Sunscreens I’ve Known and Loved

Here in the U.S., high summer is upon us, which means we’re spending far more time outside soaking up the sun’s warming rays. I live in a climate with a six-month winter, so I would never scold anyone who spends every spare moment enjoying the warm weather … unless she does so without first applying a serious sunscreen. Even if you’re reading from the wintry southern hemisphere, I hope you’ll stick with me today because sun protection is a year-round game! And finding sunscreens and sunblocks that truly work for your skin and lifestyle is essential to staying healthy and protected. So with that in mind, here are three of my favorites, and the reasons why I love ’em.


Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face – $32

Yep, that’s a lot of money for a tiny bottle of sunscreen. BUT that tiny bottle typically lasts me six months, and this super thin, non-comedogenic formula is one of the only ones that my complexion has ever accepted without generating angry, retaliatory zits. Every morning, I mix this face-specific sunscreen with my moisturizer and apply it before/underneath any other makeup. Shiseido has an entire line of sun protectants, including sunscreens for body, beach, and some liquid foundations with built-in SPF protection. I’ve only ever tried this formula myself, but the others come highly recommended by the skin-care experts and makeup artists in my life.

spray sunscreens

Neutrogenas Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 100+ – $8.99

So that “lifestyle” comment I made up above? In my case it refers to laziness and pet peeves: I love spray-on body sunscreens because they take less time than liquids, and also because they feel less goopy and sloppy. I’m much more likely to actually wear sunscreen on my exposed limbs if applying it doesn’t feel like a gross chore. You, too? Give this one – or any Neutrogena spray sunscreen – a try. I also own and love Neutrogena Beach Defense Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 70 which has a lovely, sunshine-y smell.

spf lip balm

Aquaphor Lip Repair + Protect, SPF 30 – $3.77

That’s right, friends, your lips need protection, too! There are lots of solid balms out there with sunscreen built in, but I vastly prefer the feel of a salve-like formula. The Aquaphor/Eucerin brand is serious about repair and protection, and I love this lip balm for year-round use. Fair warning: It is a bit sticky, so might not be ideal for beach wear. Sand on the lips and whatnot. I’ve heard great things about Sun Bum if you need a less tacky option.

Confession: I apply lip balm nearly every hour, and do my best to re-apply body sunscreen when I know I’ll be outdoors for most of the day … but I don’t often remember to layer on my face sunscreen multiple times. Which means I’m far from being a sunscreen superstar. Experts agree that nearly all formulas slough off after a couple of hours’ wear, so keep that in mind, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin or a history of skin cancer in your family. The best formula in the world won’t keep you totally safe if you don’t slather it on regularly.

Anyone else have favorite sunscreens or sunblocks? Anyone know of a drugstore formula that can be used on sensitive complexions? Would love your input!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.

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9 Responses to “Sunscreens I’ve Known and Loved”

  1. Keilexandra

    I’ve always heard that spray sunscreens are ineffective because the thinner layer applied means that you’re using much less than the recommended amount of sunscreen to achieve the claimed SPF. Do you do multiple layers to combat this, or any other tricks?

    • Tracy

      The FDA is looking into this ( Plus there’s a concern about whether the inhaled particles are dangerous to your lungs. For me, it’s a double whammy because I’m allergic to chemical sunscreen and spray sunscreens are the worst – imagine inhaling something that gives you a nightmare skin reaction. Not fun 🙁 you’d be surprised how far an aerosol can travel once it’s been sprayed. I’ve pretty much given up going to the beach because of spray sunscreen.

    • Courtney

      This is not really a tip, just an observation: I burn very easily (I usually have to reapply 50+ once per hour), and I find I burn much less with spray sunscreens simply because I’m more likely to reapply more often instead of getting lazy and pushing the limit.

  2. Erika

    For serious outdoor time I use the Kiss My Face “face and neck” formula on my face, chin, and neck, and use a Badger brand mineral sunblock on my arms (too thick to tolerate on my face). I try to keep the rest of me as unexposed as possible unless I’m swimming (for sun reasons, not body reasons).

    I work outside as a major part of my job and wear sunscreen frequently. I’ve come to rely heavily on the Environmental Working Group’s ( sunscreen recommendations (though I do not hew to them 100%), especially in regards to amount used and SPF effectiveness. There is also some concern about the inhalation of spray sunscreens and also retinyl palimate as a potential skin cancer agent. Neutrogena is one of the brands that’s least-recommended overall.

  3. Jane Jestson

    Tip for spray on sunscreen. You don’t always know if it comes out properly. I put mine on and it seemed to be more oil (or whatever the inert ingredient is) and I burned. A little white came out later but I had to throw away the spray. It was a good, expensive brand. So always keep your recipe and if that happens, don’t use and return it.

  4. Stephanie Ganger

    As a redhead I always have to use sunscreen especially if I am going to be outside for more than 15 minutes. Consumer reports recently showed quite a few major brands that their SPFs are not what they say they are. I actually follow the Australian skincare guidelines including the 5-10 minutes a day without any sunscreen on to help get enough vitamin D and help prevent skin cancer (as a bonus since I started doing that I don’t burn as often and am not as sun sensitive). Out of every sunscreen I have ever tried for serious outdoor at the beach or sweating I love Blue Lizard it just works every time and I never am concerned about it not working. For more casual in and out I do like the Tri-derma lightweight sunscreen,.

  5. ClaraT

    Mineral sunscreen works best for me, and EltaMD has several elegant mineral-based formulations (check out the reviews on They are pricier than I’d like, but I still use sunscreen generously each day (cheaper than getting laser treatment for brown spots!) Still seeking a great mineral-based lip balm (the “all good” brand is just OK).

  6. Jenn Wisbeck

    I go through a LOT of sunscreen, and shudder to think how much more I would go through if I didn’t wear sunproof clothes outside most of the time. I use Coppertone Water Babies or Sport if I am going to be in the sun. They break my out eventually so I wear lighter sunscreens when not outside, but it is worth it for not burning/tanning/sun damage. For everyday “office” days I wear lighter sunscreen (currently one by La Roche Posay, but I mix in some Korean ones too).

    I don’t use natural sunscreens if I am going to be out especially in the water. They tend to fail tests- i.e. Consumer Reports tends to not rate them well for actual SPF and I need the higher SPFs. But I will wear them occasionally when I will only be indoors.

  7. Emmy

    Best sunscreen I’ve found for sensitive skin: clothes. For my face however, I love Clinique Super City Block. The SPF 40 formula has a mix of chemical and physical sunscreens, while the SPF 25 formula has a physical sunscreen only. I find the SPF 25 formula leaves a chalky sheen on my olive skin, so I use the SPF 40, but have no problems with any of the ingredients. Those with fair skin can probably use the SPF 25 formula just fine.