The formula contains Vitamin E and DNA repairosomes and boasts SPF 50+ protection from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. ISDIN recommends that you re-apply it every two hours. Best for Darker Skin Tones: Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 Courtesy of Black Girl Sunscreen Buy on Blackgirlsunscreen.com Buy on Target One problem with zinc-based sunscreens is the white, chalky formula that tends to sit right on top of your skin, making it hard to blend in. Black Girl Sunscreen founder, Shontay Lundy, wanted to make a sunscreen specifically for women of color that would eliminate the white residue, protect skin from UVA/UVB rays, and nourish the skin. The result? A much-loved, clean formula packed with natural ingredients that moisturize and hydrate with ingredients including jojoba, sunflower oil, and avocado oil. It should be re-applied every 80 minutes. Best Spray: EltaMD UV Aero Broad-Spectrum Spray SPF 45 Courtesy of EltaMD Buy on Walmart Buy on Dermstore With a fantastic formula as well as a well-designed nozzle that eliminates clogs—one of spray sunscreen’s most frustrating problems—EltaMD’s SPF 45 is a great all-purpose sunscreen for all skin types that lets you apply sun protection to otherwise tough-to-reach spots. It sprays on white, thanks to the zinc oxide in the formula, but dries clear after you rub it in. Shake well before you use it and apply it 4 to 6 inches away from your body for even results. Best Mineral: Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF 30 Buy on Amazon Buy on Dermstore Buy on Sephora Dermalogica’s SPF 30 formula blends smoothly, absorbs quickly, and doesn’t feel like you’ve slathered a layer of lotion onto your face. It only uses non-nano zinc oxide, so while it’s a mineral sunscreen, it’s one of the smoothest out there that we’ve tried. “Sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral-based, so rather than being absorbed like a traditional sunscreen, the particles of these ingredients sit on top of the skin and block harmful UV rays,” says Dr. Mauricio. “These ingredients are less harmful to corals and are not linked to coral bleaching.” The formula also has blue light protection, so it transitions easily from the office to after-work runs, and ingredients like green tea help to give skin an extra layer of defense. Users should apply it 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. The 11 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens of 2021, According to Dermatologists Best for Sensitive Skin: MDSolar Sciences Mineral Crème SPF 50 Courtesy of Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart Buy on Dermstore This water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF is great for sensitive skin, thanks to its gentle formula that doesn’t clog pores or leave your skin feeling irritated. It’s packed with antioxidants like cranberry and pomegranate extract, as well as vitamin C and green tea, for some serious anti-aging benefits. The formula is gentle enough for most skin types and can be used on kids aged six months or older, too. Best of all? It dries matte and invisible on your skin. Best for Sports: Supergoop! PLAY Everyday Lotion SPF 50 Buy on Amazon Buy on Dermstore Buy on Sephora This oxtinoxate-free formula absorbs both UVA and UVB light, and even if you work up a sweat, this sunscreen won’t make your eyes sting making it a great option for kids and adults alike. (Just remember to re-apply!) It’s also no-white-cast, meaning that unlike with some zinc sunscreens, it doesn’t just sit on top of your skin. We especially love that the 2.4-ounce and 5.5-ounce bottles are compact enough to fit easily into a beach tote or gym bag. The 9 Best Sunscreens of 2021, According to Dermatologists Best Natural: Love Sun Body Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Buy on Amazon Buy on Credo Beauty Buy on Lovesunbody.com The only SPF formula in the U.S. to be certified a 100% natural origin mineral sunscreen (and to EU standards, no less), Love Sun Body’s sunscreens are super eco-friendly and come stacked with all sorts of benefits for your skin, including anti-aging ingredients. It's free from parabens, phthalates, and sulfates, too. The vegan formula is hypoallergenic, coral reef safe, and water-resistant up to 80 minutes. Formulas for the rest of the body are also available (and just as great), so you might as well stock up. The 9 Best Sunscreens of 2021, According to Dermatologists Final Verdict While there are plenty of fantastic options for sunscreen out there, the SPF formula that’ll ultimately be the best is one that does the job of protecting your skin as well as being one you’ll want to wear every day. In terms of value, protection, and wearability, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen SPF 60 (view at Amazon) is our top pick. What to Look For in a Sunscreen Price No matter your budget, there’s a great sunscreen for you. While you can certainly grab a more luxe-feeling formula at a specialized beauty store, there are a ton of great formulas out there by drugstore brands. “Fancy sunscreens are often more pleasant to apply or come packaged with higher-end ingredients for anti-aging,” says Dr. Goldbach. “But for your basic day at the beach, it’s fine to go with a less-expensive brand as long as you re-apply it regularly.” If the formula ticks all the boxes—no harmful chemicals, the right SPF level for your skin and environment, and doesn’t feel gross—the price tag it comes with isn’t as much of a factor. “The most important characteristic is whether you will actually wear it,” says Dr. Goldbach. “The perfect sunscreen won’t do anything for you if it’s sitting on the shelf or if it’s so expensive that you’re scared to apply enough.” SPF The right sun protection factor for your needs all comes down to your skin type. Usually, the lighter your skin tone and the longer you’ll be outside, the more SPF you need. Dr. Goldbach and other dermatologists typically recommend a baseline of SPF 30 to 50. “Properly applied SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of UVB rays, and SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays,” says Dr. Gmyrek. And remember, it doesn’t just come down to SPF: “wear a rash guard and swim pants which will not only keep the ocean safe but will ensure that you don’t get burned when the water washes off your SPF,” suggests Nonna Khachiyan, Derm PA-C, a visage sculpture derm consultant. Ingredients Ingredients matter when it comes to sunscreen—especially if you’re going to be in the ocean or close to nature when you’re outdoors. “I take special care to make sure I am wearing eco-friendly sunscreen, especially if I’m going to be in the ocean and most especially around any coral reefs,” says Dr. Goldbach. Here’s what to avoid on the ingredients list: Oxybenzone Avobenzone Homosalate Formaldehyde Microbeads Octisalate Octocrylene “These ingredients can cause allergic skin reactions, hormone disruption, problems with the reproductive system, and can also result in harmful free radicals,” Dr. Khachiyan says. If you’re susceptible to scents, avoid sunscreens with fragrance, too. “Fragrances can be highly allergenic and can sometimes contain pthalates, which are endocrine disruptors,” she adds. Look for a non-nano form of titanium dioxide instead. FAQs How often should I re-apply sunscreen? “Every two hours,” advises Dr. Goldbach. “If it sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.” How can I tell if my sunscreen is expired? Most sunscreens are designed to last for three years and include an expiration date on the bottle. If an expiration date isn't listed, you should check the consistency of your sunscreen. Any changes in the formula, including a clumpy texture or odd scent, are signs that the sunscreen is expired and should be thrown away. What should I keep in mind if I have darker skin? “For people of color it’s important to find a formulation that will blend with their skin,” says Dr. Goldbach. “That can be a particular problem for mineral sunscreens which have zinc or titanium as the active ingredient because these compounds are white.” She recommends looking for formulations where these ingredients are in smaller particles, but says it’s “definitely worth getting a sample to test and see how it feels on the skin.” “The other issue faced by many people of color is finding a tinted sunscreen that matches their skin tone,” she adds. “The industry has a lot of work to do to make sure that products are inclusive for all.” Why Trust TripSavvy Krystin Arneson has been writing about beauty and skincare for five years, is an avid sunscreen wearer, and interviewed several dermatologists for this article. She also tested around 10 sunscreens in the course of writing this article, with a few favorites making it on this list. 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