Sunscreen should be an essential part of every person’s skincare regimen. Wearing skinscreen is the best protection against skin cancer, not to mention that it keeps your skin looking young. If all you’re doing when choosing a sunscreen is looking at the SPF on the bottle, you’re doing it wrong. Here’s everything you need to consider when picking the best sunscreen, as well as my top 7 picks for cruelty-free sunscreen!
Wanna jump to the product recommendations? Click here!
Why wear sunscreen?
Simply put, the sun’s rays act as a carcinogen and cause skin damage.
If you’re still not convinced, this picture will probably change your mind! This 69-year-old man was a trucker for 28 years, with half of his face exposed to the sun from the driver’s side window.
How effective is sunscreen?
Sunscreen really does work, as long as it’s photostable, meaning it keeps being effective when exposed to light. Physical sunscreens (more on this later) are photostable and act as a shield against the sun instantly. If you haven’t watched this awesome video about how the sun affects our skin and how effective sunscreen is, check it out!
Should I pick a physical sunscreen?
The answer is yes. There are two types of sunscreen: physical sunblock, which acts as a barrier and blocks the sun’s rays, and chemical sunscreen, which is absorbed by the skin and protects it from the sun by forming a chemical reaction. To determine your sunscreen’s type, just look at the ingredients. The active ingredients in physical sunscreens are titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, while chemical sunscreens contain other active ingredients like Octylcrylene, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Helioplex and Mexoryl. There are many, and some of them are patented.
Using a physical sunscreen is generally recommended for various reasons: it’s immediately effective, more photostable, and there’s less risk of allergic reaction or other health issues. The main reason why I personally favor physical sunscreens is because they use ingredients whose safety is proven, and therefore don’t require any more animal testing. On the other hand, companies who make chemical sunscreens have a much higher chance of testing their products on animals, as they must come up with new ingredients and formulations.
Is higher SPF better?
Most doctors recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 of higher. In fact, the higher the SPF, the less big of an impact it has on sun protection, as you can see in the graphic below. An SPF of 30 will protect against 97% of UV rays, and an SPF of 50 wil protect against 98% of UV rays. That being said, those that are sensitive to the sun or have pale skin should go with a higher SPF.
Note that zinc oxide is essential when choosing a phyiscal sunscreen, as it blocks both UVB and UVA rays (which is referred to as a borad-spectrum sunscreen), unlike titanium dioxide.
- The SPF 15 in your foundation or moisturizer is pretty much useless, as you’re most likely not applying enough product to provide said SPF. Because you need to apply a good amount of sunscreen for it to be effective, it’s recommended to wear an actual sunscreen product under your foundation.
- Wear sunscreen on cloudy days and all year long, as you’re still being exposed to UV rays even when the sun isn’t bright.
- Because skin cancer can happen on the lips, it’s recommended to wear a lip balm that has an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Wearing sunglasses is just as important, as it protects both of your eyes and eye lids from harmful rays.
- If you’re out in the sun, always re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours or after sweating.
My Cruelty-Free Sunscreen Picks
The following are my absolute top picks for face and body sunscreen. They’re all 100% cruelty-free and they ALL contain the mineral zinc oxide, which blocks both UVB and UVA rays. It’s also a safe ingredient and should cause no adverse reactions or breakouts, if you’re acne-prone.
Note: The following 6 sunscreen recommendations are for facial sunscreens! Keep in mind that I have combination skin and generally wear sunscreen under makeup. You’ll find my favorite body sunscreen at the end of the post.
Argan Daily Moisturizer | SPF 47
I love the higher SPF! One of my faves in terms of texture.
Available at Sephora ($32 for 2 oz)
First Aid Beauty
Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer | SPF 40
Great daily sunscreen, very moisturizing.
Available at Sephora ($30 for 2 oz)
Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex | SPF 30
This one works great for oilier skin types or for extra hot, humid, sweaty summer days.
Available at Amazon and Paula’s Choice ($28 for 2 oz)
Kiss My Face
Face Factor Sunscreen | SPF 50
I love the texture and the price tag! It’s great if you’re on a budget.
Available at Amazon ($10 for 2 pz)
Daily Deflector Waterlight Sunscreen | SPF 50 PA++++
Lightweight, extra protection, and bonus anti-aging ingredients!
Available at Sephora ($48 for 1.7 oz)
John Masters Organics
Mineral Sunscreen | SPF 30
This is another favorite and it’s great under makeup.
Available at Amazon (Check Price)
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a good sunscreen for your whole body, I highly recommend Cool Sport SPF 50 by Kiss My Face. I’m not as particular when it comes to a body sunscreen so I don’t go for anything too pricey. This “Cool Sport” sunscreen has a high SPF, doesn’t feel icky, and is really affordable.
I hope this has been helpful to some of you! Tell me what your favorite sunscreen is in the comments!