Just like toothpaste and hand soap, sunscreen is an everyday essential that you shouldn’t feel the need to spend a lot of money on. And while there are plenty of face sunscreens in the drugstore aisles to choose from, finding your perfect match can involve some serious trial and error. To help you narrow down the best drugstore sunscreens for the face, Bustle reached out to dermatologists Dr. Marisa Garshick, Dr. Anar Mikailov, and Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, who share the sunscreens they find themselves recommending most often (and even use themselves) ahead. All of these face sunscreens offer broad-spectrum sun protection and have an SPF of at least 30, but some of them target more specific skin concerns, such as acne or redness.
Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, practicing with MDCS Dermatology. She also serves as an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Garshick specializes in general medical dermatology and cosmetic dermatology.
Dr. Anar Mikailov, M.D., F.A.A.D., is a board-certified dermatologist based in Massachusetts. He is the founder of KP Away, a skin care line developed to treat keratosis pilaris.
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., F.A.A.D., is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Mississippi. She is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, where she serves as a social media ambassador. Dr. Zubritsky is passionate about using social media to share her expertise and debunk skin care myths.
What To Look For In A Face Sunscreen
With so many textures, finishes, and fragrances (or lack thereof) to choose from, sunscreen preferences tend to vary from person to person. Face sunscreens are generally more lightweight than body sunscreens, but SPF moisturizers and sunscreen serums are even sheerer options, and will likely be preferable to those who dislike the feel of traditional sunscreen lotions and creams. Those with oily or acne-prone skin may also prefer these lighter formulations, and will also want to look for sunscreens that are oil-free and noncomedogenic. If you find your skin to be on the drier side, a cream or lotion that contains multiple moisturizing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides, will help keep your skin feeling comfortable and smooth.
Then, there’s the whole mineral versus chemical debate. While any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all, in general, those with sensitive skin will want to stick with mineral sunscreen filters. You'll find them listed as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide under the active ingredients label, and they work by sitting on top of skin, like a shield, to block UV rays. (They're also considered to be safer for coral reefs.) The only downside is that mineral sunscreens are usually more difficult to blend in and tend to leave a white cast behind. If that's a dealbreaker for you, try a chemical sunscreen instead — there are plenty of elegant formulas out there that won’t break the bank.
Shop The Best Drugstore Face Sunscreens
In a hurry? Here are the best drugstore face sunscreens:
- Best For Dark Skin Tones: MELĒ No Shade Sunscreen Oil
- Best For Dry Skin: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen Face Lotion
- Best For Combatting Redness: Hero Superlight Sunscreen
- Best For Sensitive Skin: Blue Lizard Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen
- Best Matte Sunscreen: Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Face Lotion
- Best Sunscreen Serum Under $15: Neutrogena Invisible Daily Defense Face Serum
- Best French Sunscreen Serum: La Roche Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum With Sunscreen
- Best For Acne-Prone Skin: Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer With SPF 30
1. Dr. Garshick's Pick: Best For Dark Skin Tones
If you aren't into traditional sunscreen lotions or you're fed up with formulas that leave a white cast behind, this one is for you. MELĒ’s No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30 was created by women of color for women of color, and the brand even consulted dermatologists of color to get the formula just right. Dr. Garshick especially likes this sunscreen oil for providing lightweight UV protection, which makes it a versatile choice. "It protects the skin without leaving behind a noticeable residue, making it an easy-to-use option for those with tattoos," she adds of its many benefits. And though it may not come from a traditional drugstore brand, $20 feels like an extremely reasonable price to pay for such an elegant formula.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Caprylic Triglyceride Size: 1 oz.
2. Dr. Garshick's Pick: Best For Dry Skin
"This is a great option for those with dry skin, as in addition to containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide broad-spectrum coverage, it also contains hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide," Dr. Garshick says of CeraVe's Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen. Those bonus ingredients, which help support the skin's natural protective barrier, are the same ones found in the brand's beloved moisturizers, and they also offer soothing and skin-softening benefits. Oil-free and noncomedogenic, this moisturizing sunscreen boasts the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, so even those with skin sensitives should be able to use it safely.
Sunscreen Type: Mineral Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Niacinamide, Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol Size: 2.5 oz.
3. Dr. Mikailov's Pick: Best For Combatting Redness
"For sensitive skin, I always recommend mineral sunscreen as it's less prone to irritate the skin," explains Dr. Mikailov. Hero’s Superlight Sunscreen SPF 30 is one of his go-to recommendations for those with acne and skin sensitivities like rosacea, and it rings up at just under $20. "There is a green tint that goes away immediately that can help counteract redness from acne," he says of the fragrance-free sunscreen. "It also contains a mix of plant-based antioxidants, including green tea extract to soothe the skin."
Sunscreen Type: Mineral Key Ingredients: Raspberry Seed Oil, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Red Algae Extract, Turmeric Leaf Extract, Neem Leaf Extract, Moringa Seed Oil, Vitamin E, Bisabolol, Glycerin Size: 1.69 oz
4. Dr. Mikailov's Pick: Best For Sensitive Skin
For a sensitive skin-friendly sunscreen that's lighter weight, Dr. Mikailov likes Blue Lizard’s Sensitive Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. "It has a gel-like texture that makes it very easy to apply," he says, adding that it still provides some moisturizing benefits thanks to hyaluronic acid. It's oil-free and fragrance-free, and it even offers additional antioxidant protection courtesy of ingredients like green tea leaf extract and caffeine. Another cool feature unique to this sunscreen is the bottle's SmartCap technology, which turns blue when exposed to UV light to help remind you to apply (and reapply) your sunscreen.
Sunscreen Type: Mineral Key Ingredients: Green Tea Leaf Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Caffeine Size: 1.7 oz.
5. Dr. Zubritsky's Pick: Best Water-Resistant Matte Sunscreen
If you prefer a traditional sunscreen lotion, Dr. Zubritsky recommends Sun Bum’s Original Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50. "I love how weightless and light this one feels," she says of the oil-free formula. "It doesn't feel greasy at all, and [it] goes on well under makeup," she says, adding that it also has a matte finish. Though this is a chemical sunscreen, the formula is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and, according to the brand, meets the reef-safe requirements established by the state of Hawaii.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Vitamin E Size: 3 oz.
6. Dr. Garshick's & Dr. Zubritsky's Pick: Best Water-Resistant Sunscreen Serum
Both Dr. Garshick and Dr. Zubritsky named this serum as one of their favorite drugstore face sunscreens. Neutrogena's Invisible Daily Defense Face Serum SPF 60+ is a fragrance-free sunscreen that's also noncomedogenic and oil-free, and Dr. Zubritsky notes that the serum formula works well with other skin care products. "[It] blends easily with all skin tones, and also incorporates ginger extract and antioxidants to help brighten the skin while protecting the skin from free radical damage," explains Dr. Garshick.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Vitamin E, Ginger Root Extract Size: 1.7 oz.
7. Editor's Pick: Best French Pharmacy Sunscreen Serum
“This is one of the more expensive drugstore sunscreens out there, but to me, it’s worthy every penny,” says Bustle beauty editor Adeline Duff. “It’s a sunscreen serum, so it has an extremely light, fluid texture and blends into skin beautifully in mere seconds. You won’t feel like you’re wearing sunscreen at all, and it also offers antioxidant benefits to double-down on the skin protection.”
This is one of the OG sunscreen serums, and it comes from beloved French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay, who incorporated their signature, soothing thermal spring water into the oil- and fragrance-free formula.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, Vitamin E Size: 1 oz.
8. Writer's Pick: Best For Acne-Prone Skin
Except for an occasional breakout, my acne-prone skin had been under control in recent years. But once the masks came out at the start of the pandemic, all bets were off. I'll never give up on sunscreen (or makeup for that matter), but my new breakouts did force me to become more strategic with my products. Differin’s Oil Absorbing Moisturizer With SPF 30 is one of the few sunscreens that made the cut for me. It doesn’t feel heavy on my skin, and it's oil-free, noncomedogenic, and fragrance-free, so it's also non-irritating. It uses ingredients like silica to help absorb excess oil, as well as soothing and moisturizing ingredients like allantoin to help combat any drying effects your topical acne treatments might be causing.
Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Allantoin, Panthenol, Vitamin E Size: 4 oz.
Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Dr. Anar Mikailov, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in Massachusetts and founder of KP Away.
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist in Mississippi.