October 2, 2023

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Sunscreen and sunscreen alternatives: What you need to know

Smiling woman holding suntan lotion

Milos Dimic / Getty Images

You know sunscreen is important, but there are more kinds of sunscreen now than ever before. There are sprays, powders, oils and more. Some are all natural, vegan and reef-safe. But some also have potentially dangerous ingredients. Johnson & Johnson is recalling five sunscreens for containing low levels of benzene, a chemical that can cause cancer with repeated exposure. Affected products include Aveeno’s Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen; Neutrogena’s Beach Defense aerosol sunscreen, CoolDry Sport aerosol sunscreen, Invisible Daily Defense aerosol sunscreen and UltraSheer aerosol sunscreen. 

So, with all of this in mind, which sunscreen should you actually use?

Protecting your skin from the sun is a must when it comes to preventing premature aging and skin cancer. As a general rule, you want to pick a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or greater, CBS medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula tells “CBS This Morning.” (Anything more than 30 doesn’t make much of a difference.)

“The difference between SPF 30 and 50 is 97 percent UVB ray protection versus 98 percent,” Narula says. (Despite this guidance, many of the best-reviewed sunscreens on the market offer an SPF higher than 30.)

Another factor to consider: If you’re a frequent swimmer, consider a waterproof sunscreen. The average water-resistant sunscreens promises protection for up to 80 minutes. 

Finally, make sure the sunscreen is broad-spectrum, meaning it protects against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.

Consider these nine reviewer-loved sunscreens to prevent sunburns this summer.

For the break-out prone: EltaMD UV Clear facial sunscreen SPF 46 


EltaMD via Amazon

If facial sunscreens always seem to trigger breakouts, this dermatologist-recommended SPF 46 sunscreen is a strong option. It’s oil-free and includes ingredients aimed at calming sensitive skin prone to acne, rosacea and discoloration. Plus, EltaMD’s UV Clear never leaves an unsightly white cast. 

For the skincare lover: Everyday Humans Oh My Bod! SPF 50 body sunscreen

Everyday Humans Oh My Bod! SPF50 Body Sunscreen

Everyday Humans via Verishop

This SPF 50 product feels more like a body lotion than a sunscreen, making it ideal for people who hate that sticky sunscreen feel. It includes hyaluronic acid, cucumber and green tea, all the better, the brand says, for hydration and protection. The makers say it’s sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

For the shine-averse: Paula’s Choice youth-extending daily hydrating fluid SPF 50

Paula's Choice youth-extending daily hydrating fluid

Paula’s Choice via Amazon

This is another facial sunscreen that doesn’t leave a whitecast, even at an SPF of 50. It has a super-light formula and a matte finish, and it also lightly moisturizes. If you have dry or combination skin, you may want to layer an additional moisturizer underneath this one.

For the tropical-scent lover: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration weightless sunscreen spray SPF 50

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration weightless sunscreen spray

Hawaiian Tropic via Walmart

This affordable, non-sticky spray sunscreen has a summer-ready tropical scent and claims to offer up to 12 hours of moisture. It’s made with ingredients such as papaya, mango, passion fruit, plumeria, guava and aloe. This SPF 50 sunscreen is reef-friendly, meaning that it doesn’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are toxic to corals and other marine life. It also claims wate resistance for up to 80 minutes.

For the makeup wearer: Tarte Sea Set and Protect mineral sunscreen powder SPF 30

Tarte Sea Set and Protect mineral sunscreen powder

Tarte via Sephora

Set your makeup with this SPF 30, translucent, vanilla-scented powder. Once your makeup is applied for the day, reapplying a facial sunscreen cream can be problematic, but this handy product fixes all that. A built-in brush makes this product travel-friendly.

For the tanning-oil junkie: Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Sol oil sunscreen SPF 30

Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Sol oil sunscreen

Sol de Janeiro via Sephora

If you’re one to reach for tanning oil, forget it. Reach for this SPF 30 oil sunscreen instead. It comes in Sol de Janeiro’s heady Cheirosa ’62 fragrance, with notes of salted caramel, pistachio, jasmine petals and vanilla. It hydrates with cupuaçu butter, açaí oil and coconut oil.

For the sunburnt lip-prone: EltaMD UV lip balm with SPF 36

EltaMD UV lip balm

EltaMD via Amazon

The feeling of sunburnt lips is just awful. Pick up this SPF 36 lip balm to fight that. This 5% Hydromanil lip balm is moisturizing and claims to be water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

For the organic shopper: Coola peach blossom classic body organic sunscreen spray SPF 70

COOLA Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Spray Peach Blossom

Coola via Sephora

For an unexpected sunscreen scent, pick up the Coola peach blossom spray sunscreen. It has an SPF of 70 and is said to be water-resistant for 80 minutes. It’s made with more than 70% organic ingredients and is reef-friendly.

For the exotic-ingredient enthusiast: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

Supergoop! via Dermstore

This unscented, oil-free, SPF 40 facial sunscreen wears well under makeup. It boasts exotic ingredients such as red algae (said to protect against blue light), frankincense (to soothe) and a complex derived from meadow foam seed, said to hydrate.