How to choose the right sunscreen for your skin

Consult our definitive sunscreen guide to answer your most burning sunscreen questions and find the product that’s best suited to your skin type

Woman applying sunscreen to face
(Image credit: Dr Barbara Sturm)

Sunscreen is widely championed as the single most important product to have in your beauty regime, by dermatologists, aestheticians, and skincare aficionados alike. While slathering on some sun cream might seem easy enough, even a cursory look into the topic opens up a disorienting rabbit hole of information.

The FDA has reported that six commonly used sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream and can linger there for extended periods of time, prompting additional safety studies.

Some of these ingredients are also harmful to the environment, so much so that Hawaii has banned the use of certain sunscreens in an effort to protect its coral reefs. That’s not all – questions abound about the effectiveness of the various SPF levels, physical versus chemical sunscreens, and how to get protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

So how do you choose the right sunscreen for your skin? Below, we break down some basic facts you should keep in mind and the most effective products for your particular concerns.

Sunscreen: the basics

Sunscreen: the brands --shop the guide

Dr Barbara Sturm 

Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops

(Image credit: Dr Barbara Sturm)

Dr. Sturm's Sun Drops SPF 30 is a hybrid sunscreen/skincare serum that utilises the same high performance, molecular science ingredients as found in Dr. Sturm's skincare products to provide effective anti-aging benefits as well as sun protection. The lightweight texture makes it convenient for everyday wear, as does the subtle glow it leaves behind which mimics the brightening power of a good moisturiser. 

Dr Dennis Gross

Dr Dennis Gross sunscreen

(Image credit: Dr Dennis Gross)

Try Dr Dennis Gross’s sunscreen and you'll quickly understand why its one of the most loved brands for sun protection. It’s oil and fragrance-free, making it light and breathable on skin, and packed with sea buckthorn, lingonberry and the brand's signature ferulic acid, to help prevent signs of premature ageing. It is also coral reef safe and ideal for sensitive or allergy prone skin types.

Mecca Cosmetica

Mecca Cosmetics sunscreen

(Image credit: Mecca Cosmetics)

Australians know a thing or two about sunscreen, so it is safe to say that one of the country’s most popular sunscreens, To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen by Mecca Cosmetica, is bound to be good. So popular is the cream that a bottle sells every 60 seconds in Australia alone. The reason? Because it provides durable UVA and UVB protection with a weightless finish designed to accommodate makeup-wearers, slipping seamlessly in-between moisturiser and makeup without being felt on the skin. 

It is also formulated with powerful antioxidants like vitamin E and maritime pine bark extract, as well as moisturising glycerin and sodium PCA to improve the appearance of skin as much as it protects it.


Unseen Sunscreen

(Image credit: Supergoop)

Supergoop’s viral Unseen Sunscreen deserves all the attention. Its oil-free formula means there is no feeling of pore-clogging heaviness, while antioxidant-rich ingredients work to actually improve the appearance of skin. In addition to offering broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, it also has infrared protection to filter blue light. Even better, its matte texture provides the perfect primer base for makeup.

La-Roche Posay

La Roche-Posay sunscreen

(Image credit: La Roche-Posay)

French pharmacy brand La-Roche Posay is a popular choice when it comes to sunscreen because it offers high-quality protection that doesn’t clog skin, and all at an affordable price point. Of their many reliable offerings, we recommend their Anthelios UVMune 400 Invisible Fluid SPF50+. It is formulated with the brand’s patented MEXORYL400 sun filter which protects against ultra-long UVA rays, in addition to UVA and UVB rays. Better yet, it is lightweight and non-greasy so perfect for everyday wear.

Ultra Violette

Ultra Violette Preen Screen spray on sunscreen

(Image credit: Ultra Violette)

Those who find it difficult to stick to a sunscreen regime have found their perfect match with Ultra Violette's Preen Screen sunscreen mist. The ultra-light mist is designed to sprayed on top of makeup and also comes in a sweet travel-size version so you can pop it in your bag and easily reapply throughout the day. Its spray-on format cuts application down to a few seconds and offers a refreshingly cool feeling, so now you really have no excuse to skip your sunscreen. 

If spray-on isn't your thing, we also recommend their Daydream Screen, a tinted sunscreen that simultaneously evens skin tone and protects it from harmful rays.


Humanrace sunscreen

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The Ozone Face Protection Daily Moisturiser and Ozone Body Protection Cream from Pharrell’s cult skincare line Humanrace has are both SPF 30 and formulated with the brand’s signature Snow Mushroom Extract, a multi-tasking daily moisturiser that also provides Blue Light Protection. The line is suitable for all skin, but is especially well suited for deeper skin tones. 

Says Dr. Elena Jones, Pharrell’s Dermatologist of over 20 years and consultant on Humanrace, about the line: 'the biggest misconception is that deeper skin tones don’t need sunscreen, but no matter what colour your skin is, all skin tones need a daily sunscreen, rain or shine. I have patients everyday asking what they should be doing to care for their skin, the easiest thing to do is start wearing sunscreen daily.’


Koa sunscreen

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Hawaii & New York based skincare label Koa have just launched a mineral sunscreen with a moisturising vitamin B3 & shea butter formulation. The Hawaiian men behind the brand— Ty McLaren, Hiro Shinn, and Kapono Chung — grew up surfing and their latest launch is designed to outlast extensive outdoor activity and long days spent in the water.


Oway Sunlight Serum

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Protect your scalp from sun damage with the Sunlight Serum from organic beauty brand Oway. Formulated with marigold, organic baobab, pomegranate, passion fruit and brown algae, the serum protects hair from damage caused by sun exposure, saltwater, sand and chlorine. It is a great beach bag companion that can also be used on the body to sooth skin after sun exposure. Pair with the brand's After-Sun hair mask for extra hydration post-sun exposure.


CeraVe facial moisturising lotion

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A pharmacy brand that packs a punch, CeraVe’s Moisturising Lotion SPF50 hydrates skin and protects from daily UV exposure. Formulated with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, the lightweight cream is designed to protect the skin's surface from both airbone pollutants and sun damage.

Woods Copenhaggen

Sunscreen woods Copenhagen

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Woods Copenhaggen is a skincare brand that offers straightforward products formulated with Scandinavian ingredients. Their new sunscreen for face and body comes in SPF 30 and SPF 50 and is designed to leave skin with a not-too-dewy, not-too-matte finish.

Grown Alchemist

Grown alchemist sunscreen

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Grown Alchemist’s Hydrating Sunscreen is a vegan and reef safe SPF30 that is formulated with rosehip oil and parsley seed extract to  reverse signs of ageing while protecting against sun damage. The mineral-based cream is also formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin without leaving behind any thick residue.


SkinCeuticals Advanced Brightening SPF50 sunscreen cream

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SkinCeuticals Advanced Brightening SPF50 is a great choice for those with problem skin who want intense sun protection. The non-greasy formula includes tranexamic acid and niacinamide to reduce the appearance of pores and even skin tone.


Bamford SPF 50 Sunscreen in grey tube

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Bamford’s sunscreen is an ideal choice for those who are serious about their sustainable skincare. The brand uses active botanicals sourced from the English countryside to produce highly-effective, all-natural skincare. 

Their sunscreen uses a complex of antioxidant golden seaweed and calming Swiss pine extracts to protect against UVA and UVB rays. While its ultra-matte finish makes it ideal for those with larger pores and those who regularly wear foundation.



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Budapest-based brand Omorovicza has garnered a cult following for its highly effective products that blend modern science with the ancient healing traditions of Hungary’s thermal baths. 

Their lightweight SPF 30 offers sun protection with skincare benefits. It’s formulated with Vitamin C to brighten and correct skin-tone, Titanium Dioxide to blur skin imperfections, and the brand’s ‘Patented Healing Concentrate’ to leave skin luminous and wrinkle-free.

Wild Nutrition

Wild Nutrition Natural Glow supplements for sun protection in blue glass bottle

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Natural Glow from Wild Nutrition is a skin protection supplement rather than a cream. The ingestible tablet formulation uses natural antioxidants to enhance the body's production of collagen, melanin and keratin for firmer and more hydrated skin that is better protected from the sun. Furthermore, by enhancing your melanin levels, the supplement allows skin to develop a naturally deeper and longer-lasting glow following exposure to the sun.

It should be noted that Natural Glow should not be used as sun protection on its own but in addition to typical sunscreens.

Salt & Stone

Salt and stone organic sunscreen in black and white bottle

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Salt & Stone is a unisex, organic skincare brand from Los Angeles, founded by a professional snowboarder looking to create all-natural products that could withstand endurance sports. 

In keeping with that mission, the brand's lightweight SPF 30 is formulated with natural ingredients that will withstand a long day in the sun. It includes Hyaluronic Acid and Ashwagandha to soothe and moisturize the skin, while Non-Nano Zinc Oxide blocks UVA and UVB rays.


Seventy-one surfer sunscreen stick in black plastic case

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Seventy-One sunscreen is made for surfers. Its super water-resistant formula offers intense protection that is ideal for those who are spending extreme amounts of time in the sun and water. The sunscreen sticks are particularly handy, just chuck one in your beach bag and regularly apply for speedy sun protection.


Vacation SPF 30 sunscreen in white bottle with blue print

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Vacation is a new sunscreen brand inspired by the colourful beachside vibe of 1980s Miami. The brand was born out of Poolside FM, the popular online radio station that blends party-ready summer tracks with 1980s VHS visuals.  

A sunscreen produced by a radio station might seem like a guaranteed way to get a sunburn, but Vacation actually works. The brand even worked with Dr. Elizabeth Hale, Board Certified Dermatologist and a VP of The Skin Cancer Foundation, to develop its formulation. If that wasn't enough, they also collaborated with perfumers Carlos Huber (Arquiste) and Rodrigo Flores-Roux (Givaudan) to develop Vacation's signature fragrance.

The Grey

The Grey Daily Face Protect sunscreen in white bottle against grey background

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The Grey is a men’s skincare range designed to blend the sumptuous feel and effectiveness of female skincare with the straightforward simplicity of most men's skincare brands. 

The brand's Daily Face Protect sunscreen does just that, with a rich, velvety texture and long-wear convenience. The cream has been treated with a special encapsulation processing technique that ensures consistent SPF value while using fewer filters. 

That gives the cream an ultra-lightweight and breathable texture that is ideal for supersensitive and blemish-prone skin.

La Prairie

La Prairie Cellular Swiss UV Protection Veil white bottle

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La Prairie’s Cellular Swiss UV Protection Veil is quite possibly the most luxurious sunscreen ever made. The brand began selling skincare in 1978, but its roots go back to the famed Clinique La Prairie, which opened in 1931. Located on the edge of Lake Geneva, the Swiss retreat has offered rejuvenation treatments to clients ranging from Pope Pius XII, to Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich.   

The methods of Clinique La Prairie have been translated into the Exclusive Cellular Complex, an essential element of all La Prairie products and one so highly protected that its components are produced in two separate labs and then blended in a third, to ensure that no single chemist has access to the formula.

The Exclusive Cellular Complex certainly sets La Prairie’s sunscreen apart, making the UV Protection Veil a transformative skincare treatment as much as an SPF, designed to make skin appear visibly brighter, clearer, and smoother within days.

Black Girl Sunscreen

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 in black tube against grey background

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Black Girl Sunscreen is specifically designed with women of colour in mind. It is reef-safe, cruelty-free, vegan, and water-resistant for 80 minutes. Most notably, it leaves absolutely no ashy white residue. 

The brand’s founder, Shontay Lundy, hopes that creating a sunscreen for women of colour will encourage more conversation around sun safety and education. ‘I named my product Black Girl Sunscreen because there are a lot of people who still think having dark skin means that you have full sun protection. While we do have more natural protection than people with lighter skin tones, we’re still at risk for burns, cosmetic sun damage and, most importantly, skin cancer,’ says Lundy. 

Black Girl Sunscreen uses a unique blend of natural ingredients for its highly moisturising, silky smooth texture. These include sunflower seed oil for combatting redness, avocado for hydration, cacao for an even completion, and blemish-fighting jojoba.


Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 in white tube against grey background

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City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is a mineral sunscreen created for indoor and outdoor use. It is designed to shield skin from UVA and UVB rays, as well as 89 per cent of blue light from screens. Murad's sunscreen is also designed to fight against harmful pollutants encountered by city-dwellers every day, making it ideal for those who live in urban areas or those who spend most of their day on screens.

Writer and Wallpaper* Contributing Editor

Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.