In the summer months, we've been known to break out the rosé, stack beach-friendly books on our to-read piles, and go nuts pinning summer salads to our recipe boards on Pinterest. With sunnier days, we here at MyDomaine headquarters are also editing our skincare routines in anticipation of spending blissful hours sitting by the pool and lounging on the shore. And top shelf-worthy sunscreen is the first thing we're tossing into our totes.
While you might opt for a sunscreen with a 30 SPF in the winter and spring, dermatologists recommend choosing a sunscreen with a higher SPF during summer, or whenever you'll be in direct sunlight. Most people don't apply the recommended amount before exposing themselves to sunlight (about 1.5 ounces; enough to cover your entire body and face). "In the summer months, I recommend sunscreens that are SPF 50+," advises Gary Goldenberg, M.D., of Goldenberg Dermatology.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Gary Goldenberg is a medical and cosmetic dermatologist, researcher, and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Hospital in New York City. Dr. Goldenberg is also the former Medical Director of the Dermatology Faculty Practice at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
"Any sunscreen with a lower SPF should be avoided since it won't provide you with sufficient protection," Goldenberg explains, adding, "Avoid sunscreens that contain oils since they may cause breakouts." Experts recommend reapplying sunscreen every few hours or so, especially after swimming or heavy perspiration.
Dermatologists recommend opting for a higher SPF when possible for the best sun protection.
What Does SPF Even Mean?
SPF, or sun protection factor, refers to the amount of protection a sunscreen adds to the skin compared to your skin's natural protection. This will vary by individual. For example, according to the American Skin Association, if you typically take 20 minutes to burn, an SPF of 30 indicates your sunscreen provides 30 times more sun protection than your skin naturally provides or 600 minutes (10 hours) of protection. That is, however, only if you use sunscreen according to the exact direction on the product.
Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens
Sunscreen is made with chemical sun blockers if the product label contains ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octisalate. On the other hand, mineral sunscreens contain naturally derived ingredients like titanium oxide or zinc oxide. Some people can be more sensitive to chemical sunscreens, and research published in 2019 indicates that chemical sunscreens may be contributing to declining coral reefs. (Some places, like Hawaii, have even banned the sale of certain chemical sunscreens.) Increasingly, however, many sunscreens are made with a combination of chemical and natural ingredients.
Regardless of your preference, experts agree using a daily sunscreen is a good idea. So, from affordable finds to splurge-worthy buys, these dermatologist-recommended face sunscreen products work for every budget.
"This product is broad-spectrum and contains zinc oxide, making it very effective," explains Goldenberg. "The product is not oily and is great for acne-prone people," he adds.
This sunscreen "doubles as a cosmetically elegant facial moisturizer in the morning," says Mona Gohara, M.D. of Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut.
"This sunscreen is made by a company based in Spain. Not only is it SPF 50+ and cosmetically elegant, but it also contains photolyase enzymes (the company calls these "repairsomes") and vitamin E, which both help repair already damaged cells in the skin," Goldenberg explains.
"This product effectively protects the skin from the sun and also actively hydrates dry skin," says Goldenberg. "This is a great product for someone with lip dryness and irritation."
"This product has been consistently rated as a top sunscreen by Consumer Reports," says Goldenberg. "It's light and rubs in well and offers great protection from the sun's harmful rays."
"The Toleriane line contains special thermal spring water, which helps restore the skin's microbiome (the correct balance of bacteria to help protect and keep skin healthy), and moisturizing factors for barrier repair and inflammation," says Ted Lain, M.D., of Sanova Dermatology. "These are important for acneic skin since many of the treatments alter the microbiome, leaving the skin susceptible to further infection or redness," he explains. "The broad-spectrum sunscreen rounds out this multi-talented product."
"This sunscreen is broad-spectrum, SPF 50, and water-resistant," explains Goldenberg. "It is light but very effective. I like this product because its light vehicle makes it easy to use with makeup," he adds.
"This broad-spectrum, multifaceted sunscreen helps reverse past sun damage with DNA Repair Enzymes," says Ronald Moy, M.D., F.A.A.D., of Moy, Fincher, Chipps Facial Plastics & Dermatology. It is fast-absorbing, non-greasy, and works for the face and body. Naturally derived DNA Repair Enzymes work to repair past sun damage beneath the skin. Micro-fine zinc goes on sheer and scatters and reflects damaging UV rays."
"DNA repair technology in this SPF reduces visible signs of the aging and burning effects of UVA and UVB rays," explains Moy. "Neova along with DNA Renewal were among the first brands to understand the link between DNA damage and premature skin aging."
"Formulated to work within the ProactivMD 3-piece system for mild-to-moderate acne, this product is much more than a broad-spectrum sunscreen," says Lain. "It contains technology to reduce oil and shine, all while moisturizing and calming the skin with soothing ingredients," he explains. "With prescription-strength adapalene 0.1% gel as the primary acne-fighting ingredient within the system, the Daily Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30 complements it to reduce any dryness or sensitivity."
"I recommend this chemical- and oil-free sunscreen for my patients with the most sensitive skin," explains. "Formulated with only the mineral zinc oxide, in a micronized and elegant cream, I trust this broad-spectrum sunscreen to fully protect the face with little possibility to cause a reaction."
"This is one of the few sunscreens that protects you from the whole range of light spectrums, from visible to ultraviolet to infrared," Gohara explains. "It's one of my go-to's."
"Perfect for reapplication during the workday," says Gohara. "Colorescience is a powder block that I love for providing broad-spectrum UV protection with micronized titanium dioxide particles," says Dendy Engelman, M.D., of Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Centers. "This is so great for reapplication throughout the day—especially over makeup where liquid sunscreens are less than ideal."
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure, so use sunscreen no matter where you are," says Engelman. "I love City Smart, which has SPF 50+ and DNA repair."
"This oil-free, vitamin-enriched, water- and sweat-resistant lotion offers superior broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and absorbs quickly without greasy or heavy residue," recommends Engelman.
Raffa RB, Pergolizzi JV Jr, Taylor R Jr, Kitzen JM; NEMA Research Group. Sunscreen Bans: Coral Reefs and Skin Cancer. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2019 Feb;44(1):134-139.