Editor’s Picks: 17 of the Best High-Protection Sunscreens for Your Face

The top SPFs to shield your skin from sun damage.
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Best sunscreen for face

According to a 2013 study, as much as 80 percent of facial aging is caused by repeated exposure to the sun.

So it only makes sense to invest in a high-protection sunscreen—and I'm here to help!

Here in North America, zinc oxide is the best sunscreen ingredient we have available to shield skin from sun damage. Unlike the other mineral and chemical sunscreen filters, zinc oxide actually protects against BOTH types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays. (Elsewhere in the world, Tinosorb M and Tinosorb S are also good filters to look for.)

But it's not enough to just have zinc oxide—it also needs to be in the right concentration. And since you're going to wear it every day, facial sunscreen also needs to be elegant and lightweight, without any stickiness or white cast.

Read on to discover the top sunscreens to protect your most precious body part!

What to Look for in a Face Sunscreen

Best sunscreen for face

Photo: @tan_luxe

Here's my criteria for facial sunscreen:

  • High-zinc: For true broad spectrum protection, you need 20 percent zinc oxide or more, or 15 to 20 percent zinc oxide with at least 7.5 percent titanium dioxide. 
  • PUFA-free or low-PUFA: Polyunsaturated oils (PUFAs), which are extremely unstable, should not be in high amounts—I look at the first five or so ingredients. (But keep in mind that if the brand lists the ingredients in alphabetical order, you won't be able to tell!)
  • Silicone-free or low-silicone: Silicones have no bearing on your level of sun protection, but I believe silicone-free or low-silicone formulas are best for skin.
  • Non-whitening: If zinc oxide's notorious white cast is a concern for you, be sure to choose a tinted sunscreen.
  • Fragrance-free or low-fragrance: Fragrance-free is best, but depending on your skin sensitivity, you may be able to tolerate low amounts of natural or synthetic fragrance.
  • Water-resistant: If you plan on swimming (or sweating!), you need a water-resistant sunscreen. Keep in mind that not every brand makes this claim because it's a test they actually have to pay for (who knew?!). So you MAY still get water-resistance from other formulas, even if they don't promise that.
  • Cruelty-free: All the brands below are cruelty-free, except for Avène.
  • Reef-safe: Everything here contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which are reef-safe ingredients.

Note: I'm not so concerned about nanoparticles, especially in zinc oxide-only formulas, as they've not been shown to penetrate the skin (see EWG's article here). 

For more background on how I choose sunscreen, check out this tutorial!

The Best Sunscreens for Face

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen is a lightweight matte sunscreen. If you're looking for a highly protective yet elegant and silicone-free formula, this is it! You're getting SPF 45 protection thanks to 15 percent zinc oxide and a new, patent-pending, certified organic material (Bio UVA Ultra) that increases the UVA protection by 60 percent.

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

Ava Isa Aurora Rose Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen is a lightweight matte sunscreen with a nude-rose tint and subtle shimmer (which I can't detect on my skin). Like the non-tinted version, it features 15 percent zinc oxide and the Bio UVA Ultra material that increases its UVA protection by 60 percent.

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face

Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 Face is one of my favourite sunscreens for oily and acne-prone skin. Although it has 20 percent zinc and comes out opaque white, it blends clear, sinks in fast and feels really lightweight to wear. Just keep in mind that it's a little prone to balling up if you wear it over a moisturizer or serum. Here's how to prevent product pilling—those tips should help!

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 is one of the few high-zinc options at Sephora, with 20 percent zinc oxide. This sunscreen has some super-fine shimmer, but I honestly can't even detect it on my skin (I know others do see it, though!). It dries ever so slightly dewy, but not greasy, and I appreciate that it doesn't feel like I'm wearing sunscreen. 

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Non-whitening ✓Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 is a lightweight cream with a sheer tint. It won't give coverage like a foundation, but it's ideal for medium to dark skin tones because it eliminates any white cast. As per the non-tinted version, this has 20 percent zinc oxide.

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer has 20 percent zinc in a hydrating base of natural ingredients. Since it's oil-free, I think it should be fine for acne-prone skin, and unlikely to clog pores. Just keep in mind that it leaves skin fairly shiny, so you may want to powder it down.

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30 is a lightweight CC cream that protects with 20 percent zinc oxide. It's silicone-free, and comes in five shades—so there should be something for every skin tone. Again, the finish is quite dewy, so I always follow this with some translucent powder.

Thinksport Thinksun Everyday Face SPF 30+

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Non-whitening ✓Water-resistant ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Thinksport Thinksun Everyday Face SPF 30

Thinksport Thinksun Everyday Face SPF 30+

Thinksport Thinksun Everyday Face SPF 30+ is a sunscreen lotion with a super lightweight texture and barely-there tint. Because it is water-resistant, it would be suitable for swimming or outdoor sports. The ingredients list is mostly natural, with 20 percent zinc oxide and just a bit of silicone further down.

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30 Sunscreen & Primer

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Kypris Pot of Shade Heliotropic SPF 30 Sunscreen and Primer

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30 Sunscreen & Primer

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30 Sunscreen & Primer comes in a pot, not a tube, and if Jean Godfrey-June loves it, you know it's a good product. There's 20 percent zinc oxide in here, along with an array of natural ingredients. It has a somewhat thicker but non-greasy texture, so it can be worn on its own or as a primer under makeup.

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Creme SPF 30

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30 is one of the few day creams I've seen that actually measures up in terms of sunscreen ingredients (most are way too low in actives). This has a great 20 percent zinc and barely any silicone.

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free Fragrance-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra Transparent Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is a very protective sunscreen with a sheer universal tint and a fluid, foundation-like texture. It features the highest possible level of zinc oxide, 25 percent. Plus, you're getting broad spectrum SPF 50 protection thanks to the same Bio UVA innovation as Ava Isa

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen and Primer SPF 30

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30 is a hydrating yet non-greasy sunscreen that also doubles as a moisturizer and makeup primer. And yet there's still 20 percent zinc oxide in here to fully protect your skin. This one has a dewy finish.

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen SPF 30 is a tinted BB cream that offers light coverage and a dewy finish. This sunscreen features 20 percent zinc oxide, and comes in four shades—but only up to a Medium. It can be used as a primer or in place of foundation.

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen is ideal for acne-prone and oily skin. This is a natural, silicone-free formula, and it feels incredibly light on the skin, with a matte finish. It also has one of the higher zinc oxide concentrations at 22 percent. I'd say it's the perfect sunscreen for people who hate sunscreen!

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Cruelty-free ✓Reef-safe

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30

Naturally Serious Mineral Sun Defense Moisturizer SPF 30 is a moisturizing sunscreen offering even higher protection than Simply Zinc Ultra. Not only does it contain 25 percent zinc oxide, but it also has four percent titanium dioxide. It comes in one sheer tint that is said to be suitable for all skin tones.

Avène Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Fragrance-free ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

Avene Mineral Fluid SPF 50

Avène Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

Avène Mineral Fluid SPF 50+ is a fluid sunscreen with a matte finish. With this formula, you're being well-protected with 14.6 percent zinc oxide and 11.4 percent titanium dioxide. It's also fragrance-free, low in silicone and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Non-whitening ✓Fragrance-free ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

Avene Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50

Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+

Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+ also features 14.6 percent zinc oxide and 11.4 percent titanium dioxide. It comes in one universal tint that provides sheer coverage. It's also free of fragrance, low in silicone and water-resistant.

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Have you tried any of these sunscreens?
Which one is your favourite?

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