Stay Protected in the Sun with the 6 Best Sunscreens of 2022

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Now that the birds are chirping and the sun is shining down on us again, many people are adding a bottle of sunscreen to their shopping lists. If we’re not describing you right now, here is your reminder – add sunscreen to your shopping list. As soon as you hit the ripe age of six months old, you need to wear sunscreen. Whether you’re spending all day at the beach or you’re simply driving in your car on a cloudy day, your skin is vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays.

Sunscreen varies greatly in terms of ingredients, effectiveness, and method of delivery. Take a look in any drug store and you will see lotions, gels, sprays, and oils, all with different SPF numbers and ingredients littered on the labels. We know for sure that the sun damages our skin, and any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, but which one is right for you? Let’s look at what to consider when you choose your next bottle.

Protection

First things first, what are we actually protecting ourselves from? The sun emits UVA and UVB rays that damage our skin. That SPF number you see on every bottle of sunscreen is a measure of how well the product protects you against getting sunburned, which is mainly the result of UVB rays. Basically, the SPF number tells you how long the sun’s radiation would take to burn your skin while using the product vs. how long it would take without it. For example, after applying an SPF 30 lotion properly it will ideally take you 30 times longer to burn than if you were not wearing any at all. However, we are not going to be sitting in a lab with a scientist helping us lotion up our backs. As soon as it touches your skin it will start breaking down and can be rubbed off or washed away if you sweat or jump in the water. Therefore, the general recommendation is to reapply every two hours or immediately after sweating or swimming. There are also water-resistant sunscreens worth considering, which are rated for 40 minutes or 80 minutes in the water.

A higher SPF will theoretically give more protection from UVB rays and last longer but can also give a false sense of confidence that you can reapply less often. You must also keep in mind that no sunscreen will give 100% protection.

SPF also does not tell us anything about the protection from UVA rays. These rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB and are present as long as there is daylight. They tan and age your skin and contribute to skin cancer along with UVB rays. Therefore, you absolutely need a sunscreen that will protect against both UVA and UVB, so look for the “broad spectrum” label when you go to buy. Don’t worry, every product on our list will definitely protect you against both.

The Ingredients

The active ingredients in sunscreen have become a hotly debated topic in recent years and are worth taking a closer look at. Sunscreens generally fall into two categories: Chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens create a chemical reaction that changes UV rays into heat, which are then released from the skin. Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and block UV rays from penetrating by scattering or deflecting them.

The most popular sunscreens are usually chemical. This is the category that gets the most scrutiny, as there have been certain reports of some of the active ingredients causing potential adverse health effects – including hormone disruption and skin cancer. It is important to note however that these reports are new and have not been definitively proven, which is why the FDA has called for more research into the topic. These are specifically ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate. Additionally, oxybenzone and octinoxate have been flagged by environmental groups as harmful to coral reefs. We can appreciate the concerns and they should be considered, but the bottom line is that these ingredients work. We know for sure that the suns rays contribute to skin cancer and other harmful effects on the skin, and we know for sure that the ingredients in chemical sunscreens provide solid protection. Therefore, many experts agree that the proven benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Now let’s talk about physical sunscreen. Usually marketed as mineral-based or natural sunscreen, the active ingredients in these products are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. According to the FDA these ingredients are completely safe. However, the trade-off can very well be less protection from the sun. Unfortunately many sunscreens fall short of their stated protection claims when tested in a laboratory setting, and organizations such as Consumer Reports have specifically warned that they have yet to find a physical sunscreen that matches up to the top-performing chemical sunscreens when it comes to the protection that is promised on the bottle.

Ease of Use

We get it, no one is perfect. It is easy to remember to rub on some sunscreen when you’re outside on a hot day and can feel the sun beating down on you. But how about when you’re driving your car? Or sitting inside near the window? Furthermore, are you even going to want to lather up every day if the sunscreen smells weird or leaves a greasy residue on your skin?

We are most concerned with how well a particular sunscreen will actually work to protect you from the sun, and therefore we give the most weight to how well different products test in the lab. However, we live in the real world and we know that you’re going to need a product that is convenient to use, otherwise you’re not going to use it! To that end we have also considered user reviews and ratings to judge which products are not only effective, but won’t be unpleasant to use every day.

Our Top Picks

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk 60 SPF (Best Overall)



The clear number one overall pick on our list is the La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 SPF Melt-in Milk. This product has the rare distinction of testing extremely well in a laboratory setting and reviewing extremely well by product testers and consumers.

The lotion includes moisturizers to feel good on the skin while also being fragrance-free and oil free, making it a great pick for anyone with sensitive skin.

Additionally, this is a chemical lotion free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, and tested to be water-resistant up to 80 minutes, making it a great choice for the beach.


Pros

  • Verified excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays
  • Rubs in well and is good for sensitive skin
  • Water resistant and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate

Cons

  • Comes in a small bottle, expensive
  • Reports of streaky running if you sweat a lot, stings if it gets in the eyes

Trader Joe’s Nourish Spray Sunscreen SPF 50+ (Best Spray)




Our top pick for spray sunscreen, this product was yet another stand-out for having excellent marks in lab testing as well as excellent user reviews from testers and consumers.

The most common accolades from users were how easy it was to spray on and rub in, and of course how well it worked, with many commenting how they avoided sunburns the entire summer after switching to this product.

This is yet another chemical sunscreen that relies on avobenzone as an active ingredient instead of oxybenzone and octinoxate, as well as being rated water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a great option for the beach.


Pros

  • Verified excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays
  • Water resistant and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate
  • Cheap, decent sized bottle

Cons

  • Some reports of oily feeling on skin

Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen (Best Mineral)



We want to stress again that mineral sunscreens frequently fall short of their chemical counterparts when it comes to testing, but if you are seeking to avoid chemical ingredients in favor of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, then Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen is the lotion for you.

This product has appeared on a fair amount of the lists we consulted and has not only been repeatedly recommended by dermatologists, but user reviews have vouched for its effectiveness in both the Australian sun and on very pale skin.

This product is paraben and fragrance free, making it ideal for sensitive skin. Additionally, it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making this yet another great choice for the beach.


Pros

  • Uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for its active ingredients
  • Dermatologist recommended and ideal for sensitive skin
  • Bottle changes color to blue in UV light

Cons

  • A little more expensive than some of the competition
  • Rubs on very white and chalky. Some reviews mention it fades in after drying, but others complained about the lasting color. Not the best for darker skin tones

Supergoop! Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50 (Best Value)



Our top pick for best value sunscreen is the Supergoop! PLAY Everyday Lotion. This chemical sunscreen is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate and water resistant up to 80 minutes, making it the ideal lotion for large groups of friends and family going out for a day at the park or the beach.

The lotion once again made an appearance on the majority of the lists we consulted and was repeatedly praised for being lightweight and non-greasy.

In addition to the active ingredients for protection from the sun, the product includes beta carotene-rich sunflower extract, antioxidant-rich rosemary leaf extract, and rice bran extract to help sooth the skin. Reviews also praise the flowery smell that beats the typical plasticky lotion smell.


Pros

  • Good value available in large quantities
  • Water resistant and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate
  • Added ingredients to soothe the skin
  • Pleasant fragrance

Cons

  • Some note the fragrance to be a little strong

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch (Best drugstore brand)



Our pick for the best drugstore brand sunscreen is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch. We get it, you might be looking for the best possible option, but when it comes to sunscreen you may very well be in the situation where you’re in need right now. When this is the case, you can’t shop around different stores or wait for an online order to come in, you have to go to the nearest drugstore and pick from the available options.

Thankfully there is a solution. This sunscreen is widely available, has tested very well in the lab, and has made an appearance on almost every list we’ve consulted. So even if you have your sights set high, you can still rest assured you’re getting a solid product at your local store.

This lotion has a variety of different SPF options, but all have the same lightweight formula that gets consistent praise for rubbing in clear on all skin tones without feeling greasy.


Pros

  • Widely available in stores
  • Cheap
  • Tested well in the lab
  • Rubs on clear and non-greasy

Cons

  • Contains oxybenzone

EltaMD UV Clear Daily Facial (Best facial sunscreen)



Our top pick for facial sunscreen is the EltaMD UV Clear Daily Facial. This product comes in a small, easily transportable bottle and has additional ingredients to hydrate and exfoliate your skin, making it the perfect lotion to apply daily to keep your face moisturized and protected from the sun.

This lotion has not only made an appearance on many product tester lists, but has also received a recommendation from the National Skin Cancer Foundation.


Pros

  • Sunscreen, moisturizer, and exfoliator all in one
  • Very portable, easy to remember for daily use
  • Works well with darker skin tones

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Contains Octinoxate
  • Certain reviews mentioned skin irritation

Why Should You Listen to Us?

We don’t have state-of-the-art labs for testing or a fancy algorithm that can crunch mountains of data. Instead, we simply turn to the people that do! Our method is to look at every method, and we do this by researching the researchers and reviewing the reviewers. Did an expert rate something highly for its ease of use, but the user reviews say it was difficult? Did something get a low score on one site, but is at the top of the list on three more? The amount of options to choose from can be overwhelming, but the amount of reviews has become overwhelming too. We compare and contrast the data from the major reviewers and come up with our own take on what is right for you.

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