Editor’s Picks: 24 of the Best High-Protection Sunscreens for Your Face

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

Every summer, I round up the best sunscreens I've found, and this year, I've got more options to show you than ever before!

We've already talked about my favourite tinted sunscreens, which offer sheer to medium coverage, as well as sun protection, in an array of non-whitening shades. (If you missed that list, check it out here.)

Now, it's time for the main event—my complete guide to high-performing sunscreens for your face!

Here in North America, zinc oxide is the best ingredient we have available for complete full UVA and UVB protection. Elsewhere in the world, Tinosorb M (a.k.a. Bisoctrizole) and Tinosorb S (a.k.a. Bemotrizinol) are also safe filters to look for.

My 2018 list includes lots of new products I've discovered (and new loves such as Ava Isa and DeVita), which are designed to be lightweight. But I've also included several face/body formulations, at more affordable price points—remember, you don't necessarily NEED a special sunscreen for your face, since the active ingredients are the same!

Which one(s) you choose just depends on your skin, your preferences, your budget and your activities. Personally, I care most about water-resistance and affordability when I'm on the beach, swimming, etc., going through a lot of product. But for day-to-day city wear, I want an elegant, matte finish and no silicones.

Whatever you're looking for, I've definitely got you covered here. Read on to discover the top sunscreens to protect your most precious body part!

The Best Sunscreens for Your Face

Best sunscreen for face

Face sunscreens from Derma E, Drunk Elephant, DeVita, CyberDerm, Kosmea, Juice Beauty and Ava Isa.

Any product I try has to meet my sunscreen criteria, which I'll briefly recap:

  • Zinc oxide: For true broad spectrum protection, sunscreens should contain 20 percent zinc oxide or more, or 15 to 20 percent zinc oxide with at least 7.5 percent titanium dioxide. (There are a couple of exceptions on my list, which come very close!)
  • PUFA-free or low-PUFA: Polyunsaturated oils (PUFAs), which are extremely unstable, should not be in the first five or so ingredients. Unless the brand lists the ingredients in alphabetical order—in which case you won't be able to tell, and should just avoid it altogether!
  • Free of AHAs and vitamin A: Alpha-hydroxy acids and retinyl palmitate (or other forms of vitamin A) increase photosensitivity. None of the sunscreens on this list contain them!

Other considerations include:

  • Silicones: Silicone-free or low-silicone is best for skin, but I do have a couple high-silicone products (which would be appropriate for swimming, sports, etc.).
  • Whitening: I've noted the ones I find (or that claim to be) non-whitening, but keep in mind I have light skin! If the white cast is a major concern for you, be sure to read my tinted sunscreen guide.
  • Fragrance: None is best, but some formulas do contain natural or synthetic fragrance.
  • Parabens: Everything here is paraben-free.
  • Cruelty-free: All the brands here are cruelty-free, except for Neutrogena and Shiseido.
  • Water-resistance: 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.
  • Reef-safe: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are reef-safe. The only ingredient here that is not is CyberDerm's encapsulated octinoxate, which is safe for skin—just not for coral reefs.

Note: I'm not concerned about nanoparticles, especially with zinc oxide-only formulas, which have not been shown to penetrate the skin (see EWG's article here). For more background on how I choose sunscreen, check out this tutorial!

Attitude 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

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

Attitude 100 Percent Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Attitude 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Attitude 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is my favourite affordable physical sunscreen option with 20 percent zinc and a clean, silicone-free ingredients list. This is a face and body product with a lotion texture, which dries down beautifully so it's not greasy or heavy. Although it also comes in Tropical and Orange Blossom, I would go for this fragrance-free one.

Attitude Sensitive Skin 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

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

Attitude Sensitive Skin 100 Percent Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Attitude Sensitive Skin 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Attitude Sensitive Skin 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is almost identical to the brand's original fragrance-free sunscreen, with 20 percent zinc. Plus it has the addition of one percent colloidal oatmeal (oat kernel flour) to soothe the skin. Again, it feels quite light—I've been using this brand for several summers now!

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen

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

Ava Isa Pure Untinted SPF 45

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen (Note: Final packaging will be in a larger 80 mL tube)

Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen is a new sheer matte sunscreen; it also comes in a tint, which I reviewed and swatched here. If you're looking for a highly protective yet elegant, lightweight, non-whitening and silicone-free formula, this is it! With just 15 percent zinc oxide, this is actually a true SPF 45. That's because it features a new, patent-pending, certified organic material (Bio UVA) that increases the UV protection by 60 percent. They're not using any anti-inflammatories or antioxidants to artificially inflate the SPF number.

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25

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

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25

CyberDerm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25 is a lightweight sunscreen that I've been recommending for many years now. What makes it unique is the combination of 15 percent zinc oxide and 7.5 percent encapsulated octinoxate. The encapsulation makes the octinoxate act like a mineral, and is completely safe. This sunscreen doesn't leave a white cast and dries to a semi-matte finish.

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

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

Derma E Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

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.

Note: This one is prone to balling up if you wear it over a moisturizer or serum. Here's how to prevent product pilling—those tips should help!

DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+

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

DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30

DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+

DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+ is a new discovery this year, and it's ideal for acne-prone and oily skin—well, any type of skin, really! This is a natural, silicone-free formula, and it dries down incredibly fast, becoming matte and clear. At 19 percent zinc, it's only one percent below my criteria. I'd say it's the perfect sunscreen for people who hate sunscreen!

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Non-whitening ✓Fragrance-free ✓Paraben-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 (it has 20 percent). On light skin, I think you'll find it nice and sheer, but there's also a tinted version that I've reviewed and swatched here. There is 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. 

Green Cricket SPF 30 Face Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen

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

Green Cricket SPF 30 Face Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen

Green Cricket SPF 30 Face Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen

Green Cricket SPF 30 Face Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen is for someone with dry skin who wants minimal, natural ingredients and 20 percent zinc oxide. It is a very emollient, moisturizing sunscreen lotion and could easily replace a rich moisturizer. Be aware that it does leave a very dewy finish.

Note: The ingredients below are what is posted on their website, but the back of the label actually lists them in a different order—the same order as LaSpa, below! As it turns out, the same formula is being sold by two different companies... this is the cheaper one!

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Paraben-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 shiny, so you may want to powder it down.

Note: Juice Beauty also makes a tinted CC cream with the same amount of zinc and five shades—I've swatched mine here!

Kosmea Moisturising Lotion SPF 30

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

Kosmea Moisturising Lotion SPF 30

Kosmea Moisturising Lotion SPF 30

Kosmea Moisturising Lotion SPF 30 is a sunscreen I could happily wear daily without feeling like I needed to rush home to wash my face! It has 20 percent zinc oxide, and absorbs in about a minute, becoming semi-matte and not at all oily. There is a tint, which I've swatched here, but it doesn't really cover; it's just non-whitening. 

LaSpa Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Fragrance-free ✓Paraben-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

LaSpa Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

LaSpa Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

So, just like Green Cricket, LaSpa Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is a an oil-based sunscreen with 20 percent zinc and a short, natural ingredients list... the SAME ingredients list! It wasn't until I examined the back of this label that I discovered Green Cricket actually formulates this product FOR LaSpa (they're both Canadian companies). I'm still recommending both for dry skin, and this one has a nicer label, but it is also double the price!

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Paraben-free ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

If you don't mind silicones and need a waterproof SPF at not too high a price point, Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 is one to try. Truth be told, I don't find this particularly "sheer," and you have to rub it in well to get rid of the white. I would not wear this daily, but with 21.6 percent zinc, it does the job for the beach or pool!

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Vanilla Coconut Natural Sunscreen SPF 31

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

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Vanilla Coconut Natural Sunscreen SPF 31

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Vanilla Coconut Natural Sunscreen SPF 31

Rocky Mountain Soap Company Vanilla Coconut Natural Sunscreen SPF 31 is an all-natural, 20.1 percent zinc sunscreen with a unique texture. It's thick but not oily, has a very slight tint, and spreads out beautifully, becoming clear and almost matte. This can be worn on face and body; I've used it for a couple years now with no breakout issues. 

More Face Sunscreens to Try

Besides the products above, all of which I've personally tested, I have a few more face sunscreens to share that I've come across during my research. These would also be good choices, as they meet or come close to what I look for in terms of ingredients.

Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

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

Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 is the brand's face/body sunscreen, and I actually prefer it to the face-only formula. This 22 percent zinc oxide and zero PUFA oils—they use more stable coconut oil and jojoba oil instead.

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50

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

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50

CyberDerm Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50 has replaced the original Simply Zinc, a product I've praised time and time again on this website! I've been testing a lab sample of the new version, which now has a tint and a more fluid texture. You can see my swatches here. Of note is the higher zinc oxide content, 25 percent, and broad spectrum SPF 50 protection thanks to the same Bio UVA innovation as Ava Isa. (Both are from the same parent company, The Sunscreen Company, and Bio UVA will soon be added to ALL their sunscreens.) If you found Simply Zinc too heavy, white or greasy before, I urge you to give Ultra a shot!

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen

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

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen is the brand's water-resistant sunscreen. With 20 percent zinc oxide, it's perfect if you do lots of outdoor activities but still want a natural, silicone-free product.

Kerstin Florian Correcting Multi-Vitamin Day Crème SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Non-whitening ✓Paraben-free ✓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.

Kypris Pot of Shade: Heliotropic SPF 30 Sunscreen & Primer

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Silicone-free ✓Non-whitening ✓Paraben-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.

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free Non-whitening ✓Fragrance-free ✓Paraben-free ✓Cruelty-free ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme SPF 50

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50 features 17 percent zinc oxide and two percent titanium dioxide. The latter is a little low (there should be seven percent), but this formula does give you a full 80 minutes of water-resistance. Be aware that it is rather silicone-heavy. There's also a tinted version of this product, which I talked about here.

MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 Non-Tinted

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

MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 Non-Tinted

MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 Non-Tinted

I've already mentioned its tinted counterparts here, but MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 Non-Tinted would be best if you find those too dark—or if you're looking for more zinc! While the tints have only 16 percent, there's 20 percent in this product, giving you full protection.

Note: They list their ingredients alphabetically, so we don't know how high the safflower oleosomes and raspberry seed oil (PUFAs) would be on the list. I would probably not wear this in strong sun, just in case.

Naturopathica Daily UV Defense Cream SPF 50

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

Naturopathica Daily UV Defense Cream SPF 50

Naturopathica Daily UV Defense Cream SPF 50

Naturopathica Daily UV Defense Cream SPF 50 is a lightweight, matte sunscreen with 19.5 percent zinc oxide and many natural ingredients. However, I'd be cautious with this one if you are sensitive, due to the many essential oils.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+ WetForce for Sensitive Skin & Children

✓High-zinc ✓PUFA-free ✓Fragrance-free ✓Paraben-free ✓Water-resistant ✓Reef-safe

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50 Plus WetForce for Sensitive Skin and Children

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+ WetForce for Sensitive Skin & Children

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+ WetForce for Sensitive Skin & Children is a face and body sunscreen that's always on my list because it offers some of the best protection from UV rays. Not only does it contain high levels of actives (19.3 percent zinc oxide and 9.1 percent titanium dioxide!), but it also features an ingredient technology that makes it become even MORE effective after being exposed to water. It wouldn't be my choice for daily wear, due to the silicone content, but it is ideal for the ocean, lake or pool.

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30

✓High-zinc ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-silicone ✓Paraben-free ✓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 described as a rich, hydrating yet non-greasy sunscreen that also doubles as moisturizer and makeup primer. And yet there's still 20 percent zinc oxide in here to fully protect your skin. The brand also makes a BB cream-esque tinted sunscreen in four shades, the lightest of which I've swatched here.

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30+

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

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30+

Thinksport Everyday Face SPF 30+ is a tinted, water-resistant lotion that would be suitable for outdoor sports. The ingredients list is mostly natural, with 20 percent zinc oxide and just a bit of silicone further down.

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Have you tried any of these sunscreens?
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