Skincare Must Have: My Favorite Facial Sunscreens

Summersalt bikini top sz 2 + bottoms sz 2 c/o (also in a one piece; code JEANWANG10 for 10% off), headband + circle bag

With all the focus we put on face creams and anti aging treatments, it’s sometimes easy to forget one of the easiest steps in preventative skin care – daily sun protection! The sheer number of sunscreen choices can be overwhelming, so I wanted to share some that I’ve used and loved over the years, all of which offer both UVA and UVB protection, are fragrance free, and work with my daily makeup. 

While writing this post, I also tapped into Tara Foley, fellow Bostonian and founder of Follain, for her insight. She’s an expert on all things clean beauty and helped educate me on some things to look for (see a brief overview at the end on physical vs. chemical sunscreen)! She also gave me code JEAN15 for 15% off their online boutique. Working on this post served as a gentle reminder to apply sunscreen daily, not just on my face but also on the back of the hands especially if you drive often!

Let’s Get Into It: sunscreens that I love

1. EltaMD UV Clear SPF46 Untinted

SOLD AT: Dermstore (tinted version) and Amazon (tinted version)

KEY FEATURES: Physical + chemical sunscreen, moisturizing, acne calming, works well under makeup 

The untinted version of this is my go-to daily sunscreen, and one I’ve been using for years and still love!

GREAT IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR: 

  • A formula designed to calm sensitive or acne prone skin (the UV “Clear” collection stands for clear skin). 
  • A physical sunscreen that glides on silkily and leaves almost no white cast. Update: Thank you to those of you who messaged me about UV Clear being a combo with both physical and chemical active ingredients. Elta MD also makes a tinted UV Physical and a non-tinted UV Replenish, both of which are listed for extra sensitive facial skin and are purely physical options.
  • A non tinted formula that still works well under makeup for medium skin tones. I’ve tried both the untinted and tinted versions, and personally haven’t noticed much difference under makeup, so have happily stuck with the untinted (less risk of color transfer onto clothes, etc on non makeup days)!
2. Babo Botanicals Tinted Sunscreen 

SOLD AT: Amazon (non-tinted version) on sale! and Follain (non-tinted version)

KEY FEATURES:
Physical sunscreen, SPF 30-40, moisturizing, more stringently clean ingredients

GREAT IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR: 

Note:

  • This is a thicker formula and the non tinted does leave a slightly white cast as seen in the photo below (typical of most physical sunscreens), so I would opt for the lightly tinted version here if you have medium-dark skin, or if you plan on wearing this with makeup.

Best Clean Safe Sunscreen Options Elta MD no white cast

Product comparisons after a few quick strokes of blending. A little more working the product in helps the Babo non tinted blend in more.

3. Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen 

SOLD AT: Dermstore, Sephora and Nordstrom

KEY FEATURES: Chemical Sunscreen, SPF 40, oil free, makeup-gripping

GREAT IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR: 

  • A velvety matte finish that doubles as an awesome primer under makeup
  • A completely clear formula that’s 100% invisible once applied, again making this a great base for under makeup

Note: This may not be the best for breakout prone skin based on some of the reviews I read.

A note about Physical vs Chemical SunscreenS

Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays. The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients. Some say these formulas are less likely to clog pores and may help to reduce redness caused by the sun as it deflects heat from the skin. If you plan to be wearing under makeup or in photos, physical formulas are typically white and can cast an underlying white tone. 

Chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and then absorbs UV rays, converts the rays into heat, and releases them from the body. These formulas are good for under makeup as they are typically clear, lighter in texture and easy to spread. Usually chemical sunscreens are a little more water resistant but it’s important to keep in mind that they take about 20 minutes on average to activate after application. I also want to caveat that chemical sunscreens are more controversial regarding impact to the environment (when products wash off swimmers into the ocean) and there are not a lot of studies done to date on the safety of the ingredients.

I would love to hear your sun protection recommendations!
is there a favorite product that you love and live by?

 

Best Safe Clean Sunscreen Options

Leave a Comment

58 Comments

  1. Amy wrote:

    Hi,
    Thank you for sharing the sunscreen brands. I do use a couple of the mentioned above. However, I am more interested on what you use for Nori :). I’m currently using Babo for the kiddos. Please share yours 🙂

    Posted 7.1.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Amy! I’m using the Babo for Nori as well and also Earth Mama Organics.

      Posted 7.1.20 Reply
  2. Four Seasons Laser Center wrote:

    Amazing. We are also using Babo botanicals tinted sunscreen.

    Posted 11.29.19 Reply
  3. hanna banana wrote:

    I am in love with La Roche Possey tinted mineral sunscreen SPF 50, feels like nothing on skin. no white cast, absorb quickly, coverage like a tinted moisturizer, and no chemicals.

    Posted 7.23.19 Reply
  4. Tina wrote:

    I love Farmacy’s Green Screen! It doesn’t leave a white cast, dries quickly, has no scent, and doesn’t make my oily/combo skin any greasier than usual (which is rare when it comes to sunscreen). I’ve started using it daily under my makeup and unlike every other brand I’ve tried (including supergoop), it doesn’t cause my makeup to melt off.

    Posted 7.21.19 Reply
  5. Monica Davis wrote:

    Thanks for this article! Because of my job I completely forgot about sunscreen! I’ll definitely that try Babo Botanicals creme!

    Posted 7.18.19 Reply
  6. Definitely need to try these sunscreens <3 🙂 It's so important to stay protected during the summer months!

    XO, Elizabeth T.

    Posted 7.11.19 Reply
  7. Alice wrote:

    I only purchase sunscreens with an EWG rating of 1. Pretty surprised no one has commented about EWG yet.
    https://www.ewg.org/

    Posted 7.11.19 Reply
  8. Joy wrote:

    Hi Jean! Thanks for reviewing these sunscreens 🙂 I’m always on the lookout for the perfect one. Just an FYI, there was a study earlier this year that showed some chemical sunscreens absorb fairly quickly into the bloodstream. It’s not clear what kind of health effects this may have — that has yet to be studied, but it’s good to be aware of:

    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2733085

    If you plan to continue trying sunscreens, I’d love to hear your reviews of Asian brands. I currently use Neogen (https://sokoglam.com/collections/sunscreen/products/neogen-day-light-sun-protection-sun-screen) and I’ve heard good things about the Biore sunscreens that are only sold in Japan (but available on Amazon).

    Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  9. Jenn wrote:

    I found a sunscreen in Japan and apparently it has a cult following – Biore UV Aqua Rich. It’s SPF 50 and it’s more watery and it goes on so smooth and not chalky. You can get it on amazon!

    Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  10. Bgirl wrote:

    I’ve been using the Missha all around safeblock essence and I LOVE it.

    It does not leave a white cast, is sweat and water resistant, and does not cause on a rash on my super sensitive skin. Best of all it feels just like a light moisturizer and does not have the same oily/sticky feeling many other sunscreens have.

    You can easily buy on Amazon. Could not recommend more! As FYI it is a chemical sunblock.

    Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  11. Nicolette wrote:

    Have you tried any Beauty Counter products? I just got introduced to it, love the makeup remover wipes but noticed they made a sunscreen as well. Supposed to be a clean brand as well

    Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  12. Maureen wrote:

    This is a great list of recommendations! I have not had a chance to use any of these products but will definitely check out. The sun is intense where I live and if there’s anything I need on my skin, it’s sun protection!

    Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Laguna Herbals, Josh Rosebrook Nutrient day spf, badger(now has a clear zinc version). From what I have read physical is better than chemical. When it comes to physical sunscreen, look for non-nano versions.

    Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  14. I was unfamiliar with all of these brands. Thanks for all the information! I wear sunscreen religiously and am always looking to try new ones.

    Posted 7.9.19 Reply
  15. Gulnara I Mambetova wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    Which Vitamin C serum for a face would you recommend. My dermatologist suggested Skinseutical or Obagi products but its very pricey. Do you have any other alternatives?

    Please advice.

    Posted 7.9.19 Reply
  16. Anny wrote:

    Can you make a post about your headbands? I love all of them!

    Posted 7.9.19 Reply
  17. Lucy C wrote:

    Hi everyone,
    i apply my sunscreen under my makeup at the beginning of the day. Any suggestions for how to reapply sun protection without having to redo your makeup throughout the day? Thanks!

    Posted 7.9.19 Reply
    • Lia wrote:

      Second this!

      Posted 7.10.19 Reply
  18. Diane wrote:

    I just found My Chelle Sunshield liquid, comes in a couple tints and untinted. The lightest, nude, is the only natural sunscreen that doesn’t settle in my wrinkles immediately and it goes on in a matte finish which is great for my oily skin, oddly the untinted does settle. I am fair but still find the nude is a little bit dark for me in the winter but gives my face just enough color in the summer.

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  19. Janet wrote:

    Hi Jean, Do you have any recommendation on sunscreen that works with foundation? I tried Lancome UV Expert AquaGel primer/ moisturizer with Estee Lauder Double Wear. That combination left my skin very dry and only lasted about 4 hours.

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  20. Loved all of these options! Sunscreen is so important in the summer.

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  21. Karen wrote:

    I second the Tatcha sunscreen rec! I have oily / acne prone skin and my husband has sensitive / eczema prone skin and Tatcha is the one sunscreen we both like and don’t react to!

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  22. Xiaomi wrote:

    Follain is the best!! I like Supergoop products (esp the undereye sunblock), but i looooove Coola’s products for face, esp the makeup primer that has SPF in it. it feels so good on my skin and looks great. a mineral sunscreen i love for body is by Everyday for Everybody. i also use Suntegrity, which Follain sells.

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  23. Sukie Xu wrote:

    Hi Jean – Do you have any recommendation on sunscreen for babies?

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  24. Marisa wrote:

    Promo code doesn’t work. Is there another one?

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Marisa, so sorry about that! It should work now – just tested it. You may have to clear your cache for their site if it still doesn’t.

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  25. Rena wrote:

    Thanks for sharing and I like your bikini!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  26. Thank you for the recommendations, Jean! I wish some of these products I could get easily where I live! They sound great! ❤️✨

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  27. Mireia wrote:

    I was currently looking for a new good sunscreens! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  28. Yes yes yes! Thanks for sharing all of these great options Jean!

    I hope you have a great Monday,
    Michael

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  29. Janine wrote:

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing your favorites.
    Xx Janine

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  30. Shrada wrote:

    Jean, what sunscreen would you recommend for the body?

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  31. I have not used these brands before, but it seems like a great product to try. Nice recommendations, Merci for the review Beautiful!

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  32. T p wrote:

    Love Colorscience for touch ups in the car for face and hands! Deem recommmended as tu have to reapply every 2 hours most times.

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  33. Mia wrote:

    I love Murad City Skin Age Defense SPF50 PA++++ Mineral Sunscreen (it has a color correcting tint, titanium dioxide 2.7%, zinc oxide 10%) and it guards against UVA/UVB, infrared radiation and blue light from elections devices, and it has a very fluid texture – I have sensitive dry/combo skin

    Posted 7.8.19 Reply
    • Wei wrote:

      This is my go to in the summer as a facial sunscreen/primer, better than anything else that I have tried from Tatcha, Sheisdeo, Supergoop, etc. I have combo/dry skin.

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  34. Thishara wrote:

    Hi, do you know if any of these are reef safe? Thank you!

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I saw that Babo was listed by Hawaii.com as reef safe.

      Posted 7.7.19 Reply
    • Oxybenzone and octinoxate are the two chemicals that Hawaii law is regulating, targeted because they are thought to cause or contribute to coral bleaching. Any sunscreen with either of these ingredients would not be considered “reef safe.” Both chemicals are still widely used in sunscreens and both are chemical blocks as opposed to mineral blocks. Sometimes a sunscreen that advertises itself as a mineral sunscreen will also contain chemicals like these. Always check the back label, and allow the sunscreen to absorb for the recommended time before entering the ocean, otherwise it is probably washing right off you.

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
    • Thishara, I am back again after checking the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, and if the formulations that I looked at are current, which there is no reason to believe they are not, then the two Babo products Jean featured are physical block sunscreens that I would call reef safe, whereas the rest contain Octinoxate and I would call them NOT reef safe for this reason unfortunately (and surprisingly for Elta; I am not surprised at Supergoop). If you can find EltaMD Skincare UV Pure Face and Body Physical Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 47 — this formulation is a physical sunscreen that does not contain octinoxate or oxybenzone. It rubs in pretty well, probably not as well as the Elta Clear formulas Jean talked about but better than a lot of physical sunscreens I’ve tried. I’d be interested to hear how Babo compares to Badger in terms of thickness, oiliness, effectiveness, and staying power.

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
      • Shelly wrote:

        I’ve never heard of Babo. Thanks! I’ll look into it. I’ve used Biore and Super Goop. I like Elta tinted but do not like the tube/pump. Recently I’ve tried Skinceuticals tinted physical fusion UV defense. It’s good thin formula but good. I tried tizo. It was good thicker than skinceuticals

        Posted 7.10.19 Reply
    • Erin wrote:

      Chemical sunscreens are never reef safe, whereas the active ingredients in physical sunscreens are but whether a given physical block is reef safe turns on what the inactive ingredients are.

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  35. Gwen Kennedy wrote:

    Hi Jean! I have three physical sunblocks for you (can’t wear chemical. I break out in rashes.)

    1) SuperGoop just launched ZincScreen (Broad 40) $42 – a light pinky beige tinted physical sunscreen with a light lotion consistency that doesn’t leave a white cast, works well on varied skin tones and dries down matte after about 15 minutes. 2) Replenix has a Sheer Physical sunscreen (Broad SPF 50) $32 that has loads of healthy ingredients and dries down matte without a cast and lastly, my favorite, 3) Revision Intellishade TruPhysical (Broad 45) $75 that has anti-aging ingredients and a self-adjusting tint that somehow works for my pale skin and the darker skin of my friends. It leaves a dewy glow, perfects skin and I need no makeup. Oh, and I believe all of these are reef safe! 🙂

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
  36. Dianne wrote:

    How do you know when a sunscreen is physical vs chemical? Do labels always state this?

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Dianne, you can look at the active ingredient – usually physical sunscreens have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

      Posted 7.7.19 Reply
      • Chelsea wrote:

        Biossance makes a great mineral SPF 45 with squalane. It does have a bit of shimmer to it, but I don’t think it would be noticeable to anyone else unless they were pretty close (and definitely not if you apply makeup on top). It’s the only sunscreen I’ve tried that hasn’t felt heavy or greasy, or clogged my pores. I also feel like the squalane is very moisturizing. It seems to go on sale somewhat regularly, so I’ve never paid full price!

        Posted 7.8.19 Reply
    • You know a sunscreen is physical when the active ingredients are solely physical blockers like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Sometimes there will be a small amount of oxide alongside chemical blocker ingredients. A lot of sunscreens contain only chemicals and no oxides. The most common chemical blocks I see being used are avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, ocinoxate, and octocrylene. This link has some interesting info on things like how effective different chemicals are at blocking UVA and UVB rays. I will be looking for a higher concentration of zinc after reading it. https://www.organics.org/sunscreen-exposed-the-truth-behind-your-sunscreen/

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  37. Linna wrote:

    I have used Shiseido’s Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42 Sunscreen for the face; it does leave a slightly white cast but I use a tinted BB cream (Missha) so that doesn’t bother me. I also have been using CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Face Lotion with Sunscreen SPF 30, which I realize is a face lotion first and then there is sunscreen but have enjoyed its moisturizing properties.

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
  38. Kate wrote:

    Japanese sunscreen (you can buy on Amazon) such as Biore (2014 version) Aqua is so much better than American versions. They are chemical. However, when it comes to safety, Japanese products have been better than American based on my personal experience and research ( I have a sensetive skin).

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Kate, I use the Biore one from Amazon after reader recommendations years ago and really like how fluid it is! It was actually #4 on my list, but since buying skincare from various individual sellers on Amazon isn’t ideal for product integrity, and some of the ingredients after translation were potentially questionable, I left it off for the time being.

      Posted 7.7.19 Reply
  39. Amina wrote:

    I absolutely love Alastin Hydratint! It’s a super lightweight physical sunscreen that has a beautiful tint, glows on the skin, looks natural and has good coverage. It’s a must in my routine. I also enjoy EltaMD brand. I’m in the medical field and recommended these to all my patients. Thank you for talking about daily sunscreen because it’s very important for preventative measures. Love your blog!

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
    • Maite wrote:

      Thanks for the information! I use the Elta MD sunscreen so I’m happy to see it’s on your list. I’d also be very interested in getting your thoughts on sunscreen for the body as I’m on the hunt for one that provides protection but does not contain too many harmful chemicals.

      Posted 7.8.19 Reply
  40. Jennifer Caffrey wrote:

    I recently discovered Australian Gold (with and without a tint) and it’s worked very well without irritating my skin. I’m fair-skinned and live at 5500 ft. above sea level, and the sun here is very intense. This is the only sunscreen I’ve found that prevents sunburns while I bake in the car during my commute. I liked the idea of the Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen but did find that it caused a breakout.

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
  41. Valeri Pighini wrote:

    I’ve been using the Elta MD UV Sunscreen (Tinted version) for several years now. I’ve tried many others but always come back to this one. It blends into my fair skin very well and I wear it religiously. It adds just the slightest bit of sheer coverage as a lovely make-up base. I wish I were as careful with the skin on the rest of my body though.

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
  42. LeShawna wrote:

    I like the Tatcha sunscreen. I barely notice the white tone.

    Posted 7.7.19 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I haven’t used that one before, but I love almost everything Tatcha that I have tried!

      Posted 7.7.19 Reply
      • Marlana wrote:

        Have you ever used the everyday sunscreen version of supergoop? I know there’s a price difference between that and the unseen one and wasn’t sure if it felt similar or different to you. Thank you!

        Posted 7.9.19 Reply

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