The 13 best face sunscreens

You still need to wear SPF indoors – so we've rounded up the best sunscreen for your face, no matter your needs or skin type


A good face sunscreen is key to any skincare routine – whether you’ve got a 10-step skincare regimen, or you’re more of the “slap on one product and go” type.

Though you might be tempted to just pop some of your economy-sized bottle of regular sunscreen on your face and call it a day, facial sunscreens are specially formulated to not clog pores, go on without too much oiliness and residue, and even wear cleanly under makeup.

The first rule of skincare success is prevention, making SPF a necessary line of defense against the sun’s rays. And yes – that even goes for COVID-induced indoor time.

Do I really need to wear sunscreen indoors?

Though COVID-19 may still end up pushing some of our summer fun inside, dermatologists do still recommend wearing sunscreen when you’re indoors.

Why? Though windows can help shield you from UVB rays, one of the two main types of radiation blocked by sunscreen, the other – UVA rays – can still travel through glass.

Additionally, electronic devices – you know, those things we spend all day staring at now – produce blue light, which dermatologists say could potentially have a negative effect on skin, though the verdict is still out.

Of course, with distancing measures gradually lifting, pools refilling and patios raring to open, we won’t be stuck inside forever – so you’ll want to scope out your facial sunscreen options before the height of summer hits.

What’s the best face sunscreen for me?

Dermatologists recommend SPF 30 as the minimum for all sunscreen use – so you should reach for a minimum 30 SPF face sunscreen as well.

Be sure to choose a product with broad-spectrum sun protection, as it blocks out UVA and UVB rays (as well as blue light). Reapply every two hours, pair it with other modes of sun protection – like a hat – and don’t forget to get your ears, too.

The American Dermatology Association also recommends that you pick a budge-proof stick sunscreen, or another specially formulated product, for use around the eyes (nobody wants to get lotion on their eyeball).

From there, which face sunscreen you choose is pretty much up to you. There’s classic chemical sunscreens, which use a mix of different sun-blocking chemicals to beat the sun’s rays, and are generally more easily absorbed into the skin.

Those with more finicky complexions may instead want to reach for a mineral sunscreen for the face (also known as a physical sunscreen), which relies on ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to sit atop the skin and deflect rays. However, those can often be chalky and leave a white cast on the skin, so those with deeper skin tones may have a tougher time finding a mineral face sunscreen that works for them.

To help you narrow down the many, many options, here are our picks for the best facial sunscreens available in Canada.

The best face sunscreens

The best budget face sunscreens

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Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Water-Light Daily Face Sunscreen SPF 60 is a beloved budget option that rings in at a solid 60 SPF, with broad spectrum protection that covers UVA, UVB and blue light rays. It’s got a light, fluid texture (hence the name), doesn’t clog pores, and is both oil-free and waterproof. Well.ca, Amazon

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Sun Bum Face Cream SPF 50, another readily available drugstore face sunscreen option, has an easily spreadable consistency that disappears into the skin, and a lush tropical scent. Fans say it even wears well under makeup. As for drawbacks: Those with particularly sensitive or breakout-prone skin may want to steer clear. Well.ca, Shoppers Drug Mart

The best splurge face sunscreens

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Biotherm’s Protecting Face Cream SPF 30 is one of the top-selling face sunscreens on the market, and with good reason: It’s smooth, non-sticky and lightweight, applying without leaving a white cast. Bonus: It smells like citrus. Hudson’s Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart

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While Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50 Lotion is far from the cheapest face sunscreen on the market, the Prevage line has earned legions of die-hard fans for its anti-aging properties and this sunscreen version is a fave for its broad-spectrum protection. The lightweight product lasts all day and has a slight sheen to give you a gentle glow. Hudson’s Bay, Shoppers Drug Mart

The best face sunscreen for sensitive skin

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La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra-Fluid Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50: It’s a mouthful, but this light, fluid mineral face sunscreen also packs a major punch when it comes to sun protection, without doing a number on your skin. It’s fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and leaves your skin matte with a slight glow. The sheer formula also makes it one of the best mineral face sunscreens for those with darker skin tones. Shoppers Drug Mart, Amazon

The best face sunscreen and primer combo

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For those who want to simplify their daily routines – or make sure that their face sunscreen and makeup will play nice with one another – a combination sunscreen and primer is ideal. The Lancome UV Expert Aquagel Defense Primer & Moisturizer SPF 50 bills itself as a three-in-one product – a sunscreen, moisturizer and primer – that’s oil-free, noncomedogenic, fast-absorbing and lightweight. Lancome, Sephora

The best mineral face sunscreens

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Australian Gold Botanical Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Tinted Face blends the sun-beating powers of mineral sunscreen (it gets its sun-canceling abilities from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) with a light tint that helps cancel out the usual white cast of a mineral sunscreen. It’s long-wearing and goes on with a silicone-like slip. The product is beloved among many users with sensitive skin – though a few folks with drier skin say the tint has a tendency to get stuck on dry patches. Amazon

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Another tinted mineral face sunscreen option, COOLA Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Matte Tint is beloved for its matte, velvety feel and ability to lie well under makeup – though the price tag might be a turnoff for some. (FYI: There’s also a non-tinted version of the same product that comes with a light cucumber scent.) Well.ca, Hudson’s Bay

The best mineral powder face sunscreen

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If you don’t want to mess with lotion, or want to sidestep the possibility of greasy face sunscreen altogether, a brush-on powder sunscreen formula might just be what the doctor ordered. Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Brush comes in a handy all-in-one package that you can wear alone, on top of makeup, or with other sunscreen for a double-whammy of sun protection. The tinted powder (available in five shades) offers mild coverage as well – but the skin tone range, unfortunately, is limited. Amazon, WalMart

The best face sunscreen sprays

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Spray face sunscreens can be tough to come by compared to their lotion counterparts, but the cheap and cheerful Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Mist Sunscreen SPF 50 is a readily available option. The light, oil-free finish makes for a refreshing feel the spray doesn’t clog pores and you can even reapply over makeup. Shoppers Drug Mart, Amazon

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On the higher end of things, Bioderma Photoderm Spray SPF 40 goes on without greasiness or streaks. Downside: Some find the fragrance a little heavy. Well.ca, Shoppers Drug Mart

The best face sunscreen for darker skin tones

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A cult-fave product that only recently became available in Canada, Supergoop! Unscreen Sunscreen SPF 40 goes on totally sheer – perfect for those looking to avoid that pancake-makeup effect. Its smooth consistency also makes it a great pick for those with oily and acne-prone skin. Potential downside: Not everyone loves the silicone-y, primer-like feel. (Also, the stores seem to be having a tough time keeping it in stock – but all the more reason to keep checking back, right?) Sephora

The best face sunscreen stick

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Another cost-conscious option, the Sun Bum Premium Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 30 provides all the sun protection, none of the sunscreen bottle becoming accidentally uncapped in your bag. It’s sweat- and water-resistant, making it a handy option for athletic types.

FYI for those with sensitive skin: Some users find the product to be a bit heavy side or report breakouts. Plus, as with the Sun Bum lotion we listed above, the scent has been likened to banana candy – which is either a pro or a con, depending on your point of view. Shoppers Drug Mart, Amazon

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@nataliamanzocco

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