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.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and heavily contribute to premature aging. Up to 90 percent of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by sun exposure. (Source:

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.

sunscreen spf protection graph

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.

Extra tips

  • 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.


Josie Maran
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)


Paula’s Choice
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)


Kate Somerville
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!

  • kezzer81

    Ive been looking for a SPF oil for the body, cruelty free. Ive just found a site called ‘Suncaresolutions’ who sell Rona Ross and Greenyard Naturals products. They say on their page they dont test on animals, but I emailed them to confirm this. They are a small family run business in Greece, all the products ingredients are bought within the EU so legally can not be tested on animals, as well as their finished products which they told me are tested on selected healthy adults of both sexes. This is great news for me but I would like to find other SPF body oils factor 10 and above.

    • I took a look and this seems like a good find. The only thing that irks me is that they’re not listing their full ingredients for the sunscreens.

  • kellyjeanmn

    I asked a question but found the answer when I read the post again! 🙂 Great post.

  • Badger Balm has an excellent cruelty-free line of sunscreens too!

  • SueW

    I just picked up a tube of sunscreen from Target called, “Bare Republic Natural Sport SPF 50”. presented by Coola. Can you tell me if it’s cruelty free? Also, the website for this brand is not yet up and running and I can’t find any info on the Coola website either. There is a big eared bunny logo on the back of the tube but no explanation as to what exactly this means, ie: no animal testing, or no animal ingredients. It looks like a decent product but I want to be sure it is truly “cruelty free”.

    • Is it a Leaping Bunny or PETA logo? Otherwise I would wait until the website is up and contact them to make sure.

      • SueW

        Thanks for your reply! It’s a bunny face with the big pink ears. But it’s not leaping or the bunny profile image I’ve seen on the PETA website. I believe it’s cruelty free as it’s made by COOLA, Their other products are. I think this is a new line of sunscreens that are more affordable than their original products in the blue tubes. I hope this is the case! On this particular shopping trip, I originally bought a tube of sunscreen from The Honest Co. but it was so greasy and sticky, I had to return it. I exchanged it for this COOLA product.

  • Veee

    Hi Suzi,

    Some of the above mentioned brands are not found in Leaping Bunny’s cruelty-free list, for example, Kate Somerville and John Masters. As I understand Leaping Bunny is the gold standard and this may be misleading for the readers?

    • Please take a look at the list of cruelty-free brands, where you’ll find an explanation of which brands are on my list. 🙂

      The Leaping Bunny might be the “best” certification, but it’s neither the only one nor exhaustive.

  • Most are.

  • Sarah

    First I just wanted to say how much I love your site, great information! I live in Australia, so unfortunately some of your recommendations aren’t available here. In regards to sunscreen I found your first pick available at Mecca Cosmetics, but unfortunately here they only offer a SPF 15 version ;(

    Josie Maran Cosmetics

    Argan Oil Daily Moisturiser SPF 15

    I then tried Sephora Australia which do stock First Aid, but not their sunscreen 🙁
    Next up was Kiss My Face Australia which again did not stock their sunscreen product here 🙁
    Lastly I tried Paula’s Choice, their product is also only SPF 15 here, but they did have some information on their site saying the formulation is the same as their US product but due to regulations they have to list as SPF 15 (now wondering if Josie Maran might be the same).
    Why is everything so hard here in down under?

    • Thank you Sarah for your research! It’s definitely going to help the Aussies our there! Unfortunately I have no idea about these regulations but it’s possible some sunscreens “exaggerate” the SPF, and Australia actually has better standards.

    • Danny

      The sun in Australia has a different rating itself… If you’ve been to any country in the northern hemisphere I’m sure you’ve noticed that the sun doesn’t burn as easily as it does ‘Down Under’. So they compare the sun protection levels to the harsh Australian sun instead.

  • Aja

    Which one of these is the BEST to wear under make up??

  • Jessica Wong

    This is a great list but on the expensive side….can you recommend any more drugstore ones??
    Also…there have been reports that sunscreen above 50 or 60 is useless (as you said the increase is only 1 percent) and the ingredient is toxic and harmful (might be talking about chemical because it actually sinks in). This info was given in a website a year back so I don’t remmeber much. I’ve also been to the Bahamas and they have a chart stating your skin colour and what spf you should use for how long. I have a medium to medium tan skin colour and I only need spf 30 and it lasts 5-6 hours….do you know how true this is?