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When it comes to morning routines, there are two non-negotiables: Teeth brushing (obvs) and face sunscreen application. Not just in the summer. Not only when you’re going to be intentionally soaking up the sun. Every day, full stop.
For one thing, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV rays, and just five sunburns over the course of your lifetime doubles the risk of melanoma. Convinced yet? If that’s not enough, unprotected sun exposure significantly contributes to premature aging and the development of all kinds of issues like discoloration, inflammation and skin damage.
As a thirty-something woman, I’ll be the first to admit, this was not always my approach. Many summers involved uncomplicated plans of “laying out” (after getting that sweet tanning bed “base” of course 😬 ) and after moving to Vermont which is forsaken by sun and warm weather approximately nine months out of the year, the importance of putting sunscreen on my face took years to register.
The turning point happened several summers ago, in an oddly lit brewery bathroom after a long bike ride. (Again, Vermont.) As I glanced at myself in the mirror, I saw what could only be described as a “dirt ‘stache.” I assumed it was something I’d transferred from my handlebars but it wouldn’t come off even after I scrubbed. I don’t know how I’d missed it up until that point. Years of not protecting my skin from the sun had given me a pretty noticeable case of melasma. Fixing it became an obsession, starting with preventative face sunscreen to keep it from getting worse. I’ve worn it every day since.
I’ve tested tons of them over the years and the best sunscreens for your face offer at least 30 SPF (which protects you from 97% of UVB rays), aren’t greasy or irritating for sensitive skin (after all, the best sunscreen is one you actually want to wear, right?) and work on all skin tones. And whether you wear makeup or not, they should sit evenly on the skin with the ability to layer product on top of it without pilling. (If this is all new to you, apply as the last step in your skincare routine but before makeup application.)
But since all things skincare really come down to personal preference and skin tones and types are all over the spectrum, I asked the rest of Team Motherly to weigh in with their favorites as well.
Check out the best sunscreens for your face below and set them right next to your toothpaste so you don’t forget. Trust me!
Best Face Sunscreen
A version of this story was published June 28, 2021. It has been updated.