Look, we get it. Applying sunscreen can be annoying, but the thing is, you have to do it. Whether you’re hanging by the pool all day or going to work at 8 a.m., you just do.
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is responsible for 80 percent of skin cancer deaths, is the most common cancer in U.S. women from ages 25-29 and has increased by 50 percent among women aged 15-39. And if we can appeal to your vanity for a moment, women who wear sunscreen daily have 24 percent fewer signs of skin aging than those who don’t.
Since daily use (even on cloudy days!) is the only way to success, finding a sunscreen you like is key, or else you’ll never wear it. “It’s a personal preference, so try them all to find one that works for you,” suggests Gervaise Gerstner, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Here, we do the dirty work for you and find a sunscreen for every excuse.
1“I don’t want to wait 20 minutes for it to start working and I won’t reapply throughout the day.”
Well, lazypants, we appreciate your honesty. Sunscreen regulation requires all SPF products to say to apply 15 minutes before sun exposure, but the little secret is that it’s only relevant for chemical sunscreen ingredients because they need time to kick in. Those same ingredients (ironically) break down in the sun after about two hours, making reapplication a must.
The way around this is to use physical blocking ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide. They lie on top of the skin and bounce UV rays away, and are effective immediately. Because of their inorganic makeup as minerals, they don’t disintegrate in the sun (think of them as little rocks), which means as long as you’re not excessively sweating or wiping/rubbing your sunscreen off, it will stay effective as long as it’s on your skin. We still want to encourage you to reapply as often as possible, though, just to be safe.
, is formulated with oat extracts for sensitive skin.
SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, $34, comes in a sheer tint for an added glow.
Elemis Liquid Layer Sunblock SPF 30, $42, is great for laying under makeup, and contains antioxidants to protect against skin-damaging pollution.
2“I don’t want chemicals on my skin.”
There’s a lot of conspiracy-theory hype over chemicals in sunscreen causing cancer or disrupting hormones, but studies have shown this is not the case. What we do know is that the sun causes skin cancer. “I’d much rather save your life with sunscreen than watch you get skin cancer because of some far-fetched possibly of harm from chemicals,” says Dr. Gerstner.
But even if this was a real concern, it’s still no excuse since there are plenty of sunscreens made with physical-blocking, mineral ingredients (zinc and/or titanium dioxides) rather than chemical ones that absorb into the skin.
Aubrey Natural Sun SPF 26 Unscented, $16, is all natural with organic jojoba oil, aloe and shea butter, and won’t sting sensitive skin.
Hang Ten Mineral Sport SPF 50, $13, includes organic ingredients such as agave leaf and arnica, and isn’t greasy.
Kiss My Face Natural Mineral Sun Factor SPF 40, $17, moisturizes with a molecule extracted from safflower.
3“I want some color.”
Ah, the siren song of a tan. We understand the allure of golden-bronze skin, but with a tan comes damage and increased skin cancer risk. Period.
Self-tan technology has come a long way, and now you can even get natural-looking color while protecting your skin from the sun.
Australian Gold Sheer Coverage SPF 45 Faces with Self-Tanner, $10, is oil-free, water-resistant, and delivers a subtle, gradual glow—like it’s happening naturally.
Jergens Natural Glow + Protect Daily Moisturizer Sunscreen SPF 20, $9—from the brand that put gradual glow products on the map comes a skin-protecting version.
Lurk Luminosity + Antioxidant Facial Treatment with SPF 30, $18, is great for those who don’t necessarily want to be darker, but still want a healthy sheen. We love this as a face highlighter that adds a little extra boost of sun protection.
4“It sucks under makeup.”
It’s true that the sunscreens of yore tended to be greasy and thick—not exactly the base you want for makeup. New fluid versions are more like serums than creams, and even traditional lotions now incorporate high-tech powders and silicones to create a smooth, matte finish that won’t mess up your makeup application.
Blisslabs Active 99.0 UV Protect SPF 30, $50, packed with anti-aging ingredients to repair sun damage, is a lightweight fluid that blends right into your skin.
Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense SPF 50+, $38, is an oil-free, serum-like product that dries to a matte finish—great for oily skin.
Obagi Sun Shield Broad Spectrum Matte SPF 50, $48, with a high concentration of zinc oxide (the best UVA-blocking ingredient), leaves a matte, primer-like finish—something you don’t often see with mineral sunscreens.
5“It just washes off in water, so what’s the point?”
Sunscreen companies spend a lot of time and money testing their products to see if they can withstand swimming, extreme sports, frolicking around on a sandy beach, etc. So this really isn’t a very good excuse—just look for “water-resistant” on the label. (FYI: Brands aren’t allowed to say waterproof anymore, because technically nothing is, unless you coat yourself in Teflon.)
Mineral sunscreens (those with a high percentage of zinc and/or titanium dioxides) are inherently water-resistant by nature, making them a good choice if you’ll be out for long periods of time.
But just because something is water-resistant doesn’t mean you get out of reapplying throughout the day. Some ingredients break down over time and it’s easy to wipe off sunscreen with a towel. Every two hours is the standard rule of thumb.
, is perfect for surfers and anyone who is active in the water. It dries quickly and won’t give you a slippery grip.
, is lightweight but tough against water exposure. The fresh, smooth texture keeps your face soft and grease-free.
Shiseido UV Protective Stick Foundation SPF 37, $28, doubles as water-resistant makeup and includes cell-defense ingredients that brighten uneven skintones.
6“It’s annoying to put on.”
If traditional lotions seem like too much of a bother, then it’s best to try an alternative delivery system that you can seamlessly incorporate into your life.
Ahava Age Perfecting Hand Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 15, $32, in place of your regular hand cream delivers moisture and skin-brightening ingredients along with sun protection.
Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 45, $30, is a hands-off, brush-on powder that’s easy to stow in your bag or car for instant, mess-free touch-ups.
Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray SPF 30, $35, makes something mundane like applying sunscreen seem fancy. Simply spritz on the dry-finish oil for a sexy sheen.
7“It’s too messy.”
A close cousin to the “It’s annoying to put on” excuse, this line usually stems from wanting to avoid a palm full of greasy lotion and white messes all over your bag when the bottle leaks. OK, we get that. The solution is a mess-free sunscreen stick or compact!
CeraVe Sunscreen Stick SPF 50, $10, protects with mineral sunscreens while attracting moisture to the skin with hyaluronic acid.
Avène High Protection Tinted Compact SPF 50, $34, with mineral sunscreen ingredients provides tinted coverage and is easy to store for touch-ups.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face & Body Stick Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70, $10, is nice and wide, which solves the problem of those little sticks not being big enough for an entire body.
8“I hate the way it smells.”
Chemical sunscreens can smell…chemical-y. That is true. One solution is to use sunscreen made with zinc or titanium oxides, which are odorless minerals. But for those who prefer the chemical ingredients for the way they sink into the skin and leave no trace of white residue, you’ll be happy to know that sunscreen companies have heard your pleas and come out with new formulas sans nasty smell.
Coola Sport SPF 50 Unscented Sunscreen Spray, $32, is a welcome addition for anyone who doesn’t want any scent whatsoever.
L’Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Lotion SPF 30, $10, smells fresh and clean, goes on smoothly and isn’t greasy or shiny.
Sol Scents Sunscreen SPF 30 in Cucumber Melon, $15, from a brand that was specifically created to provide sunscreen for people who don’t want to smell like sunscreen. There are seven scents to choose from—we’re partial to cucumber melon.
9“It’s too greasy.”
It’s one thing to put up with slimy sunscreen at the beach—there’s a certain expectation of dealing with it for the sake of avoiding sunburn. But if the fear of greasiness is keeping you from wearing sunscreen when you’re just living your day-to-day life, that’s a problem. “Sun damage is cumulative, so you have to protect yourself every day, whether you’re sitting outside at a game or simply running errands in the car,” explains Gerstner.
Dermalogica Protection 50 Sport, $32, provides serious sun protection without a greasy feel—and no sunscreen-y smell!
Glytone Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40, $37—it’s tough to find a lotion with zinc oxide that’s suitable for daily use (in other words, not chalky and white), but this one makes it work.
Anthelios 50 Tinted Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, $33, has a matte finish and gives an instant, subtle glow.
10“I can’t deal with another step.”
When you’re rushing around in the morning, the last thing you need is yet another thing to do, amiright? But skimping on sunscreen is not an option, so make it easy on yourself and sub in SPF products for stuff you use on the reg.
, is designed to be used as body lotion. The lightweight, moisturizing formula also includes skin brighteners.
Elizabeth Arden Rx Triple Protection Factor SPF 50+, $56, takes the place of your anti-aging day cream—and then some. The new clinically proven formula protects DNA from sun damage to delay the signs of aging.
MD Solar Sciences MD Crème Mineral Beauty Balm SPF 50, $39, can be used instead of foundation, or as a makeup primer if you want to build coverage. The high concentration of mineral sunscreen ingredients provides superb protection.
11“It looks too white on my skin.”
Zinc and titanium dioxides are minerals that lie on top of the skin, so unless you’re Cate Blanchett-level fair, they have the potential to leave a whitish cast. Tinted formulas take care of that problem for some, but if you have olive or dark skin, forget about it. Even non-mineral sunscreens can look ashy on very deep skin.
Since skin cancer can strike any skin color (Bob Marley died of melanoma!), it’s imperative that you find a product that blends in, and thanks to modern technology, now’s the perfect time to find a sunscreen that works for you. “People need to realize that skin of color burns, too,” says YouBeauty Dermatology Expert, Jeanine B. Downie, M.D. “Radiation absorbed from the sun can have you seeing cancer down the road.”
Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronzing Tint, $40, is not a sunscreen, but you can mix this easy-to-blend fluid with just about anything to counteract white tones and add a safe, sunless glow.
Hawaiian Tropic SPF 30 Dry Oil Clear Spray Sunscreen, $9, goes on without a trace and contains botanicals and aloe vera to soften skin.
Olay Total Effects Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, $18, is packed with vitamins that help reduce spots and fine lines, and the brand’s SolaSheer technology delivers oil-free, translucent sun protection.