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Summer. It’s universally anticipated. The smell of the ocean, the sun on your skin, the hot-girl playlist you’ve been working on for months. It’s that time of year that we’ve all been dreaming about… that is unless you’re me. Don’t get me wrong, I do love summer. I’m a Southern California native and nothing beats those fleeting months when the ocean water is as warm as the sunset air and not a stressor crosses your mind as you swim under each soft wave. That said, every summer my fair complexion means a big fat sunburn is always on the horizon.
Although I was born with a little thing called ocular-cutaneous-albinism, meaning I lack pigment in my skin and eyes, my road to finding the perfect sunscreen has taught me one thing: SUNCARE IS NECESSARY FOR EVERYONE. Yes, even if you can lay out and get that perfect tan without any sign of a burn, the sun’s rays are still coming for you in some way. The long-term effects of sun damage do not discriminate, and the only way to keep your skin safe is by finding the perfect sunscreen. Of course, that is no easy feat. There is a level of frustration that comes with buying expensive bottles of sunscreen from the drugstore that you come to find out not only smell like chemicals and dry your skin out but also greatly damage the ocean’s reefs. I’ve done hands-on research to find the very best sunscare brands so that you don’t have to. Thank me later.
Below is our list of the best sunscreens to keep you fully protected this summer 2021.
The best part of this sunscreen is in the name: it’s INVISIBLE. Seriously. The water-gel formula is one of a kind, helping avoid the double takes in the mirror rubbing away the white residue that is the biggest annoyance at all. Without any white-cast in sight, this sunscreen is inclusive for all skin tones and types and is truly the perfect final step to your skincare routine.
Glossier’s Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen was actually the first sunscreen that I fell in love with. After a lifetime of drugstore sunscreens that were chock-full of chemicals and slathered on thick, I finally tried Glossier and felt like I was merely adding an extra step of nourishment to my skincare. Like all Glossier products, their daily sunscreen is cruelty-free, and this one has the bonus of being vegan! It’s also Non-Comedogenic meaning that it is formulated to protect your pores against blockages. Unfortunately, Glossier’s Sunscreen is $25 for 1 fl oz and they are yet to sell any bigger sizes. If you wear sunscreen every day (as you should y’all) it does go fairly fast. But as a treat, buy a few and feel fresh and sunburn-free all summer long. It’s worth it.
You may be familiar with Cocokind, the completely natural skincare brand that stole my heart, but may I introduce you to their legendary mineral sunscreen. Not only does this sunscreen protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, but it also protects against pollution and blue light. That means you can take your Zoom meetings outside and stay protected from all those pesky skin-barrier-penetrators. The Cocokind Daily SPF is formulated with zinc oxide as a physical sunscreen to create a literal barrier between your skin and the world, blue phytoplankton/spirulina maxima extract to boost radiance, microalgae/phaeodactylum tricornutum extract to fortify the skin barrier, and rice starch to ensure that there is no sticky finish. The non-greasy formula is great for both dry and oily skin and is a great asset to your summer beach bag.
Supergoop truly redefined the sunscreen game, making wearing SPF a beauty regime and showing that beautifully glowy skin comes from products that protect. I chose to specifically highlight the Play Everyday Lotion for a few reasons. For one, it follows the rest of Supergoop’s priorities as it is cruelty-free, reef safe, and hydrating for all skin types. However, this product is special in that it is truly a bang for your buck. $58 for 18 fluid ounces is an absolute steal, and it is unique in its ability to be worn on both your face and your body. It’s also water and sweat resistant for 80 minutes, perfect for whatever the hot-girl-summer’s day throws at you. Beware, not all Supergoop sunscreen is water and sweat-resistant. Be sure to check if it is before taking a desert hike or a dip in the pool. Your eyes will thank you later.
Although known for their natural deodorants that put all others to shame, Native’s line of sunscreen’s cannot be overlooked. Their SPF 30 mineral sunscreen is of the utmost blend-ability (I’m so excited by this product, I’ve seemingly made up a word). Fans assure that it melts right into your skin with no sign of any white cast, making it a go-to for full-body protection without the chance of it leaving a residue on your face-fur or arm hair. This sunscreen is quick absorbent, fully vegan, and is as lightweight as can be! Best of all, it's fully reef-friendly and uses natural oils such as avocado oil and vitamin E for all those antioxidants. Lastly, Native’s sunscreen comes in your favorite scents of summer: booze! With the option of rosé, coconut-pineapple, or unscented, Native Sunscreen has an option for everyone.
A favorite at The Quality Edit, Soleil Toujours’s Susccreen Mist is truly as elegant as it sounds. This 70% organic sunscreen is breathable, reef safe, and water-resistant, making you feel oh-so-good while doing good. It also is formulated with no oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are both shown to disrupt cellular levels of the body. Instead, this sunscreen mist is powered by nature's best: red algae, vitamin C and E, and green tea leaf extract. All this said the best thing about this product is that it has all of these phenomenal ingredients in a mist bottle! Sunscreen experts know that spray-on-screen often feels like a layer of chemicals on your skin, either making you feel dry and crunchy or overly lotioned. This sheer mist application defies all odds of a spray-on with nothing but sheerness.
Another spray-on sunscreen that blows the minds of us Coppertone kids is Bask, a truly clean continuous spray without any of the chemicals. Bask is also oxybenzone or octinoxate free, as well as free of parabens, sulfates, and all animal cruelty. This product was formulated with real people in mind, making something that reminds you of your childhood without any of the horrors of chemical-filled-sunscreen-summer’s pasts. This spray dries quickly and Bask takes immense pride in their aerosol-free bottle, meaning that users won’t breathe in any toxins while trying to protect themselves from the sun. The spray is reef-safe as well and comes with a vanilla/coconut aroma that takes you to the beach even if you’re just in your backyard.
Finally, the newest kid on the block is a sunscreen that packs more than protection, it’s an entire vibe. The smooth, 80’s aesthetic radio station, Poolside FM, has always known how to transport people from wherever they are to the endorphin rush of a beachfront party or sunny soiree. Coming in June, the company is launching their first-ever sunscreen and it's already all the rage. The sunscreen is certified reef-friendly, vegan and cruelty-free, super lightweight, and provides the perfect summer scent as soon as you swipe it on. The formula includes aloe extract, coconut, and banana to smell like sweet 80’s nostalgia and keep your energy high for long days by the pool. I simply cannot wait for it to start shipping!
Final Tips From a Sun-Protection Pro
- Learn the ABCs: When purchasing a sunscreen, know the difference between UVA and UVB protection (and look for both!) UVA rays cause the skin to age, while UVB causes the burns. Be sure to get your hands on the goods that protect you from both.
- It’s actually not a numbers game: If you’re confused about how high of SPF you should get, you’re not alone. Whether you get SPF 30 or that crazy SPF 100+ stuff it’s actually all about the same. In truth, what really matters is reapplication! Every hour and a half, you should be putting on that extra layer of lotion to keep your skin protected regardless of the SPF! And, if you have particularly sensitive skin, reapply after every dip in the pool even if it says “waterproof.”
- Hold the booze: Read the ingredients of your favorite face sunscreen and make sure that all alcohols are not on the top row. Although alcohol can be a necessary ingredient for your skin to absorb the SPF, too much alcohol in the formula can dry that skin out!
- Watch out white-cast: Each of the sunscreens featured here promise to be sheer and clear! Historically, suncare has not been skin-inclusive, as most sunscreens result in an extremely white finish that does not rub into all skin tones. Be sure to look for labels with a promise of “sheer,” “white-cast free” or gel-based formulas to make sure that no one sees the residue of your sun-protection-regimen.
- All-day every day: Remember to wear an SPF each and every day, even if you’re staying in! Sunrays know no windows, sister. Finding your perfect barely-there-suncare is vital to protecting your skin from all harsh rays, even if you’re just typing away in your apartment all day. All face routines should end in SPF, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.