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Amidst the endless serums and moisturizers that exist in the world, one product that makes it into the celebrity 13-step skincare routines is sunscreen — and for good reason. No matter what your your morning regimen, the benefits of sunscreen are non-negotiable. The most basic sunblocks protect from UV and sun damage, but the best face sunscreens also double as makeup-gripping primers and moisturizers.
But finding the right facial sunscreens can be difficult. Which ones have a smooth enough finish to to apply under makeup? Which ones offer enough SPF protection without casting a white sheen? How about sunscreens that can be easily reapplied over makeup throughout the day, or can even provide additional moisture for an enhanced glow?
To curate the best recommendations, Variety enlisted the help of celebrity makeup artists, Brittany Whitfield (whose clients include Brooke Shields, Irina Shaynk and Jeremy O. Harris) and Katie Mellinger (who’s worked with Sofia Coppola, Emma Watson and Chlöe Sevigny). Despite having varying tried-and-true favorites, they both look for the same things when it comes to facial sunscreen: SPF content and natural ingredients.
Mellinger’s rules? Every face sunscreen should be at least 30 SPF, but she decides the specific product based on what she’s using it for, she says. “Am I going in the ocean or another natural body of water? If I am, I want something that’s reef safe,” she says. “Is it for everyday under my makeup? If so, I want to avoid certain ingredients that may be harmful to the body’s absorption because if I’m wearing it everyday, that means I’m absorbing more of that ingredient.”
The main ingredient they both prioritize avoiding in their sunscreens is oxybenzone, which is a known hormone disruptor and can negatively impact ocean life. Many of their top choices include mineral-based and chemical-free formulas that offer ways for people to avoid harmful toxins. From sensitive skin to dry skin and oily skin, here are the best facial sunscreens to pack in your bag this summer.
Best for Applying Under Makeup
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen
Invisible, weightless and scentless, Supergoop’s Unseen formula is the best option for layering underneath makeup for a moisturized sheen. Supergoop’s entire line includes some of Whitfield’s top choices for facial sunscreens, with this one topping the list as a client-favorite. Unseen doubles as a makeup-gripping primer and with SPF 40 protection, its unique oil-free formula glides onto the skin for a velvety finish.
Best for an All-Over Glow
Bask SPF 30 Lotion
“If you want to be swept away on an instant vacation, Bask SPF 30 Lotion is the way to go,” Mellinger says. “The light coconut and vanilla scent makes me feel like I’m on a beach with a piña colada.” Although it’s chemical-based, it doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, two toxic ingredients commonly found in most sunscreens. The dermatologist-recommended sunscreen goes on white and rubs in sheer for a watery and non-greasy texture. Plus, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it the perfect beach or poolside choice.
Best for Darker Skin Tones
Black Girl Sunscreen
Both Mellinger and Whitfield cite Black Girl Sunscreen as a choice they often choose for clients. “One of my favorite budget-friendly, chemical sunscreens that is especially great for darker skin tones is Black Girl Sunscreen,” Mellinger explains. “This was created for black women by a black woman, but it works on all skin types.” Besides being vegan and reef-friendly, the sun protectant doubles as a moisturizer, infused with natural moisturizing ingredients including jojoba, cacao & avocado.
Best for Sensitive Skin
43% Off Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen
If you’re ultra sensitive and need something fragrance free, Mellinger recommends Cetaphil’s Sheer Mineral Face Liquid. As the name suggests, it’s mineral based with an SPF of 50. With zinc oxide working as an active ingredient, it goes on sheer and dries with a natural matte finish. With a water-resistance for up to 80 minute, the lightweight blend is the perfect choice for people who tend to get sweaty. Plus, it’s less than $8 right now on Amazon.
Best for Overall Protection
Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Sunscreen
Isdin’s award-winning facial sunscreen stakes claim as one of Mellinger’s top recommendations. It’s one of the only options out there that offers upwards of 50 SPF without leaving a white cast on the skin. It’s also a dermatologist favorite for its innovative formula that contains DNA repairsomes, naturally occurring enzymes clinically proven to repair existing sun damage.
Best for Staying Natural
Babo Botanicals Daily Sheer Facial Sunscreen
Mellinger’s choice for a natural sunscreen is Babo Botanicals, which is a mineral-based sunscreen developed with non-nano zinc and specifically formulated with skin-soothing organic oils like avocado and jojoba. The hypoallergenic sunblock is also oxybenzone and octinoxate free, making it reef safe and good for the skin.
Best for Long Wear and Travel
Supergoop! Defense Refresh (Re)setting Mist SPT 40
Supergoop’s setting spray never leaves Whitfield’s side. “I love the idea of spray mists but you need to remember to spray any SPF mist for a total of six seconds in order to get the full benefit of the UV protection,” Whitfield says. Its portable size makes it great for travel, and mists are always the best option for reapplying over makeup, because as Whitfield reminds us: “You should always reapply your sunscreen every two hours no matter the SPF, but how likely is that happening when you already have a full beat at brunch?”