SkinSAFE™ Shoppers’ Choice Award: Facial Sunscreens Top 10

Real-world clinical skin testing data to help people with sensitive skin find the right sunscreen for them.

By Eunice Lee, PharmD & David A. Mays, PharmD, MBA
May 28, 2021

For the first time ever, SkinSAFE™, a clinically-driven ingredient-based recommendation platform that analyzes thousands of products and their likelihood to cause skin irritation, has created the SkinSAFE Shoppers’ Choice Awards – making it easier than ever to find facial sunscreens that are non-irritating and designed to protect sensitive skin. Memorial Day and #dontfryday Friday are fast approaching so now is a good time to think, rethink, and get ready to focus on skin health.  

For those with sensitive or reactive skin, finding the right type of sunscreen can be particularly difficult especially when you are told to use it every day! Just because facial sunscreens are available “over the counter” doesn’t mean that all sunscreen products are made equally and not all are designed for regular use. Some are oily, others are chalky, and some contain ingredients that are not recommended for those with sensitive skin. 

UV protection is more than just an outdoor phenomenon, and after spending a year looking at ourselves on ZOOM meetings, many of us realize that we need to preserve our youthful appearance as long as possible. Terms like “premature aging”, “free-radical production”, “blue-light protection”, and “collagen breakdown” have gone mainstream in even the beauty rooms of the new app CLUBHOUSE. Some people are finally “seeing themselves” for the first time and they realize skin health is more than just a fashion trend, it’s a must for preventing dry, damaged, discolored skin as well as fine lines and wrinkles.

Stand out facial sunscreens add ingredients that help support the skin barrier too. These include ceramides, allantoin, stearic acid, and glycerin, which are important to restore, hydrate, and protect the skin in addition to other ingredients like green tea extract and niacinamide. Combine some of these facial goodies with a tinted facial sunscreen formula and honestly, WHO NEEDS MAKEUP?

The SkinSAFE Shoppers’ Choice Award is an exclusive list of the top products that are free from the most common allergens, chemicals, and compounds that have been found to be the most problematic. For our 2021 sunscreen awards, all must rate a SkinSAFE 100%, have an AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) recommended SPF equal to 30+, be SkinSAFE safety score rated 50+, and be highly popular with our engaged SkinSAFE users. Final scores are independently calculated and not subject to any outside influence.

This year, only 2.4% (n=25) of all sunscreens reviewed are recognized as in the facial sunscreen category. The 25 SkinSAFE Shoppers’ Choice winners are made by 16 different brands and include mineral, combination, and chemical sunscreens. Some products also come in tinted versions for those looking to augment or replace their foundation.

 The top 10 are listed below in no particular order. Please sign up at to receive the full list of awardees and to be notified of future Shoppers’ Choice Awards

  • Type of sunscreen: Chemical
  • CeraVe Ultra-light Moisturizing lotion SPF 30 combines four different sunscreens (avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene) in an oil-free, lightweight, base with a matte finish that makes this the perfect sunscreen for use under makeup. This sunscreen is non-whitening and may be a good option for those with a darker complexion. It’s also formulated with three different ceramides and hyaluronic acid so this lotion won’t clog your pores and with a broad-spectrum SPF 30, you know this is a product you can use year-round.
  • Type of sunscreen: Mineral
  • Clinique is renowned for focusing on sensitive skin. This oil-free gem uses both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in a fluid that is virtually invisible and ultra-light. It’s safe for use around the eyes, contains no parabens, phthalates, fragrance, SLS, SLES, or synthetic colors. Be sure to give this one a good shake before using and since it’s really light weight, you can reapply with ease every 2 hours.
  • Type of sunscreen: Combination
  • CVS Health AM Moisturizing Facial Lotion For Normal to Dry SPF continues to be one of the most frequently commented on sensitive friendly facial sunscreens on our list. It’s a store brand and one of a few to combine both mineral and chemical sunscreens with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide to create an effective, non-whitening SPF 30 with anti-aging ingredients that you won’t need to take a loan out to buy.
  • Type of sunscreen: Mineral
  • Derma E may be new to you, but it’s well known by the sensitive skin users of SkinSAFE who look for products that won’t irritate their skin. Derma E Sun Defense Mineral Oil-Free Sunscreen uses non-nanoparticle zinc oxide for broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. This oil-free SPF 30 also includes anti-aging antioxidant skin goodies like vitamin E and Green Tea extract in a fragrance-free, paraben-free, vegan formula.
  • Type of sunscreen: Mineral
  • If you see a dermatologist or have read any blogs on sunscreens, we are sure EltaMD Skincare was mentioned and it’s a favorite of SkinSAFE. EltaMD Skincare UV Physical Broad-Spectrum, Facial Sunscreen SPF 41 comes in a tinted formula that many online say has replaced their need for foundation. This mineral sunscreen formula is enriched with antioxidant powerhouse ingredients like quercetin and thioctic acid and since it’s tinted, may blend better for those with darker complexions.
  • Type of sunscreen: Mineral
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV Broad Spectrum is a hero sunscreen product for our SkinSAFE users. It’s lightweight, non-greasy formula is packed with hydrating and anti-aging ingredients like glycerin, ceramide-3, and niacinamide. It’s also one of the few facial sunscreens to focus on prebiotic skincare thermal water to help restore and replenish what your skin needs. This broad-spectrum sunscreen uses a combination of chemical sun filters in a non-whitening, lotion.
  • Type of sunscreen: Mineral
  • With broad-spectrum zinc oxide, Olay Regenerist Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen is the only facial sunscreen on our list to combine niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, with glycerin, vitamin e, and an amino peptide to support skin renewal. Its thicker formula has users loving its hydrating feel.
  • Type of sunscreen: Chemical
  • Sun Bum Face 70 Lotion SPF 70 is one of the first sunscreen formulas developed at Sun Bum and combines 4 different sunscreens for its lightweight, oil-free, water resistant formula. It is formulated without octinoxate or oxybenzone and with an SPF 70, it’s one of the highest SPFs on our list. Users report that it is a “no show” with a matte finish and not greasy feel making it a perfect complement to your regular skincare routine.
  • Type of sunscreen: Chemical
  • Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30 is one of the “go to” sunscreens for those sensitive skin users who are looking for an easy to apply, barely there formula. Four different sun filters are combined with vitamin B5, vitamin E, glycerin, and other special ingredients like hydrovotin 24 focused on hydrating and protecting your skin around the clock.
  • Type of sunscreen: Mineral
  • This SPF 40 sunscreen uses a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to offer physical sun protection in a matte formula. Its broad-spectrum formula also adds other ingredients like vitamin E and vitamin C for antioxidant and skin benefits. Like other TIZO products, TIZO 2 Facial Primer Non-tinted SPF 40 is free of fragrances and oils.
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