Best Sunscreens of 2022 Reviews & Buying Guide
After narrowing the field to the top 39 sunscreens, we enlisted the help of 602 consumer testers across demographics and races including (but not limited to) White, Black, Latinx, and Asian. Each tester used a label-masked product at least twice over the course of a week. After reviewing tens of thousands of responses from over 600 testers, our experts narrowed in on the top-performing picks.
1 # AntiOxidant+ Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
The Hawaiian Tropic excelled across the board in our Lab evaluations, earning perfect scores for not drying or irritating skin. One tester said it even stayed put during a run and didn’t burn her eyes. Plus, at less than $1.60 per ounce, it’s less than half the average price of other products we looked at.
Testers also liked that it didn’t feel tacky or greasy on their skin and absorbed well with no white residue. Its beachy scent was also total crowd-pleaser, even with testers who tend to be especially critical about scent.
2 # LiftActiv Peptide-C Sunscreen SPF 30
The winner of our Beauty Lab’s most recent sunscreen test, this pick impressed testers in terms of hydration and not causing breakouts or irritation. It was also the easiest to use, didn’t interfere with makeup, and earned the second highest score for not leaving a white cast.
Testers disagreed on its scent: some adored it while others were put off by it. In terms of texture, many loved that the thinness made it easy to sink into the skin. Testers vouched that it protected them from sunburn and awarded it the highest score in this category.
3 # Matte Effect Sunscreen Lotion
For a lightweight, more affordable option, this sunscreen is gentle on the skin and provides just enough hydration (though you might need an extra layer of moisturizer if your skin is on the dry side). This sunscreen also ranked well among testers with darker skin tones, who reported seeing little to no white cast. It also has a pleasant, mild scent. Just keep in mind that the texture can be a bit tacky and runny.
4 # Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Face Lotion
The “silky texture” of this sunscreen was a hit among testers. It had a “velvet feel” and didn’t add shine or oil to the skin. The sunscreen earned almost a perfect score for not causing irritation or redness, and many testers found that it worked under makeup. However, some noted a white cast or slight grayish tone after application.
5 # Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotion SPF 50
Mineral sunscreens don’t have to break the bank: This one earned top marks in our tests for less than half the price of other top-performing mineral options. “It applies smoothly, left little residue, and didn’t make me feel too tacky,” said a tester, who is allergic to chemical options.
Caveat: This one may not feel greasy, but it does leave behind a bit of a white cast, which only gets glowier when skin is wet (i.e. after a dip in the pool or a sweaty outdoor run). One tester also said that it stained her bathing suit.
6 # Original Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
For those who prefer to spritz on their sun protection, this tropical-scented Sun Bum mist was the clear winner in GH Beauty Lab testing, applying easily and leaving no chalky cast on skin. The formula came out on top for not creating a white residue and provided effective sunburn protection.
The “continuous and even” spray “covered my skin quickly,” two tester said. “I would definitely buy this,” added one. Good to know: Some users found that it left an oily finish on skin that took time to disappear.
7 # Sunforgettable Total Protection Body Shield SPF 50
Our consumer testers say this zinc oxide formula goes on smooth and leaves a powdery, silky finish. One tester described it as “melting into” her skin. Yes, it is a splurge (more than triple the average price of others we tested), but if you want a luxury mineral option, it doesn’t get better than this. We also found it was gentle on skin, causing no irritation or stinging even when applied around testers’ eyes.
8 # No Excuses Invisible Facial Sunscreen Gel SPF 40
Julep sunscreen is lightweight and super-easy to apply with no white cast or greasy feeling left behind, which makes it perfect for everyday use on your face. This excelled in our Beauty Lab tests earning perfect scores for not running into or stinging eyes and not causing breakouts. A true universal product, we found it performed well on all skin types from dry to oily and all skin tones from fair to dark.
What is the best sunscreen?
Simply put, the best sunscreen is the one you and your kids will actually use! We recommend finding one you love and sticking with it. Aside from the brand or SPF level, there are two types of sunscreens to pick from: ones with chemical or mineral active ingredients.
- Chemical sunscreens are likely the type you’re most familiar with already. They absorb harmful UV rays before they reach your skin. While these lotions and sprays are easier to apply with no white residue, you will need to reapply sunscreen more often than you would with a physical, or mineral option.
- Mineral sunscreens (also called physical sunscreens) form a barrier on your skin that reflects or filters UVA and UVB rays. The dispersed zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide formulas can be more difficult to spread on your skin and leave behind white cast, but usually last longer than chemical formulas.
But no matter what you use, make sure to apply your sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading out to properly allow the protective film to form.
What SPF do dermatologists recommend?
- SPF 30 or greater, says Dr. David Lortscher, board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology. “Our tests have shown that people apply about one-third the amount of sunscreen necessary to achieve the SPF listed on the label,” says GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D., who recommends using at least broad-spectrum SPF 50 to compensate.
- Broad-spectrum formulas to protect against both harmful UVA/UVB rays. Exposure to these wavelengths can lead to dangerous sunburns (a.k.a. skin damage and potentially skin cancers), and disrupted collaged production — UV exposure is responsible for 80% of visible skin aging.
- Water-resistance. There’s no such thing as waterproof or sweatproof sunscreen, according to the FDA. Under current guidelines, the FDA legally allows two claims: “Water-resistant for 40 minutes” or “Water-resistant for 80 minutes.” Forget about reapplying every two hours. Instead, heed the water-resistance time on the bottle and layer the product on more frequently when swimming, sweating or toweling off.
- Formula: Our Beauty Lab pros tend to prefer lotions and creams over sprays since “they last on skin longer than sprays [and] are more likely to form a uniform protective coating over skin than sprays,” says Sabina Wizemann, senior chemist. “If your skin is prone to dryness, a cream may be better for you,” adds Lucy Chen, M.D. As for kids, “Sprays are easy, but they might require a second coating, so spray generously,” she says.
- Chemical vs. mineral. Whether you prefer chemical or mineral formulations is a matter of preference, but be sure to pick the one that you’ll reach for daily, 365 days a year. That’s because harmful UV rays can easily penetrate windows and clouds year-round, which means your skin can be damaged in the middle of the winter through your car’s windshield, through the windows at the gym, at work, and on an airplane.