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The Best Face Sunscreens, Tested Over Time On All Skin Types

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The best face sunscreen does more than offer broad-spectrum protection with SPF 30 or higher—that’s just the beginning. A truly great formula goes on smoothly and easily, melts into skin fast without leaving behind a chalky residue and makes your skin look and feel its best. After testing for these factors on a range of skin types, we found the Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 to be the winner because it felt lightweight, left no white cast behind and made my skin look so fresh and glowy that I could skip makeup. The Summer Fridays ShadeDrops SPF 30 is our best mineral sunscreen pick because of its wearable serum-like texture and how it dries to a soft, non-greasy finish.

The following is a list of all the winners from my testing. (Read more about our top pick from Coola and the best value option from Black Girl Suncreen here.) And scroll down further to check out the Other Face Sunscreens I Tested section for more great options from my research.

Ultimately, your sunscreen choice is very personal. As diverse and varied as we tried to make our panel of testers, a product that works perfectly for me or the majority of our testers might be too heavy for another or not moisturizing enough or even irritating for some. When possible, we recommend trying a sample before you make a purchase or buying your sunscreen from a retailer with a generous return policy, like Sephora. If a formula doesn’t work for you, pass along your barely used bottle to a friend or a women’s shelter—don’t throw it out or let it expire in your cabinet. (PSA: Don’t forget to check the expiration date on the bottom of your go-to bottle!)

Best Face Sunscreen Overall

The Lightweight Lotion Our Testers Love

Coola Classic Face Sunscreen SPF 50

Type: Chemical | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 1.75%, homosalate 5.0%, octisalate 2.0%, octocrylene 5.0% | Price per fluid ounce: $13.18 | Finish: Sheer, glowy | Scent: None | Additional ingredients: Aloe, plant and seed oils, squalane

Best for: 

  • No white cast
  • A sheer, lightly moisturizing feel
  • Most skin types
  • Those who prefer unscented skincare

Skip if: 

  • You’re allergic or sensitive to chemical sunscreens
  • You prefer a matte finish

Five out of six testers loved this lightweight, fragrance-free sunscreen. (It irritated one tester’s skin.) In fact, unbeknownst to me, it’s been a go-to for one tester for years because it’s non-irritating, easy to apply and lightweight, even after reapplication hours later. I personally found that I loved how it felt sheer and made my skin look–fresh, bright, and even more awake, with no white cast at all—and that it continued to feel great 2-plus hours later.

This Coola Classic sunscreen scored the highest of all our contenders for how it applies. It’s easy to squeeze the amount you need out of the tube with no gloopy excess. It smooths onto your skin effortlessly, just like a lightweight moisturizer or serum. As for the feel, it isn’t sticky or thick—just light and fresh. Our tester with dry skin said it moisturized well but “felt like nothing at all.” (It also wasn’t visible in his beard or mustache.) It scored four 5s for its sheer, luminous finish.

Our long-term testing update:

  • One of our testers had been using this Coola chemical sunscreen for years, and she continues to really like it even after testing all of the others this spring and summer. “It goes on smoothly, never pills or feels sticky and overall just blends well,” she said.
  • I find this sunscreen to be lightweight, easy to apply and completely invisible. It goes on and leaves your skin looking slightly better. There’s no makeup-like finish, and it blends invisibly into facial hair. It’s the perfect tube for everyday if all you want is sun protection.


The 2024 Forbes Vetted Best Product Awards are here: Explore our 150 top-recommended items across categories after extensive research and testing.


Best Value Face Sunscreen

A Moisturizing Option That Leaves No White Cast

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

Type: Chemical | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 10%, octisalate 5%, octocrylene 2.75% | Price per fluid ounce: $5.30 | Finish: Dewy | Scent: None | Additional ingredients: Aloe, shea butter, coconut oil

Best for: 

  • No white cast
  • Added hydration
  • Most skin types
  • Those who prefer unscented skincare

Skip if: 

  • You’re allergic or sensitive to chemical sunscreens
  • You have oily skin 
  • You prefer a lightweight or matte finish

This sunscreen was a hit among our testers of various skin types and tones. At $5 an ounce, it was one of our most affordable contenders too. Thanks to its jojoba and avocado oils it hydrates enough to make our tester with the most parched skin feel moisturized (without making his beard look chalky), and yet ultimately felt light enough to please those with combination skin.

“I didn’t know much about this brand before, and I was so pleasantly surprised by the end result,” said one sensitive-skinned tester. “Once applied, it finished smoothly and the fragrance-free component was a major plus for someone like me with sensitive skin. Two hours in, my skin felt and looked great. A keeper in my book.”

Similar to the Coola sunscreen, it’s a thin lotion that disappears into skin and facial hair without leaving any whiteness. It doesn’t absorb as quickly, but it leaves skin feeling more deeply hydrated and with a dewy finish, which might be exactly what you want. It did make our bearded tester’s beard feel moisturized, though it took a little more effort to rub it in.

Our long-term testing update:

  • As I noted in my initial review, this formula is creamy and hydrating, and that makes it a little heavy for everyday wear for my combination-sensitive skin as the weather warms up. I like something a little bit lighter weight.
  • But I love the price per fluid ounce and the way this chemical sunscreen absorbs so invisibly. I also love that it’s so lightly fragranced—as close to fragrance-free as any of our contenders. If your skin loves a little extra moisture, this affordable pick is a good choice.


Best Luxury Face Sunscreen

An Elegant Cream With Added Skincare Benefits

Dr. Loretta Urban Antioxidant Sunscreen SPF 40

Type: Combination | Active ingredients: Homosalate 8%, octisalate 5%, octocrylene 5%, zinc oxide 8% | Price per fluid ounce: $29.40 | Finish: Sheer, glowy | Scent: Natural | Additional ingredients: Antioxidants, Indian ginseng extract, marine peptides, coconut oil, iron oxides

Best for:

  • Hybrid formula (contains chemical and mineral active ingredients) 
  • Natural, fresh, wet-clay fragrance
  • No white cast 
  • Free radical protection

Skip if:

  • You want a more hydrating formula
  • You prefer unscented skincare

If money were no object, this is the sunscreen I would buy in bulk. It costs twice as much as our best sunscreen overall from Coola, but it delivers benefits that go beyond sun protection. The first upgrade you’ll notice is the container itself. Instead of a simple squeeze tube, this one has a pump to dispense just the right amount of product. Over time, that could mean you use it more efficiently and waste less. (I hate when I accidentally dispense more sunscreen than I need, especially if it’s an expensive product for my face.) It has a slight pink, almost shimmery tint that smooths on and dries quickly.

The feel is like that of a face cream with a very slight mattifying (but not drying) feel. “I really enjoyed the texture and creaminess of this sunscreen,” said one tester. Compared with Coola, it’s slightly pillowy and softening. I noted that it made my skin feel “very soft like baby skin.”

With it on, you look and feel more polished in a single step. It gave my face a firmed, blurred look—I didn’t feel that I needed makeup on top of it. Another tester who preferred its primer-like finish over all of the other contenders’ said she thought it improved her look when applied under makeup.

Our long-term testing update:

  • After using it pretty regularly for many months, I’m fully obsessed with this sunscreen. Of all 11 contenders that I still have in my bathroom, it’s the one I reach for daily.
  • In fact, it has found its way into my makeup bag; it’s the only thing in there that I actually put on my face most days. I smooth it on after getting out of the shower, add some mascara and lip balm and go.
  • As another tester wrote in her update, it has a primer-like finish that smooths out your pores. I think it makes my skin look finished and luminous—like me, but better. I never really wear foundation, so it gives me a subtler, perfect-for-summer version of the look I usually go for with concealer and a tinted moisturizer.


Best Mineral Face Sunscreen

Serum-Like, Invisible Sun Protection

Summer Fridays ShadeDrops SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen

Type: Mineral | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 9.4% | Price per fluid ounce: $21.17 | Finish: Sheer, glowy | Scent: None | Additional ingredients: Antioxidants, chamomile, squalane

Best for:

  • No white cast
  • Serum-like formula with free radical protection
  • All skin types
  • Those who prefer unscented skincare

Skip if:

  • You want a more hydrating formula
  • You’re not a fan of thinner consistency in sunscreen 

Our tester who likes to use mineral sunscreen exclusively raved about this one, giving it 5s across the board. “This was my absolute, hands-down favorite,” she wrote. “I was initially skeptical of the color, but once I worked it into my skin, I was more than pleasantly surprised—I was totally thrilled. I was really impressed with the finish it gave, and even more impressed when it didn’t seep out of my pores after an intense 30-minute Peloton bike ride.”

When you apply it, it comes out as a pearly yellow liquid, very much akin to a serum, that smooths effortlessly onto skin. It disappears almost instantly, leaving no hint of color behind. Compared with chemical sunscreen, this Summer Fridays mineral sunscreen has a slight tacky feeling but is similarly lightweight. It dries quickly and is barely noticeable within a minute, whereas the other mineral sunscreens we tested had a lingering greasiness.

The finish is perhaps the best thing about this sunscreen; it isn’t chalky or streaky the way some mineral sunscreens can be. Like our best luxury sunscreen pick from Dr. Loretta, it leaves skin looking even and toned.

Our long-term testing update:

  • Like our pick from Shiseido, this Summer Fridays sunscreen feels more like a serum than a typical sunscreen, but it’s completely mineral. If you prefer a mineral formula, we haven’t tested a lighter weight or better absorbing one than this.
  • It doesn’t look chalky, streaky or inconsistent, and it doesn’t feel greasy—even after full summer day of wear. One of our testers noted that “it felt a little sticky at first, but it settled in nicely.” If a lightweight finish—and mineral formula—is the most important thing to you, we don’t think you’ll mind. Compared with the other mineral sunscreens we tested, this one is virtually weightless.


Best Clear Face Sunscreen

A Skin-Softening Formula With An Ultra-Light Finish

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector SPF 50

Type: Chemical | Active ingredients: Avobenzone 2.3%, homosalate 10.0%, octisalate 5.0%, octocrylene 5.0% | Price per fluid ounce: $10 | Finish: Sheer, glowy | Scent: Floral | Additional ingredients: Plant extracts, iron oxides

Best for:

  • Water-resistant sun protection (up to 80 minutes)
  • No white cast
  • Serum-like formula 
  • A brightening effect

Skip if:

  • You prefer unscented skincare
  • You want a dewy finish

If you think you hate the look and feel of sunscreen, you’ve never tried this option from Shiseido. It defies all the usual adjectives: heavy, creamy, clogging, sticky, chalky, pasty. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion comes out of the bottle a translucent, pearly pink and disappears into skin with a light swipe. Like a serum, it absorbs into skin instantly with little rubbing required. Just be sure to give it a good shake before you dispense it; we found in testing that the formula separates more easily than others.

It feels like a serum, too. It’s skin-softening, silky and smoothing in a way that’s quite similar to our other clear SPF contender, Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen—both feel like a makeup primer. The ingredient dimethicone gives both a gliding quality. However, it scored higher than Supergoop among our testers. We loved the elegant finish; it brightens your skin, making it look naturally radiant. “My skin had a glow, almost like I was wearing a serum,” wrote one of our testers who has combination skin.

The scent could be endearing or off-putting, depending on your personal preference—but it is definitely noticeable. One of our testers described it as “a nice citrus scent that’s not overwhelming. It doesn’t have a sunscreen smell.”

I love that you get 5 fluid ounces. Most face sunscreens come in a 1.7-ounce bottle. It’s a bonus to have more on hand (and buy fewer plastic containers), plus the cost per use makes it a bargain.

Our long-term testing update:

  • Only two of the sunscreens we tested were truly clear. As one tester noted, she learned from our testing process that “sunscreens that are tagged as ‘clear’ and/or fast-absorbing aren’t necessarily so.”
  • This chemical sunscreen really does come out of the bottle and go on clear, and it has a texture that’s much more universally appealing than the other one we considered.
  • I don’t personally reach for this one because I prefer a creamier texture, but it continues to be my favorite truly clear formula. Its invisible appearance, quick absorption and serum-like texture make it a standout. If you don’t like sunscreen, go ahead and try a sample of this one—it might change your mind.


Best Face Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin

Our Top Pick For Those With Rosacea Or Acne

EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen SPF 46

Type: Combination | Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 9.0%, octinoxate 7.5% | Price per fluid ounce: $24 | Finish: Matte | Scent: None | Skincare ingredients: Niacinamide, lactic acid

Best for:

  • Hybrid formula (contains chemical and mineral active ingredients) 
  • People who have rosacea or acne
  • Matte finish

Skip if:

  • You have dry, sensitive skin
  • You want a rich, hydrating sunscreen
  • You prefer a glowy or dewy finish

If every other sunscreen you’ve tried has irritated your skin, making it burn, sting, itch or even flake, look no further. Our two very sensitive-skinned testers, including me, raved about this one. It’s designed for people whose skin flares up easily, and we found that it truly delivers.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how wonderful this product was,” wrote our other sensitive-skinned tester. “Application was so easy, and it worked well on my sensitive skin. I usually feel itchy around my eyes, mouth and chin whenever I try a new product for the first time, but with EltaMD that wasn’t the case. I accidentally ended up sleeping with it on, and my skin felt great even 12 hours later.”

She continued with the ultimate compliment: “I would buy this bottle again.” I would too. Again, the Dr. Loretta sunscreen is my hit-the-lottery pick, and it agreed with my skin, but it could potentially be irritating to other delicate flowers. This little bottle is a safe go-to and is my new everyday choice as well.

The pump bottle dispenses a precise amount, so less is wasted. It comes out as a white lotion, but not to worry it smooths into skin easily without leaving any chalkiness behind. It has a mattifying finish. If you have combination sensitive skin like I do, it feels pleasantly drying, plus it has acne-fighting ingredients including niacinamide and lactic acid that may help heal any blemishes and even out your skin tone. However, if your skin is very dry, it might make it feel a little tight. An even, matte finish is a bonus for sensitive skin that has a tendency toward oiliness too.

Our long-term testing update:

  • Our testers who have combination skin (myself included) continue to love the lightweight, nongreasy feel of this combination chemical and mineral sunscreen. It has a “mild,” “pleasant” scent and layers under makeup really well. “My makeup also went on nicely over it,” said one tester.
  • I personally love using it on days when my skin feels a little oilier or when I’m dealing with a breakout. It has a mattifying feel and look that I think improves my skin tone in addition to protecting it. I also really like traveling with the pump bottle because it is really unlikely to spill.


Other Face Sunscreens I Tested

We tested five other products that didn’t make the cut. Here’s why.

Sun Bum Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 ($11): A strong coconut scent and very thick texture made this Sun Bum product unappealing to all of our testers for everyday use. If you’re looking for sunscreen for a vacation and like formulas that make you feel protected (like my mom’s favorite old-school swipe of pure zinc down the nose), consider it. It feels a bit greasy at first but does absorb nicely.

La Roche Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 50 ($38): The Anthelios line gets rave reviews from dermatologists and editors, so I was surprised that this sunscreen really upset several of our testers’ skin. More than one used the words “agitated,” “itchy” and “reddening.” Perhaps other Anthelios formulas are more universally appealing.

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 ($38): Many people, including other Forbes staffers, love this totally clear sunscreen. It has a unique love-it-or-hate-it silky, primer-like feel. It irritated more than one of our testers’ skin.

Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 ($15): This mineral-only formula wins big points for affordability at just $3 an ounce, but all of our testers found the finish to be too greasy for the face on a daily basis. It’s a great gentle formula for allover for a beach day, though, and we love how the bottle changes color in the sun over time to remind you to reapply.

Hero Force Shield SPF 30 ($14): The green tint of this affordable 100% mineral sunscreen may work really well for people who have significant redness to hide, but otherwise it can leave you looking a little sallow. The pump bottle also clogged easily for some of us.


How I Tested The Best Face Sunscreens

I read many sunscreen guides and immersed myself in the comments sections of major beauty retailers including Ulta, Sephora and Amazon, looking for products that met our criteria and received consistently high ratings and rave reviews. A sunscreen’s look and feel hinges heavily on your skin type and personal preferences. For that reason, we determined that this category required panel testing. We gathered a group of six testers with diverse complexions and skin tones who live in different climates, from California to New Jersey. They self-identified their skin types as normal (one person), dry (one), combination (two) and sensitive (two, including me).

To gauge skin tone, we started with the Fitzpatrick Skin Score, the system dermatologists use to describe how skin responds to UV exposure. I consider myself a type II. Our other five panelists self-identified as type I, III and IV.

  • Type I: Skin always burns, never tans and is most sensitive to UV exposure.
  • Type II: Skin burns easily and tans minimally.
  • Type III: Skin burns moderately and tans gradually to light brown.
  • Type IV: Skin burns minimally and always tans well to moderately brown.
  • Type V: Skin rarely burns and tans quickly to dark.
  • Type VI: Skin never burns, is deeply pigmented and is least sensitive to UV exposure.

Each of us followed the same testing procedure to test our best face sunscreen contenders. First, we each dispensed a nickel-size dollop onto our palm and applied it to our face. Right away, we rated it on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (amazing) for ease of application, feel, finish and scent. We also snapped photos of how it looked on our faces to capture any traces of a white cast or excess greasiness.

Some of us wore our usual moisturizer underneath the sunscreen and some did not. I personally didn’t apply moisturizer underneath because I don’t have a go-to that I use regularly and I didn’t want to affect the feel of the sunscreen.

We checked in on our faces approximately two hours later. Had the sunscreen become greasier or too dry? Was it uncomfortable or prompting us to touch our faces excessively? Then we washed our faces and tested another contender.


How To Pick A Face Sunscreen

The best face sunscreen is broad-spectrum (meaning it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays) and SPF 30 or higher. Those two factors are non-negotiable per our experts; most sunscreens check them off. The only other crucial thing: You should like it enough to smooth a nickel-size dollop onto your face every day. The best sunscreen is ultimately the one you’ll actually use daily. Get to know the formulas, then use our guidance to pick one that works for your skin type and gives you a feel and finish you love.

Active Ingredients

There are two types of sunscreen formulas: mineral and chemical. Combination, or hybrid, versions contain a mix of both types of filters.

Mineral sunscreens have one or both of the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that start working as soon as you apply them. “Some people may think of these ingredients as more ‘natural’ or even ‘organic,’ but they’re actually inorganic mineral compounds,” says dermatologist Dr. Steven Q. Wang. They’re also sometimes called physical sun blockers, which, as I’ll explain in a minute, is a bit of a misnomer. “Traditionally, these sunscreens were not great options for people with darker skin tones because the active ingredients left a whitish cast on the skin,” Wang says. “Now most formulas are micronized into tinier particles, so they go on more smoothly and are more aesthetically pleasing.”

By contrast, chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients that are carbon based, says Wong. These ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene, and they take around 20 minutes to start working. They’re actually the organic ones; technically, they’re called “UV organic filters.” Chemical sunscreens “tend to have lighter textures and no white cast,” she says. “The toxicological consensus is that they’re safe as currently used in sunscreens.”

Combination sunscreens, as the name implies, contain a blend of chemical and mineral active ingredients. “If someone is allergic to some common chemical sunscreens but doesn’t like the heavy texture of mineral sunscreens, a combination sunscreen might be the most suitable,” says Wong.

Skin Type

Chemical and mineral sunscreens have different properties that make them better suited to different skin types. If you have “normal” skin, without any particular sensitivities or allergies, a chemical sunscreen tends to be the best option, says Wong.

If you have dry skin, look for a sunscreen that contains additional hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, says Wang. You may want to avoid purely mineral formulas, which can be drying.

Oily and combination skin types may appreciate the drying effect of a mineral formula, though some of those can feel heavy, says Wong. The latter is especially true of mineral sunscreens with high amounts of zinc oxide, she adds, especially if it has plant oils in its base. For added skin benefits, look for ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides and peptides. They can help reduce acne and skin discoloration.

People who have sensitive, reactive skin should look for a mineral sunscreen with as few inactive ingredients as possible. If you’re allergic to some common chemical sunscreens but don’t like the heavy texture of mineral sunscreens, Wong suggests trying a combination sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens tend to be a good fit for people with deeper complexions since they leave less of a white cast behind and have a lighter texture. If you prefer a mineral sunscreen, be aware that titanium dioxide gives more white cast than zinc oxide does, says Wong; a formula with less titanium dioxide may blend in more easily. You may also want to look for a sunscreen that contains iron oxides: They add a skin-colored tint that deters chalkiness and helps protect against visible light, which can darken pigment in deeper complexions and aggravate conditions like melasma.

Feel & Finish

Like moisturizers and foundations, the best face sunscreens come in a practically infinite range of textures from matte to dewy. They can also give you the skin-toning effect of your favorite tinted moisturizer along with complete sun protection.

Sunscreens can be sheer and quick-drying like a gel moisturizer or serum. Chemical sunscreens tend to feel the least heavy, according to Wong, who says people with oily skin types may prefer their lightweight texture. “Alcohol can help make sunscreens feel lighter, but it can sting when applied,” she says. Heavier mineral sunscreens can have a drying, mattifying effect that oily or combination types might like, too.

Nourishing balm or thicker lotion sunscreens serve dry skin types well. Hyaluronic acid and rich plant oils on the label indicate a richer texture.

Sunscreens can also have a texture like a makeup primer—and can stand in for one, too. These formulas feel velvety and ultra-smooth. If dimethicone, a common skin primer, is toward the top of the ingredients list, a sunscreen is likely to have this effect.

Tinted mineral sunscreens tend to have iron oxides. This protective ingredient gives sunscreen a sometimes shimmery, skin-toned tint and shields against free radical producing blue light.


My Expertise

I’ve worked as a journalist for my entire decade-plus career, and skincare is one of my specialties. I’ve written and edited stories about sun safety, style and beauty for O, The Oprah Magazine and Martha Stewart Living that have been nominated for the Skin Cancer Foundation Media Award, which recognizes journalism that addresses skin cancer prevention, early detection or treatment.

Personally, I have been testing sunscreens ever since my mom swiped pure zinc onto my pale little nose and cheeks. Skin cancer runs in my family; I’ve already had dangerous-looking freckles on my chest and back biopsied. I know how crucial it is to wear face sunscreen every day. Still, before researching this story, I rarely did unless I was on a beach vacation; I’d never found one I liked enough. Sunscreens tend to irritate my skin and make it break out, even if they’re non-comedogenic. This assignment was exactly what I needed to focus my search, and—no excuses now—I finally found a keeper.

This tested package was overseen by deputy editor Jane Sung, who leads the beauty and grooming vertical at Forbes Vetted and has over 15 years of beauty and lifestyle experience under her belt. To report this story, I reached out to an expert who helps develop guidelines for sun protection and evaluates sunscreens for the Skin Cancer Foundation: Wang, who is chair of its photobiology committee and director of dermatologic oncology at the Hoag Family Cancer Institute, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California. I also sought advice from Michelle Wong, PhD, a cosmetic chemist based in Sydney, Australia and the founder of Lab Muffin Beauty Science. Wong is especially knowledgeable and passionate about formulations.


How Much Face Sunscreen Do I Need To Apply?

In the morning, apply “at least a nickel-size dollop of sunscreen to the face regardless of how much time you spend outdoors,” says Wang. He advises being generous in your application and making sure you cover frequently missed areas like your ears, the back of your neck, your nose and your hairline. If you’re sweating, reapply every two hours, and if you’re swimming, reapply after you towel off.

Which Is Better, Chemical Or Mineral Sunscreen?

Unless you’re allergic to one of the active ingredients, the type of sunscreen that’s best for you is primarily a matter of personal preference, not safety. It’s often said that chemical sunscreens sink into your skin and block harmful rays by absorbing them and doing…something vaguely chemical to them. The implication is that this might not be healthy because the chemicals absorb into your bloodstream. Meanwhile, mineral sunscreens are commonly said to sit on top of your skin and physically reflect the sun (hence the term physical sunscreen or sunblock). The problem is, the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens isn’t that simple.

“There are a lot of myths about how mineral sunscreens work, which has led to a lot of misinformation about the benefits of chemical versus mineral sunscreens,” says Wong. “For example, mineral sunscreens work primarily by absorbing UV and converting it to heat just like chemical sunscreens”—there’s that vaguely chemical explanation we needed earlier—“and only about 5 to 10% of the protective effect is via reflecting or scattering UV.”

It’s important for babies 6 months and older to use mineral sunscreens—the smaller dose of chemicals is significant for them (and parents of babies under 6 months should rely on shade and protective clothes instead of sunscreen). But for adults, the current consensus is: Any of the three types of sunscreens that feels comfortable on your skin is safe to use.

What Is Reef-Safe Sunscreen, And Do I Need It?

You may see this term on a mineral sunscreen’s label. However, “reef-safe” currently has more to do with marketing than any actual guideline or definition. Research has suggested that some chemical sunscreen ingredients may harm sea life including coral reefs, but scientists don’t fully understand the connection yet. (Consumer Reports has an excellent rundown on these so-called reef-safe sunscreens.) Our consensus? If you like the sunscreen, great—but there’s no need (at least right now) to go out of your way to buy a product that’s designated “reef-safe.”

Do I Need Waterproof Face Sunscreen?

If you’re spending extended time outdoors and may be sweating or going swimming, a waterproof face sunscreen is a must. Wang recommends looking for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that’s labeled “water-resistant” for 40 or 80 minutes. You should still reapply it every two hours and always after swimming.

And that’s not all. “I can’t stress enough that sunscreen alone is not enough sun protection,” he says. Make it part of your safe-sun routine along with shade, UPF clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses. Also limit your time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is strongest.

Do I Need Sunscreen That Protects Against Visible Light?

Visible light, i.e. blue light or high-energy visible light (aka HEVs), may not cause skin cancer, but it does affect your skin. “It penetrates the skin and produces reactive oxygen species or ROS, also known as free radicals, which lead to inflammation, skin pigmentation, wrinkles and other signs of aging that start to appear as the collagen and elastin in the dermis begins to break down,” says Wang. The effect can be especially noticeable for people with darker skin tones, who can experience hyperpigmentation as a result. To prevent this, look for a sunscreen with iron oxides (which can block blue light) and antioxidants (which offer some protection from pollution and other free radicals).

Do I Need Face Sunscreen If My Makeup Has SPF?

Yes. “Makeup is generally not applied as evenly and thickly as sunscreen,” says Wang, who points out that many cosmetic formulations also don’t give you broad-spectrum protection because they lack ingredients that block UVA radiation.

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