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How to choose the best sunscreen for your face, according to skin care experts

Have fun in the sun while staying protected.
TODAY Illustration / AleksandarNakic / Getty Images / Walgreens / Amazon
/ Source: TODAY

When you're trying to achieve youthful skin, the sun can seem like your worst enemy. And whether you are looking to fight against aging or want to avoid painful sunburns, it is important to select the right sunscreen to protect your skin from the harsh summer rays.

Dermatologist Debra Wattenberg previously stopped by TODAY to share how to choose the right sunscreen and the best sunscreen options for a variety of summer activities, from water activities to indoor protection. We also talked to CEO at The Skin Consult, Dr. Sajani Barot, for tips on how to apply sunscreen and ingredients to watch out for specific skin types.

Read on to shop dermatologist-approved picks and shoppers-approved bestsellers to keep your face fully protected this summer.

Ingredients to look out for when shopping for sunscreens

Many people strive to protect their skin at all costs during sunnier summer months, but certain ingredients can trigger sensitive skin or cause irritation. For example, Barot mentioned that chemical sunscreens can cause sensitivity, especially for those with acne-prone skin.

"Typically, I like to recommend mineral sunscreens for those with acne," she said. "Usually, those are labeled with titanium dioxide ingredient." (Titanium dioxide has been shown to have a gentle, mild reaction on the skin, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.)

While chemical sunscreens are very effective, these take time to get activated into the skin. Ingredients like "oxybenzone, octocrylene, avobenzone and others can cause sensitivity in certain individuals that have sensitive and acne-prone skin."

How to apply sunscreen

You need about 30ml of sunscreen, which is about one ounce of product.

"For the face, you want to use a quarter-size amount and make sure you're covering your ears and any parts that are exposed." Barot also recommends checking the date of expiration as it will affect the efficacy of your sunscreen.

If you're someone that loves wearing makeup, make sure to always apply your sunscreen before your foundation. "The rule of thumb is to reapply sunscreen every two hours," according to Barot, so a tinted moisturizer with additional SPF will work better on the skin.

While sunscreen tends to not interact with other skin care products, Barot mentioned that it's essential to use sunscreen if you're using reactive products that leave your dermis vulnerable.

"In fact if you use any ingredients in your regimen like retinoids or glycolic acids, you should be using sunscreen religiously everyday because those can make your skin more sensitive to the sun."

Dermatologist-approved facial sunscreens for outdoor activities

Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Lotion

For Wattenberg, the best sunscreen is one you will use every single day, and this Sun Bum lotion is sure to do the trick. She recommends an SPF of 30 or higher and a sunscreen that is water-resistant for 40 or 80 minutes with broad-spectrum protection. With a signature scent that instantly reminds people of summer, Sun Bum ticks off all of the boxes for a must-have summer essential.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion

This lightweight and sheer sunscreen from Neutrogena is fast-absorbing, non-greasy and has a matte finish. Since it does not have a heavy texture, this sunscreen is great to use for everyday activities to stay protected from the sun and prevent sunburn. If you will be using this sunscreen on the beach or by the pool, it's also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Coola Organic Mineral Sun Silk Creme Sunscreen

We all know that the sun can seriously damage your skin, so take charge and protect your face with this product. When looking for a face sunscreen, you should try to find one specific to your skin type. Also, limit the number of products you apply when using sunscreen. This organic mineral sun silk creme gently glides onto your skin and is transparent so you can layer it under makeup.

Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+

Even while indoors or driving, Wattenberg recommends applying sun protection since UVA rays can penetrate glass windows and damage your skin. This one from Avène features an ultra-lightweight formula with niacinamide, allantoin and spring water that feels soothing on the skin.

Urban Skin Rx Sheerglow Even Tone Daily Moisturizer SPF 30

The weightless formula is great to mix with the rest of your skin care products. This sunscreen has a light consistency and SPF 30 protection for a sheer complexion that won't look greasy. The product is great for normal, combination or sensitive skin and is formulated with grapefruit and tangerine oils for a smooth finish.

Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Lotion, Broad Spectrum SPF 50

For babies and kids, the best sunscreen to start with is a mineral sunscreen like this one because it is mild and can be used on both body and face. Lotions are the best option since sprays are harder to apply and aerosol is not good for young children. This baby sunscreen has been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as an effective broad-spectrum sunscreen.

P.S. It's important to remember not to apply sunscreen on babies under the age of six months. They should never be in direct sunlight.

Shoppers-approved facial sunscreens

Bondi Sands SPF 50 Fragrance Free Face Sunscreen Lotion

For a budget-friendly option, this sunscreen will give you the best protection. Bondi Sands has a weightless texture and doesn't feel heavy when applied to the face. The best part is that is reef-friendly and offers 72-hour hydration.

"It blends into your face with no trace of white even though it is a white liquid," one shopper added about its quality.

Zealios Sun Barrier SPF 45 Water-Resistant

This reef-safe formula is perfect for sensitive skin if you're worried about your pores. The Zealios sunscreen is ideal for sports enthusiasts that love spending time outside and need extra protection.

"This is by far the best sunscreen I’ve found! I moved from Ohio (no sun, very pale) to work as a lifeguard on a beach on the Florida gulf coast and put this on once in the morning and am good the rest of the day!" shared one verified reviewer.

EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 46

This EltaMD sunscreen will provide essential protection to your skin. Its fragrance-free formula includes sodium hyaluronate to moisturize, while lactic acid helps refine skin to clear pores and reduce shine. Over 24,300 customers gave this sunscreen a five-star rating for its reliable coverage.

"I'm nearly 60 years old and Asian. I used to have sun-damaged age spots but since using this sunscreen, most faded and kept my skin smooth," shared one Amazon shopper.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen Gentle Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, broad-spectrum and non-greasy, this La Roche-Posay sunscreen is a great option for summer. This 100 percent mineral sunscreen helps protect skin from UV rays and is tested to work even on sensitive skin.

"This sunscreen really does dry to a nice powder finish. It feels great. Not heavy at all and it doesn’t make my skin look or feel greasy or shiny," shared one buyer.

Coppertone Oil Free Face Lotion SPF 50

Enjoy the great outdoors with this oil-free formula from Coppertone. According to reviewers, this sunscreen won't make your skin break out or irritate. The non-greasy and near-invisible formula will set well on most skin types.

"It also doesn’t leave that dreaded white cast. Makes a great base for application of foundation, as it helps it glide easily over the skin," added one shopper.

Repêchage Mineral Face Shield

The luxurious formula will protect you from the sun even when it's 100 degrees outside. This award-winning environmental protection contains antioxidants and silky texture for a matte finish.

"This is worth the price. It really smooths my skin and prepares it for foundation or base. It reduces the appearance of enlarged pores and is a shield from the sun and the environment," shared one verified Amazon shopper.

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