Have you ever thought to yourself that the skin of your face seems curiously more sensitive than the skin covering the rest of your body?
Well, it isn’t just your imagination! On a cellular level, the skin on our face is different. We have more pores and smaller skin cells.
This could go a long way towards explaining why the face seems to be irritated by beauty products that don’t bother you when applied to other body parts.
The face is also not as good at holding moisture as the rest of the body, which is why so many folks have a special moisturizer that they use solely on their face, saving the less expensive stuff for body.
All of these factors mean that with most personal care products, a specialized version ought to be purchased for the face, taking into consideration the unique needs and sensitivities of the skin on our face.
Sunscreen is no exception!
This is especially true if you want to look presentable while wearing sunscreen on the face.
The common mineral sunscreen problems of thicker, oily finishes and white casts are even more prominent when product is worn on the face, so sometimes a bit of extra work must be done to find a good facial sunscreen that doesn’t leave you looking like either a mime or an oil slick.
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen to be effective for the face, SimplySunSafe recommends Block Island Natural Face Moisturizer SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for the face. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for the face.
To ensure your more sensitive face skin is sufficiently protected when you’re exposed to the sun, there are a few must-have features you need in your face sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
Regardless of the specific use you intend a sunscreen for, you should only purchase sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection.
This is the most wide-reaching protection a sunscreen product can offer, and is crucial to ensuring you are fully protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
Broad spectrum protection refers to the actual spectrum of UV rays that the product’s ingredients are able to shield you from.
For example, the light from the sun is part of the visible spectrum, the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that are actually responsible for skin damage are not part of the visible spectrum but do still affect us.
In terms of sunscreen protection, the UV rays we ought to worry about are UVA rays and UVB rays:
UVB rays cause visible skin damage. With prolonged exposure, skin becomes red and tender, sometimes even to the point of blistering. This type of damage is what we normally call sunburn.
Repeated sunburns can also cause uneven darkening of the skin (sun spots) over time as your body tried to protect itself from sun damage by producing more melanin.
UVA rays cause skin damage that usually isn’t visible until it is too late to be reversed.
UVA rays actually target the DNA of your skin cells, causing oxidative damage that can ruin the integrity of a cell’s DNA. This mimics the oxidative damage caused by aging, only at a much faster rate.
Repeated UVA ray exposure, along with the replication of damaged skin cells (creating more damaged cells), accelerates the visible signs of aging. This means thickened, saggy, wrinkled skin.
It also means a much higher potential for those damaged skin cells to mutate and become cancerous.
To be sure you’re getting what you need, look for packages that have a label reading ‘Broad Spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB protection’.
Still not sure, or can’t find it?
Check the active ingredients list. Anything containing physical sunscreen ingredients line zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will provide broad spectrum protection.
Nobody wants to get sunburnt. Nor do we want to have 90-year-old skin at 45, much less develop skin cancer.
Don’t settle for a sub-par sunscreen that doesn’t offer broad spectrum protection – you deserve the best.
Best SPF for face
Anyone who’s bought sunscreen knows that SPF is an important factor to consider when choosing sunscreen.
It can be a little bit misleading though, a fact exploited by some manufacturers to sell sunscreens to consumers who don’t fully understand SPF ratings.
Let’s explore these ratings a little bit to find out what they can – and can’t – do for you.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor
Yes, a factor like you learned about in math class. The idea is that an SPF rating can tell you how much longer a given product will protect you from burning than if you’d used no protection alone.
For example, if you normally burn with 10 minutes of sun exposure, an SPF 15 product would theoretically mean you could stay in the sun for 150 minutes before developing sunburn.
It’s important to remember that this way of thinking about SPF ratings should only be done theoretically.
In real world scenarios, an SPF 50 sunscreen will never let you stay outside 50 times longer. This is because sunscreens are only ever effective for 2 hours at most.
When combined with environmental factors like how bright the sun is, how much you perspire, and whether you’re exposing your skin to water, sunscreens are often effective for even less time.
A more useful way to consider SPF ratings is by understand what percentage of UVB rays a product protects you from. Knowing this gives you a more realistic expectation of what your sunscreen will do for you.
Take a look at the table below:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see, SPF 30 isn’t ‘twice as strong’ as SPF 15, and so on.
It’s important to remember that or you may end up paying a huge premium for upgrading from SPF 30 to SPF 50. At the end of the day, it’s only an extra percentage point of protection. Realistically you shouldn’t have to pay very much more for the upgrade.
In fact, SPF 30 sunscreen is generally recognized as sufficient for most people.
Exceptions would be anyone who is especially fair, photosensitive for other reasons, or knows they are at increased risk for developing skin cancer.
Choosing an SPF lower than 30 offers sub-optimal protection, so try to make SPF ratings of 30 your minimum requirement for ideal sun protection.
Physical is better than chemical
I always urge my readers to choose physical sunscreens over chemical, for a variety of important health reasons.
When choosing the best sunscreen for your face, this is even more crucial because of the extra sensitivities we experience when using products on the face.
Physical sunscreens – what are you talking about??
Based on their active ingredients, sunscreen products can be divided into two categories:
Physical sunscreens provide an actual barrier between the sun’s rays and your skin.
Think of it like covering your skin with thousands of tiny little mirrors – UV rays directed at you bounce off of the sunscreen without reaching your skin or causing damage.
This type of sunscreen is made with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two. Both ingredients provide broad spectrum protection, though zinc is a little bit better at this than titanium.
Physical sunscreens are effective immediately upon application.
Some downsides to this sunscreen type are a thicker formula that typically requires more rubbing to apply properly, and the tendency to leave a white cast (this is from the high concentration of minerals in the formula).
These active ingredients are typically considered calming to the skin, though some of the most sensitive folks may react to titanium dioxide.
Chemical sunscreens are designed a little bit differently than physical products.
When applied, they soak down into the skin, where they are meant to absorb UV rays before the rays have a chance to cause damage to the skin.
As a result of this method, chemical sunscreens usually need to be applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure so that they have sufficient time to soak into the skin and become effective.
Chemical sunscreens typically combine groups of active ingredients to achieve balanced protection. These can include: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.
The reason they’re used in combination is because individual ingredients don’t usually provide broad spectrum protection. The combinations are used to achieve a good balance between UVA and UVB protection.
Certain chemical sunscreens can cause allergies with repeated use, and have been shown to cross into the bloodstream where they may mimic hormones and disrupt the endocrine system.
Of the chemical sunscreen ingredients, the one about which authorities have the most concern is oxybenzone.
Traditionally, most people grew up using chemical sunscreens.
Easily applied, quick to dry and with a pleasantly transparent finish, they seem wonderful at first glance.
However, when looking at the differences between the two types of sunscreen, it seems more than worth it to stick with a slightly less pleasant formula in order to get rid of all those harmful chemicals.
This is particularly true if you suffer from a skin condition like melasma or rosacea as chemical sunscreens can trigger additional skin sensitivity that can cause flare-ups of certain skin conditions.
Suitable for daily use
Unless it is for the briefest of moments, every incidence of sun exposure does cause damage to your skin. There’s no denying this.
That makes it both a health and aesthetics concern to ensure that you wear sunscreen on all exposed skin every time you will be in the sun.
You don’t want to deal with early signs of aging, or have to go see the doctor about a new mole.
UVA rays can even penetrate through windows, so if you work in a sunny office you need sunscreen just as much as if you spent the day in a construction site.
The key word is every day. I cannot stress this enough.
Therefore, it’s very important when searching for the best face sunblock to choose a product that works with your daily routine so you can wear it consistently without an issue.
In order to do this properly you’ll have to consider what you realistically need from your sunscreen.
With facial sunscreens, formulas that are intended for sensitive skin or for use with children can be a good place to start if you have troubles with your skin reacting to beauty products and producing an allergic reaction.
Choosing physical sunscreens over chemical already goes a long way toward achieving this goal of a nice, calming sunscreen formula. To go even further, try focusing on more natural sunscreens with simpler ingredients.
How oily your skin is can make a difference as well.
Many people have trouble with excess oil on the face. Choosing a sunscreen with a high concentration of zinc and low concentration of added oils will help calm your skin while reducing oil protection, staving off unwanted shine.
If you have combination or dry skin, high-zinc formulas without oil may be too drying, so you’ll want something with more moisturizing properties.
Skin tone and cosmetics preferences make a difference, too.
If you wear cosmetics over your sunscreen, you’ll surely want to choose a formula that comes as close to a transparent, matte finish as possible.
Anything too opaque or oily and it won’t mix well with your cosmetics regime.
If you have a medium or darker skin tone, the tendency of physical sunscreens to leave a white cast may be quite noticeable on the face.
To combat this, you may want to choose a tinted sunscreen. These can replace foundation in a cosmetics regime, but there are also very gently tinted options that simply offset the white cast rather than giving the appearance of cosmetics.
Best Face Sunscreen Comparison
|Block Island Face Moisturizer||derma E Antioxidant Natural||SanRe Shaded Rose Solar||Suntegrity 5-in-1||Sunology Natural Face|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.0%)||Zinc Oxide (16.0%)||Zinc Oxide (9.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (4.0%)||Zinc Oxide (20.0%)||Zinc Oxide (10.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (7.5%)|
|Water resistance||Sheer, Some Shine||Non-Oily||Sheer||Tinted||Not Transparent|
5 Best Face Sunscreens
After through research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for the face.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and are suitable for daily use.
This facial moisturizing sunscreen from Block Island provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using zinc oxide (22%) as the sole active ingredient.
One of the great things about Block Island – particularly if you’re part of the sensitive skin gang – is that the formula is vegan and free of fragrance, phthalates, sulfates, parabens, and dyes.
Formulated with shea butter and antioxidants, this sunscreen shields you from the sun while actively providing moisture and nourishment to your skin.
Added moisture and antioxidants help to repair your skin and keep it looking young and healthy for as long as possible.
The texture of the product isn’t overly thick, spreading easily and requiring very little rubbing.
Due to the added moisturizer, the lotion won’t have a drying effect on your skin despite the high concentration of active ingredients.
If you have more oil on your face, you may want to look for a facial sunscreen without added oils. Otherwise, this is a fabulous ‘happy skin’ product.
Like all but the last product on this list, Block Island’s sunscreen isn’t water resistant.
Again, this is in light of the need to find a great sunscreen for everyday use. Most folks don’t spend all day in the water and would rather trade that water resistance for a formula with a more transparent finish.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Moderately priced
- Easy to apply
- Not water resistant
If you’re one of the folks mentioned above who struggle with oil production on your face, then this should be your personal starting point on your search for the best SPF 30 face sunscreen.
Derma E’s Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using zinc oxide (16%) as the active ingredient. Even better, this formula is oil free!
The combination of lots of zinc and no added oils means this product has a drying effect on the face. For some folks this is practically heaven-sent.
If you have oilier skin, this will create a bit of a mattifying effect that works well by itself or underneath cosmetics.
It’s important to note, however, that this same combination also means the product will leave a white cast on most folks’ skin.
You can avoid this by mixing with a little bit of foundation, if desired, to tint the sunscreen enough that it matches your skin tone.
No water resistance to be found with this sunscreen, so be sure to have a backup facial sunscreen that can be worn in the water or when perspiring.
The price tag is definitely affordable as well – not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive.
This sunscreen provides a good value for the money with a pleasant formula and minimal irritation in terms of application and avoiding a white cast.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Great value
- Oil-free formula
- Not water resistant
- Slight white cast
One of the more expensive facial sunscreens on this list, SanRe Organic Skinfood’s Shaded Rose-Solar is a powerful nourishing cream that has the added benefit of sun protection.
This cream provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using a combination of zinc oxide (9%) and titanium dioxide (4%) as the active ingredients.
The lower concentration of added ingredients means that you ought to be able to put a generous amount on the face, and have it leave very little white cast.
It also means you’ll want to be extra mindful about reapplying regularly – particularly given that this product provides no water resistance.
With ingredients like rose and coconut, this sunscreen facial lotion is indulgent for any skin type.
It is particularly calming, however, to anyone with skin conditions on the face like eczema, psoriasis, and more.
This is due in part to the zinc, but the other inactive ingredients in this formula really come together to give you a rich indulgent feeling cream that moisturizes and nourishes while protecting from the sun.
- Easy to apply
- Very little white cast
- Not water resistant
This sunscreen is ideal for anyone looking to get rid of the white cast effect or to wear their sunscreen underneath cosmetics.
Suntegrity’s 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using only zinc oxide (20%) as the active ingredient.
The formula is tinted a universally flattering shade that works to counteract a white cast on the skin but can also blend seamlessly with any desired cosmetics products.
Golden Light is this vegan BB cream’s most popular shade, though there is both a darker and lighter options if your skin tone is particularly fair or dark (see the table below).
Again, the idea isn’t to shade match like you would with a foundation, because the tint isn’t as opaque as the tinting in a foundation would be.
Sheer tint creates a natural look that can be worn well by people who don’t use cosmetics at all, not just blended into makeup.
The sunscreen spreads evenly, and applies without a problem.
The 1.7 oz bottle is small enough to take with you anywhere, making reapplication a breeze.
The only downsides to this fantastic option are the lack of water resistance and the price. While it does its job quite well, the higher price point might be prohibitive for some folks.
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Not water resistant
Sunology’s Face sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50 using a combination of zinc oxide (10.0%) and titanium dioxide (7.5%) as the active ingredients.
On top of being the highest SPF sunscreen in this guide – a great choice if you specifically need the best SPF 50 face sunscreen for extra protection – this is also the only product recommended here that’s water resistant.
Water resistant for 80 minutes, this is a good facial sunscreen for folks who spend a significant portion of their days outside or in/around the water.
It’s moderately priced too, giving you extra protection and a buff SPF rating without breaking the bank.
The sunscreen doesn’t leave much of a white cast – and the manufacturer is very transparent about the fact that this is because they utilize nanoparticles to give mineral sunscreens better transparency.
This may cause some of you to balk – after all, aren’t we supposed to be avoiding nanoparticles?
Well, yes and no.
For more information you can check out this article, but the gist is that there is no definitive line separating nano and non-nano particles.
This means that even the companies claiming non-nano formulas may still have particles considered nano by certain definitions.
Either way these are only dangerous in powders or as inhalants, with no evidence showing they are a poor choice when it comes to cream formulations.
- High SPF
- Moderately priced
- Lower concentration of active ingredients
- Thick formula
I hope that you’ve found this guide helpful!
I work hard to bring my readers reliable information and on target product recommendations to help you make the best purchase decisions possible when it comes to your sunscreen.
Though SimplySunSafe does recommend Block Island Natural Face Moisturizer SPF 30 as the best face sunscreen, all of the products listed here are fabulous choices.
It’s important to remember that everyone has different routines, requirements and skin types. Along with those differences comes the possibility that you may need to try a few different products from this list before you find one that works perfectly for you.
Don’t worry, and don’t rush it!
If there is a face sunscreen you absolutely adore and feel should’ve been included here please let me know!
I love learning about new products, and it only helps to makes these guides better and more informative for everyone.