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The Best Sunscreens For Your Face, According to a Top Dermatologist

It's the easiest way to help prevent skin cancer. So use it.

Before heading outside for any amount of time, you need to apply the best sunscreen on your face. In other words, face moisturizer with SPF. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it a million times before and seriously, if you’re running out for coffee, no big deal, right? Wrong. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can lower your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by roughly 40 percent, and reduce your melanoma risk by 50 percent. That’s a lot of benefit, from what literally takes less than a minute of your time.

Oh, but you argue, sunscreen feels gross and sticky and like you’re wearing a sheet over your face. Plus, you’re not even sure which one to choose, given that the options are seemingly endless and all claim to be the holy grail of sun protection. To help clarify things, we consulted Dr. Claire Wolinsky, a New York-based dermatologist.

She says to opt for an SPF of 30 because you get 97 percent protection against UVB rays when you use it correctly (meaning you apply one ounce every two hours), while an SPF of 15 provides 93 percent coverage. If you go beyond SPF 30, the benefits are incremental and not worth it.

“The quantity of sunscreen used and the reapplication of sunscreen every two hours is much more important than whether its a cream, gel, bar or spray formulation,” says Wolinsky. “Whatever feels best on your skin and whatever you will use the most is the right choice for you.  That being said, it’s easier to misuse spray sunscreen because the quantity of sunscreen that is released from the nozzle is typically less than what you would get from a cream. Also, powder sunscreens, which I love, shouldn’t be used as the only sunscreen if possible but rather as an adjunct to regular sunscreen.”

Now, do you opt for mineral sunscreen (meaning one with zinc oxide) or a chemical one?

“A mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide is always preferable to a purely chemical sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin, avoiding chemical sunscreens is prudent as there is a much higher chance of allergic and irritant reactions to these chemical ingredients (oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, etc),” says Wolinsky.

“Mineral sunscreens don’t require any time for absorption prior to being in the sun and provide a physical barrier to the UV rays.  However, many mineral sunscreen formulations can appear white and when thick, mineral sunscreens are at higher risk of clogging pores. For acne-prone skin, a light mineral sunscreen or one mixed with a chemical sunscreen may be the best option. Tinted sunscreens are helpful to counteract the white sheen of mineral sunscreens.”

All the sunscreens below are mineral-based, and all are gender-neutral.

This is a mineral sunscreen that is lightweight, matte, non-comedogenic and easy to rub into the skin.

This protects the skin with close to 15 percent zinc oxide while also containing antioxidants like vitamin E to add an extra level of anti aging benefits. It rubs in well and is also moisturizing.

This is an anti-aging product as well as a sunscreen. It's best for anyone with a strong history of skin cancer or precancerous spots as well as anyone who likes the idea of using a sunscreen with anti-aging benefits.

This is the most popular sunscreen (chemical and mineral) for acne-prone skin since it's lightweight and sheer. It's extremely versatile and effective.

If you absolutely hate the feel of sunscreen on your face, try this one. It goes on so light, you forget you're wearing it at all. You get all mineral protection, courtesy of zinc oxide.

Sun Bum has great broad spectrum sunscreen products, including this mineral sunscreen for the face. The brand is environmentally conscientious and their products rub in smoothly without leaving a residue.

The brand has a cult-favorite sunscreen that's virtually invisible, but it's chemical-based. So we prefer this one; it goes on velvety-smooth and contains 17 percent zinc oxide. It's great if your skin tends to get shiny during the day.

This is a purely mineral sunscreen with a very versatile tint that suits a wide range of skin tones. Hyaluronic acid allows the product to be moisturizing without being greasy.

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