In the July CATALYST we gave the basic rundown on pros and cons of sunscreen. One of our trusty gingers, Emma Ryder, roadtests a batchful and offers up her opinions.
Physical sunscreens can be hard to apply. Some won’t disappear onto your skin no matter how much you rub. If you’re rocking a nearly nude look in a 100-degree day, you could end up spending more time rubbing in sunscreen than having fun.
I’ve found that it rubs in better if I go systematically down my arms and legs and apply a small amount at a time, as opposed to squeezing out a handful and going to town. To achieve the SPF specified on the bottle you need to apply a nickel-sized amount to your face and a shot glass, about two ounces, to your body.
The best sunscreen is one you’re actually going to wear every day. With that in mind, I have three criteria I use to decide if a product is worthy of my skin and won’t drive me crazy:
How does it feel? Preferably I can’t feel it at all.
How easy is it to apply? I don’t want to spend an hour rubbing it into my skin.
How does it look? I call this the Ghost Factor. While avoiding the sun is always smart, a ghostly white cast to your skin is not a good look.
I started my physical sunscreen journey by using the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide as a resource. If you want to vet every last ingredient in the products you put on your skin, they have already done all the hard work and are a good place to start. I’ve found that if I’m going to be consistent in my application I can give and take a bit on some of the ingredients that go into the sunscreens I choose. For the most part if it’s zinc oxide and titanium dioxide based and made to be gentle on the skin than I’ll give it a chance. Below is a rundown of the best sunscreens I’ve found, for both the face and the rest of the body. If you want to find a product that’s good enough for a super-sensitive ginger who hates the feeling of anything foreign on her skin, this is the list for you.
Tinted daily facial sunscreens:
The best way to avoid the Ghost Factor all together is added pigment to the solution. The following sunscreens are basically souped up tinted moisturizers and are great one-and-done products. If you don’t like wearing makeup, don’t let these products scare you off. The tint is very subtle and blends to match any skin tone.
SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50, $34
This one is my current favorite for everyday wear. It goes on smooth, makes my skin feel soft and the mattefying properties help control oil. If you have dry skin, the oil-absorbing agents might not be awesome, but this is a great choice for oily to normal skin. It’s also an excellent base for makeup, but you may find that the tint is enough to get you out the door with one less step in your beauty routine.
Supergoop Daily Correct CC Cream SPF 35, $32
This is my favorite all-in-one product. It has more pigment than the other tinted products on the list, so it can be treated more like a light coverage foundation. It takes a little finesse when applying but when done right, it evens skin tone. The mica in it adds a nice, subtle, flaw-obscuring shimmer. If you want to use this product I would suggest putting on a regular face lotion first. Warm up the Supergoop by rubbing a pea size amount between your fingertips; getting the product up to body temperature helps it absorb into the skin better. Work it into your skin until you feel it set and then go back in with a little bit more product to make sure everything is covered.
TiZO3 Protection Facial Mineral Fusion SPF 40 water resistant, $31
This is a great option for people who tend to sweat or otherwise have a more active day planned. It is the only tinted option I’ve found that is also water resistant. Right out of the bottle, the tint looks like it might be a bit on the dark side for fairer skinned folks, but it is actually the least pigmented of the tinted products on this list. It goes on smooth and the color blends out into translucent nothingness. It feels greasy for the first little while, but that settles down after sitting on my skin for a few minutes. The greasiness makes this a better choice for people with normal to dry skin.
Elta MD Skincare UV Daily SPF 40 with hyaluronic acid, $28
This product might become my new favorite, if I can wrestle the bottle out of my sister’s hands. Upon getting it to test, she nabbed this one and has worn it everyday for the last month. It has the added bonus of having hyaluronic acid, which helps reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. I’m told it feels great going on and is very moisturizing.
Daily Sunscreen Moisturizers:
These are the go-to options for people who don’t like the idea of tinted products or want to layer them under makeup.
CeraVe Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 30, $12.99
With physical sunscreen you definitely get what you pay for. The cheaper products almost always have the whitest cast and are the hardest to rub in. This product is the most affordable that I’ve found that still succeeds at not looking and feeling terrible. It requires a little more effort to rub in, but once done, you can’t see it. It does feel more like a sunscreen than a moisturizer, so on days I wear this I put on a regular face lotion first.
Tarteguard 30 Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30, $32
Tarte is one of my favorite makeup brands and they don’t disappoint with this sunscreen. It feels and looks like a normal face lotion. You can slap this stuff on quickly and be ready to face the day.
Sunscreen for All-Over Body Protection:
This is a hard but important category. If you’re going to spend upwards of $30 on a facial sunscreen, you might want to save some pennies on the stuff you’re going to spread all over your less sensitive areas. To be honest, I have yet to find a physical sunscreen that fits all my picky criteria. But these come close.
Goddess Garden Organics Everyday SPF 30, $19.99
This lotion has a lovely rosemary scent and is made with a good chunk of organic ingredients. It’s the best application I’ve seen. It is thinner than most physical sunscreens and doesn’t require breaking a sweat to rub it in. It does have a whitish cast when exposed to water, but otherwise can sit on your skin undetected.
Bare Republic Natural Mineral Sunscreen Kids SPF 30, $14.99
This puppy comes in a spray bottle, making it easy to attack wriggly children or get a nice fast application on yourself. It rubs in quickly, too. Just remember that you still need to apply about two ounces to your entire body to get the SPF coverage advertised on the bottle, something that’s harder to do when the product comes out in a fine mist.
By Emma Ryder