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Top 10 Best Sunscreens in 2021

OwlRatings’ has put together this game changing list of the top ten sunscreens that get you ready for your sun-kissed adventure in no time.

Reasons to look for a good sunscreen

Using a sunscreen is a no-brainer when it comes to staying out in the sun. It comes with all the given benefits of UV protection, preventing signs of aging, reducing risk of cancer, and maintaining an even skin tone.

But many people dread the thought of having to wear one every day. After all, it does need some degree of commitment to ensure that you’ve applied the product before stepping out.

For some it may be an additional step to their makeup routine. For others, there is the fear of breaking out, having their skin look glossy, or the unpleasant prospect of smelling like sunscreen all day long.  

But sunscreens have come a long way with the best products creating a barely noticeable effect when you put them on. Many come as fragrance and allergen-free formulas to suit sensitive skin types while people with dry skin can choose something with a moisturizing effect.

So, if you think that putting on sunscreen is a big hassle, then we’ve got 10 of the best options for you to consider. You can choose from spray, lotion, or gel forms and even get your pick for chemical vs mineral- based formulas.

Best overall

Neutrogena Beach Defense sunscreen

Neutrogena Beach Defense sunscreen

The sunscreen works best when you are in your favorite sunny places like a park, the pool, or the beach.

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Providing top-notch, broad-spectrum protection, Neutrogena Beach Defense goes on smooth without leaving any residue.

Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, this sunscreen soaks in quickly and does not have a strong sunscreen smell.

You can wear this SPF 50 formulated sunscreen easily to the beach with superior absorption that doesn’t feel sticky, greasy, or tacky on the skin.

The spray mechanism is easy to use and apply to large areas of skin. Given its lightweight feel you won’t feel any irritation or discomfort as you enjoy your time in the sun.

 A truly universal product, this will perform well on all skin types.

Best for kids

Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids sunscreen

Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids sunscreen

This spray sunscreen is best for kids who love to be out in the sun.

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Neutrogena is a household name and with good reason too. Their products cater to every age and size and their Wet Skin Sunscreen features as our top product for kids.

This broad-spectrum sunscreen offers a load of convenience covering the body in one go and sticking to wet skin. Spray it on the kids as soon as they get out of the pool or ocean making it especially suitable for hot days when they want to stay damp.

Using only clinically approved ingredients, this kid-friendly sunscreen uses a hardworking blend of SPF 70 that offers optimal UV protection.

Not to mention that the lightweight formula doesn’t weigh down or irritate the skin.

Best for face

Coppertone Sport Spray & Face sunscreen

Coppertone Sport Spray & Face sunscreen

This best-for-face contender truly outshines the competition with its easy use, non-interference with makeup, and no residue features.

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A mineral-based sunscreen that won’t break the bank, this multipack deal from Coppertone just can’t get any better. With this two-in-one deal you get one product for your face and the other for the body.

Featuring a water-resistant, broad-spectrum, mineral-based product, this sunscreen comes as a spray that absorbs and fades quickly into the skin.

The spray mechanism makes for easy application that yields wide and even distribution across large skin areas. Without leaving any color or sheen you get an evenly distributed result that protects you from the sun with its SPF 30 formulation.

Water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, Sport SPF 30 is manufactured without chemical or harmful ingredients.

Best affordable

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen

The sunscreen shows amazing results and can be worn under makeup as well.

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Another product from the giant Neutrogena hits home with this Ultra Sheer Dry Touch formula.   

Providing the highest level of protection for an effective duration of time, this non-greasy, fast-absorbing lotion will do your skin justice when out on the beach or on a hike.

Suitable for use under makeup this product doesn’t weight your skin down or stop it from breathing. Its non-comedogenic formulation ensures that it doesn’t block pores or cause a breakout to occur.

You get maximum sun protection with its patented Helioplex technology that shields the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.  

For the price tag that this sunscreen boasts, it is one of the most pocket-friendly products available.

Best for acne-prone skin

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum sunscreen

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum sunscreen

Recommended by dermatologists, this fragrance and paraben-free formula feels ultra-light on the skin and won’t clog pores, making it an ideal choice for people with acne-prone skin.

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Winning our stamp of approval with its non-comedogenic formula, EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen is a saving grace for troubled and acne-prone skin.

This mineral-based sunscreen is super gentle as it doesn’t contain any potentially irritating chemicals, parabens, or fragrances.

The super hydrating lotion keeps skin soft and smooth without feeling heavy.

This weightless sunscreen works well to layer over moisturizer or underneath makeup with no risk of spurring pesky breakouts with its mineral formula.

Its mattifying formula is genius when it comes to making pores disappear without ever clogging them.

With its gentle, barely-there feel this product is a heavyweight when it comes to sunscreen protection.

Best for tanning

Australian Gold Spray Gel sunscreen

Australian Gold Spray Gel sunscreen

A stellar tanning and UV protection product, Australian Gold Moisturizer Spray does its name due justice.

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Giving you a healthy, even, and temporary tan that appears on the skin instantly after application, this effective tanning spray causes no irritation on the skin.

This two-in-one formula combining a self-tanner and traditional tanning lotion is oxybenzone and phthalate-free making it safe for all skin types.

Infused with skin-friendly antioxidants to nourish the skin while tanning, Australian Gold Moisturizer Spray Gel keeps you protected against harmful radiation.

It comes with the delectable scents of orange, coconut, and vanilla in an easy to apply spray gel format.

It is one of the best recommendations for people looking for a temporary tan without compromising on sun protection.

Best for babies

Thinkbaby Natural Sunblock sunscreen

Thinkbaby Natural Sunblock sunscreen

This sunblock is excellent at protecting young skin from harmful UV rays while still keeping skin well moisturized with its nutritious formula.

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When it comes to babies, it’s important to not only consider sun protection, but also avoid unnecessary ingredients that may irritate sensitive, young skin.

Keeping this in mind, this SPF 50 baby sunscreen by Thinkbaby is a remarkable product with broad-spectrum protection for infants and children under the age of 5.

Being nutrient-rich, toxin-free, highly precautioned, and non-greasy, this gentle formula is what parents look for in their children’s skin safety and hygiene.

It is water resistant for up to 80 minutes before you need to reapply. The lotion format makes it easier to apply even to the fussiest baby and you can rest knowing you gave your baby the best protection possible.

Best for sensitive skin

Alba Botanica Sensitive sunscreen

Alba Botanica Sensitive sunscreen

For broad-spectrum protection for sensitive skin, Alba Botanica presents the best sunscreen spray that is composed of completely natural contents.

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Available in an air-powered mist form, this sunscreen spray for sensitive skin types from Alba Botanica is convenient to apply and its broad-spectrum protection feature is very effective.

Easy to spray at any angle, it settles on the skin and dries fast without creating a sticky film.

It uses all vegetarian ingredients with absolutely no harmful chemicals.

Incredibly lightweight, you won’t even know you’re wearing this Alba Botanica Sunscreen.

Best for oily skin

Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer sunscreen

Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer sunscreen

This sunblock does more than just sun blocking as it keeps the skin moisturized and even works for acne-sensitive skin.

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A crowd favorite among users with oily skin, the Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer keeps skin hydrated without drying and offers complete protection from UV rays.

It has a lightweight formula that is non-greasy with no skin harming contents like parabens in it.

Ideal for oily and sensitive skin types, it won’t clog pores or cause your skin to break out.

You get optimal oil absorption, intense hydration, and effective UV protection all rolled in one.

With its lightweight feel, smooth texture, and mattifying effect, this is one product you should never leave home without when planning a day outdoors.

Best premium

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk sunscreen

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk sunscreen

This is an excellent sunscreen lotion for both the face and body and is compatible with all skin types from oily to dry and even highly sensitive skin.

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Being clinically proven and recommended by dermatologists all over the world, this sunscreen is the best of the best.

The velvety texture and instantly absorbing features of this product are ideal for all skin types as it gives a non-greasy and non-sticky perfect matte look.

The sunscreen sheers out nicely and is convenient to wear under makeup. It also yields the brand’s highest level of UV protection for people with sensitive skin.

Suitable for the face and body and adored by those who don’t want to invest in different products for each area, this one works as the perfect multitasker to go with.

What’s important when choosing a good sunscreen

If you think that wearing a sunscreen is only good for going to the beach, think again. When in the midst of summer, there are barbeques, picnics, and parks to think about. Even outdoors activities like cycling, jogging, tennis and more require you to wear the right protection.

But with all the extra sunshine also comes the risk of sunburn which is why you should know how to get the right protection from the sunscreen you’re wearing.

Here are the key features to consider:

SPF

Sunscreens use SPF protection to indicate the level of protection a product offers. The SPF value and sunburn protection have a correlating relationship with higher SPF values offering greater sunburn protection.

Experts typically recommend using an SPF of at least 30 which blocks an impressive 97% of UVB rays. However, on the lower end of the spectrum you can also get sunscreens offering an SPF 15 formula which is good enough to block 93% of UVB rays.

To explain this a little better think of SPF as the number that tells you how long it will take the sun’s radiation to redden your skin when using the sunscreen as opposed to the time without any sunscreen.

So, for instance for an SPF 30 product, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than it would without wearing any sunscreen. For an SPF 15 product, you get a guaranteed 15 times longer protective duration before the sun’s UV rays would burn your skin.

A sunscreen with an SPF 50 and higher works in the same manner by yielding protection for 50 times longer than not wearing any sunscreen at all.

Broad-spectrum protection

Broad spectrum implies that a sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

To understand the difference between the two kinds, UVA rays are able to penetrate more deeply into the skin causing premature skin aging such as wrinkle formation. Sunlight has about 500 times more UVA rays than UVB with 95% of the rays reaching the ground being UVA rays.

UVB rays, on the other hand, are more damaging to the outer layers of the skin and most associated with causing skin cancer but they can also contribute to premature skin aging.

Whereas the effects of UVA rays are immediate and tend to appear right away, UVB rays present delayed effects that appear a few hours after sun exposure.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen is one that will offer protection against both kinds and is the best type to choose.

Water-resistance

Another term you may come across is that the sunscreen is water resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes. Products that feature this quality are better able to stay on wet skin longer without getting washed away.

When you plan on spending time in the water, choose a sunscreen with this feature, but you will still need to reapply it. These are ideal for use at the beach, in the pool, or even during a sweaty outdoor workout.

Consider your skin type

Like any other product, even sunscreens are not all created equal. You can choose one based on your skin type and look for features that suit your skin’s requirements best.

For instance, there are sunscreens manufactured without preservatives, fragrances, and allergens specifically. While this is what everyone should be looking for ideally, people with sensitive skin will find these more suitable.

Others with dry skin should look for a product that comes with oils, lanolin, and silicone for their hydrating properties. Dry skin users will also find that cream, lotion, and gel formulas will have more of these moisturizing ingredients.  

Mineral vs chemical sunscreens

The constant debate over mineral vs chemical sunscreens is ongoing. Each type comes with its own benefits and may be better suited to certain skins than others.

First off, let’s take a look at mineral based- formulas. These sunscreens are also known as physical sunscreens as they physically block the sun’s rays.

The main active ingredients in mineral sunscreens include zinc oxide or titanium oxide or a combination of both. This type of sunscreen works by preventing UV rays from penetrating the skin as its mineral content sits on the skin’s surface are deflects the sun’s rays.

Mineral sunscreens usually have a thicker consistency that requires you to rub them in. They are also prone to leaving a whitish tint on the skin but do not irritate sensitive skin.

Because they tend to deflect UV rays instead of absorbing them, they are generally considered safe to use for babies, young children, and even pregnant women. Although experts do not recommend using any type of sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months.

Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that sink into the skin and absorb UV light converting it into heat and releasing it away from the skin.

These sunscreens are typically thinner and easier to apply and can come in spray form as well. The most common active ingredients include avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate able to get absorbed into the skin.

Chemical sunscreens start working within 20-30 minutes of application as opposed to the mineral-based counterparts that work immediately. That said, sunscreens containing a chemical formula can aggravate acne-prone and sensitive skin.

So, if you’re looking for a smoother and lighter formula to absorb right into the skin, then the chemical sunscreen is your best bet. But if you suffer from sensitive skin issues, then go along with the mineral-based options.

In either case, wearing one type of sunscreen or the other is way better than wearing none at all.

FAQ

Is a higher SPF always a better option?

It may seem so, but it always isn’t. Sometimes using a very high SPF may create a false feeling of security, people using higher SPF sunscreens tend to stay out in the sun longer, may skip reapplying, or think they don’t need to wear a hat, protective clothing, or seek shade when outside.

This can result in getting exposed to more UV damage which defeats the purpose of using sunscreen in the first place.

How often should sunscreen be applied/reapplied?

Most manufacturers recommend applying their product between 15- 30 minutes before stepping out in the sun.

Most sunscreens last for about two hours before a reapplication is required.

People who sweat a lot, experience their skin burning, or spend time in water should reapply more often.

Does dark skin also need sunscreen?

Even though people with dark skin may tan more and burn less, they need sunscreen too.

But one of the biggest impediments, if you will, is that most sunscreens are not made with darker skin in mind and tend to leave a chalky effect behind. Or they just end up looking greasy which is also not ideal.

The variety of sunscreens that blend seamlessly on darker skin is steadily growing so choose from these that won’t leave any white residue behind.

Final verdict

Adding a sunscreen into your daily skin care is one of the best favors you could do your skin. With our list of recommended products, you get a fair variety to choose from, a price range that fits everyone’s budget, and a formula to suit every skin type.

In the end, given so much variety, choosing a sunscreen comes down to personal choice. Whether you like to slather it on or spray it in a mist is up to you.

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