Of all the skin-care products we use,
sunscreen is the most powerful — and perhaps the most scrutinized. To pass the basic buy test, it must be broad spectrum, SPF 30 or higher, and absorb without feeling greasy. One must decide between physical and mineral options and think about water resistance, too. And those considerations are just the start — after all, sunscreen is one of the only shields we have against premature aging from sun damage and skin cancer. But there’s one thing that even the most discerning of beauty nerds don’t know about SPF: which formulas beauty editors and top dermatologists use on their own complexions.
So we polled a few of our favorites, and we were surprised by what we found. For one, the priciest sunscreen isn't necessarily the best sunscreen. In fact, a few of our pros swear by easy-to-find drugstore brands. Another big reveal? Derms
are just like us — they want tinted, quick-to-absorb formulas that look and feel as good as they perform. See their favorite picks, along with a few of our own, ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. Revision Skincare Intellishade Truphysical Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45
"For every day, I use Revision Skincare Intellishade TruPhysical tinted moisturizer with Broad-Spectrum SPF 45," New York City-based dermatologist
Hadley King, MD
, says. "It's a physical blocker with
and titanium dioxide, and I like the lightweight consistency and coverage."
Intellishade Truphysical Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45, $75.00
Buy Brush On Block Mineral Sunscreen Powder SPF 30 "I also love, use myself, and frequently recommend Brush On Block Mineral Sunscreen," says Dr. King. "It's a great solution for people who don't want to reapply sunscreen because they don't want to mess up their makeup. It absorbs excess oil so it can serve a dual purpose as a finishing powder and actually extend the life of your makeup while providing sun protection." Brush on Block
Mineral Sunscreen Powder, Broad-Spectrum SPF 30, $32.00
Buy Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+
"My favorite sunscreen is Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+, which is an effective and elegant physical sunscreen that also prevents actinic (sun) damage," says New York City-based dermatologist Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, who recently founded
. "This is an 11% zinc oxide formula without any chemical filters. It also has potent antioxidants, vitamin E, and DNA repair enzymes. These DNA repair enzymes are known as DNA 'repairsomes,' and they repair about 45% of the damage that the skin cannot heal from UV radiation."
Eryfotona Actinica, $55.00
Buy Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 55
"Believe it or not, my favorite sunscreen is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 55," says
Jessica Krant, MD
, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "The texture is rich enough that it keeps my skin moisturized but dry enough that it applies with a matte, almost foundation-like finish. I can use it alone without additional moisturizer or makeup, and it has Neutrogena’s high-quality, stable Helioplex formula that I trust."
Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 55 Sunscreen Lotion, $7.97
Buy EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41
"I use EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41," says
Debra Jaliman, MD
, dermatologist and author of
. "It is lightly tinted, contains antioxidants, and has a high concentration of zinc oxide (9.0%). Plus, it's water resistant for up to 40 minutes."
UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41, $33.00
Buy SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50
"I love that this is a high-SPF physical blocker that gives you the heavy-duty protection [you need] daily, yet at the same time is so lightweight you hardly notice it's on," says dermatologist
Shereene Idriss, MD.
She also notes that the formula absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a white cast or residue. "Unlike chemical blockers, it doesn't aggravate and irritate your skin, which is always a plus," she says. "Finally, it comes with just enough tint to help even out my complexion while giving me a hint of radiance. It's just enough for me to start my day without a drop of makeup."
Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, $34.00
Buy SkinMedica Total Defense Plus Repair SPF 34
"This is my personal favorite because of the combination of UVA/UVB protection, infrared defense, antioxidants, and tint," says
Marina Peredo, MD
, dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Total Defense Plus Repair SPF 34 Sunscreen - Tinted, $68.00
Buy Elta MD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 David Bank, MD
, dermatologist and author of
Beautiful Skin: Every Woman's Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age
, likes any sunscreen from EltaMD because the brand uses finely micronized zinc oxide, which he calls "the best sun-blocking ingredient." He also gives the brand props for creating formulas that don't look white and pasty. His favorite of the bunch? This formula, geared toward sensitive or acneic skin. "It's oil-free and has hyaluronic acid to moisturize."
UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $33.00
Buy Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 Elizabeth Tanzi, MD
, dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., turns to a powdered sunscreen when protecting her own skin, calling this one "the absolute purest form of powder sunscreen with colors that blend with all skin tones."
Why powder over lotion?
"The powder locks makeup in place, cuts down on facial oil on a humid day, and provides excellent sun protection," she says. "It can be applied several times a day to maintain protection and never messes up makeup."
Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, $65.00
Buy Algenist Sublime Defense Ultra Lightweight UV Defense Fluid SPF 50 "This fluid-like sunscreen is truly a lifesaver for acne-prone skin types," beauty and wellness market writer Karina Hoshikawa says. "It shields my skin from harsh rays, and never makes me feel congested. A total daily must-have." Algenist
Sublime Defense Ultra Lightweight UV Defense Fluid, $28.00
Buy Neocutis Journée Revitalizing Day Cream SPF 30
This NeoCutis SPF is a favorite of
S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD
, cosmetic dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "It carries a very light tint that is compatible with all skin types, including darker skin like mine. It doesn't have a white-ish sheen that many of the micronized zinc or titanium broad-spectrum sunscreens have," she says. Because it contains a "proven patented growth factor complex, I know that it's helping to minimize fine lines as it protects my skin from UV damage," she adds. Oh, and it gets high marks for its pleasant scent, too.
JOURNÉE Revitalizing Day Cream SPF 30, $189.00
Buy La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light SPF 60 Sunscreen "I talk about this face SPF to anyone who will listen — and everyone else, too," says senior beauty editor Lexy Lebsack. "It's incredibly light and soaks in immediately, but it's also hydrating enough to take the place of my morning moisturizer. It never makes me break out, plays well under makeup, and feels amazing. I kid you not, it's the one SPF that has made me wear protection every single day — and my skin has never looked better for it." La Roche-Posay
Anthelios Ultra Light SPF 60 Sunscreen, $29.99
Buy Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunblock Broad Spectrum SPF 70 “But if I were, for some sick reason, forced to only purchase sun protection under $20, I’d come to bat for this one every time,” deputy beauty director Rachel Krause says. “It might not include the fancy shit I usually go for, like rose oil and the fresh blood of seven virgins, but it’s waterproof, weightless, won’t clog pores, and looks lovely under makeup. You just can't have everything, I guess.” Neutrogena
Ultra Sheer Liquid Sunblock Broad Spectrum SPF 70, $15.99
Buy Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30 "I love this sunscreen because it's super lightweight, moisturizing, and doesn't have that fragrance-y sunscreen smell," says beauty writer Megan Decker. "I know that we all need to wear sunscreen every single day, but I hate making it a separate step in my routine because so often it leaves a white cast that takes forever to rub into my complexion. Luckily, I can wear this serum, and just this serum, and it makes my skin look brighter and more hydrated, no rubbing or waiting required." Supergoop!
City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30, $42.00
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