10 face sunscreens for every skin type

Because yes, you need to wear sunscreen year-round.

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Curology Team
Jun 21, 2022 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Winter, spring, summer or fall, it’s always important to keep protecting your skin from the sun, no matter the season. UV rays penetrate through clouds, so you need broad spectrum SPF even on those gloomy days. Future-you will thank you!

Sunscreen is essential year-round, but finding the right one for your unique skin isn’t always easy. No need to stress—we’ve decoded the technical language and researched some of the best sunscreens for each skin type (that are designed to not clog your pores).

How to apply Curology Sunscreen SPF 30 Mineral Formula 1

Sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Mineral (or physical) sunscreens often offer the best sun protection for acne-prone skin. Chemical sunscreens can irritate some people’s skin (which may lead to more breakouts). Look for products labeled non-comedogenic. As a rule of thumb, avoid pore-clogging ingredients such as coconut oil, lauric acid, and isopropyl palmitate.

Closeup of woman in sunglasses facing left and applying cream to left cheek with index finger against a purple background

Sunscreen for normal-to-oily skin

If you're looking for sun protection for normal to oily skin, a lightweight gel or lotion sunscreen works well for normal and oily skin types, as it won’t leave your face feeling greasy. Instead of reapplying the gel or lotion throughout the day, you can try adding a powder sunscreen on top that both adds protection and absorbs oil. Don’t use powder instead of your regular sunscreen, but on top of it — it won’t usually provide enough protection on its own.

Sunscreen for sensitive and/or dry skin

If your skin is pretty dry, try applying moisturizer before your sunscreen. Look for heavier lotions, cream-based sunscreens, or moisturizers with SPF for dry skin. And definitely avoid any product with alcohol in the ingredient list!

Sunscreen for combination skin

For combination skin sun protection, you can switch it up depending on the season and however your skin is feeling. If you’re oilier, try a lightweight sunscreen under the Normal-to-Oily list above. If you’re on the dry side, try a richer formula designed to lock moisture into your skin, from the above list of sunscreens for Sensitive and/or Dry.

Sunscreen for black and brown skin

Darker skin has some natural protection from the sun, but it’s not 100%. If you’re going to spend time outdoors, you’ll want to put sunscreen on! The following are all good sunscreen options for darker skin tones—or, choose one from the above lists based on your skin type (oily, dry, combination, sensitive, or acne-prone).

Super-sensitive—or think you may be allergic to sunscreen?

Some people have allergies to chemical sunscreens and end up with an itchy rash. If this happens to you, ditch the chemical sunscreen and try one labeled physical-only.

If for some reason you still have a reaction, we advise visiting a dermatologist in-person, as there may be other factors contributing to your skin irritation.

Sunscreen for sports, swimming, and sweaty activities

  • Use a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.

  • Reapply at least every 2 hours—or, after 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating (according to the label instructions), and immediately after towel-drying.

  • If you’re swimming in the ocean, consider using reef-friendly sunscreen. These physical sunscreens use mineral ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are safer for coral reefs and the surrounding marine life compared to chemical sunscreen ingredients.

  • Amavara SPF 30 Lotion - lasts for up to 80 minutes in the water!

Image of woman sun tanning on beach

FAQs

What’s the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?

Sunscreens can be classified as mineral (aka physical), chemical, or both, depending on their ingredients. TIP: No matter what sunscreen you’re using, remember to apply about 15-20 minutes before going outside.

Mineral sunscreen (aka physical sunscreen)

  • Contains titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which can help soothe irritation

  • Physically reflects or “bounces” sunlight away from the skin

  • Certain kinds of physical sunscreen may leave a white cast on the skin (unless rubbed in well, micronized, or tinted)

Chemical sunscreen

  • Contains ingredients such as avobenzone and oxybenzone

  • Absorbs UV light so that it can’t penetrate the skin

  • May irritate or cause an allergic reaction in certain people’s skin

What is the proper way to apply sunscreen?

Use up to a half teaspoon for the face and neck. You can also follow the two-finger rule for sunscreen: Squeeze the product down the length of your pointer finger and middle finger, and that will be enough product for your face and neck (or, one part of your body, like a single arm or lower leg). To put it in perspective, for your body, you should use 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons of sunscreen. During a long day at the beach, one person might use around 1/4 to 1/2 of an 8 oz bottle. No sunscreen, regardless of strength, stays effective longer than two hours.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF number of every sunscreen is based on how quickly redness forms on sunscreen-protected skin compared to unprotected skin. Basically, it’s a measure of the sunscreen’s ability to prevent the sun’s rays from damaging the skin. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is the minimum recommended by Curology’s dermatology providers, and it’s super important to reapply at least every 2 hours. (We can’t repeat this enough!)

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Got skincare questions? Curology’s got you covered

Whatever concerns you may have about your skin, we’re here for you! Whether you're looking to improve your current skincare routine or treat acne, hyperpigmentation, or an anti-aging concern, Curology focuses on helping you achieve your skin goals with the help of a licensed dermatology provider. The first 30 days are free—just pay $4.95 in shipping and handling.* 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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If Curology is right for you, we’ll prescribe you a Custom Formula, plus our must-have moisturizer, gentle cleanser, and our new sunscreen. If you’re an existing Curology member, you can also add the sunscreen to your next order for $14 (plus tax where applicable), and it will arrive straight to your door, along with all of your other skincare essentials. 

This article was originally published on November 6, 2018, and updated on June 21, 2022.

*Sunscreen cannot prevent all harm from UV rays.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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