The Absolute Best Sunscreen Brands, According to Someone Who Hates Sunscreen

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@helenacuesta

I'm glad I'm working from the isolation of my L.A. apartment (and not the WWW office) as I make the following very controversial confession: I hate wearing sunscreen. In fact, more often than not, I commit the cardinal sin of forgoing it altogether. Even before I became a beauty editor, I was aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen. I was perpetually slathered in Coppertone growing up thanks to my sun-savvy mom (who, ironically, is obsessive about SPF), and as a freckled, fair-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, burn-prone person with a family history of skin cancer, I've always known I'm a prime contender for the scary C word. The thing is, I absolutely despise how so many formulas feel and look on my skin, and 90% of the time, I'm left with a rash of post-sunscreen breakouts and bumps. So despite how stupid it might seem, I just chose to opt out. 

Over the years, I have gotten better. First of all, there are some truly amazing brands and innovations happening in the sunscreen space, which obliterate a lot of my previous pain points. Second of all, I've had multiple dermatologists already tell me I have some super-sus moles that need to be monitored. Third of all, practically every dermatologist I've talked to says sunscreen is the most effective product for pumping the breaks on visible, premature signs of aging. So yeah, I've slowly but surely gotten better about applying sunscreen not just on the days I know I'll be out in the hot L.A. sun but also on just any old day, no matter where I am, what I'm doing, or what the weather is like. But if I'm going to be wearing sunscreen, it has to be great. It has to be effective, it has to feel invisible, and it has to make my skin look better, not worse. Curious to find out which sunscreen brands I actually wear and recommend to my fellow sunscreen despisers? Keep scrolling! My top 11 picks are just below. 

Supergoop!

Supergoop! is like the I Dream of Jeannie of sunscreen brands, and I guarantee the brand's impressive stock can grant any sunscreen-pertaining wish you have. Whether you're looking for mineral or chemical, body or face, the brand is sure to have plenty of formulas that strike you're fancy. Unseen is the GOAT—a clean chemical facial option that boasts an über-natural finish and pulls double duty as a makeup-gripping primer. 

I say yes to any body sunscreen that will make my limbs glisten and glow. 

EltaMD

Editors, celebrities, dermatologists, facialists, and beauty lovers all go nuts for EltaMD's beloved family of sunscreens, and this particular option is touted as the best formula for anyone who struggles with breakouts or extra-oily skin. It's supremely lightweight, oil-free, and a dream for anyone who hates that thick, tacky feeling most sunscreens have.

Looking for a tiny bit of natural-looking coverage? Grab the universally flattering tinted version, which blends to match your skin tone and discreetly helps even out the skin while camouflaging any discoloration and breakouts.

Bask

I am so obsessed with Bask—the under-the-radar sunscreen brand that absolutely needs to be on your radar—that I wrote an entire review piece dedicated to both of its star sunscreen formulas. This derm-recommended, non-aerosol mist is my absolute fave (you'll get full coverage from any angle), and I love that it is Hawaii reef friendly, has zero white cast, and is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate. If you're craving a higher octave of protection, buy it in SPF 50.

That said, if you prefer a lotion to a spray, this is truly one of the best in the industry and also gives your skin a boost of healthy-looking radiance. I'm also obsessed with the scent—that nostalgic hit of coconut and vanilla just feels so right for summer.

Vacation

As it's touted as the world's best-smelling sunscreen (think coconut, banana, pineapple, and orange blossom), definitely don't sleep on Vacation if you take the art of smelling good as seriously as I do. (Aesthetically, the brand is also on point with a classic retro styling I love.) Developed by Elizabeth Hale, board-certified dermatologist and chief medical advisor to the brand, it uses a proprietary CleanClassic formulation process to put a modern, healthy twist on everything we love about sunscreens of the past with the best of modern skincare science. I love this classic sunscreen and the fact that the brand makes a mineral version as well. 

Feeling a little saucy? I highly recommend this upgraded tanning oil, which contains skin-gifting chardonnay grape-seed oil along with broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection and the brand's Grand Cru '86 scent.

Eleven by Venus Williams

Suffice to say, an athlete like Venus Williams knows a thing or two about being in the sun all day and prioritizing SPF! Her sunscreen brand Eleven has quickly emerged as one of the best on the market and features innovative, clean, comfortable-on-the-skin formulas that soak in quickly and are invisible regardless of your skin type or tone. Each formula is powered by 25% zinc oxide, plus additional skin-improving ingredients that thirsty skin will love. It doesn't get better than this lightweight, best-selling serum if you're looking for an A+ facial option that's less intense than a typical lotion. 

I couldn't be more excited about this just-launched body formula. Use it daily and rest assured you're getting water- and sweat-resistant protection for a full 80 minutes. 

Black Girl Sunscreen

Black Girl Sunscreen is specifically made for melanated skin—this fan-favorite Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 has you covered against harmful UVA and UVB rays while somehow managing to be impossibly sheer and comfy on the skin. Plus, extra-luxe ingredients like jojoba, cacao, and avocado keep dry skin topped up with high-level hydration.

Fragrance-free and with a refreshing dry-touch finish, this new continuous spray from the brand utilizes the same flow of natural ingredients and has your back thanks to the 80-minute water-resistant surge of SPF 30.

Colorescience

Colorescience is, by far, one of the best sunscreen brands of all time and is especially known for how it incorporates top-level scientific innovation into its products. (You should also know that all of the brand's products boast physical/mineral protection and not chemical.) I'd be remiss not to point you in the direction of the brand's OG brush-on formula. No other brand can come close, in my opinion.

That said, this glowy face sunscreen is equally obsession-worthy, especially if your skin is looking dull or is just in need of some TLC.

Coola

Consider Coola to be your go-to sunscreen brand if you're someone who's looking for formulas made with mostly organic ingredients Every Coola SPF is crafted with at least 70% certified organic ingredients, sustainable practices and ingredient sourcing, and a plant-first approach. There are so many great options it feels illegal to choose just two, but if we're talking all-time best sellers, I have a soft spot for this classic sunscreen mist, which I come back to again and again.

Of course, this dew-inducing illuminating face serum is another must-have among editors and beauty lovers. 

Sun Bum

It's hard to imagine a vacation or lazy day at the beach or pool without a bottle of one of Sun Bum's famous SPF elixirs. The brand was born in 2010 and inspired by the surf, so you really can't go wrong with any of its active, on-the-go–friendly sunscreen options, which also smell like summer. The brand offers a little bit of everything (it even makes haircare!), but it just doesn't get more classic than the original moisturizing lotion that started it all. 

Consider this ingenious scalp and hair mist a must for preventing scalp burn, irritation, and any unwanted flaking. 

Coppertone

Even though new and exciting sunscreen brands seem to launch at a monthly cadence, Coppertone is a nonnegotiable classic (it's been around since 1944!) that I will always love and recommend. Plus, it's especially great when you don't want to spend a small fortune on your sunscreen habit. I'm especially enamored with the brand's Glow line and always keep this shimmer-spiked lotion on hand and in my beach bag. It glides on effortlessly and is free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, PABA, and phthalates.

Sweat- and sunscreen-induced breakouts are most definitely a thing, albeit a thing I don't love. This oil-free face sunscreen won't trigger any unwanted bumps and has a strong five-star rating on Amazon with hundreds of glowing reviews. You can't beat that $7 price either!

MDSolarSciences

Last but certainly not least, MDSolarSciences is another editor-loved sunscreen brand that was founded by Robert Friedman, MD, a dermatologic oncologist. According to the brand's website, Friedman was part of a group of dermatologists at NYU that developed "the ABCDs of melanoma," which became a widely recognized tool used for early detection of the disease. In an effort to do his part in helping to decrease cases of skin cancer, he developed a brand of sunscreen that would feel and look amazing so people would actually feel motivated to apply and get into a regular habit of wearing sunscreen. This handy stick is a best seller. 

This lightweight mineral formula has a flattering matte finish and is the best antidote for anyone who hates the trademark sticky feeling of most sunscreens. It really epitomizes the phrase "barely there."

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