Last updated: September 1, 2021

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Once warm weather hits and we begin spending more and more time outside, the skin becomes more exposed to the sun’s rays. While the sun provides us with essential nutrients like vitamin D, the UV rays it emits can do harm to us with too much exposure. Excessive sun exposure not only has the ability to create sun spots and fine lines, but it also has the potential to cause detrimental health effects.

In 2021, there will be an estimated 96,480 new cases of melanoma in the United States. This is why dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen throughout the year, especially those frequently exposed to inclement weather. The skin on the face is especially sensitive and at risk for sun damage. Using facial sunscreen is an effective and simple way to practice preventative health.


  • One should use sunscreen on the face and other exposed areas of the body all year round, even on cloudy days.
  • Today, there are options on the market that don’t leave the skin white and creamy. Many formulas are made to absorb quickly and have matte finishes that are dry to the touch.
  • When buying facial sunscreen, one must consider factors such as skin type, level of protection, texture and formula

The Best Facial Sunscreen: Our Picks

When it comes to buying facial sunscreen, the options available are countless. It can be hard to know amongst the large number of brands and types which one is best. We want a product that is of good quality, but for a good value. We’ve created a ranking of the top best facial sunscreens we’ve found and their main individual characteristics.

Shopping Guide: What You Should Know About Facial Sunscreens

Buying the right sunscreen can end up being a long trial and error process. Every skin product will affect each person’s skin a little differently, and finding the right one for you can be a challenge. It’s important to evaluate a few specific aspects of sunscreen to make sure you are buying one that feels comfortable on the skin while protecting it from the sun’s harmful rays.

Woman applying facial sunscreen

Non-organic sunscreens have the specific feature of absorbing radiation.
(Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd: 78412662/

What are UVB and UVA rays and why should I protect myself from them?

In order to efficiently reduce our risks against sun damage, we need to know what we’re up against. In regards to solar radiation, there are three different categories we need to look at when going out to buy sunscreen:

  • UV radiation (uv)
  • Infrared radiation (ir)
  • Visible light

UV radiation is further divided into three categories: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is of less concern, as it is blocked by the ozone layer. However, everytime we are exposed to the sun, we are exposed to potentially harmful UVA and UVB rays. Below are specific characteristics of each type of ray.

Type of rays Characteristics
UVA They represent 95% of the radiation we receive from the sun.

They interact with the epidermis (the most superficial layer of the skin) and dermis.

They do not directly damage the RNA of our cells but encourage the formation of free radicals.

They do not redden the skin and are not as carcinogenic as UVB, but are behind the aging effects of the sun.

UVB They represent 5% of the radiation we receive from the sun.

They cause direct damage to the DNA of the skin.

They cause redness and increase the risk of skin cancer.

What are complexions and how do they influence the sunscreen needed?

In short, complexions refer to different skin types and their ability to assimilate to the sun's radiation. This varies according to ethnicity and genetics. Each complexion requires a different level of protection against the sun. Below is a summary of each type and their individual characteristics:

Skin Type Characteristics
Phototype I Very clear, milky and often freckled skin. Burns easily without tanning. Light eyes and red or blond hair. It requires high protection.
Phototype II Freckled white skin, which burns easily and hardly tans. Blonde hair and light eyes. It requires high protection.
Phototype III White skin, which burns relatively easily and tans moderately. Light hair and eyes, although they may be brown. It requires high protection.
Phototype IV Somewhat toasted skin, which burns little and tans easily. Dark hair and eyes. It requires moderate protection.
Phototype V Dark skin. It hardly burns at all and tans almost immediately when exposed to the sun. It requires moderate protection.
Phototype VI Black skin that never burns visibly. Contrary to popular belief, this phenotype also requires moderate sun protection.

Why is it so important to use sunscreen on the face?

All experts agree: sunscreen is the best anti-aging cream available. There are dermatologists who go even further to say that if we use daily protection, we can decrease the appearance of aging in the skin by 80%. Although it depends on many other factors, it’s undeniable the sun has a major impact.

Dermatologist Paloma Cornejo suggests using sunscreen "daily from the age of two,

[given that] it is the best guarantee to prevent what will happen to the skin in adulthood”. Indeed, it is essential that you protect all skin exposed to the sun - especially that of the face - 365 days a year; not only in summer.

Woman covering her face from the sun's rays

There are sunscreens that are environmentally friendly
(Source: Om: 57764867/

As we've already stated, exposure to unprotected UVA and UVB rays not only cause unsightly and painful burns but can lead to premature aging and cancer in the skin as well. The proof is seen in the skin rarely exposed to the sun that tends to remain younger and healthier throughout the years.

Should I apply facial sunscreen before or after my moisturizing cream and makeup?

Applying sunscreen is usually pretty self-explanatory. However, questions can arise when we need to combine it with other products or use multiple creams on the face like makeup or any miscellaneous cream. Sometimes it’s hard to know which one should be applied first.

The first product you should apply, always on clean skin, is a moisturizing cream. Once this has been absorbed, the skin will be ready for sunscreen. For those who wear makeup, wait a few moments for the skin to absorb the cream completely and apply it as you would to bare skin.

What types of sunscreen are there?

Depending on their mechanisms of action and individual components, sunscreens can be divided into three types: chemical, physical and biological. Although chemical sunscreens are the most frequent, there are many options on the market that mix chemical and physical formulas. All of them are safe and comply with regulated quality standards.

Chemical filter Physical filter Biological filter
Composition Chemical molecules, such as octocrylene or oxybenzone Natural minerals, such as zinc or titanium oxide Natural elements, such as olive oil or sesame, shea butter, aloe vera or avocado.
Texture Light Dense Dense
Mechanism of action Absorption of the solar rays. Sunscreen blocks the passage of the radiation. Blocks the solar rays and intensifies the action of other protectors.
Use For people who do not have previous dermatological problems Recommended for everyone, but especially for small children and people with dermatitis. Ideal for small children and adults with dermatological problems.
Method of application Always apply at least 30 minutes prior to exposure. May be applied at the time of sun exposure. Recommended to apply prior to sun exposure.

Is it possible to use the same sunscreen on the face as on the rest of the body?

Only if you have no choice. The skin of the face has its own unique characteristics and behavior, especially in relation to the number of sebaceous glands and sebum production. Additionally, the skin of the face is much more sensitive than that of the rest of the body. and is constantly exposed to the sun and other inclement weather.

Each individual has unique skin, especially the skin of the face. It’s important to select a sunscreen appropriate for your skin type that will not cause adverse reactions. Because the skin of the face is so sensitive, it’s best to use higher SPF sunscreen than one would use on the body.

Imagen de envases de protector solar sobre fondo negro

Water-resistant sunscreens can withstand sweat and environmental moisture.
(Source: Melpomen: 82432307/

How can skin damage on the face be recognized?

Since the skin of the face has different properties than the skin on the rest of the body, unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB rays can have more profound consequences here than anywhere else. Some signs and symptoms of skin damage are:

  • Signs of premature aging: wrinkles, loss of elasticity, age spots or rougher skin.
  • Photodermatosis polymorphous: rashes in the form of small red blisters
  • Hyperpigmentation.
  • Solar erythema: The most common kind of burn: red skin and pain.
  • Lipple herpes simplex: When the immune system is suppressed, lesions may appear, such as herpes simplex labialis.
  • Skin cancer spots.

What factors increase the risk of sun damage to the skin of the face?

Although we are all vulnerable to the sun's radiation no matter the skin type, there are certain factors that make a person more or less susceptible to the sun’s rays. Along with the skin’s phototype, sensitivity to the sun’s rays are affected by age, medications, acne creams and treatments that increase hypersensitivity.

It’s estimated that people between the ages of 55-64 are up to three times more likely to acquire skin damage from the sun than those between 25-35 years old. Birth control pills and certain acne creams can cause the skin to react more to UV rays as well as certain post-dermatology treatments such as chemical peels or laser treatments. Always check with your doctor if you suspect your medical treatments could put you at extra risk.

A couple with sunglasses

Most sunscreen tends to come at a moderate price.
(Source: Subbotina: 39944242/

Is it better to buy sunscreen in a perfume shop, supermarket or pharmacy?

The store where you buy the product will not determine the quality of the ingredients it contains. Most dermatologists recommend pharmacy products because, as Top Doctors member Sabrina Kindem explains, "pharmacy sunscreens are free of octocrylene and other substances that have been shown to be skin irritants”.

The biggest piece of advice to follow is finding a protector that satisfies your needs and make sure it doesn’t contain ingredients you want to avoid. Don’t let yourself be guided by price, but rather the unique formula of each product.

Purchase Criteria

Below, you’ll find an easy to follow list of purchase criteria to guide you in selecting the facial sunscreen that will best suit your needs and protect your skin.


There are many people who do not use sunscreen because they do not want a heavy feeling sunscreen or one that produces a white film on the skin. Today, there are a plethora of sunscreens available in various textures and forms, such as mists, mattes and sunscreen for acne prone skin.

If you want a product that not only protects your skin but also hydrates it, you should opt for moisturizing creams that contain SPF elements. If you will be using it in conjunction with other facial products, you may prefer a thin textured or matte sunscreen.

Type of Skin

Although you may not be aware of it, it is very likely that your preferences regarding the texture of your facial sunscreen are determined by your skin type. Denser options can cause acne reactions or unwanted glitters on oily skin, while products that are too watery can dry out very dry skin.

Skin type Recommended protective type
Oily or mixed skin Texture oil free so that it does not obstruct the sebaceous glands and doesn’t cause acne breakouts. Never a greasy cream or oil.
Dry skin Creamy or rich sunscreen with nourishing and moisturizing oils. If not, it will be essential to apply a conventional moisturizer underneath your preferred sunscreen.
Hypersensitive or allergic skin Physical or biological sunscreens. These are denser but have fewer instances of producing intolerances or allergies. They're great for children.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

We believe it’s safe to say that almost everyone takes into account the SPF when buying sunscreen; but are we aware of what the factor number actually represents? The factor does not have to do how much “protecting agents” it contains, but with the time that protection lasts for. An SPF 30 sunscreen will not protect “twice as much” as SPF 15.

Our unprotected skin burns after approximately 15 minutes of exposure. With an SPF 15 sunscreen, it would take 15 times longer for the skin to turn red. Factors lower than SPF 30 are not recommended for the face and it is best to always use SPF 50 or above, even if you have darker toned skin.


We have already discussed briefly, some controversial ingredients present in some sunscreens.

We recommend avoiding, as much as possible, sunscreens with parabens such as propylparaben or butylparaben, which serve as preservatives. This is especially important in the case of young children and pregnant women.

In addition, it is important to check for the presence of substances suspected of having estrogenic effects, such as Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, which is frequently used as a filter for ultraviolet radiation, or buthilphenylmethilpropional. It is also frequently used as a fragrance in many cosmetics, not only in sunscreens.

Water Resistance

Many people only think about applying sunscreen when they go to the pool or a day out on the beach. In these cases, water-resistant sunscreen is preferred. However, the need for sunscreen extends past pool days.

Water-resistant sunscreens are useful for those that play sports outside or sweat excessively. This can range anywhere from those who run outside to construction workers. If you spend time outside in hot weather every day, it’s even more crucial to be equipped with the proper sunscreen to apply daily.


Although it may only seem necessary to apply sunscreen in the most extremely sunny conditions, applying sunscreen on the face should be part of our daily routine all year round.

No matter where we are if we spend time outside, it’s important to protect the face from the harmful rays of the sun.

Finding a proper facial sunscreen helps combat early signs of aging and reduces the risk for more serious medical conditions such as skin cancer. Following our purchase criteria, there is no doubt you will be able to search the market and find the best sunscreen product for you at a price you can afford.

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(Featured image source: Maridav: 19808577/