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Have Fun in the Sun With the Right Sunscreen for Your Skin Type

Photo by Mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

By now, we should all know that applying SPF lotion in any given daytime weather is an absolute must if we want healthy skin. Regardless of the year or season, skin cancer and harmful signs of skin aging will never be in. “Sunscreen is a non-negotiable component of any skincare routine, playing a crucial role in protection from harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays,” explains aesthetics nurse injector Annie Bruno. “UVA rays contribute to premature aging, while UVB rays can lead to sunburn. A well-blended SPF guards against both types of UV radiation, allowing you to enjoy outdoor activities and sun exposure safely.”

Taking things a step further, many of us know SPF 30 is the bare minimum dermatologist-recommended amount of protection. But what’s much less discussed is how to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type. With an array of active ingredients and so many different products, SPF isn’t one-size-fits-all. Whether you have dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, or none of the above, there’s an SPF designed with you in mind. We chatted with several dermatology professionals to get an answer to our burning (pun intended) questions about SPF and find the skincare products that are right for you. This includes acne prone skin, people who prefer a matte finish, moisturizing sunscreens, and anti-aging ingredients. Also remember: Sunscreen isn’t waterproof, but there are water-resistant products on the market to look for. With that, don’t let a white cast deter you! Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to wear sunscreen for your skin type.

About the Experts: 
Ariel Ostad, MD, is a cosmetic surgeon and founder of a namesake skincare line.
Annie Bruno, RN, CANS, LE, CLT, is a board-certified aesthetics nurse injector and owner of Skin Charm in Scottsdale, AZ.
Jackie Habashy, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Divina Dermatology in Beverly Hills, California.

How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for Your Skin Type

Finding Your Skin Type

First things first—in order to choose the right sunscreen for you, you have to know your skin type. “If your skin appears shiny throughout the day, you have oily skin,” says cosmetic surgeon Ariel Ostad, MD. “If your skin feels tight or flakey, then you likely have dry skin. If you have a shiny area in your T-zone, you probably have combination skin. If you get red easily or break out easily, you probably have sensitive or acne-prone skin. If your skin feels hydrated and comfortable, but not oily, you likely have normal skin.”

If you’re unsure, or you want a guaranteed professional opinion, “Advanced tools like Visia for analysis and assessment using a magnifying lamp provide an in-depth understanding of your skin,” Bruno explains. “Visia evaluates various aspects, including texture, pores, and sun damage, offering valuable insights into your skin’s unique characteristics.”

The Different Types of Sunscreen

Physical/Mineral Sunscreen

If you see the ingredients zinc oxide, titanium oxide, and iron oxide on your sunscreen label, that means the packaging contains physical (aka mineral) sunscreen. “Physical sunscreens create a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, reflecting and scattering harmful UV rays,” explains Bruno.

If you’re new to mineral sunscreen, you can’t go wrong with the KATE SOMERVILLE Daily Deflector Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. Developed by one of our favorite heritage high-end skincare brands, you can expect a dewy formula out of an ergonomic pump.

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, commonly contain oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. “Chemical sunscreens absorb and convert UV rays into heat, preventing them from penetrating the skin,” Bruno says. 

Our chemical sunscreen pick? The GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50. If you dig the viral brand for its moisture products, its sunscreen doesn’t fall short. In addition to its sun protection, this multihyphenate includes niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and aloe to elevate the appearance of your complexion over time.

How to Find the Best Sunscreen for Your Skin Type

1. Consider Your Skin Tone

First and foremost, are you fair-skinned? Do you burn easily? If so, Dr. Ostad encourages you to opt for a mineral sunscreen “because it creates a physical separation between you and the sun,” he says. “Mineral-based sunscreen provides protection against both the sun’s UVB and UVA rays, which are the two types of ultraviolet radiation that cause damage to the skin.” That said, he recommends mineral sunscreen to everyone—but it’s especially important to take note if you’re more prone to burning. 

2. Look for Ingredients That Address Your Specific Skin Concerns

The good news is SPF is so advanced these days that there really is something for everyone, in addition to the main purpose at hand.

“Sunscreens are formulated with diverse ingredients to cater to various skin types,” Bruno says. “Some sunscreens even act as a dual-purpose product, combining SPF protection with moisturizing benefits. For instance, if you have dry skin, look for sunscreens containing hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Those with oily or acne-prone skin may benefit from oil-free formulations or sunscreens with mattifying properties. Consider your individual preferences and lifestyle when choosing a sunscreen that seamlessly integrates into your skincare routine.”

As for specific recs, dermatologist Jackie Habashy, MD, recommends Allure Best of Beauty winner, BLUE LIZARD Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ for skin that needs a little extra TLC. “It has hydrating ingredients, and it’s free of fragrance and chemicals that can potentially lead to irritation.” 

She’s also a huge fan of the acclaimed ELTAMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46. “It’s great for oily or acne-prone skin,” she raves. “It’s noncomedogenic and includes niacinamide, which can help reduce inflammation.”

3. Determine Whether You’ll Need a Tint

Opting for a tinted SPF vs. something clear or white adds an additional layer of decision-making. Should you opt for a tint, you’ll want to take your skin concerns and skin type, and implement them into your tinted SPF selection. 

Dr. Habashy says ALASTIN HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36 “is great for normal skin types that may also want a little coverage with a universal tint.” 

Dr. Ostad says if you’re going the tinted route, his non-comedogenic Sun Shade Tint is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that  “also works wonderfully as a primer for daily use, and is enhanced by the addition of melanin—a naturally occurring antioxidant pigment in the skin—to create a beautiful tint shade.” 

We’re personally fans of the vegan COTZ Natural Tinted Face SPF 40, thanks to its silky formula that doubles as a makeup primer. The product starts out tinted, but dissipates into the skin as it blends. Who doesn’t love a natural glow?

Want in on all the IPSY SPF fun and more? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira is a Los Angeles-based beauty writer, who has a passion for hair, makeup, and skincare. She contributes regularly to Mane Addicts and her blog, Skyelyfe. Her work has also appeared on Glossy, People, E!, Sweety High and more.
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Article Last Updated April 18, 2024 12:00 AM