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|
|Price||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon|
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.
- AWARD WINNING & MADE IN THE USA - 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, & 2016 Best Moisturizer with SPF (Environmental Working Group – EWG, Skin-Deep)
- NATURAL & ORGANIC - Reef safe mineral sunblock ingredients - INVISIBLE ZINC only (safest & best UV filter). Non-irritating, gentle physical sunscreen - no chemical UV filters - for men & women. Transparent moisturizing coverage with botanicals
- EFFECTIVE ANTI-AGING - Daily SPF 30 & broad spectrum ultra violet UVA UVB protection decreases skin aging and the risk of skin cancer. Perfect for face and body
- ULTRA MOISTURIZING - Shea butter, aloe, antioxidants and more keep face & skin hydrated, can be worn under makeup. Packed with antioxidants like vitamin E. Great for all skin types including sensitive skin
- NON-TOXIC & CRUELTY FREE - No harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dyes or fragrance. Unscented, gluten free, vegan formula, not tested on animals, and eco-friendly
Last update on 2020-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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
- FORTIFIED WITH VITAMIN C AND GREEN TEA: Nutrients that add layer of UV protection, help skin recover after sun exposure and fight and reduce the signs of aging for vibrant, younger-looking skin
- CHEMICAL-FREE: Nanoparticle-free Zinc Oxide provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection without irritating skin or clogging pores
- OIL-FREE SUNSCREEN: Lightweight, non-greasy facial formula, ideal for daily use on all skin types and wears well under makeup
- SHEER FINISH: This oil-free, lightweight, non-greasy facial formula delivers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and anti-aging antioxidant defense.
- PROVEN CLEAN BEAUTY: 100% vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, mineral oil-free, lanolin-free, gluten free, GMO-free
Last update on 2020-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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