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How to choose the best sunscreen for your face, according to experts — plus 20 SPF picks to shop

Have fun in the sun while staying protected.
/ 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.

Fortunately, NewBeauty Editor-at-Large Sarah Eggenberger recently shared with TODAY some of her suggested SPF picks for everyday use and activities, including some for travel and sitting beachside.

Below, you’ll find a range of sunscreens that can boost your makeup game or easily be stowed in your favorite tote — all of which are approved and recommended by our experts.

Seen on TODAY | Dermatologist-approved sunscreens | Shopper- and editor-approved sunscreens | Ingredients to look out for | Meet our experts | How we chose

Sunscreens for all activities, as seen on TODAY

Naked Sundays SPF50 Cabana Clear Water Gel Serum

What we like
  • Good under makeup
  • Leaves skin glowing, dewy
Something to note
  • Greasy texture

Size(s): 30 milliliters | SPF: 50 | Formula: Serum

Based on Naked Sundays’ website, they created the first-ever clear sunscreen. (That fact alone is enough to keep us interested.) So if you’ve ever worried about a white cast from sunscreen, even while underneath makeup, this one will ease your worries. Instead, the Radiant Sun Serum should leave a semi-matte and satin finish that acts like a serum, moisturizer and primer to shield, hydrate and keep your look intact. 

Vacation Classic Whip SPF 30

What we like
  • Easy to apply on body
  • Non-greasy and sticky texture
Something to note
  • Irritation if used on face

Size(s): 4 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: Whip cream/shaving cream-like

The packaging might look delicious, but don’t mistake this powerful sunscreen for your favorite can of whipped cream. Although it will be a playful addition to your beach bag, the unique packaging actually keeps the product air-tight and sealed.

“The mousse dispenses in a billow of swirling ribbons, its texture light and airy and nearly indistinguishable from a dollop of edible cream,” describes Eggenberger. “It is genuinely fun to use and its a great encouragement to get kids to apply sunscreen.” Plus, it makes for easy and swift application as you’re rushing to the shore.

Olay Glow & Protect Face Sunscreen Stick

What we like
  • Good for on-the-go
  • Easy application
Something to note
  • Skin feels sticky, oily

Size(s): 0.5 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: Sunscreen stick

“Sunscreen sticks are less messy than a typical lotion, and since they’re small in size, they’re a lot easier to travel with,” says Eggenberger. An added plus? “You can touch up high-risk areas that need increased protection, like your nose and ears, throughout the day,” she adds. With the Olay Glow & Protect sunscreen stick, all you have to do is twist the packaging up to apply — even if you already have makeup on.

The best part isn’t just the glowing finish, but the incredibly travel-friendly size (it’s just 0.5 oz!). Meaning, you can easily store the sunblock in your tote, carry-on and more.

Kopari Sunglaze Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen SPF 42

What we like
  • Easy to apply
  • Non-greasy texture
Something to note
  • Spray nozzle malfunctions

Size(s): 4.7 ounces | SPF: 42 | Formula: Body mist

It is a universal rule that you should reapply sunscreen every 80 minutes. But admittedly, we don’t always follow that because it is never appealing to apply sunblock on sandy and sweaty skin. As an alternative to reapplying cream-based SPF, this Kopari body mist lightly drenches the body with a delicate mist that promises to be fast-absorbing and quick-drying.

“To get the best efficacy out of a spray sunscreen, you want to spray until a sheen is visible on the skin, then rub it in and allow it to dry,” advises Eggenberger. “The additional benefit of the sheen, is you can see exactly where you applied, ensuring you do not miss any spots.” 

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Cream SPF 50+

What we like
  • Doesn't leave skin sticky
  • Skin feels and looks good
Something to note
  • Irritates if applied on face
  • Overwhelming scent

Size(s): 2 ounces | SPF: 50+ | Formula: Lotion/cream

For when you’re on-the-go this summer, you’ll need a sunscreen that will protect and adapt to your environment. That’s where Shiseido’s Ultimate Sun Protector Cream comes into play. According to the brand, the product has “HeatForce” and “WetForce” technology that are activated based on external heat and water exposure. As it senses heat or water, it claims to form a stronger barrier of protection. It's even water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. 

EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46

What we like
  • Lightweight, oil-free texture
  • Doesn't leave a white cast
Something to note
  • Have to reapply often
  • New formula; irritated some

Size(s): 1.7 ounces | SPF: 46 | Formula: Lotion

EltaMD’s UV Clear Broad Spectrum sunscreen doesn’t just protect — it actively works to treat common skin concerns, too. For instance, it contains niacinamide to help combat blemishes and discoloration, and promises to be non-comedogenic (indicating that it shouldn’t clog pores). And notably, the finish is sheer, which Eggenberger says is uniquely unusual for a sunscreen that contains zinc.” The resulting application is virtually transparent,” she says. It has even been recommended by one of our experts for sun protection.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Cream SPF 60+ Face Sunscreen

What we like
  • Doesn't leave a white cast
  • Non-greasy texture
Something to note
  • Pricey for size
  • Different, new formula

Size(s): 1.69 and 5.07 ounces | SPF: 60+ | Formula: Lotion

For added protection during your outdoor festivities, Shiseido also offers the product in a 60+ version that is bottled in a lotion for the face and body.

Dermatologist-approved facial sunscreens for outdoor activities

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Wattenberg previously stopped by TODAY to share how to choose the right sunscreen for every kind of outdoor activity, plus shared her favorites.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion

What we like
  • Rubs, blends in nicely
  • No white cast 
Something to note
  • Need to reapply often to prevent sunburns

Size(s): 3 ounces | SPF: 55 | Formula: 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.

Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Lotion

What we like
  • Has a slight scent, more enjoyable than other sunscreens. 
  • A little goes a long way, long-lasting tubes
Something to note
  • Has a quick expiration date; check before using 

Size(s): 6 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: 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.

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

What we like
  • Good for all ages
  • Reviewers say it won't irritate skin with eczema
Something to note
  • Have to reapply often to prevent sunburns 
  • Delivery and packaging issues

Size(s): 3 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: Lotion

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.

Urban Skin Rx Sheerglow Even Tone Daily Moisturizer SPF 30

What we like
  • Stays put for long periods of time; long-lasting and protecting
  • Good for sensitive skin
Something to note
  • Small tube for the price
  • Leaves a white cast

Size(s): 2.25 and 0.5 ounces | SPF: 30 | Formula: Moisturizer

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.

Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+

What we like
  • Doesn't leave face feeling sticky or a white cast
  • Feels lightweight, nice underneath makeup
Something to note
  • Small bottle for the price
  • Some bottles are defective, product doesn't come out

Size(s): 1.7 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: Lotion, moisturizer

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.

Editor-approved facial sunscreens

DUNE Suncare Gel Body Sunscreen

What we like
  • Good to use on both body, face
  • Rubs in quickly and easily
Something to note
  • Leaked during delivery
  • A bit greasy, oily texture

Size(s): 8.4 ounces | SPF: 30 | Formula: Gel lotion

Social editorial assistant Annie Shigo employs this body and face sunscreen as her everyday go-to, as its low SPF count (SPF 30) offers just enough protection for office days.

Plus, it's long-lasting, meaning you don't need to reapply throughout the day, and it has a nice scent, according to Shigo. Reviewers love how easily it glides over and blends into their skin, even those with tattoo sleeves.

Shake Shake SPF 50 Mineral Milk Face Sunscreen

What we like
  • Good for acne-prone skin
  • Blends in easily
Something to note
  • Remember to shake before use

Size(s): 1.7 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: "Watery-milk" texture, according to the brand

"I officially found the mineral sunscreen of my dewy girl dreams," says senior editor Jess Bender. "I’ve been curious about Vacation for a while due to their throwback marketing that throws me right back to the ‘90s, but they further won me over with the “shakerball” packaging and flip spout to neatly pour out just enough sunscreen to cover my entire face."

While it takes a little bit of effort to blend in, and you have to remember to shake the bottle before each use, the brand promises a lightweight application and streak-free results.

Freaks of Nature Daily Defender SPF 30 Sunscreen

What we like
  • Vegan, clean ingredients
  • Lightweight, stays on well
Something to note
  • Has a matte feel

Size(s): 1.7 ounces | SPF: 30 | Formula: Lotion, moisturizer

Founded by surfing icon Kelly Slater, this daily sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, fragrance-free, reef-safe and is long-lasting, according to Shigo.

Shigo has been using it as her daily SPF for a few days now and compliments its staying power and lightweight texture.

Kopari Bright As Day Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

What we like
  • Provides a glowy look
  • Looks good under makeup
Something to note
  • Has a strange smell
  • Gritty texture

Size(s): 1.7 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: Lotion, moisturizer

Commerce writer Danielle Murphy adores the sheer glow this sunscreen provides her with, which she mentions sits well underneath her everyday makeup.

It includes ingredients like vitamin C and niacinamide to help brighten the skin, and help it look and feel smoother.

Sol Labs SPF 30 Daily Sunscreen

What we like
  • Lightweight, breathable
  • Doesn't leave a white cast
Something to note
  • A little runny

Size(s): 4.06 ounces | SPF: 30 | Formula: Lotion, moisturizer

According to associate SEO editor Kamari Stewart, this face and body sunscreen feels similar to a moisturizer, which is a first for her when it comes to SPF. “I’ve been using this sunscreen for the past week or so and love how lightweight it is,” Stewart says. This might be because it contains an array of “good-for-your-skin ingredients” (e.g. hyaluronic acid, coconut oil), she notes, which have perks in hydrating and nourishing the sin. “Plus, it doesn’t leave behind any white cast, which is amazing.”

This pick is also well-loved by editor Vivien Moon, who notes that it checks all of her boxes when it comes to a facial sunscreen. She agrees with Stewart, in terms of how lightweight it feels, adding that it "works well under makeup," making it the ideal option for everyday.

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

What we like
  • Lightweight application
  • Doesn't leave a white cast
Something to note
  • Watery consistency
  • Delivery issues

Size(s): 1.7 ounces | SPF: 50 | Formula: Liquid, fluid-like

When it comes to sunscreens, editorial assistant Madison San Miguel looks for two things: Protection and a radiant finish. This mineral sunscreen from SkinCeuticals provides both, and leaves a slightly translucent tint to even skin tone.

“This is a great base for ‘no-makeup makeup’ days because the coverage is minimal, but it does enough where you’ll notice a difference in your complexion,” she suggests. “I love that it promises no white cast or heavy residue.”

Suntegrity 5-in-1 Tinted Mineral Sunscreen

What we like
  • Contains clean ingredients
  • Lasts a long time
Something to note
  • Pricey for a small tube

Size(s): 2 ounces | SPF: 30 | Formula: Moisturizer

"This is my all-time favorite one-and-done face product, and it just so happens to be a sunscreen," says editor Rebecca Brown. "It’s chemical-free, which is how I found it. A little goes a long way. Once my face is clean I apply all over and I’m completely set for the entire day. It blends so well and doesn’t leave my face — or my fingers — sticky after application."

What makes this product 5-in-1? The fact that it hydrates, primes, moisturizes, protects and covers the skin, leaving it with a "sheer, dewy" look, according to the brand.

SkinCeuticals Clear Daily Soothing UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50

What we like
  • Isn't runny
  • Lightweight, well under makeup
Something to note
  • Doesn't blend well
  • Pricey

Size(s): 1 ounce | SPF: 50 | Formula: Lotion

Moon finds herself reaching for sunscreens with a higher SPF on days where the sun tends to shine a little bit brighter, making this SPF 50 option from SkinCeuticals a product that helps put her mind at ease.

"It’s really lightweight and blends in nicely but the part I love most is that it’s a mineral chemical blend that can help with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection which I want to have on days that I am outside more," she says.

Meet our experts

How we chose

The Shop TODAY team spoke with experts in the beauty and skin care industry, including NewBeauty Editor-at-Large Sarah Eggenberger, doctor of pharmacy Dr. Sajani Barot and dermatologist Dr. Debra Wattenberg, to gain insight into choosing the right face sunscreen, as well as tips for proper usage.

We then scoured the internet and chose shopper-loved items that met the guidelines provided by the experts. We also shared a few of our personal favorites.