When it comes to the wide world of skincare products, there is one thing pretty much every dermatologist, esthetician and beauty enthusiast can agree on…
Sunscreen is the most important step in your daily routine.
Admittedly, I was not always devoted to sunscreen. It ran into my eyes and made them burn. It caused my skin to erupt with angry blemishes or itchy red splotches. It left a greasy film that lasted all day. But I’ve since changed my tune (and, thankfully, so have sunscreen formulas).
Sunscreens fall into one of two categories: 1) chemical, which contain compounds that convert UV rays into heat and then release it, and 2) mineral, with ingredients that physically block and deflect rays. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin, while mineral sunscreens remain on top of the skin’s surface. While both offer effective protection, mineral sunscreens are widely considered to be better for sensitive skin, including rosacea, since they help keep skin cool.
Back in the day, mineral sunscreen conjured images of chalky formulas a la Spicoli’s nose, but the latest crop is clear, sheer, and a pleasure to wear.
So, in the name of skincare, I tried many, many formulas and can enthusiastically recommend the following five:
Good for everyday: Saie Sunvisor Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 35
I won’t bury the lede: This is my overall favorite for everyday wear. The lightweight formula glides onto skin, making it the easiest to smooth on before a morning stroll or running errands. It also feels sheer enough to comfortably wear all day, alone or with makeup. The pink-in-the-tube formula goes on clear, with a hint of glow — the effect isn’t shimmery, just ethereal, like you came from a workout class or have very excellent genes. It leaves my skin feeling silky and moisturized, thanks to vitamin E, aloe vera, argan and grapeseed oils. The week I first tried this, I couldn’t help but admire how dewy I looked, which is saying a lot since I was riddled with late-night deadlines and ravaged by allergies. I never thought I would say I actively love a sunscreen, but I do.
Good for active: Badger Active Sunscreen Cream SPF 30
Straight out of the tube, this reminds me of kindergarten paste — white, sticky, thick. But once I rub it in, it instantly redeems itself. The unscented cream goes on clear, without a hint of irritation. There’s a lot to love about this water-resistant formula, which is 98% organic and free of fragrances, dyes, parabens, petrolatum, GMOs and synthetics. While I find it a bit too greasy for everyday wear, I absolutely love it for hikes, sports and beach days. Bonus: Compared to the other formulas, the tube contains nearly double the product, and is great for both face AND body.
Good for on-the-go touch-ups: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection SPF 30
Multiple friends swear by this brand of powder sunscreen, which is light, dry, and easy to dust on anywhere. While I still prefer to start my day by slathering on a liquid (to ensure I’m properly covered), when it comes to travel or touch-ups, this can’t be beat. It stows easily in your bag, and I love that the built-in brush lets you reapply without worrying about germy fingers or greasy midday face. You can even tap some into your hair, to block the sun from reaching your part.
Good for sensitive skin: Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense SPF 50
This French pharmacy staple, formulated for sensitive skin, looks and feels the sunscreen-iest of the bunch. It goes on white and sticky, calling to mind childhood beach days of yore. But any tackiness evaporates within minutes, leaving behind an invisible shield that’s completely fragrance free — as well as water resistant up to 40 minutes. Designed to calm and soothe sensitive skin, this is a great bet for anyone who is after a true sunscreen.
Good for tinted: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
I am a huge fan of anything that simplifies my mornings, and this product — fusing skincare, makeup and SPF — could not be easier. The liquid formula is a bit thicker than traditional tinted serums and requires some coaxing to blend into the skin. For me, it takes a few minutes for the product to settle, but once it does, I really like how it looks and feels. It adds instant polish to no-makeup days, or works as an excellent base alongside concealer for times when I want more coverage. It comes in 18 shades, and the brand’s meet your match feature lets you upload a selfie and quickly find the right one for you.
And there you have it! In terms of wear, I like to apply my regular morning moisturizer, give it a minute to sink in while I get dressed, then apply the sunscreen on top. Whenever I sport mineral sunscreen, I end the day with a double cleanse, to make sure I get everything off before heading to bed.
What kind of sunscreen do you wear? Do you have a favorite formula? We’d love to hear.
(Photos by Caroline Donofrio.)