The 8 Best Protective Sunscreens For Every Skin Type

There are two types of people in the world: those who have always been diligent about slathering on the sunscreen, and those who have had to learn the hard way.

I belong to the latter group.

Don’t ask me where my entitled sense of invincibility came from; I couldn’t even begin to guess. But for whatever crazy reason, on one fateful summer trip, I boldly braved the beach with my skin bare and exposed, and insisted I’d emerge from the day unscathed.

Needless to say, I messed up. Badly.

Not only did I suffer from sunburn, but I developed full-blown sun poisoning, which basically means the burn was so severe that I had systemic symptoms: fever, chills, and uncontrollable vomiting. Suffice it to say that a relaxing romp at the beach quickly became a summer-vacation nightmare, all from my fair-skinned hubris.

This isn’t a mistake you make more than once. Now, I’d never run around on the beach without a thick lather of lotion from head to toe. But applying sunscreen to my skin as a daily habit? Okay, I’m still working on that.

It’s not that I still feel invincible – that bubble has burst – but as someone who struggles with mornings (especially in the pre-coffee, stagger-out-of-bed phase), the extra step of smearing on some cream seems a Herculean task.

But as I rub my fingers on my freshly reddened skin, I know this reluctance has to change. After a season of rough blizzards and blinding snow squalls, the sun has finally emerged from hibernation, and she’s making her presence known. My aging, chapped skin can no longer get away with apathy and neglect.

But really, it never should have. I’m old enough to know that sunscreen doesn’t just protect you from rashes and burns that’ll make you cringe. It even does more than keep your skin smooth and wrinkle free (though that also is a strong selling point). Most importantly, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular use of a good sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing skin cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma, by 40 percent, and melanoma by 50 percent.

sunscreen infographic

So, what makes a good sunscreen? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use a sunscreen that meets the following three criteria: 1) It should be SPF 30 or higher; 2) it should offer broad-spectrum protection (i.e. protects against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays); and 3) it should be water-resistant.

Let’s break it down a little. First, the SPF – or Sun Protection Factor.

“The SPF value is not always straightforward to understand and involves some math,” notes Nava Greenfield, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist from New York City. “SPF is a measure of the time it takes to develop a sunburn on protected skin as compared to not protected skin. An SPF 30, if applied correctly, should provide 95% protection from UVB rays. An SPF 50 should provide 98% protection from UVB rays.”

“Although that difference of 3% may seem small, 3% of the sun’s UVB rays are strong and, alone, could produce sunburn and aging if exposed in sufficient quantities,” Dr. Greenfield says.

Okay, so what about UVA rays – and what’s the difference between A and B, anyway?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the sun’s UVA has a shorter wavelength and is associated with aging, while UVB has a longer wavelength and is associated with burning. A good sunscreen protects against both, says Dr. Greenfield.

“The words ‘broad spectrum’ indicate that the product protects against both [UVA and UVB rays],” Dr. Greenfield explains. “A mineral sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide provides both UVA and UVB protection, but a chemical sunscreen will need multiple fillers to properly provide broad spectrum protection.”

And that water-resistant part? You may think that’s straightforward, but there’s a little more to the label than meets the eye.

“Water resistant does not mean waterproof. No sunscreens are waterproof or ‘sweatproof’, and  manufacturers are not allowed to claim that they are,” points out Enrizza Factor, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and researcher.

“If a product’s front label makes claims of being water resistant, it must specify whether it lasts for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating,” Dr. Factor explains. “For best results, reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating. Sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, so you will need to put more on,” she says.

Okay, you’ve got the basics of sunscreen down pat. Now what? Even if you know what to look for on the label, the lotion aisle of any store can be overwhelming.

Don’t worry, dear reader! Once again, the Monet team is here to help. We took a look at every product under the sun and are excited to present you with our picks. From the top lotion, overall, to the best version for specific skin types, here are our favorite sunscreens for every need.

Best Sunscreen Overall: Coppertone Limited Edition Ultraguard SPF 70

coppertone sunscreen

Who could forget Jodie Foster’s acting debut as the original Coppertone baby from the ‘60’s commercials? Decades later, Jodie is still tearing up the big screen, and Coppertone is still crushing as a sunscreen. Their Ultraguard formula has everything you could want in sun protection. Not only is it broad spectrum, water-resistant for 80 minutes, and a sky-high SPF, but reviewers gush that it’s easy to apply, has a thin texture that doesn’t feel too gooey, and smells decent for a sunscreen. This limited-edition lotion boasts a 4.7-star rating on Amazon. One customer wrote, “I’ve never used a sunscreen that went on this smoothly or completely. We were on a week-long beach vacation and we went through a few bottles of this stuff. Ended up using this from head to toe, including on our faces. Went on easily as lotion, and it rubs in completely. Didn’t feel sticky, and the smell wasn’t too strong. All day, every day, in the sun – no burns!”


Best Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk SPF 100

La Roche-Posay sunscreen
Not only does this lotion boast the highest SPF you can buy, but it’s been specially formulated for optimal skin tolerance, making it a top sunscreen for sensitive skin. The Anthelios melt-in milk uses exclusive cell-ox shield technology that combines broad-spectrum power with antioxidants to protect from free radicals. This product was rated 4.6 stars on Amazon, with one reviewer writing, “Long-time sunscreen wearer, sensitive skin. This is simply the BEST, believe me. No whiteness. I’m in HEAVEN. Not greasy. Sweet absorption.”

SHOP ON ULTA – $26.99

Best Sunscreen For Acne-Prone Skin: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

elta MD sunscreen
This mineral-based sunscreen uses an oil-free, zinc oxide formula that won’t clog your pores or irritate skin that’s prone to acne, rosacea, or dark spots. The product also contains hyaluronic acid that moisturizes and minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. EltaMD’s UV Clear sunscreen boasts a 4.7-star rating on Amazon. One reviewer wrote, “This product is amazing for sensitive and acne-prone skin. I have had issues in the past with sunscreens breaking me out, and with EltaMD I have no worries. Now after using it a month, I have noticed my skin is more hydrated (it does give you a glow) – honestly some days I will just put this on and go out the door, as it gives you a dewy look. Also, it goes on white but turns clear as you rub it in. It also has no smell, and the pump on it works amazing and pumps out so smoothly.”


Best Sunscreen For Oily Skin: Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen SPF 30

Bliss sunscreen
Block Star is a sheer mineral, zinc oxide sunscreen that contains rosa canina fruit oil to control excess oil and minimize the appearance of pores. The Bliss formula also boasts a blend of blueberry acai and green tea extracts, antioxidants that help protect your skin from free radicals. This sunscreen has a 4.7-star rating and 91% recommendation rate on Ulta. As one customer wrote, “This is one of the best sunscreens I have ever used. I love that it is tinted because it doesn’t leave any white residue or leave me looking pale, and it also doesn’t have a strange smell like other sunscreens do. My skin is typically oily, but this product never enhanced it. Very glad to have this in my daily routine now!”


Best Sunscreen For Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Broad Spectrum SPF 45

Peter Thomas Roth sunscreen
If your skin tends to be more dry than oily, this moisturizing sunscreen is your best bet. The non-greasy, cream-to-water blend contains a 30% complex of hydrating hyaluronic acid. Plus, the ingredient pentavitin helps provide up to 72 hours of hydration, even after you cleanse your skin. This formulation has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon, with one reviewer writing, “I’m extremely happy with this product! I’ve tried many different brands of moisturizing sunscreens as I’m not good at using multiple products in the morning, but my search has ended. It glides on as a moisturizer should, keeps my face from feeling dry all day, and it doesn’t cake or flake like other ones I’ve tried.”


Best Cruelty-Free Sunscreen: Sun Bum Original SPF 50

Sun Bum sunscreen
Calling all animal activists: this cruelty-free, vegan sunscreen is for you. Sun Bum’s original formula is also gluten free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic – all while delivering powerful sun protection, with a high SPF and the antioxidant vitamin E. The product has a 4.5-star rating on Target. One reviewer wrote, “This is the BEST sunscreen ever. I have sensitive skin and have to be careful what I use on my face, and Sun Bum’s products cause no issues, and I even like the feel of applying it. It smells great too, but is not overpowering. I love that I’m using an environmentally friendly product as well. Thank you, Sun Bum!”


Best Sunscreen Spray: COOLA Classic Sunscreen Spray SPF 70

Coola sunscreen spray
Sometimes, you prefer a spray sunscreen to a cream that can get sticky on your skin. The COOLA classic sunscreen is our favorite spray formula! Not only does it boast all the benefits of lotions, but it contains 70% certified organic ingredients, is reef friendly, and is rich in antioxidants and plant extracts. Plus, reviewers love its peach blossom scent! This product has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon. One customer wrote, “I like that for being organic, it’s a spray-on and applies nicely. It’s not too sticky and smells wonderful. It didn’t leave a film or leave me looking like a pale zombie, like the zinc natural sunscreens do. I’m going through it like crazy in this scorching hot summer in Los Angeles!”


Best Budget Sunscreen: Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

alba mineral sunscreen
Our best budget sunscreen pick has all you need in sun protection – SPF 30, broad spectrum effects, and 80-minute water resistance – plus, botanical mineral ingredients for sensitive skin, all in a tub that’s cheaper than a Starbucks latte. This sunscreen has a 4.4-star rating on Amazon, with one reviewer writing, “The most affordable sunscreen I’ve ever bought that does what it says. It’s not drying, not sticky, and doesn’t feel heavy on the skin. It leaves only a slightly white cast that seems to disappear later on, and it helps if you really massage the cream into your skin. My eyes don’t sting like they usually do from other sunscreen products, so I’m happy with it; perfect for my sensitive skin and the environment.”



Are you a regular sunscreen wearer? What are your go-to products? Let us know in the comments!

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