Choosing the right skin care products can be daunting, especially in the case of sunscreen. You may wonder things like, should I buy a mineral or chemical formula? Will this sunscreen wear well under my makeup? And, perhaps most importantly, is it going to look chalky on my skin? There are many different types of sunscreens out there, but the best clear sunscreens are typically chemical sunscreens, since mineral sunscreens are known for leaving behind a white cast.
Why A Chemical Sunscreen Is Your Clear Go-To
You’ve likely heard about the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick run-down on these two sunscreen types. Mineral sunscreens are also known as physical sun blockers because their active ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, reflect UV rays away from the skin, much like a disco ball would. On the other hand, the active ingredients inside chemical sunscreens (which can be one or any combination of the following ingredients: oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and homosalate) absorb UV light and convert it into heat. Most dermatologists would recommend opting for a mineral sunscreen if you have sensitive, acne-prone, or melasma-prone skin — but, honestly, the best sunscreen is the one that you like enough to wear every single day.
The ingredients in mineral sunscreens are white in their nature, and so there will always be a slight tinge of a white cast with any formula containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are clear, meaning that no matter your skin tone, a chemical formula shouldn’t leave behind any sort of visible white cast. In the case of all sunscreens, the more time you take to massage it into your skin, the less visible it will be.
Shop The Best Clear Sunscreens
In a hurry? Here are the best clear sunscreens:
- The Overall Best Clear Sunscreen: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen
- The Best Clear Korean Sunscreen: ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA++++
- The Best Clear Japanese Sunscreen: Bioré UV Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++
- The Best Clear Drugstore Sunscreen: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen
- The Best Clear Sunscreen Spray: Alba Botanica Cool Sport Sunscreen
- The Best Clear Sunscreen Stick: Oars + Alps Go Stick Clear SPF 35
1. The Overall Best Clear Sunscreen
Supergoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen is a fan favorite for a reason. The oil-free formula has a velvety texture and creates a satin finish comparable to a pore-refining primer, so it helps your makeup glide on a lot more smoothly. It’s rich in antioxidants and other good-for-skin ingredients, like frankincense, which has soothing benefits, and meadowfoam seed to hydrate and pamper your skin. Best of all, it’s truly clear on every skin tone, and it helps protect skin from potentially damaging blue light, too.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical SPF: 40 Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 1.0 oz.
2. The Best Clear Korean Sunscreen
Applying and reapplying sunscreen throughout the day can seem like an arduous task, but ISNTREE makes the process simple — enjoyable, even — with its weightless chemical sunscreen. This formula glides on completely clear while eight different weights of hyaluronic acid reach into each layer of skin to deliver hydration, yet the sunscreen feels (almost) as light as water. This cult-favorite Korean sunscreen is especially great if you’re looking for a product that can stand in as both your moisturizer and sunscreen, like during summer when it’s simply too hot to wear thicker face lotions and sun creams.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical SPF: 50 Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 1.7 oz.
3. The Best Clear Japanese Sunscreen
Lately, people on TikTok and Instagram can’t stop raving about this sunscreen, but it’s actually been a cult-favorite for years. The Bioré UV Watery Essence SPF 50+ contains four UV blockers to protect against UVA and UVB rays without adding a hint of white cast. This clear sunscreen has an essence-like texture, which is amazing for all skin types since it hydrates without adding an emollient slickness to oily skin. The Watery Essence contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid to boost your skin’s moisture levels, while vitamin E offers free radical protection with its antioxidant benefits. Plus, it costs just about the same as a fancy salad (but lasts longer and gives you a way bigger bang for your buck).
Sunscreen Type: Chemical SPF: 50 Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 1.7 oz.
4. The Best Clear Drugstore Sunscreen
Skin care doesn’t stop at your chin, folks. Consider Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen if you need something that will keep your arms and legs protected from the sun without any trace of a white cast. Like Neutrogena’s other HydroBoost products, this formula contains a high percentage of hyaluronic acid to lock moisture into your skin while protecting you from UV rays with chemical active ingredients. This sunscreen also contains tocopheryl acetate, a type of vitamin E that protects skin against free radical damage. Another highlight is that it has a refreshing, hydrating feel, making it an especially nice choice for dry skin types.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical SPF: 30 Cruelty-Free: No Size: 5.0 oz.
5. The Best Clear Sunscreen Spray
If you prefer a spray-on formula for your entire body, this spray sunscreen contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate and offers sweat- and water-resistant protection for up to eighty minutes, making it great for people who lead active lifestyles. This formula dries fairly quickly, which is great for those of us who have an aversion to sticky products. Just remember: The correct way to apply a spray sunscreen is to spray it on and then rub it into your skin — this helps to avoid a blotchy and uneven application, and will help prevent accidental burns.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical SPF: 50 Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 6.0 oz.
6. The Best Clear Sunscreen Stick
If you often wonder, how can I reapply sunscreen without getting my hands sticky?, then you’ll want to grab a hold of this Oars + Alps Go Stick. This chemical sunscreen comes in stick form to glide across skin easily, much as a deodorant would, while its clear formula leaves no trace of a white cast behind. If you find yourself in cities often, you’ll want to reap this sunscreen’s powerful pollution-fighting benefits, courtesy of antioxidants like Alpine caribou moss. This formula also contains aloe and coconut to soothe and moisturize skin, and since it comes in stick form, you won’t have to worry about spills or TSA restrictions when you travel.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical SPF: 35 Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 1.7 oz.