What's the Best Face Sunscreen?

We tested products designed for faces and found some that worked better than others

You don't really need a special sunscreen for your face, since the active ingredients in face and body sunscreens are the same. And our top sunscreen lotions overall provide better protection than even the best face sunscreen we tested.

Still, you may want to use a sunscreen designed for your face because these products are formulated to suit the needs of different skin types, explains Arielle Kauvar, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine.

For example, many facial sunscreens are oil-free, which is a boon for those with oily or acne-prone complexions. Oil-free products are usually lighter as well, which allows them to be used under makeup without feeling greasy.

In addition, facial sunscreens often have no fragrance or just have a light scent, and because fragrances are one of the major causes of skin irritation, that's a plus if you have sensitive skin.

What to Consider

We looked at eight face sunscreens and found two to recommend. The best face sunscreen in our tests is Avon Sun + Face Lotion SPF 40. It's oil-free but contains a moderate amount of floral and citrus aroma. Second place went to Target’s Up & Up Ultra Sheer SPF 30, which has little scent. Both provide plenty of broad-spectrum and SPF coverage, and meet their claims.

Here's what else you need to know about choosing the best face sunscreen:

  • To save money: If you don’t want to pay a premium for a separate face sunscreen but want one that’s lightweight, avoid ultra-­high SPFs. In general, those products contain higher levels of active ingredients that can make them seem heavier on your skin.
  • Beware of mineral sunscreens: We included mineral sunscreens for your face in our tests. But as we found with body sunscreens, facial products with only the mineral active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide were not highly rated in our tests.
  • Apply properly. Even the best face sunscreen won’t protect you as well if you don’t use the right amount. Use a teaspoon to cover your face and neck—and consider squirting out a little more so you can cover your chest, too. And if you use a moisturizer with SPF instead of a face sunscreen, you should still reapply it every two hours if you're out in the sun, just as you should with any sunscreen.
  • Be careful with spray sunscreens: Don't spray your face. Instead, spray into your hand and rub the product on your face.

Editor's Note: This article was adapted from the July 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Trisha Calvo

I've covered health and nutrition my entire career, so I know how to separate science from hype. Whether it's about food labels, sunscreen, or food safety, my goal is to deliver information that makes following a healthy lifestyle easier. Healthy cooking is a favorite hobby, and friends think I'm crazy, but I can happily spend hours grocery shopping. Follow me on Twitter. (@TrishaCalvo)