The moment when you suddenly realize you're an adult can come amid a seemingly random activity — depositing money in your newly-formed 401k, making dinner that consists of something other than almond milk and cereal, leading your first department meeting at work. For us, though, that moment came when we finally mastered the fine art of applying sunscreen.
Finding your perfect SPF number and knowing exactly when you need to reapply, and how often, made us feel like we had become true, responsible grown-ups. Now, we can spend a weekend by the pool and not have to deal with the judgy looks of our coworkers on Monday when they catch sight of our lobster skin! But, along with that newfound diligence and lack of sunburns came something troubling: zits.
According to dermatologist Jennifer M. Segal, MD, two things can cause sunscreen-related breakouts: occlusion of the pores by comedogenic materials, or a sensitivity reaction to chemical UV-blocking agents. Basically, the mineral sunscreens can sit on top of the skin and gunk up your pores, while the chemical ones can irritate the skin.
Yep, hell hath no fury like acne-prone skin after a thick coating of zinc oxide. Your pores look at SPF like you might look at a big vat of Crisco: You can't seriously be considering putting that on, right? It's a cruel cosmic joke of damned if you do, and damned if you don't. Apply sunscreen and wait for the pimples to start cropping up, or ditch it and risk melanoma and wrinkles. The choice on that one is pretty clear for us — so we had resigned ourselves to a summer full of blemishes.
Until now. Thanks to some forward-thinking developments in formulations, all of this is starting to change. "Traditionally, mineral blocks have been very thick, but newer micronized formulations of zinc and titanium dioxide are smooth, cosmetically elegant, and very light," says Dr. Segal. Hallelujah.
Ahead, we've rounded up tried-and-tested mineral and chemical (for those of you allergic or unable to get on the mineral-SPF train) sunscreens that we've spent the last month slathering on our faces and bodies.
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Both oil-free and non-comedogenic (which means it won't clog your pores), this sunscreen from Neutrogena with SPF 55 was actually formulated for acne-prone skin. The best part though? With a water-light texture, it leaves the skin completely matte.
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This sunscreen with SPF 40 not only goes on completely invisible on all skin tones, but helps control shine and prime the skin for makeup by leaving a velvety finish.
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This sunscreen is super lightweight, so if you have oily skin, you won't feel like you're adding more grease to your skin when you slather this on. It's also got the added benefit of blue light protection, so you have a line of defense against the invisible rays coming from your phone and computer screen.
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Looking for an affordable option for daily sunscreen (you are going to be using a lot, after all)? This option from Pond's blends seamlessly into medium, dark, and deep skin tones. Plus, in addition to SPF 30, it's got vitamin B3 to help with hyperpigmentation.
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Even the most avid sunscreen-hater can find something to love about this featherlight SPF 45 formula. The all-mineral coverage blends into skin so seamlessly you wouldn't even know it was there, if not for the complexion-perfecting universal tint (complete with diamond power for a soft-focus finish) and skin-care benefits from vitamins A, C, and E.
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This lightweight sunscreen is the only one our beauty writer wore all summer (and into fall!). It's fast-absorbing and non-greasy, yet hydrating enough to use without a separate moisturizer.
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You'll be the TSA's favorite traveler with this carry-on-friendly stick fused with vitamin E, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
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A sunscreen that doesn't irritate sensitive skin or clog pores? That's a winner in our books. Add a light tint, and it's the only thing you need on rushed mornings.
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Even if anti-aging formulas aren't normally your go-to, this formula sinks in fast and protects your skin from future damage with SPF 50+. Bonus: It's oil-free, so it won't feel greasy on even the muggiest days.
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This spray sunscreen is biodegradable, waterproof for up to 80 minutes, and doesn't contain coral reef-destroying oxybenzone. All this, coupled with the fact that it doesn't break us out, makes it a clear winner in our book.
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On the hunt for a new day cream? You can't go wrong with this formula. It's lightweight, has an SPF of 30, and plays well under makeup.
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Sure, this tinted cream won't replace your full-coverage foundation, but it will help even out your skin tone while providing sun protection.
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This pricey pick is worth its weight in gold — if dropping extra dough for a high-performance hybrid SPF is a priority for you. Functioning as a sunscreen, makeup primer, and pore-tightener in one, it's skin protection on steroids.
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With a name like Your Skin But Better, it's hard to resist snatching up this tube. Based on the rave reviews on every corner of the internet, you'll be glad you did. The full-coverage CC obscures pigmentation issues (like acne scars, the bane of any breakout-prone person's existence) and protects your face from UVA and UVB rays. We love a good quick fix that also has long-term benefits — especially when it means we don't have to sacrifice a clear complexion in order to get it.
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You don't often see a proper sunscreen that can also replace two other integral steps in your skin-care routine. But improbably, this SPF from rock-star derm Dr. Dennis Gross — a true guru of all things acne — does just that.
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When they say "light," they aren't kidding — this Korean import sinks into the skin almost on contact, leaving your face feeling fresh and residue-free.
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This unassuming bottle contains one of the best SPF moisturizers our skin has ever come in contact with. The Ayurvedic formula combines organic neem, shatavari (an herb), and rose — plus non-nano micronized zinc oxide — into a silky, hydrating cream that magically manages not to feel heavy or sticky on your skin.
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Eco-friendly beauty brand Coola has always been one of our favorites, and we'd argue it has some of the best organic SPF around. So, when we saw it had partnered with Target to create the exclusive line Bare Republic, we got pretty excited. This mineral sunscreen has all the great stuff we love about Coola — healthy ingredients, non-clogging formulas, gorgeous textures — at a much more wallet-friendly price.
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Residue-free and feeling like a soft whisper on the skin, this lightweight SPF fluid from Laura Mercier goes on sheer and features technology that helps skin adapt to different temperatures — meaning you don't have to retire this innovative sunscreen once autumn rolls around.
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A favorite of derms for patients post-laser treatments, this tinted mineral SPF keeps your complexion safe without irritating or aggravating delicate skin.
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This sunscreen has a cult following for a very good reason. It's fast-absorbing, finishes like a matte dream, and feels essentially non-existent as soon as it sinks in.
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This two-in-one sunscreen and primer multi-tasks, prepping skin for both makeup and sun exposure. The non-greasy formula is infused with green tea and antioxidants, so it's ideal for sensitive skin, even those with rosacea and acne.
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Dry, combination, oily, acne-prone — this liquid sunscreen is a heavy-hitter for every skin type, tone, and texture. With a formidable SPF 50 for maximum protection, the lightweight formula leaves behind a natural-looking glow that’s neither dewy nor totally matte — and never, ever greasy.
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The creator of this lightweight SPF was inspired to make a formula that works with breakouts — without making blemishes worse. The result is this silky concoction, which is completely undetectable on the skin and gets you in the habit of wearing daily sun protection without fear of acne.