The Best Sunscreens For Combination Skin

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When you have skin that gets oily in some spots and dry in others, it can be tough to find the right sunscreen. So, Elite Daily turned to a professional to help. According to dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Marcus, the best sunscreens for combination skin are oil-free, non-comedogenic, and lightweight. Dr. Marcus prefers mineral — also known as physical — sunscreens for patients with acne-prone skin, so if you fall into that category, look for sunscreens that list zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the key active ingredients. Sunscreens that contain nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides are great, too, the expert says, since they moisturize skin while protecting it, which can cut down on the number of products you need to apply.

When it comes to combination skin, Dr. Marcus says to avoid pore-clogging, acne-causing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil, just to name a few. If you have combination skin that’s also sensitive or acne-prone, even the ingredients in chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and homosalate, can trigger acne breakouts, but the dermatologist adds, “If someone has a preference for chemical sunscreen and it doesn’t irritate their skin, then I wholeheartedly support using whatever sunscreen they will happily use on a daily basis.” At the end of the day, the best sunscreen for you is the one you like and will actually use. It may take a bit of trial and error, but any of the five sunscreens below should serve as a good starting-out point.

1. Doctor’s Pick: The Overall Best Sunscreen For Combination Skin

“Elta MD is a great brand with various sunscreens for many different skin types,” Dr. Marcus says, identifying the brand’s UV Clear as her top pick for combination and/or acne-prone skin. As the name implies, the fragrance- and oil-free sunscreen goes on transparent and provides SPF 46 protection, making it ideal for everyday use. Formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid and skin-supporting niacinamide, this sunscreen was designed to be safe for people with sensitive, easily irritated skin, acne, and conditions such as rosacea. Do note that this a hybrid mineral/chemical sunscreen, as it contains the chemical sunscreen ingredient octinoxate, in addition to zinc oxide, but it’s still doctor-approved and very gentle.

2. Doctor’s Pick: Best Budget Sunscreen For Combination Skin

Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Liquid Sunscreen is another great pick,” Dr. Marcus says, noting that she “loves the super lightweight texture.” It’s made with zinc oxide as the key sun-protecting ingredient, and also contains skin-calming and moisturizing ingredients like allantoin, bisabolol, and vitamin E. At the same time, silicones such as dimethicone help absorb excess oil and promote an overall smoothing effect; combined with the aforementioned nourishing ingredients, it’s a winning recipe for combination skin. What’s more, the clear, fragrance-free formula offers SPF 50 protection and up to 80 minutes of water resistance, so it’s a solid choice for sunny days and active lifestyles. It even boasts the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association, meaning it’s a good choice for people with sensitive skin.

3. Best Gel Sunscreen For Combination Skin

This lightweight, gel-lotion sunscreen from Neutrogena’s best-selling Hydro Boost line is cosmetically elegant, as it sinks in immediately to give skin a refreshing, skin-plumping boost without any stickiness or heaviness. Naturally, then, it’s a great option for warm, humid days and people who hate the feel of thick, heavy sunscreens (which is often the case for people with combination skin, since it’s easy for the oilier areas of their face to feel suffocated). With an SPF of 30 and a water-resistant rating of up to 80 minutes, it gets its long-lasting moisture from glycerin and hyaluronic acid (a staple in all Hydro Boost products).

Unlike the other sunscreens on this list, this is a straight-up chemical sunscreen, but it doesn’t contain any oils or other, pore-clogging ingredients. As the doctor mentioned, whether you use chemical or mineral sunscreens is a personal choice — but if you do find that mineral sunscreens work best for you, then skip this one.

4. Best Tinted Sunscreen For Combination Skin

Many tinted sunscreens come in just one shade, but MDSolarSciences Mineral BB Crème comes in three: light, medium, and dark. All at once, this sunscreen will give your face a hint of color, a healthy glow, and SPF 50 protection (as well as 80 minutes of water resistance). The well-balanced formula is made with antioxidant-rich ingredients like niacinamide, green tea, and vitamins C and E, in addition to zinc oxide for sun protection. It’s free of both fragrance and oil, so it shouldn’t irritate combination skin types that are acne-prone or sensitive, and it leaves behind a matte finish: perfect for the oilier parts of your face.

BB creams typically offer more sun protection than tinted moisturizers, and Dr. Marcus says it’s fine to use moisturizing products with sunscreen (as opposed to traditional, straight-up sunscreens), just so long as you apply enough product to get adequate coverage. “You should aim to apply 1/4-teaspoon of sunscreen to the face and another 1/4-teaspoon to the neck,” the expert says.

5. Best SPF Moisturizer For Combination Skin

As someone with combination skin that is also easily irritated and breakout-prone, I can vouch for Olay Regenerist Mineral Sunscreen. It’s a gentle, oil- and fragrance-free, two-in-one moisturizer and sunscreen made with glycerin, amino peptides, and niacinamide— and unlike many other mineral sunscreens, which I find hard to work with without a ton of rubbing, this lotion absorbs quickly and feels pleasant and lightweight, and dries quickly so you can apply makeup (if you want) soon after. It has an SPF of 30, and makes a great, multitasking product for rushed mornings.


Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Marcus, North Dallas Dermatology Associates