It’s a question I get often from skincare fanatics: What is the best high SPF sunscreen?
While a lot of skincare experts will tell you that an SPF 30 will do just fine, I disagree wholeheartedly. Here’s why: An SPF of 30 allows 3.3% of rays through, an SPF of 50 allows 2% of rays through, and an SPF of 100 allows 1% of rays through.
This means that, while you’re only letting about 1.3% more rays through when you move from SPF 30 to SPF 50, it also means that SPF 50 is almost twice as strong at protecting your skin from the sun as SPF 30. Which is something worth paying attention to.
For that reason, here’s a post dedicated to the top 50+ sunscreens:
1.) Best for Sunspots and Other Signs of Hyperpigmentation: Ole Henriksen Protect the Truth Sunscreen
I generally apply a separate vitamin C and E serum. This is because the studies show high concentrations of vitamins C and E work well: 15% vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid and at least 1% vitamin E as tocopherol acetate have amazing results. Vitamin E works to protect against UVB radiation, while vitamin C is better for UVA (Acta Dermato-Venereologica).
But sometimes you might just want an all-in-one solution. Maybe you’re pressed for time, or maybe you don’t want to spend $80-100 on a vitamin C serum plus another $20-30 for a high-quality sunscreen. That’s all good! No judgment here!
Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.7%, Oxybenzone 5% Inactive ingredients: Water (Aqua/Eau), Butyloctyl Salicylate, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Thermus Thermophillus Ferment, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Extract, Algae Extract, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Pullulan, Isomalt, Lecithin, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Silica, Ceteareth-20, Sodium Phytate, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance (Parfum).
2.) Best Natural/Organic Sunscreen: Josie Maran Argan Oil SPF 47
I don’t believe that you need to have all natural or organic skin care to be healthy. Nonetheless, some people believe wholeheartedly in this movement. And if you are one of them, it’s hard to disagree with the performance of argan oil.
An omega-6 unsaturated (i.e., contains double bonds) essential fatty acid, linoleic acid has been shown in several research studies (cited here) to be capable of reducing inflammation and acne and increasing skin’s moisturization levels.
Linoleic and oleic fatty acids may both help protect and maintain skin elasticity, smoothness, and radiance. According to a competitor’s in-house clinical tests, subjects showed a 38 percent improvement in lines after eight weeks of using their upcoming argan oil-rich firming face cream.
So it’s hard to disagree with natural or organic when the science is as good as it is for Josie Maran Argan Oil SPF 47!
Ingredients: Water**, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride**, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Polyglyceryl-6 Polyricinoleate**, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polysilicone-11, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil**, Glycerin**, Cera Alba (Beeswax)*, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Phenoxyethanol, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Methicone, Alumina, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Chloride**, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, Parfum (Fragrance)**, Bisabolol, Dimethicone, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Laureth-12, Ethylhexylglycerin, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Citric Acid**, Potassium Sorbate**, Sodium Benzoate**. *Organic. **Natural.
3.) Best Lightweight Sunscreen: Kate Somerville Waterlight Broad Spectrum SPF 50 PA+++ Anti-Aging Sunscreen
I’m normally about high SPF. The higher the UVA protection (measured by PA), and the higher the UVB protection (measured by SPF rating), the better.
But there are times when I need to look my best: Photo shoots, big meetings, or interviews come to mind. And when I do, I reach for this cosmetically-sound sunscreen.
This is a super lightweight formula that feels almost like water. It absorbs into the skin very well, and stays put. No telltale white streaks, no cosmetic issues, nothing. Just beautiful skin, well protected with 12% zinc oxide!
Ingredients: Water, Isododecane, Dimethicone, Butyloctyl Salicylate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Glycerin, Caprylyl Methicone, Dicaprylyl Ether, Nylon-6/12, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Coconut Alkanes, Methylcellulose, Stearic Acid , Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Adenosine, Lentinus Edodes Extract, Trehalose, Triacetin, Tocopherol, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Urea, Sodium PCA, Parfum (Fragrance), Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysorbate 20, Polyquaternium-51, Carbomer, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Disodium EDTA, Benzoic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Alumina
4.) Best for UVB (UV-Burning) Protection: Neutrogena Age Shield Sunscreen SPF 110
A physics professor of mine used to always say, “The numbers don’t lie, and neither do I.”
Well, I don’t know about him for certain, but numbers surely don’t lie. And the sky-high rating on Neutrogena Age Shield Sunscreen SPF 110 indicates this has more UVB protection than a pair of blue jeans (which is SPF 99).
That said, this is not a cosmetically-appealing sunscreen. It is very, very white. I don’t mind using it, unless I have a big business meeting or presentation (after all, everyone knows I’m a skincare fanatic; ultra-heavy sunscreen goes with the territory). But if I have a big business meeting or presentation, I won’t use it.
If thick, white, visible sunscreen doesn’t bother you, reach for Neutrogena Age Shield Sunscreen SPF 110. Applied liberally, it’s the best sunscreen out there for burning that I could find.
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (15%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (4%), Oxybenzone (5%). Other ingredients: Water, Styrene Acrylamide Copolymer, Silica, Beeswax, Cyclopentasiloxane, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG 100, PEG 100 Stearate, Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Chlorphenesin, Triethanolamine, Disodium EDTA, Dipotassium, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, BHT, Methylisoptiazolinone, Diethylexyl 2, 6 Naphthalate, Fragrance.
5.) Best for Children: BuScreen SPF 50 KIDS Fragrance-Free Sunscreen
Great for kids six months of age or older, BuScreen SPF 50 KIDS Fragrance-Free Sunscreen is portable, easy-to-apply via spray bottle, and provides a full SPF 50. It also doesn’t leave a sticky finish, which is something I know my own five-month-old child (who doesn’t even like lotion, *tears*) will appreciate.
Cyclopentasiloxane – considered an emollient that soothes and softens the skin by keeping moisture locked in.
Butyloctyl Salicylate – emollient, moisturizing agent and sunscreen solvent.
Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene – Photo-stablizes Avobenzone & Octinoxate.
Diphenylsiloxy Phenyl Trimethicone – a Silicone compond that helps Skin conditioning.
VP/Hexadecene Copolymer – provides water resistance by providing a film forming binding.
Octyldodecanol – acts has a lubricant on the skin surface, gives the skin a soft, smooth appearance.
Polybutene – used as a binder- keeping ingredients together.
Tocopherols – Vitamin E antioxidant.
Bisabolol – an active plant extract isolated from German chamomile and thought to have anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties.
6.) Best for Workouts: Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 50
I’ve started running a lot recently. (More on that later).
Most of the time, I run indoors. But sometimes, my training requires me to go outside. For those times, I need a sunscreen with staying power. For that, I choose Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 50, with synthetic wax and other ingredients that help this formula stay put.
The label reads that it stays put for up to 80 minutes of activity. I have run with it on for up to 60 minutes with no problem at all, though I haven’t tested the 80 yet!
Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosolate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7%. Water, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Dimethicone, Isododecane, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Propanediol, Glycerin, Silica, Isononyl Isononanoate, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Nylon-12, Caprylyl Methicone, Synthetic Wax, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-8 Laurate, Sucrose Tristearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Steareth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Stearyl Alcohol, Polymethyl Methacrylate, P-Anisic Acid, Chlorphensin, Dimethiconol, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Tocopherol, Artemia Extract, Triethanolamine.
If you’re looking for the best sunscreens, look no further than this guide!