With the return to normal still underway and coupled with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, outdoor activities like barbecues and swimming with fully vaccinated loved ones on the horizon, it prompted us to reflect on one of the most in-demand products among Shopping readers: sunscreen.
Throughout our skin care coverage, we learned that wearing sunscreen is essential to protect the skin from the sun's damaging rays and signs of aging. Beyond the slew of board-certified dermatologists we previously interviewed, organizations like the Food and Drug Administration, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) and the Skin Cancer Foundation all agree on the daily use of sunscreen. We’re looking back on our sunscreen coverage since May 2020 — May historically showing significant increases in searches for sunscreen — to bring you the most popular and highly-rated sunblocks among Shopping readers. From a mineral sunscreen that is gentle enough for kids to an oil-free sunblock formulated for acne-prone skin, these SPFs all became reader favorite items over the last 365 days.
Sunscreen tips and quick reminders
Dermatologists recommend always using sunscreen while exposed to the sun — and opting for a sun protection factor of at least SPF 30. The AAD also recommends wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects the skin from both Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) — associated with signs of aging — and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which can cause skin damage like sunburns and skin cancer. For continuous sun protection, be sure to reapply your sunscreen after sweating or taking a dip.
Most popular sunscreens of 2021
Shopping readers have shown a keen interest ordering sunscreen on Amazon, Sephora, Walmart and Target. You can also find popular sunscreens at department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s as well as beauty retailers like Ulta and Dermstore.
Best overall sunscreen: EltaMD
As one of the best sunscreens for oily skin and for those with mature skin, this popular sunblock boasts a non-comedogenic formula that's lightweight and effective. EltaMD is the No. 1 bestselling facial sunscreen on Amazon and it boasts a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 19,000 reviews on the site. It is also one of the bestselling skin care products among Shopping readers in 2020. The fragrance-free sunscreen features ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and lactic acid to help promote healthy skin, according to board-certified dermatologist Kejal Shah, MD.
Best sunscreen for indoors: Blue Lizard
As one of the best sunscreens to wear indoors, Blue Lizard's mineral sunscreen earned a 4.8-star average rating from more than 3,860 reviews on Amazon. Two board-certified dermatologists also recommended the liquid sunscreen because it offers full-spectrum SPF 50 coverage from UVA and UVB rays. Blue Lizard claims this SPF is also sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Best sunscreen for acne-prone skin: Neutrogena
Neutrogena's broad-spectrum liquid sunscreen is one of the best sunscreens for acne-prone skin and it boasts a 4.6-star average rating from more than 10,900 reviews on Amazon. This "ultra-light" sunscreen won't cause breakouts, thanks to its oil-free and non-comedogenic formula, board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, previously noted. It is also made with avobenzone, which Zeichner called an "organic sunscreen filter that is extremely effective in providing broad-spectrum UV protection."
Best kid's sunscreen: Aveeno
Aveeno's sunscreen is another 2020 bestseller and the most popular sunscreen for kids among Shopping readers. This gentle sunscreen lotion is made with a hypoallergenic formula and offers broad-spectrum protection. Aveeno claims the paraben-free and fragrance-free sunscreen is also sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It also received a 4.6-star average rating from 3,660 reviews on Amazon.
Best spray sunscreen: Banana Boat
As the No. 1 bestselling spray sunscreen, Banana Boat's lightweight sunblock offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It earned a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 4,200 reviews on Amazon. With an SPF of 100, Ultrasport sunscreen offers the highest level of sun protection on our list — it is also available in SPF 30 and 50. This spray sunscreen was created for those who are active outdoors, and Banana Boat recommends reapplying it after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.
Best sunscreen for darker skin tones: Neutrogena
Neutrogena's spray sunblock is the go-to SPF for InStyle beauty director Maya Allen and it is the No. 1 bestselling sunscreen for dark skin tones among Shopping readers. Beyond offering an oil-free and non-comedogenic formula, this lightweight mist helps protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Allen highlighted the simplicity of the sunscreen as one of her favorite features and noted the ease of reapplication — "It literally only takes two seconds to mist, then go on about your day," she said. It received a 4.5-star average rating from nearly 1,120 reviews on Amazon.