Sun & Skin News

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Skin

By Ali Venosa • March 13, 2023

No matter if you have oily, dry, acne-prone or sensitive skin, the right sunscreen can protect you from harmful UV rays while combating any skin woes.

People offer many excuses for why they skip sun protection (trust us, we’ve heard them all!), but one of the most common is that they simply don’t like their sunscreen. At The Skin Cancer Foundation, we believe the best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually use, so it’s important to find a product that works for your lifestyle, budget and — perhaps most importantly — your skin type, especially if it’s dry, oily, acne-prone or sensitive. It can be tough to parse through different formulations and ingredients to find your dream sunscreen, but Vivian Bucay, MD, is here to help.

Dr. Bucay stresses that everyone, regardless of skin type or tone, needs sunscreen as a part of their sun protection routine. “Daily sunscreen application is non-negotiable,” she says. “Even when it’s cold or overcast, ultraviolet (UV) rays, which cause skin aging and skin cancer, pass through clouds and can penetrate your skin.”

But which sunscreen should you apply daily? Dr. Bucay breaks down the best options for people with dry, oily or sensitive skin.

If Your Skin Is Dry

Unless you’ve been blessed with perfectly balanced skin that thrives in every environment (lucky you!), you’ve likely dealt with dryness at some point. Those with dry skin may experience tightness, flakiness and more noticeable fine lines. A sunscreen can either combat or exacerbate these issues, depending on the ingredients.

Sunscreen is extra important for those struggling to keep their skin moisturized. “Dry skin usually means a compromised skin barrier, which translates to skin that is more vulnerable to the damaging effects of UV rays,” warns Dr. Bucay. “If you have naturally dry skin or it’s wintertime, choose a moisturizing sunscreen with ingredients such as shea butter or glycerin to combat dryness.”

Dr. Bucay says you can also consider a product with hyaluronic acid, a substance naturally found in the skin that helps retain water. Keep in mind, though, that this ingredient works best when combined with a moisturizing agent that seals in the moisture.

If Your Skin Is Oily or Acne-Prone

People dealing with oily skin complain of clogged pores and excess shine. So you want a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) that combats these issues. “An oil-free or mattifying moisturizer may be the best choice,” says Dr. Bucay, adding that these products are also great for humid summer days.

While a sunscreen’s primary function is to protect your skin from UV rays, that’s not all it can do. “Depending on your skin-care concerns, you can choose a moisturizer that will address both sun protection and issues such as uneven skin tone or acne,” says Dr. Bucay. “Many sunscreens on the market today include different combinations of skin-care ingredients, including niacinamide, ceramides and peptides.”

Dr. Bucay notes that niacinamide (vitamin B3) has been shown to be effective in fighting acne and the discoloration it can leave behind. Ceramides and peptides can provide an extra boost to the antiaging properties of a sunscreen.

If Your Skin Is Sensitive

If a lot of ingredients upset your skin, you’re better off choosing a sunscreen with a simpler formulation. “People with sensitive skin may prefer a physical (mineral) sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are inert and much less likely to irritate the skin,” says Dr. Bucay. “You’ll also want to avoid products with added fragrance, as it can irritate the skin.”

Choose What You Use

Whether you’re seeking dewier skin, battling breakouts or married to your oil-blotting papers, the right sunscreen can help you put your best face forward. Dr. Bucay says by using ingredients that will benefit your skin versus the ones that may sabotage it, you can ensure you end up with a product you’ll love. “My advice is to find a sunscreen you enjoy applying so you can make it a part of your daily routine.”

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