The Best Sunscreens For Under Makeup
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As essential as sunscreen is, there's no denying that finding your holy grail SPF — one that feels weightless under your makeup and doesn’t cause pilling — can feel like a never-ending quest. To help make things easier, Elite Daily consulted with several experts to find the perfect pick for every skin type. To put it simply, the best sunscreens for under makeup are the ones you'll actually wear, according to dermatologist Dr. Tiffany Libby. "I tell patients that any sunscreen they use that meets the criteria of SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum coverage against UVA and UVB rays, and water-resistant, I approve," she says. That said, when trying to find your perfect sunscreen, you’ll also want to consider specific skin concerns like acne, dryness, oiliness, or allergies. Additionally, you’ll want to narrow down whether you want a sunscreen that uses mineral or chemical filters (more on that in a minute).
Dr. Tiffany Libby, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist with Brown Dermatology in Rhode Island. She is also the director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery. Dr. Libby is dual accredited in Micrographic Surgery & Dermatologic Oncology and Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery.
Clarissa Luna is a New York City-based makeup artist with more than a decade of professional experience. She has worked with celebrities like Megan Fox, Lana Condor, Tinashe, and Camila Cabello on everything from red carpets and music videos to magazine shoots and fashion campaigns.
Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen Filters
Mineral (or physical) sunscreen filters sit on the skin's surface, working as a shield to block UV rays. Because of this, they're typically better tolerated by those with skin sensitivities, but they often leave a noticeable white cast behind. Then, there are chemical filters, which work by absorbing UV rays. Chemical sunscreens tend to blend into skin more inconspicuously, and are therefore a better option for darker skin tones, but they can pose a risk of irritation, particularly if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.
"I prefer mineral-based sunscreens, and I often end up using ones that also have chemical sunscreen filters in them as they tend to be more easily rubbed in and blend better into my skin type," Dr. Libby shares of her personal preference. You'll typically find these filters listed under the "active ingredients” section on the back of the bottle:
- Mineral sunscreen filters: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide
- Chemical sunscreen filters: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate
How To Apply Sunscreen Under Makeup
Dr. Libby explains that your sunscreen should be applied as the last step of your skin care routine and just before you apply your makeup. "You should apply a nickel-sized amount of sunscreen for the face, which is approximately two finger lengths," she says, adding that because no sunscreen is 100% effective, it's important to apply the correct amount and reapply often.
"We have such an amazing variety of sunscreens available to us now, that we really have no excuse not to reapply," Dr. Libby says of sunscreen powders (like Supergoop’s (Re)setting Mineral Powder) and mists (like Sun Bum’s Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Spray and COOLA’s SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray). You can also layer a foundation or CC cream with SPF over your face sunscreen for added protection (Dr. Libby likes the IT Cosmetics CC+ Nude Glow Lightweight Foundation + Glow Serum With SPF 40).
Shop The Best Sunscreens For Under Makeup
In a hurry? Here are the best sunscreens to wear under makeup:
1. Best Drugstore Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin: Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Face Liquid SPF 50
2. Best Drugstore Sunscreen For Acne-Prone Skin: Neutrogena Clear Face Breakout Free Liquid Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50
3. Best Drugstore Sunscreen For Dry Skin: Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen SPF 60
4. Best Luxury Mineral Sunscreen: SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Sunscreen
5. Best French Pharmacy Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum with Sunscreen
6. Best Water-Gel Sunscreen: ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel SPF 50+
7. Best Skin-Perfecting Sunscreen: TULA Mineral Magic Sunscreen SPF 30
1. Dermatologist's Pick: Best Drugstore Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
"This is a pure mineral face sunscreen that is sheer, lightweight, and non-comedogenic so it won't clog pores," says Dr. Libby. "It is also endorsed by the National Eczema Association so it's perfect for sensitive skin types," she adds of the hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula. The liquid sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, gives skin a matte finish, and contains soothing ingredients like niacinamide, allantoin, and bisabolol to protect sensitive skin.
SPF Level: 50 Sunscreen Type: Mineral Key Ingredients: Allantoin, Bisabolol, Niacinamide, Vitamin E Size: 1.7 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
2. Makeup Artist's Pick: Best Drugstore Sunscreen For Acne-Prone Skin
"I have used this for years, and can say that it is truly a breakout-free formula and safe to use on sensitive and acne-prone skin," says Luna of Neutrogena’s Clear Face Sunscreen SPF 50. "I struggled for years to find a sunscreen that worked for my sensitive, acne-prone skin, and this formula fits the bill. Not only does it protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, but the lightweight texture makes it perfect to wear under makeup," she says. Oil-free and water-resistant up to 80 minutes, it contains oil-absorbing ingredients like silica and aluminum starch to soak up excess shine.
SPF Level: 50 Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Bisabolol, Purslane Extract Size: 3 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
3. Makeup Artist's Pick: Best Drugstore Sunscreen For Hydration
If you prefer something with a little more moisture that won't leave your skin greasy either, Luna swears by Aveeno's Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen. "The probiotic oat gives you all-day hydration," she says of the oat oil, oat extract, and oat flour combo. "And the oil-free formula means your makeup won't slide off (not even during a workout, honey)," Luna adds. Like the first two sunscreens on this list, this one is water resistant up to 80 minutes and rings up at less than $15 on Amazon.
SPF Level: 60 Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Oat Kernel Extract Size: 3 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
4. Writer's Pick: Best Luxury Mineral Sunscreen
I've tried a lot of facial sunscreens over the years, thanks to being blessed with skin that is both acne-prone and sensitive to experiencing irritation and dryness with something as simple as a change in the weather (lucky me, I know). None of them has come close to SkinMedica's Essential Defense. It's a mineral formula that's hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, so I don't have to worry about breaking out in a rash. And it's oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it doesn't contribute to acne, either. Even better, it's actually a pleasure to use. There's zero white cast or scent, and it blends into my skin without even a hint of grease or tackiness. That smooth texture means it doesn't interfere with makeup, and I swear it actually makes my foundation last longer (probably because it includes many of the same silicone ingredients you'll find in makeup primers).
SPF Level: 35 Sunscreen Type: Mineral Key Ingredients: Green Tea Leaf Extract, Caffeine Size: 1.85 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
5. Editor’s Pick: Best French Pharmacy Sunscreen
“I’ve waxed poetic about this sunscreen countless times — and since it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried for wearing underneath makeup, I had to recommend it for this article,” says Elite Daily beauty editor Adeline Duff. “It’s cleverly formulated like a serum, so although it’s on the creamy side, it has a really lightweight, barely-there feel. Just give it a few seconds to sink in and you’ll forget you’re wearing any SPF at all,” she adds.
Made by a renowned French pharmacy brand, this oil-free sunscreen contains vitamins C and E to help promote a more even skin tone, and comes in a handy pump-top bottle to keep the formula fresh. It’s the perfect one-and-done product to layer under your foundation or concealer in the morning.
SPF Level: 50 Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
6. Editor's Pick: Best Water-Gel Sunscreen
“Just as its name implies, ISNTREE’s Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel feels as light as water on your skin — meaning, not only is it a great alternative to heavy sun creams and lotions, but it also wears beautifully underneath makeup,” explains Duff of one of her favorite Korean sunscreens. “Impressively, it’s made with eight different types of hyaluronic acid to keep your skin hydrated, as well as skin-soothers like centella asiatica extract and niacinamide. That means you get both immediate and long-term benefits by wearing this sunscreen daily; the immediate being a dewy finish with zero white cast (in addition to SPF 50 protection); and the long-term being healthy, hydrated, even-looking skin.”
SPF Level: 50 Sunscreen Type: Chemical Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Centella Asiatica, Ceramide, Hyaluronic Acid, Fig Fruit Extract, Astaxanthin Size: 1.69 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
7. Editor's Pick: Best Skin-Perfecting Sunscreen
"This is my go-to sunscreen for wearing with no makeup, since it has blurring, redness-reducing, and glow-boosting effects," Elite Daily editor Caroline Goldstein says of TULA’s Mineral Magic Sunscreen. "But it's incredibly lightweight, hydrating, and blends into nothing (it truly feels like a lotion), so it works gorgeously under makeup, too. As a bonus, the mineral formula never irritates my skin, which tends to be sensitive to chemical sunscreens."
SPF Level: 30 Sunscreen Type: Mineral Key Ingredients: Peach Extract, Red Algae, Coconut Fruit Extract, Aloe Extract, Turmeric Root Extract, Beet Root Extract, Vitamin E Size: 1.7 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
Dr. Tiffany Libby, M.D., board-certified dermatologist
Clarissa Luna, celebrity makeup artist