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Next to simply wearing sunscreen, it's also important to choose the right sunscreen.
“Your sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30, provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection to guard against cancer-causing and premature aging rays and apply and spread easily — leaving your skin dry, not tacky, like you don’t even know it’s there,” says Neal Schultz, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and host of DermTV.com. “Because, let’s face it, if you don’t like the way your sunscreen feels you’re not going to use it.”
Here, top dermatologists help by sharing their favorites of the season.
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1. Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray Sunscreen SPF 30, $9, Amazon
“This water-resistant sunscreen spray stays put even when you sweat, meaning it won’t run into the eyes and sting. Plus, it offers broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection with active ingredients that absorb damaging UV radiation before it reaches the skin. Another plus: It’s moderately priced,” says Howard Sobel, MD, an attending physician in dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
2. Cetaphil SPF 50 Facial Moisturizer UVA/UVB Defense, $25 for 2 pack, Amazon
“The non-greasy, lightweight formula absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a filmy, white residue. It’s also great for sensitive skin as it’s a non-comedogenic and fragrance-free. Reapply it every two to three hours or more often if you’ll be in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. I love that it’s relatively inexpensive and available at your local drugstore,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City.
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios SPF 50 Sunscreen, $30, Amazon
“I was traveling through Europe when I discovered this sunscreen. It’s strong enough for a day at the beach, yet light enough to wear to work. I put it on in lieu of moisturizer in the morning after washing my face, applying it to my face and exposed areas like my arms and chest. A tip: I keep it in the refrigerator on super hot days so it feels cool when applying,” says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a Boston-based dermatologist.
As another fan of this sunscreen, Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City notes, “It’s important to choose a sunscreen like this that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water-resistant, and contains ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide to provide both UVA/UVB coverage. I love that it goes on sheer and smooth and has a pleasant scent.”
4. SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum SPF 34 Tinted Sunscreen, $68, Dermstore
“This is the one sunscreen I keep in my bag at all times, applying it frequently throughout the day. It blocks UVA, UVB, as well as anti-infrared rays. Infrared is a part of the light spectrum you can get from heat when you open a hot car door in the summer or when you’re cooking, for example. And yes, that heat can lead to sunburned skin. A few years from now every sunscreen will have infrared technology but right now very few do.
"This lotion rubs easily into my brown complexion without leaving a whitish film and it’s hypoallergenic and fragrance-free so I can wear it without any irritation. I still get acne, so love that it’s also non-comedogenic,” says Jeanine Downie, MD, a New Jersey-based dermatologist.
5. Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunblock Stick SPF 60+, $8, Amazon
“Anyone with children will agree that applying sunscreen is a challenge. I tried every formulation out there and found kids like applying sunscreen sticks — they look at them like crayons for the skin. When used properly, they can give adults and children adequate protection: They should be applied back-and-forth on the skin four times. I like to use a mineral-based stick that contains chemical-free ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which is why I’m such a fan of this product,” says Josh Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research, department of dermatology, The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
6. Revision Skincare Intellishade Matte, $47, Amazon
“I discovered this sunscreen at a dermatology conference and it's been my favorite ever since. It has an SPF 45, is lightweight and non-comedogenic, but here's the best part: It doubles as an anti-aging cream.
"The formula contains collagen-inducing peptides and antioxidants that help fight free radical damage. Plus, thanks to its matte finish, it helps minimize the look of pores and doesn’t leave my skin shiny,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, assistant clinical professor, department of dermatology, at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
7. Colorscience Sunforgettable Brush On Sunscreen SPF 30, $57, Sephora
“This mineral-based, chemical-free sunscreen powder brushes on easily, allowing me to reapply throughout the day. It never irritates my skin and the powder reflects light, diminishing the appearance of pores and fine lines. It has the added benefit of absorbing oil and giving my skin a matte, smooth finish. I discovered this product after noticing many of my dermatologist friends had it in their bag!” notes Diane Berson, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University-New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Patricia Wexler, a New York-based dermatologist, also loves this sunscreen. “I use it every day because of its wonderful texture, the fact that it covers imperfections, and because my makeup goes on even smoother than usual when I use it as my base. It’s broad spectrum with the highest possible levels of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide available. Sweep the brush over the area to be covered using small circular strokes. It can be applied on your face, neck, chest, or hands every two hours as needed.”
8. Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Recovery Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $50, Amazon
“This sunscreen does it all. It has a SPF 50, is broad spectrum, contains a polypeptide that boosts collagen production and potent antioxidants that neutralize free radicals from things like pollution. I apply about a nickel-sized amount around my eyes, lips, neck and chest and give it a few minutes to soak into my skin. If I'm going to work, I'll layer my makeup on top. If I'm headed to the beach, I just throw on a hat and sunglasses and toss the tube in my bag so I can reapply every two hours (or more frequently if I'm getting wet or sweating). I’ve never had a sunburn using this sunscreen,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.
9. Dr. Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $42, Dermstore
"The key to using sunscreen is finding one you love — the texture, finish, scent, etc. all have to work for you. For me, this sunscreen hits all those marks. Apply it to clean skin before any other product — including a full inch into your hairline, onto the back of your hands and on your lips, ears, and scalp. All of these areas contain very little protective pigment and can easily become burned,” says Hilary Reich, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.
10. Replenix Ultimatte Perfection 50+, $43, Dermstore
“I use this BB cream for my sun protection because it feels super silky going on — it's tinted so works like a primer and blends in easily with my makeup. I sometimes mix it with a foundation for smoother coverage and a flawless complexion. It provides protection from burning UVB and aging UVA rays, plus contains zinc oxide, one of my favorite physical blockers,” says Sonia Badreshia, MD, a clinical instructor at The University of California at San Francisco.
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11. EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 31, $10, Dermstore
“Lips need sun protection since they’re a common site for pre-cancers and cancer. Because lip gloss can attract the sun and cause burns on the lips, I always carry this lip balm with SPF 31 in my purse and use it in place of lipstick or gloss or underneath it. It’s highly moisturizing, cosmetically elegant and has a higher SPF compared to most other lip balms on the market,” says Shari Marchbein, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone and Bellevue Hospitals in New York City.
12. Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer With Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $12, Amazon
“This sunscreen is my favorite! It meets the recommended UVA and UVB levels of protection and it’s cosmetically elegant on people of all skin colors, meaning it won’t leave any chalky residue on darker skin tones. I also like that it contains soy to help lighten dark spots and blemishes,” says Dina Strachan, MD, an assistant clinical professor at New York University in New York City.
13. Epionce Daily Shield Lotion Tinted SPF 50, $38, Dermstore
“A rep for this sunscreen demonstrated this product in our office and the staff was instantly sold because it provides excellent sun protection and can substitute as a foundation or a primer, giving off an opalescent hue that makes your skin look lustrous. Men like it because the light tint offers coverage without looking like they’re wearing makeup,” says Marc Darst, MD, a clinical associate professor at Wingate University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Megin Scully, MD, a San Francisco, California-based dermatologist, agrees. “It’s my favorite sunscreen because of its elegant texture and easy, blendable coverage.”
14. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45, $12, Amazon
“A patient told me about this sunscreen and why she loved it — lots of patients swear by different products so I just let it go. Then she arrived at her next appointment with a tube just for me. I tried it and everything she said was true: It has a high SPF, provides broad-spectrum protection and applies and spreads easily, feeling invisible to the touch,” notes Neal Schultz, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and host of DermTV.com.
15. ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion with SPF 50+, $50, ISDIN
“This product is made in Spain and new to the United States. It’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains zinc oxide to protect. I also love that it has an SPF 50+, is lightweight and absorbs easily. I dab a drop on my nose, two to three dabs on my forehead, a dab on each cheek and chin and a couple of dabs on my neck and the backs of my hands, then gently rub it into my skin in a clockwise and counterclockwise direction before applying my makeup,” says Kristina Goldenberg, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.
16. MDSolarSciences Mineral Sunscreen Stick, $18, Sephora
“Sunscreen sticks are travel-friendly and provide a mess-free application and re-application. I like this particular one because it has SPF 40, is broad-spectrum, and uses mineral ingredients to provide up to 80 minutes of water resistance.
"I also find it blends in nicely and doesn't leave a white cast on the skin like other sunscreen sticks. I usually do two swipes back and forth — so a total of four per area — to ensure I have good coverage,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and a contributor at RealSelf.com.
17. EltaMD UV Physical Broad Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen, $30, Dermstore
"This zinc- and titanium-based sunscreen has been my go-to product for more than a decade. It’s broad-spectrum, has an SPF 41, is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and is 100 percent chemical-free, making it ideal for sensitive skin. I also love that it has a transparent tint, providing a nice base under your makeup,” says Arielle Kauvar, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.
18. SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, $34, Dermstore
“This sunscreen is with me at all times. I apply it to the delicate eye area as well as on my lips in place of a lip balm. What's nice is that it doesn't migrate, so there’s no chance for irritation into the eye area or mouth. Its silky texture feels like a lightweight makeup primer going on, while also providing a SPF 50,” says Julie Russak, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.
19. EltaMD Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40, $29, Dermstore
“This sunscreen is safe for the most sensitive and reactive skin types, including acne and rosacea. The tint gives me a glow without weighing down my skin in the summer. It doesn’t leave a heavy film on your skin, ensuring that you will enjoy reapplying!” notes Amanda Doyle, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.
20. CeraVe Sunscreen Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $8, Amazon
“I love this stick because it’s easy to apply, mess-free, has an SPF of 50 and is formulated with zinc, which is an important ingredient for scattering, reflecting and absorbing UVA and UVB rays. It’s also compact enough to fit in your purse for on-the-go sun protection. At a little more than $10, you can stash multiple sticks in numerous bags!” says Amy Brodsky, MD, a Chicago-based dermatologist.
21. AmorePacific Natural Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Sunscreen, $65, Nordstrom
“My wife, a surfer, discovered this sunscreen years ago on one of her trips to Korea and has been using it for years. It goes on light and smooth with no white cast to it. In fact, it actually imparts a subtle glow to the skin as it provides broad-spectrum UV protection and SPF 35. What I particularly like about this sunscreen is the gentle and seamless hydration it provides. Extracts from bamboo sap, lotus flowers and green tea polysaccharides add an anti-aging bonus,” says Kenneth Howe, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.
22. Alastin HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36, $55, Alastin
“While on a weekend getaway with friends, my husband forgot my luggage — which contained my cherished toiletries — on the train! Given that we were headed to the beach, I was most bummed about my sunscreen. My girlfriend came to the rescue and introduced me to this incredible product. Its elegant, matte formula provides powerful yet lightweight UVA/UVB protection and it contains skin-hydrating ingredients like green tea extract and vitamin E, along with age-defying antioxidants to protect against pollution-induced damage. I love that its subtle complexion-enhancing tint evens out my skin and allows me to start my day without any makeup,” says Shereene Idriss, MD, a clinical instructor at the dermatology department of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
23. ZO Skin Health Oclipse Daily Sheer SPF 50, $70, Zo Skin Health
“This is the perfect, year-round sunscreen for all outdoor activities regardless of the season. The formula features triple-spectrum protection from UVA, UVB, HEV (high energy visible light) and IR-A (infrared) rays, resists both perspiration and water and hydrates the skin from extended exposure to the elements. The great thing about this sunscreen is that it has a matte finish, which gives the skin a luminous appearance so you can skimp on foundation. Apply it at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 80 minutes or after swimming, sweating or drying yourself off with a towel,” says Maria Garcia, MD, a Florida-based dermatologist.