Sunscreen should be a part of everyone’s daily routine. High quality sunscreens protect your skin from UVB radiation that causes sunburn and UVA radiation that advances skin aging and increases melanoma risk. So sunscreen can prevent cancer and fight the visible signs of aging, is there a catch?
Not really, however, including sunscreen on a daily basis can be difficult when you have dry skin. Using sunscreens with the wrong ingredients will provide protection but your skin may become irritated and could be dried out even more.
To combat this, you should look for sunscreens that include moisturizer as a key ingredient. This means you’ll get the protection from the sun you need and the hydration to help your dry skin at the same time.
After thorough research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments of dry skin, SimplySunSafe recommends DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+ as the best sunscreen for dry skin. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for dry skin.
For a sunscreen to protect you from the sun without irritating or worsening your condition and moisturizing dry skin, it must have a number of factors:
Broad spectrum protection
Regardless of what a sunscreen is for, it should be broad spectrum. If a sunscreen doesn’t mention that it provides this protection (which is quite common), you are only being shielded from UVB radiation. This will prevent only the most visible and recognisable sign of overexposure – sunburn.
However, you will be left exposed to UVA radiation, the more damaging end of the ultraviolet spectrum. This radiation is responsible for altering the DNA of deep skin cells potentially causing melanoma and contributes most to the photoaging effects of sunlight (skin wrinkling and sagging).
Using a sunscreen that doesn’t offer broad spectrum protection on a regular basis is a dangerous practice. To ensure you get as much protection as possible, always check packaging for ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA & UVB’ labels. All of the products recommended on SimplySunSafe offer this protection.
Best SPF for Dry Skin
Sun protection factor (SPF) is a confusing measure of a sunscreen’s ability to protect you. Despite a lot of people using this measure as the only indicator of whether or not a sunscreen is quality, not many people fully understand it.
The SPF rating of a sunscreen indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning based on how long it takes your skin to burn without protection. So an SPF 15 sunscreen would mean you could last 15 times as long in the sun before you started burning and an SPF 30 sunscreen means you could last 30 times as long.
This means if you burn after 10 minutes without protection, an SPF 15 sunscreen should protect you for 150 minutes. If you’re more photosensitive and burn after just 5 minutes, the same sunscreen would protect you for only 75 minutes.
However, don’t let this SPF calculation stop you from reapplying regularly. Even SPF 50 sunscreens on resilient skin are only effective for a maximum of two hours (not the hours and hours the above calculation would suggest). This 2 hours can be reduced further if water and sweat are involved. The best SPF also shouldn’t stop you from seeking out shade and wearing sun-protective clothing – every little bit counts when it comes to sun protection.
There are a couple of other issues with SPF you should know before using it as a key indicator of sunscreen quality:
- SPF only concerns UVB radiation. There is no rating system for UVA radiation, instead you have to choose sunscreens with the right active ingredients to know you’re getting the protection you want (more on this later).
- The time calculation mentioned above also needs to factor in the intensity of the sunlight and the thickness of applied sunscreen. With all these variables, it’s almost impossible to know how long you’ll be protected for.
- Despite what most people believe, an SPF 30 sunscreen isn’t twice as good as an SPF 15 sunscreen.
A simpler way to look at SPF is based on the amount of UVB radiation blocked. This gives you a good idea of the effectiveness of a sunscreen:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Once you get beyond SPF 30, you don’t get a lot of benefit from increasing the SPF of a sunscreen (that’s why the FDA caps SPF ratings at 50+) and no sunscreen can offer 100% protection.
Dermatologists understand the SPF rating system better than anyone and that’s why most recommend you use a sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 rating. These sunscreens offer great protection from UVB radiation and anything above this doesn’t offer much more. The more photosensitive you are naturally (the fairer your skin is) the more SPF you should be looking for, but SPF 30 is more than enough to get the job done.
Physical is better than chemical
Sunscreens work in different ways based on the active ingredients. Physical sunscreens sit on the skin and act like a mirror to reflect harmful radiation before it reaches you. Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin and work by absorbing the harmful radiation before it can affect you.
SimplySunSafe prefers physical sunscreens because they have a number of advantages. First (and most importantly), research shows that physical sunscreens are more effective than chemical sunscreens. They protect against more of the UV spectrum and stop more light reaching the skin altogether. Other reasons to prefer physical sunscreens include that they:
- last longer after application
- are less likely to cause irritation
- start to work without delay
- have a longer shelf life
There are also good reasons to avoid chemical sunscreens. A lot of the active ingredients commonly used in chemical sunscreens are what’s known as endocrine disruptors. That means they mess with your hormones when absorbed by the body. This is obviously a bad thing you should avoid.
One particularly nasty chemical ingredient is called oxybenzone. It is scarily common in sunscreens from major skincare manufacturers despite the fact that it acts like estrogen in the body, alters sperm production in animals, and is associated with endometriosis in women. Human health authority EWG recommends you avoid products with this ingredient altogether.
(As an aside, EWG maintain a database on sunscreens and the toxicity of their ingredients. All of the sunscreens featured here receive the best possible rating (1) and are considered safe and non-toxic for both adults and children.)
When buying sunscreen you can check the label for either ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ wording to guarantee you’re getting the right protection. If you can’t tell if it’s physical look for high concentrations of either zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (the two active ingredients used in physical sunscreens). Also, double check to make sure it doesn’t have oxybenzone.
Suitable for daily use
Sunscreen should be used daily to ensure you are protected from the sun’s damaging radiation. When you have dry skin, moisturizers should also used everyday so your skin gets the hydration it needs to repair itself. Your sunscreen/moisturizer combo should be gentle enough on the skin for daily use so it can kill these two birds with the one stone.
Dry, sensitive skin is also more likely to react to products, potentially causing irritation and a worsening of the condition. This makes the gentle formulation even more important.
Dry skin requires both protection and moisturization. When you have dry skin you need a sunscreen that will effectively hydrate your skin and help it retain that moisture. This will help relieve symptoms of dry skin including irritation and itching while providing protection against the sun worsening the problem.
All of the products listed below contain moisturizing ingredients that are effective on dry skin and suitable for daily use.
I have also included products that are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, non-greasy and light. If your skin is sensitive or acne-prone, these products will reduce the chance of irritation and breakouts.
Is an SPF-rated moisturizer enough to protect your skin?
People with dry skin rightly turn to moisturizers to offer relief. This is a sensible decision that will likely help with the condition. However, when you will be exposed to the sun, SPF-rated moisturizers might not offer enough protection.
You need to make sure the sun protection you’re getting is good enough by checking the active ingredients. Look for high concentrations of either zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Anything that uses a combined concentration of these ingredients under 10% should be avoided. At such low concentrations the broad spectrum protection isn’t sufficient. Luckily, I’ve done the hard work for you as the sunscreen/moisturizers recommended below all provide great sun protection.
Best Sunscreen for Dry Skin Comparison
|DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer||Block Island Natural Moisturizer||derma e Antioxidant Sunscreen||Suntegrity 5-in-1||CōTZ Flawless Complexion|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (14%)||Zinc Oxide (22%)||Zinc Oxide (16%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)|
|Invisible finish||Yes||Yes||Suitable for fair skin types||Yes (multiple tints)||Yes (tinted)|
5 Best Sunscreens for Dry Skin
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, participating in skincare forums, and reading medical journals SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for dry skin. All of these physical sunscreens provide broad spectrum protection, have an SPF of 30 or more, contain effective moisturizers, and are suitable for daily use.
DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+ is a physical sunscreen that offers balanced broad spectrum protection using 14% zinc oxide. DeVita is a ‘green’ company that formulates their products with the safety of both consumers and the environment in mind. This has resulted in a formula full of natural ingredients that is free from nanoparticles, added fragrance, parabens, GMOs, and gluten.
This reef-safe, cruelty-free, and 100% vegan product is gentle enough for everyday use by people with even the most sensitive and dry skin. The natural ingredient list that makes this possible is an impressive read as DeVita Solar Protective includes extracts from Japanese green tea, seaweed and grapeseed, and the essential oils of lavender and chamomile.
The texture of this product is pleasant, though not quite as cosmetic as you’re probably used to and might take slightly longer to rub in (because of the natural ingredients). This doesn’t stop it from being an amazing moisturizer/sunscreen. It absorbs quickly and results in a matte finish (it doesn’t feel or look greasy/oily on the skin) that makes it suitable as a base for makeup if required.
Don’t be deceived by DeVita Solar Protective’s light feel as it is packed with Hyaluronic acid for hydration, green tea to soothe your dry skin, and vitamins and essential oils to nourish and repair. It won’t take long for you to notice a considerable difference in the look and feel of your dry skin after you start using SimplySunSafe’s number 1 pick.
The version linked above is the 7 oz bottle which is a good size compared to most sunscreens available. This makes DeVita Solar Protective the best value for money per ounce featured on this list. However, if you don’t want to commit to a bottle this large check out the smaller 2.5 oz version which will allow you to test it before you undoubtedly come back for more of the best sunscreen for very dry skin.
Please note that this product has received mixed reviews in the last few years. I love this product and have recommended it on SimplySunSafe many times so I wanted to get to the bottom of this. Turns out DeVita changed their zinc supplier a couple of years ago. Unfortunately this altered the formula (for the worse) and long-time customers became disheartened. It was thick and sticky, wouldn’t fully absorb, and left a white residue on the skin. But DeVita came to the rescue, listening to this feedback, and correcting the formula so that people could enjoy Solar Protective as they had for so many years.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Hydrating ingredients
- Less cosmetic texture
Block Island Natural Moisturizer SPF 30 is a fantastic 2-in-1 daily moisturizer and sunscreen. It offers physical, broad spectrum protection using a high concentration (22%) of clear zinc oxide. This allows Block Island Natural Moisturizer to provide effective and balanced physical sun protection while remaining transparent on the skin. This makes it discreet enough for everyday use and suitable as a base for makeup.
The gentle formulation is natural in every way which is great for people with dry skin that’s also sensitive. Its list of clean, green features is one to be admired. Block Island Natural Moisturizer is unscented, vegan, cruelty-free and reef safe, and contains no parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, phthalates, dyes, fragrance, or nasty chemical sunscreens. If you’ve reacted to sunscreens before, this one is definitely worth a shot and other users are a testament to this product’s success on reactive skin.
The natural formula includes ingredients like green tea leaf extract, sunflower seed oil, and pomegranate extract. The moisturizer itself contains shea butter, aloe vera, and antioxidants like vitamin E to hydrate your dry skin and lock in the moisture so you won’t dry out during the day’s activities. Although it’s made and marketed for the face, this sunscreen is gentle enough for daily use everywhere on the body.
Block Island Natural Moisturizer was awarded EWG’s Best Moisturizer with SPF in 2016, but it didn’t make the top of SimplySunSafe’s list. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is its feel just after application. Unfortunately the lotion becomes a little sticky on the skin before it dissipates (which doesn’t take long). This isn’t a deal breaker, but that number 1 spot isn’t easy to get.
The second reason is that Block Island Natural Moisturizer is a fair bit more expensive than DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer. When you’re using it every day (which you should be) it can become too pricey to use consistently. Check it out if you’re not worried about the price as it’s a great (award-winning) moisturizer/sunscreen combo.
NOTE: Block Island Natural Moisturizer is technically marketed for use on the face. They do have a similar product for use on the body that has a lot of the same great features. However, it does not have the same moisturizing element that makes Block Island Natural Moisturizer one of the best sunscreens for dry skin.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Hydrating ingredients
- Feels sticky on application
Derma e Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 is a physical sunscreen that uses zinc oxide (16%) to provide balanced broad spectrum protection to its users. As the name suggests, this sunscreen is full of antioxidants that nourish your skin to help it recover from dehydration and sun exposure.
Derma e Antioxidant Sunscreen is yet another fantastic natural product that I’m happy to feature on SimplySunSafe. This 100% vegan (and cruelty-free) product is just about as environmentally safe as it comes, being free from parabens, sulfates, oils, lanolin, fragrance, gluten, and GMOs.
The antioxidants that do all the heavy lifting in this product come from the green tea leaf extract (1% of the formula) and vitamin C. These natural ingredients combine with others like safflower seed oil and vitamin E to provide the skin with nutrients and effectively hydrate. This product leaves your skin feeling vibrant after working to repair the damage from being dried out.
Derma e Antioxidant Sunscreen has a pleasant texture that goes on smoothly, absorbs quickly, and feels incredibly light on the skin. The formulation was specifically designed to be used on the face and, as a result, is non-greasy, unlikely to irritate, and suitable for all skin types. For those looking for a sunscreen compatible with makeup, derma e have you covered as this product works well as a base for makeup and won’t clog your pores.
It’s gentle enough to be suitable for daily on all areas of your skin and as a bonus is hypoallergenic (for those who may require it). For all of the quality features it brings to the table, derma e Antioxidant Sunscreen is quite reasonably priced. Check it out is your skin is a little sensitive as this could easily be called the best sunscreen for dry, sensitive skin.
It’s important to mention that this product is probably only suitable for people with lighter skin tones. It is known to leave a fine white coating on the skin which is unnoticeable if you’re fair but could be an annoyance if you have a darker skin tone. Just keep this in mind before you buy.
NOTE: Derma e have an Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen for both face and body (B00I3DJMP0). I have linked to the face sunscreen above as it has a gentler more moisturizing formula. The ingredients are quite similar, but the difference is important. If you are on a budget, you could pick up the slightly cheaper body version for use on your body and keep the face version for use on your more sensitive face skin. If you’re not worried about the cost, just stick with the face sunscreen and use it as a general purpose sunscreen/moisturizer.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Nourishing ingredients
- Likely white cast
Suntegrity 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen is a physical sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection using a surprisingly high concentration (20%) of zinc oxide as its active ingredient. The only reason this is so surprising is that this sunscreen has a particularly cosmetic feel, which is rare in sunscreen with so much zinc oxide.
Although unintentional, this is the fourth (and final) sunscreen on this list I’m recommending for dry skin that is vegan. It is certified as cruelty-free by both PETA and Leaping Bunny and is packed with both natural and organic ingredients that are ethically sourced from the environment. This list includes organic aloe vera, jojoba seed oil, sunflower seed oil, green tea extract, and natural coconut oil extract.
This impressive list of natural ingredients serves a couple of purposes. For one, they mean this sunscreen doesn’t itch, tingle, or burn which makes it particularly suitable for people with sensitive skin (including conditions like rosacea, eczema, and dermatitis). The second (and more important for you) purpose is that these ingredients work together to hydrate dry skin and rejuvenate skin damaged by prolonged dryness. They do this by using the antioxidants they’re packed with to soothe and calm the skin.
But these are just two of the five (in one) steps Suntegrity promises of this product. It is supposed to treat, hydrate, protect, prime, and cover the skin. Personally, I don’t think it does all of these well enough to replace a foundation as promised. However, because of its cosmetic nature, Suntegrity 5-in-1 still works effectively as a base for other cosmetics.
Suntegrity 5-in-1 comes in a range of tints to suit all skin tones. The four products (fair, light, golden light, and medium) allows users to purchase for their skin tone. This helps the product to blend with your other cosmetics and enables it to be seamlessly introduced to your daily routine. If you want this product, Suntegrity has a celebrity-based guide to ensure you choose the right tint for your skin:
Suntegrity 5-in-1 is a quality, customizable, solution that effectively hydrates your skin, so why isn’t it higher on this list? Unfortunately this is by far and away the most expensive product on this list. It’s pricey and you don’t get that much in the tube. If you love all of its features and question the price (understandable), you could always use this sunscreen exclusively on your face and choose one of the more economical options for the rest of your body. This will ensure each purchase of this quality product lasts as long as possible.
- 4 tint options
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Perfect for use with cosmetics
CōTZ Flawless Complexion Sunscreen is a high-SPF, physical sunscreen that uses 20% zinc oxide to provide sound, broad spectrum protection. This is the least natural and most cosmetic sunscreen featured on this list (though it still isn’t tested on animals – which is 5 from 5!). Although not as natural, this sunscreen still avoids the bad stuff (chemicals, oils, fragrances, parabens, preservatives, PABA, and gluten).
It comes highly recommended by dermatologists and the non-comedogenic (won’t cause breakouts) formula specifically targets people whose skin is dry because they’re treating their blemishes and breakouts. CōTZ suggests that Flawless Complexion is the perfect sunscreen for skin being treated with benzoyl peroxide and a raft of other acne-reducing ingredients. If your skin dried out because of acne treatment (which has happened to most of us) don’t go past this sunscreen.
CōTZ Flawless Complexion has a lightweight formula that goes on easily and dries to an invisible, non-greasy, non-oily finish. It is also lightly tinted to blend seamlessly with your natural skin tone. This helps it to reduce the appearance of spots and blemishes on your skin. If it doesn’t cover things well enough, it also works well as a base for makeup that can finish the job.
On top of these great features, CōTZ Flawless Complexion’s ‘soothing mineral complex’ works hard to effectively moisturize your skin. You’ll experience a noticeable difference after adding this sunscreen to your daily routine because your skin will quickly begin to look and feel like it’s hydrated and able to retain moisture.
CōTZ Flawless Complexion is a little expensive for a sunscreen but if you’re undergoing acne treatment and want to rehydrate your skin, this product has been specifically formulated for you.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- High SPF
- Lightweight formula with great finish
- A little pricey
This summary of the best sunscreen for dry skin was made to help you when choosing which sunscreen to buy. Hopefully it has furthered your understanding of the necessary features to look for in a quality sunscreen that moisturizes.
SimplySunSafe recommends DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+, however, all 5 provide the required protection without irritating dry skin. Just remember that everyone’s skin is different and that testing a few of these products will help you find the one that works best for you.
If you know of a great sunscreen for dry skin that’s not featured here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do some research and might add it to this guide.