Favorite Sunscreens for the Face – 2017 Edition

Alla Nazimova

I wear sunscreen every day. I reapply it if I’m out in the sun. I’ll go out without makeup or without a bra before I go out without sunscreen.

I’ve been wearing sunscreen every day since I was 13 years old. This was a rarity for someone in my age range that grew up in the Deep Tanning Bed South. A lot of this had to do with gothness but also realizing that people that embraced their skintone always looked younger (and were happier) than those that didn’t. You’d think my skin would look like it’s 16 years old. But, here’s the deal. Sunscreens in the US have not been regulated very well. US sunscreens are frankly barbaric in comparison to other skincare markets (I mean, Canada’s is better than ours). My intentions were good but I wasn’t the most educated consumer (and had a very limited budget). Sunscreen is more advanced now and consumers are smarter than ever. If I had what is available now to me at 13, I’d probably never want anything like Botox. This days I’ve educated myself about which sunscreen ingredients to look for that product from both UVB/UVA rays.

As nuts as it sounds, I rotate through sunscreens depending on the weather that day. On the days that have a low UV index, I wear something like SPF 30 without all those ++++. I have sunscreens that I wear in the winter when my skin is drier. I have sunscreens that I wear on the beach and others for sweaty, city summer days. Like perfume, I love sunscreen and can’t commit to just one.

EauMG facial sunscreen

Quick background of my skin type: I’m normal to dry. My skin isn’t that fussy but I do work hard to suppress my adult acne. I look for sunscreens that have a nice texture that I can layer over layers of skincare and hopefully under makeup without any piling, stickiness, etc.  I’m pale so (like NC25 in MAC) most sunscreens don’t look ashy or zombie-ish on me.

There are many other sunscreens that I like and use, but I thought I’d try to narrow this down to the ones I use the most. Here’s what’s in my current rotation:

EauMG facial sunscreens


La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra-Light Sunscreen SPF 50

Actives: Titanium Dioxide 11%

Texture: Liquid

  • This is a liquid with a tint added to prevent ashiness. This tint works for me but I can’t imagine that it is universal. I like it because it’s mineral based and doesn’t feel heavy or leave me looking ghostly (like the original untinted formula does). The finish is a little shiny, but I like it. I typically where this on no-foundation days as my foundation. TIPS: Shake it well before applying. I use this as a touch up during the day by applying it with a cushion compact sponge (like this one from Missha) for glowy finish.
  • Pros: Lightweight and easy to blend. Fragrance-free. The tint makes it like a foundation for me.
  • Con: The tint is not universal. Price. Availability.

The 1.7 oz bottle retails for about $25. It’s available at select drugstores in the US and Amazon. 

Neutrogena Pure & Free Liquid Daily Sunscreen SPF 50

Actives: Titanium Dioxide 5%, Zinc Oxide 3%

Texture: Liquid

  • This isn’t my favorite sunscreen but it has some pros: cheap, easy-to-find and a nice texture. I recommend it for anyone with sensitive skin looking for a cheaper sunscreen. My only complaint is that it can leave a white cast, but it blends easily (don’t rush putting it on or put it on sans mirror). In my opinion, this one easily competes with more expensive liquid sunscreens from brands like Clarins. TIP: Shake well before applying.
  • Pros: The price! Has a lightweight feel that is easy to blend. There’s no fragrance. Accessible/carried by many stockists. Layers nicely over skincare.
  • Cons: It will leave a white tint so it’s not a universal product. Rather simple formula; doesn’t contain any anti-oxidants.

The 1.4 oz bottle retails for under $10 and is available at most drugstores and Amazon.

Coola Mineral Matte Sunscreen Face SPF 30 (not pictured)

Actives: Titanium Dioxide 3.2%, Zinc Oxide 1.8%

Texture: Whipped lotion/cream.

  • This one isn’t pictured because I haven’t bought one for this year yet. I didn’t want to leave it out because it’s one of my favorite mineral-based sunscreens. It has a whipped, lightweight texture (feels like whipped shea butter) and dries to a powder-like finish. It feels like a makeup primer and actually does help with makeup application. It comes in a cucumber scent and a scent-free formula.
  • Pros: Luxurious, lightweight feel. Texture layers wonderfully under makeup.
  • Cons: Price. Being that the actives are natural, this can leave an ashy finish.

The 1.7 oz bottle retails for $36 at department stores like Nordstrom.

Other favorites worth mentioning: Elta MD UV Physical SPF 41 ($30).

EauMG sunscreens


La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60

Actives: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Ococrylene 5%

Texture: Cream

  • Disclaimer – This is not my daily sunscreen. This is my “outside and sweating” sunscreen. Why? Because it’s a thicker cream/lotion sunscreen that doesn’t really budge. It does leave a white cast, so I have to work it in. Once it’s on, it does have a “dry touch” feel.
  • Pros: High SPF that seems to hold up to sweating and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Doesn’t feel greasy once it dries. Fragrance-free but has a very faint and quickly fading “sunscreen” smell.
  • Cons: Thicker feel/cream. Leaves a white tint if not blended to perfection. Price. Availability.

The 1.7 oz tube retails for about $20 at select drugstores and Amazon. 

Estee Lauder Day Wear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant UV Defense SPF 50

Actives: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 5%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.7%, Oxybenzone 3%

Texture: Lotion

  • This is a daily sunscreen for me in the fall/winter. It has more of a lotion-like texture that can be too heavy in the summer. I prefer to use it when my skin is drier. It leaves a sheen/dewiness that I like. It has a strong cucumber aroma and blends easily. Basically, it feels like an AM moisturizer. TIPS: I don’t recommend this to sensitive skin types or people with any oiliness.
  • Pros: Smooth texture. Has anti-oxidants. I think for some skin types, this could be a good “day moisturizer”.
  • Cons: The price! It’s expensive for what it is. And the scent can be a pro or a con. It also is too heavy for oil/combo skin types and doesn’t dry down to a matte finish.

The 1 oz bottle retails for $42 and is available at most department stores like Nordstrom.

Replenix Ultra Sheer Sunscreen SPF 50+

Actives: Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%, Oxybenzone 5%, Avobenzone 3%

Texture: “Watery” liquid

  • I like this one because it’s truly weightless. It has a very watery texture and dries down to nothing. Because of this, it layers wonderfully under makeup. I also like the extra addition of anti-oxidants like green tea, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. TIPS: Shake very well. Apply two layers for extra coverage.
  • Pros: Weightless feel. Liquid/water-like texture spreads easily. Scent-free. Has anti-oxidants.
  • Cons: The price. And I hate the sticker on the packaging (packaging looks cheap). Availability.

The 2 oz bottle retails for $35 at specialty skincare stores and Amazon.

Bioré Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++

Actives: Uvinal A Plus, Octinoxiate, Tinosorb S

Texture: Gel

  • This is one of my daily sunscreens when the weather is humid and hot. It feels like nothing and layers like a dream over skincare and under makeup. The finish is natural. It has a gel-like texture.
  • Pros: The feel. I recommend it to anyone that doesn’t wear sunscreen because they don’t like the feel. The price. Contains sodium hyaluronate to counteract the drying alcohol effects. New formula is water resistant. No white residue!
  • Cons: Availability. It has a lot of alcohol so I can’t recommend it to extremely dry skin types or those sensitive to alcohol. It has a fragrance which is a pro or a con. The original smells like citrus. I have the limited edition rose scent. Speaking of, the ingredients include citrus. I’m not a fan of that.

The 1.8 oz bottle can be found at Japanese markets where it usually sells for more than its $10 price on Amazon. 

I have many sunscreens that I like. I usually buy any of the essence/gel types from Korean and Japanese brands. Some honorable mentions include: CosRx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50 PA+++ ($12), Bioré UV Perfect Face Milk SPF 50+ PA++++ (under $10, very long-wearing) and Earth’s Recipe Waterful Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA+++ ($25).


Sunbrellas – Carry a sunbrella and don’t care what barbaric Americans think. One of the things I loved in Asia is that umbrellas are sold in the skincare departments. On the days I’m feeling majorly extra, I carry a goth-y black/white pagoda umbrella that I got for under $20 on Amazon. 

Sunglasses – Seriously the most chic form of UV protection. It’s also an excuse to splurge on a really cool pair. I mean, it’s an accessory and SKINCARE!

Portable Sun Hat – I keep a roll-up visor in my bag at all times. I bought a black one at one of those cheap af New Jersey dollar stores and then bought a back-up one on Amazon for $15. This is an easy way to keep the sun off of your face while also looking dramatic and diva-ish.

Layers – It’s all about the layers. Make sure you apply the recommended 1/2 teaspoon of SPF. Do not rely on your facial moisturizer or foundation for adequate SPF (Why? Because we usually don’t apply enough). I actually like to layer all the things – lotion, SPF, makeup primer with SPF (I love Club Clio Pore Primer with SPF 50), foundation with SPF, powder with SPF (Physician’s Formula has bronzers and powders). I feel this all adds some extra protection. Slight rant – I wouldn’t put all my faith into a product like a makeup setting spray with SPF (looking at you Coola) or a powder. I just don’t see how they can apply evenly and provide full coverage. One would have to apply so much that they’re face would look, well, odd.

Lips – Don’t forget them! My lips are actually super sensitive to SPF products. I can do Aquaphor Lip Repair SPF 30 and Pacifica Tinted Lip Care SPF 30.

And before I sign off, I want to remind everyone that sunscreen does need to be reapplied for maximum efficacy if you have been sweating or in sunlight. Apply it 15 to 20 minutes before you go out. Carry some with you just in case your day ends with unexpected rooftop drinks. And remember to wash your face thoroughly at night!

What are some of your favorite sunscreens for the face?

¹Everything is a chemical, I can’t stand this term. So, actives that aren’t titanium or zinc oxide. I agree there should be a classification difference – one sits on the skin; the other doesn’t. Sadly, “chemicals” has a negative connotation to a lot of consumers.

Ingredients and what they do here.  Beautiful with Brains also has a great post on what to look for in a sunscreen.

AND here’s my Favorite Sunscreens for the Body. 

*All products were purchased by me. Alla Nazimova pic from My Love of Old Hollywood. Other pics are mine. Nordstrom, Target and Amazon contain affiliate links. Thanks!

18 thoughts on “Favorite Sunscreens for the Face – 2017 Edition

  1. I’m so glad you did this post! – I have been trying to find a good sunscreen for my dry/combo and sometimes sensitive skin. I’ve been getting pretty good results from the updated CeraVe Lotion AM (broad spectrum 30), but have looked into some of the Korean and Japanese products too. Have you tried Kicho Ultra Moisturizing Suncream? I like that as well, but it sometimes makes me look too “dewey”….just on the verge of too shiny. But it smells fantastic.
    I wish I had started using sunscreen when I was 13 – now I am constantly trying to fade the dark spots on my face from too much sunning in my youth. You Goths were really on to something…….;-).

    1. Yay! I have a body sunscreen scheduled for later this week.

      I love the CeraVe AM which I think provides enough coverage for most people (that live that office lifestyle).
      I have tried Kicho. I agree. It’s a big dewy (even for me) and it is moisturizing like it says. I like it but it’s not one I need in the summer or on humid days.

      Haha, yeah. Sort off topic. I read this study about how goths, out of the other subcultures, grew up as rather stable people. I was like duh, they all wore sunscreen and read lots of books. This totally pop cult article covers some of it –

  2. You’ve gone off the Paula’s Choice Youth Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50? I think it was you who got me started on that one. Now you’re making me want to try the La Roche-Posay….

    1. Oh, I still love that one (and use it). But, it’s not a sunscreen for me. It’s more of my lotion 🙂

      This is my list of “purely for sunscreen purposes” products. So, I excluded any of my moisturizer/SPFs like the CeraVe and stuff from Paula’s Choice.

      1. I wondered why no Paula’s Choice. I love the Resist Super-light Daily Defense because it mattifies, but it’s not always hydrating enough, so I’ve been wearing the Calm spf moisturizer. Both mineral, both spf 30. When I use chemical sunscreens, like for extended time in the sun, I like the Paula’s Choice Sun Care non-greasy. I think PC makes some of the best affordable American sunscreens. I’ve been loving that Japanese Nivea gel sunscreen too. Tried a Shisheido sunscreen but it was grease-tastic. I have oily skin, still, at 50. At a certain point I just CAN’T slop on another heavy greasy coating. And I am not redoing my makeup in the middle of the day. This is probably why my melasma doesn’t go away.

        HEB, the Texas grocery chain, makes a dry feel matte body sunscreen that is The Business. Least shiny sunscreen ever. Comes in spf 30 or 50. I always stock up when I’m in Austin, but I think you can order online too.

        1. I agree with you about Paula’s Choice. I’m in the Cult of Paula. But, for some reason I think of those as moisturizers with SPF vs sunscreens (dumb distinction, I know). I guess I should update my post to say that because it is “weird” that I left out Daily Defense (but I think of it as a moisturizer with SPF…and then put SPF on top of it). As far as moisturizers with sunscreens, Paula’s Choice are my absolute favorite. I also love the CeraVe AM but the textures of the PC ones are more sophisticated (AKA lightweight).

          At this stage my skin is OK looking so I do reapply during the day (in the summer) since I really don’t wear face makeup that frequently. I’d rather have sun coverage than coverage. BUT that’s what works for me now. I’m sure that’ll change if I have to go in and see people on a daily basis or if my skin gets fussy (I do think that sunscreen is more suffocating for skin than foundation).

          I know exactly which Shisheido you’re speaking of. I have dry skin and that stuff left me needing an oil change. It was gross.

          OMG, my mom is in Texas right now. I’m going to make her pick me up some of this (for herself and me). I’m always looking for a good, cheap body sunscreen that doesn’t rub off on everything or make me feel sticky.

  3. Love this – thanks for the great recommendations!
    I’ve been using the Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+ – it is non-greasy and layers really well on top of skincare and under makeup. This would be tough to use all over but is perfect for my face.
    Laura recently posted..Use It: May 2017 Empties

    1. I’ve been so curious about that one! I have tried it in store and it feels nice. The real test is how it wears over/under other things. I was hoping they’d have a sample when I made my last order (they didn’t). I really am a fan of those mineral-based liquid formulas (especially in humid summers!)

  4. I am so glad you posted this! My favorite part of the Dita Von Teese beauty book was the sun protection part. I am an SPF 60 everyday kinda girl, and her regimen make me feel like a sun worshipper.

    I have the La Roche-Posay milk sunscreen that I use on everything but my face, but I will have to check out the tinted one.

    I’ll be 42 next month, and I have to say that the difference in skin health is HUGELY noticeable between the people who tan and those who don’t.

    1. That’s the truth! She made me look like a sun worshiper too!

      I use that too. I have a post scheduled for tomorrow covering my body sunscreens. I’m currently out of that one but it’s been an old favorite for years.

      For pale folks, it makes a huge difference. When I visit the South, I look at least 10 years younger than people I went to school with or even my own family. For example, I am 10 and 12 years older than my sisters (who are already more tan than me and still tan) and everyone thinks I’m the youngest sister.

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