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When the weather heats up, the last thing anyone wants is to slather something heavy on their face. However, sun protection is a non-negotiable, so we’ve rounded up the best lightweight sunscreens to protect your gorgeous face.
Even though it’s the skin care advice most of us don’t want to hear, it’s really important to wear sun protection every day. Even when it’s cloudy, cold, or windy outside, keeping your skin protected every single day is crucial — especially as you get older and sun-related mistakes from the past begin showing up on your skin.
The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that there are more than 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year, making skin cancer the most common type of cancer — but it’s also the most preventable.
Simply put, Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen is the single best thing you can do to prevent skin cancer, but also sun damage that shows up not just by way of painful sunburns, but wrinkles and crow’s feet, age spots, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and patches of rough skin. While you can’t turn back time to reverse the “lathered in baby oil’ days of your youth, you can help stop future damage in its tracks by applying a lightweight sunscreen as part of your daily beauty routine.
What are the best lightweight sunscreens?
- Best Overall Lightweight Sunscreen : EltaMD UV Shield Sunscreen
- Best Lightweight Face Sunscreen : La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 AOX Daily Antioxidant Face Serum SPF 50
- Best anti-aging lightweight sunscreen : Naturium Dew-Glow Moisturizer SPF 50
- Best Lightweight Body Sunscreen for Active Days Outside : Hawaiian Tropic AntiOxidant+ Sunscreen Lotion
- Best Lightweight Sunscreen for City Dwellers : Dr. Loretta Urban Antioxidant Sunscreen SPF 40
- Best Lightweight Sunscreen to Help Reverse Past Sun Damage : SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Sunscreen SPF 34
- Best Lightweight Sunscreen for a Healthy Glow : Australian Gold Botanical Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best Budget-Friendly Lightweight Sunscreen : Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Water Resistant Sunscreen
- Best Lightweight Sunscreen for Harsh Winter Months : Paula’s Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50
- Best Lightweight Sunscreen for Darker Skin Tones : Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
How to Choose The Best Lightweight Sunscreen for Your Skin
Thankfully, it’s never been easier to protect your skin with sunscreen while also providing it tons of nourishing benefits, so it’ll look and feel better than it did in your younger years. Not all sunscreens are made equally, but there are plenty of great options that won’t leave you looking like a relative of Casper the Ghost, or feeling greasy, oily, or sticky.
You’ll want to pay close attention not only to the type of formula you’re choosing (from traditional lotions to newer spray/mists and even serums) but to what’s written on the label. Pick a sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum,” which means it helps block both UVA and UVB rays. We suggest choosing an SPF of at least 30 for daily activities — and higher for days you’re outside gardening, swimming, or relaxing at the beach or pool — but keep in mind that the listed SPF number only reflects the product’s UVB protection, not the UVA.
Sensitive skin types usually prefer mineral sunscreens, since they don’t sink into skin, instead acting as a sort of reflective shield. But the mineral formulas of the past were known for being a bit chalky, with chemical sunscreens feeling a bit lighter and more easily absorbed.
How Often to Reapply Sunscreen?
If you’re spending most of the day inside, you can get away with applying sunscreen along with your morning skin care routine, touching up if you’re heading outdoors. If you’re out in the sun, you should be diligent about reapplying, and more frequently if you sweat profusely or go swimming. Per the American Academy of Dermatology, you’ll want to apply about an ounce (or roughly the amount to fill a shot glass) for your entire body, taking care to get easily neglected spots like your ears, hairline, and your feet.
Practicing good sun hygiene is crucial, especially for women over 50, so you should limit your time in direct sunlight (especially during the peak hours of 10 and 2), wearing hats, sunglasses, and protective gear when possible. And since having your favorite lightweight sunscreen on hand is so important, you’ll want to keep reading to see our favorites.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.
Don’t forget to check out our other beauty stories:
Best Light Sunscreens for Mature Skin
For one of the best of the bunch, you’ll want this dermatologist-approved pick from EltaMD, which provides transparent protection from UVA and UVB rays to shield skin while keeping it feeling silky smooth and radiant. It won’t irritate those with sensitive skin, and it’s suitable for everyday use, so you’ll never be exposing your skin to potentially cancer-causing rays unprotected again.
As one buyer over 70 recently boasted, “I could not live without Elta MD sunscreen. This product has a light scent, is not thick and gloppy, and doesn’t make me break out. I have used it for several years. People comment on my beautiful skin all the time. I put it on before makeup, after my moisturizer. I really love it. I have given it as gifts and recommended it [to] countless others.” Truly a must-buy, indeed!
Finding a sunscreen that feels silky smooth on your face while also protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays can feel next to impossible, but women everywhere are singing the praises of La Roche-Posay’s antioxidant face serum — Kelly Ripa even relies on the brand’s tinted sunscreen as her go-to for luminous skin, so you know it’s good.
This one provides broad-spectrum coverage and a host of antioxidants to help nourish skin while keeping it safe. Whether you’re wearing it under makeup or on its own, your skin will feel healthier as it gets to work on improving trouble areas like fine lines, dark spots, and other visible signs of aging thanks to known skin savers vitamins E and C.
If you’re not much for makeup but no longer like leaving your house with a little something-something on your face, this lightweight sunscreen is for you!
You’ve probably seen Naturium Dew Glow on Instagram and the gorgeous shimmer it gives to skin. We’re happy to report it’s not all smoke and filters, this stuff really works. It has niacinamide, as well as the antioxidant ethyl ascorbic acid. Together the ingredients improve texture and brighten, and when paired with this broad spectrum SPF — oh.my.gawd, it’s good! It’s like wearing highlighter without actually having to strategically put any on and again, it’s a great protector from the sun. Commerce Editor Holly swears by it.
Editor’s review: “I once heard that the majority of skin aging comes from sun damage, so I’m strict about wearing sunscreen — even indoors! When I saw the glowy cast this one gave, I knew I had to order it. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. The creamy sunscreen is really moisturizing, creating a super dewy finish. A little goes a long way, and I’ve received a lot of compliments on my skin since I’ve swapped it for my old sunscreen.”
When the weather finally gets warm enough to spend long days outside lounging at the beach or pool, or getting active by swimming, gardening, or even just going for long walks, you’ll want to be sure your skin is covered no matter how much you’re sweating or toweling off.
This lightweight, non-greasy lotion provides broad-spectrum coverage along with a protective layer of antioxidants, so it prevents damage and accelerated skin aging caused by the sun’s powerful rays. It also has green tea extract to help soothe skin without dryness or irritation, and it’s gentle enough that it won’t burn your eyes as you enjoy a little fun in the sun.
An added bonus is the light, island-inspired scent, which never feels cloying or overpowering. You’ll be instantly transported to a tropical oasis no matter where in the world you are, and your skin will be safe and protected.
Living in the city leaves skin exposed to not only just damage from the sun, but also from environmental irritants and pollution, too. Keeping your delicate skin safe — especially as you age — is of utmost importance, so that’s why we love this hydrating blend of ingredients.
You’ll get antioxidant protection from harmful free radicals in the atmosphere caused by pollution and UV radiation, which are two of the leading causes of fine lines and age spots. Indian ginseng extract protects skin from HEV light emitted from the sun and electronic devices (yep, your phone, laptop, and tablet are also emitting potentially harmful light to skin), while peptides hydrate and help keep skin firm. Zinc oxide protects skin from the sun’s UVA/UVB rays and other environmental irritants. This one is so light, it can even be used as a primer or as a lightweight foundation for those busy days when your full beauty routine just isn’t happening.
Though you can’t turn back the hands of time and tell your younger self to skip the baby oil and protect that gorgeous skin, you can help reverse past damage with this sunscreen, which has earned a coveted seal of approval from the National Skin Cancer Foundation, so you know it’s a keeper.
Along with providing broad-spectrum coverage from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, this sunscreen helps restore skin’s former beauty, minimizing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging, thanks to a unique blend of niacinamide, shea butter for hydration, and antioxidants like vitamins C and E.
Even if you’re super diligent about avoiding the sun unprotected, it’s totally fine if you still want that sun-kissed look as if you’ve just returned from a tropical island paradise. Now you can get it without sacrificing your skin’s safety (and without a passport!) thanks to this non-chemical sunscreen lotion, which delivers a refreshingly luxurious, powdery-clean feel to your face upon application.
Offering a subtle tint in three shades (Fair to Light, Medium to Tan, and Rich to Deep) to seamlessly blend and suit a variety of skin tones, you’ll love the natural looking glow from this oil-free, mattifying lotion, which provides light coverage that can double as foundation.
You don’t have to spend a billion bucks to keep your skin safe, and you don’t have to settle for a goopy, thick, chalky sunscreen either. Dermatologists love this affordable buy with an SPF of 100, that is equally safe and effective for face and body. Reviewers love this pick for its non-comedogenic and non-greasy feel, which comes courtesy of a lightweight, mattifying formula that you’ll look forward to putting on each day.
As one recent five-star reviewer shared, “I have Lupus which requires that I wear sunscreen daily to protect myself from the UV rays which will cause my disease to flare. I have tried many different brands of sunscreen however, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer is the best. It leaves no residue, oily feeling and it works!”
For oily but mature skin, try this hydrating lightweight SPF moisturizer from Paula’s Choice. It has antioxidants that fight against environmental stressors, plus it offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. The dry down gives a matte finish — hence, why we’re suggesting it for oily skin types — but doesn’t leave a cast. Because of this it’s also great on darker skin tones.
Those with darker skin tones know that finding a sunscreen that won’t leave behind a residue of any kind is an especially tall order. Fear not, because this weightless, colorless, scentless, oil-free formula will protect all skin tones without leaving any visible traces behind. It’s so lightweight, it also serves as a makeup primer, protecting skin from the sun’s rays as well as blue light emitted by electronic devices.
One recent buyer called it a “fantastic” pick for all skin tones, writing, “I will never go without. This product applies smooth and is also a primer if you choose to follow with makeup. Truly applies clear and absorbs into skin without leaving skin greasy. No white cast, no pilling. If you are still on the hunt for an effective sunscreen, give this a try.” We’re sold!
No one knows the importance of sun care quite like the Aussies, so we trust our down under neighbors with their expertise, particularly when it comes to protecting sensitive skin. Blue Lizard enlisted the help of leading board-certified dermatologists to create a mineral-based SPF without parabens, fragrances, or known irritants that might cause a less-than-pleasant reaction upon use.
It’s also sweat-resistant, so you can pack it in your beach bag, being sure to reapply after excessive sweating, time in the water, and drying off, while also helping to protect the delicate coral reefs, thanks to the lack of potentially reef-damaging chemicals like oxybenzone or octinoxate.
Glam girls, listen up, because you can still sport a full face of makeup while also keeping your skin protected from the sun. This self-dispensing mineral powder contains SPF 50 for full-coverage protection with a touchably soft feel that won’t mess with your makeup.
In four shades ranging from fair to deep, the mineral formula means the sun’s harsh rays will instantly deflect to avoid painful burns and damage, while including light-reflecting mica to give you a gorgeous glow. The portable brush is perfect for stashing in your purse for midday touch-ups, so you can keep your skin safe no matter where the day takes you.
If you’re battling the dreaded hot flashes and can’t bear the thought of putting on a heavy layer of sunscreen, all hope is not lost. Neutrogena’s CoolDry broad-spectrum formula actually helps keeps skin cool thanks to its unique MICROMESH Technology, which creates a breathable barrier on skin, allowing sweat to pass through the sunscreen and evaporate, so you’ll actually feel cooler even if you’re sweating — a dream for any women during those menopause blues.
The formula is non-sticky and comfortable, along with, obviously, being sweat-resistant, which is a godsend on particularly warm days or even just days when your hot flashes simply won’t quit. (Been there!)