The Sunscreens of Summer

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 27, 2022
Originally published on August 26, 2022

The Sunscreens of Summer
  (Source:Getty Images)

We've talked a lot about sunscreens this summer. But the truth is, you can never talk about sunscreen too much. Anytime someone asks me what skincare products I recommend, the first thing I always ask is: "Do you wear sunscreen?" If the answer is no, the conversation usually devolves into me waving my SPF pom poms until the other person is expressionless or rolling their eyes. But it's true: If you're not wearing sunscreen, nothing else you're putting on your face matters.

I do understand why people seem to have such an aversion to sunscreen: They can be stinky, greasy products that leave our faces looking like they're covered in chalk dust. But it's not 1980, and the sunscreens on the market today are much more scientifically advanced and cosmetically elegant than the Coppertone our parents used to cover us in. There are options for every skin type, skin tone, and activity level.

All dermatologists recommend sunscreen daily, even in the winter, and even if you don't go outside. If you stay inside all day, you're probably good with one application. But if you're spending any time outdoors at all — even just to walk the dog or water the flowers — you should be reapplying every couple hours. You also need to apply the product liberally for it to have the SPF strength advertised on the bottle, and for most people that's about a ½ teaspoon for the face and the neck. If it's a runnier sunscreen, a nickel-sized amount will usually do the trick.

As someone hopelessly obsessed with sunscreen, I try a lot of it, and I've been especially trying a lot this summer. Sunscreen is a personal thing, and what looks good on me won't necessarily look good on someone else. But after months of testing different sunscreens, I'm here to share my favorites with you. But remember: The best sunscreen is the one that you will actually wear. Hopefully some of these will lead you on your own path of sunscreen discovery.

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++

My favorite sunscreen of all time. There's nobody that this clear sunscreen won't work for. You can reapply it constantly without fear of looking greasy, and it goes on effortlessly over your other skincare products without any pilling. I also love that you can put it near your eyes and it doesn't burn. Also, this contains red algae, which helps to protect your skin from harmful blue light emitted from electronic devices. I am never without this product. $36, sephora.com.

TULA Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen Gel Broad Spectrum SPF 30

A relatively new discovery for me. I have found myself reaching for this daily. This sunscreen has a weird, lumpy texture, but it dissolves into the skin beautifully and leaves the skin looking uniform and glowy. I especially love that, even if I haven't shaved for a few days, it doesn't get caught up in my stubble like some sunscreens do. This lightweight gel also contains probiotic extract to help with smoothness, pineapple and papaya to help with skin tone, and wild butterfly ginger root to help protect the skin from the damaging effects of blue light and pollution. And when it comes to reapplication, this stuff is a dream. $38, sephora.com.

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

If you're suffering from any kind of dark spots or hyperpigmentation, a tinted sunscreen is the way to go. In addition, it can be a great option for people who just want a little bit of color without a full face of makeup. I have a contentious relationship with tinted sunscreens: I find that they either make me look like Donald Trump, or get caught in my facial hair and make me look unkempt. This product from SkinCeuticals is different, though. This 100% mineral sunscreen is enhanced with an antioxidant plankton extract that can increase skin's resistance to UV and heat-induced stress, and it never makes me look streaky or unnatural. $36, lovelyskin.com.

PCA Skin Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 45: Water Resistant

When it comes to sun protection for those who are active and sweating, or spending a day at the beach or pool, it's important to find a product that isn't going to drip off your face. While most sunscreens only protect a wet face for 30-40 minutes, this PCA Skin treasure provides UV protection for 80 minutes, reducing the amount of times you need to reapply. Reef safe and approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation for active use, this sophisticated formula includes additional antioxidants to protect the skin from harmful free radicals, all with a light finish. $44, lovelyskin.com.

MD Solar Sciences Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30

This beloved tinted sunscreen has a universally flattering, mattifying tint, making it the ideal tinted sunscreen for both men and women. Aside from the SPF production and flattering tint, this elegant formulation is filled with antioxidant goodies like Vitamin C, green tea, cranberry, and pomegranate extracts. $24.99, target.com.

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Mineral Broad Spectrum SPF 50+

Fast-absorbing and ultralight, this sunscreen protects skin from the sun while simultaneously repairing existing sun damage using a patented DNA Repairsome technology. Lightweight, and with no white cast, this is an effective sunscreen with a gorgeous finish that will work on all skin types, and you can slather it on all day and it never pills or leaves a milky residue on the skin. $60, lovelyskin.com.

Bliss Block Star Daily Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Another hero in the category of tinted sunscreens, this bliss bestseller won't give you a tanned look, but the subtle filters have a blurring effect on the skin, and it doesn't get caught in my stubble, which is why I love it. It's also lightly scented with lavender, so as long as you're not sensitive to fragrance, it's a joy to apply. $21.99, target.com.

SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair SPF 34 - Untinted

While most doctors recommend SPF 50 and above, who can argue with SkinMedica, the creators of Botox? This formula is great because it blends two chemical sunscreens with 8% zinc oxide (a mineral sunscreen) to create the ultimate sun shield. I used this product every day on the beaches of Jamaica, and my pale, white skin never got so much as pink. $70, lovelyskin.com.

Supergoop! Handscreen Sunscreen SPF 40

Sunscreen for the hands? You bet your ass. Our hands are among the first places on our bodies where the damaging effects of the sun can be seen, but no one wants to slather expensive facial sunscreen on their hands or leave the house with our hands coated in greasy, white cream. This product is excellent because it provides non-greasy sun protection while also moisturizing the hands. I keep a tube of this next to my door so that I never forget to rub a dab on when leaving the house. $38, sephora.com.

Heliocare Antioxidant Supplements

While not technically a sunscreen, these dermatologist-recommended supplements are the only supplements on the market known to provide overall protection against photoaging. Heliocare works by improving the body's tolerance to UV rays and helping the skin maintain its structure and immune response against sun damage. It also helps protect elastin, which gives the skin a more youthful appearance. Take it while using sunscreen, and you'll be more protected than ever against sun damage. My own dermatologist told me to take one of these pills every day for the rest of my life, and now I'm passing that wisdom on to you. $29.99, lovelyskin.com.

Control Corrective Oil Free Sunscreen SPF 30

A sunscreen and moisturizer in one. I was shocked by how this thick product did not work against my oily skin. While I do completely skip a moisturizer on days that I use this, it plays well on top of all my other serums. Don't be alarmed by the white cast that appears initially; this product melts into the skin, leaving it looking nourished and uniform. $40, controlcorrective.com.

Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA++++

If you're really looking to go down a sunscreen rabbit hole, head over to stylevana.com to shop an array of classic Korean sunscreens at insanely reasonable prices. Sunscreen from Korea or Japan tends to be a little more cosmetically elegant than sunscreens in the U.S., and you can blame the FDA for that. But this cult classic from Isntree is a great place to start. It soaks into the skin beautifully, survives reapplication, doesn't get caught in my stubble, and doesn't burn my eyes. And at only $17.99, you don't have to feel bad about applying big globs to your face every two hours. But remember: Don't buy Korean skincare from Amazon, as there's a huge problem with unauthorized retailers selling fake or expired products. Be sure you're using a reputable site like Stylevana, but be patient: Shipping can take about a month. $17.99, stylevana.com.