Whether or not you’re a bride-to-be, there’s one important skincare product that deserves equal time and attention. We’re talking about sunscreen. Sure, it may not be the sexiest or most fun product to talk about, but its importance truly can’t be understated. “Sunscreen is important for everyone!” says dermatology professor, Dr. Mona Gohara. “90 percent of the visible signs of aging come from unprotected daily exposure to UV light.” Point being, it should be an imperative part of your day-to-day life, as well as your pre-wedding prep, when you’re likely extra focused on keeping your skin looking healthy and glowy. Not to mention that it’s a must-add to your honeymoon packing list—and even more so if you’re going to be hitting up a sunny beach or tropical destination.
When it comes to picking a sunscreen, keep in mind that they tend to fall into one of two categories: Chemical ones, which rely on chemical ingredients work by penetrating into the skin where they absorb UV rays, and mineral formulas, which contain minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that sit on top of the skin and reflect those harmful rays. Which one you choose is largely a matter of personal preference, although Dr. Gohara notes that chemical ones can sometimes be more likely to cause irritation if you have sensitive skin. Either way, make sure it’s labeled as broad-spectrum (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and at least SPF 30.
Then, there’s the texture to consider—do you want something lightweight that you can easily layer under makeup? A more moisturizing version with a cream-like consistency? A spray that makes it easy to get to hard-to-reach spots on your body? The good news is the choices really are endless. But that can also make the sunscreen shopping process a bit confusing and overwhelming, so we set out to consolidate some of the best of the best options.
Dr. Loretta Universal Glow Daily Defense Mineral Sunscreen Fluid SPF 40
If you’ve always thought of sunscreens as greasy and goopy, this pick is sure to change your mind forever. It’s featherweight and supremely silky, going on and blending into skin beautifully and seamlessly. It delivers broad-spectrum, SPF 40, mineral-based protection, and also has the added benefit of containing antioxidants that help ward off damage caused by blue light as well as UV rays. The super subtle peach tint works on all skin tones, not imparting coverage, per se, but rather adding just the tiniest touch of radiance so that your complexion looks extra glowy.
Price at time of publish: $60
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Fluid Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Dr. Gohara is a fan of this aptly-named pick, which she says is in fact ultra light. So much so that it layers beautifully under makeup, making it an especially great pick to wear on your actual wedding day, she says. (Yes, you need to wear sunscreen underneath your bridal makeup, even if you’re planning a totally indoor affair.) It too is a completely mineral option, great for sensitive skin, and has the added benefit of being fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, too.
Price at time of publish: $43.99
Best for Oily Skin
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
It can be tempting to skip sunscreen, especially if you have oily skin, but resist the urge. Instead, reach for this option. It contains niacinamide, a B vitamin that can help regulate oil protection and help ward-off pre-wedding breakouts, says Dr. Gohara of another one of her favorites. (It’s oil-free, too, a non-negotiable if you have oily or acne-prone skin.) She also likes that because it’s totally clear it blends in well on all skin tones.
Price at time of publish: $41
Alastin Skincare HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36
This pick may be pricey, but it’s worth every penny. It really does do it all: It’s perfectly hydrating, contains antioxidants for extra protection against blue and infrared light, has mineral-based sun protection that’s great for all skin types, and has a universal tint that works on most skin tones and leaves your complexion with a naturally-glowy radiance. What more could you ask for?
Price at time of publish: $64
Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen
Tinted sunscreens are a major win, especially on no-makeup days. They offer your daily dose of sun protection along with just enough coverage to even out your complexion. As the name suggests, this one offers enough color that it can easily take the place of foundation. Not to mention that it comes in an extensive line-up of 17 shades, including options for darker skin, a rarity in the tinted sunscreen world. Plus, the mineral formula is gentle and non-irritating.
Price at time of publish: $32
Best for Sensitive Skin
First Aid Beauty Mineral Sunscreen Zinc Oxide Broad Spectrum SPF 30
If your skin is easily irritated, don’t stress, just grab this ‘screen. First and foremost, it’s completely mineral-based, relying on a 20% concentration of zinc oxide. It’s fragrance-free, too, and has a fairly streamlined and mineral ingredient list in general, always a good thing if your skin tends to freak out. Other notable additions include skin-soothing and antioxidant-rich vitamin E, as well as moisturizing avocado oil.
Price at time of publish: $28
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion SPF 50
Dr. Gohara recommends using this wallet-friendly option in the days and months leading up to your wedding. “It’s infused with hydrating and plumping hyaluronic acid that will make your skin look radiant for the big day,” she explains. We also appreciate that it comes in both an SPF 30 and SPF 50 variants, and how light and refreshing the gel texture feels.
Price at time of publish: $15.99
Forah Everyday Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Here’s what you won’t find in this formula: Preservatives, silicones, synthetic fragrance, phthalates, parabens, animal-derived ingredients, or microplastics. What you will get is zinc oxide for broad-spectrum sun protection, along with a laundry list of natural and organic oils (think sea buckthorn, sweet almond, jojoba, and more) that both moisturize and deliver antioxidant protection. Also nice: The aluminum tube and cap are both recyclable.
Price at time of publish: $47
Best With Antioxidants
Supergoop! Glowscreen Sunscreen SPF 40
Think of antioxidants as a second layer of defense against sun damage; they work by combatting free radicals caused by UV exposure that can also contribute to signs of aging. Dr. Gohara likes this chemical sunscreen because it contains antioxidants mixed right into the formula, making it an especially good choice to bring on your tropical island honeymoon. Bonus points for the fact that it imparts a super glowy, radiant finish.
Price at time of publish: $38
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
While it can be hard to get enough coverage to use a powder formula as your base layer of sunscreen, a powder version is great for reapplication. Dr. Gohara is a fan of this one in particular, noting that it can easily go on over makeup and helps to absorb excess oil and sweat, too. It comes in four shades, and, as an added benefit, the brush bristles are antimicrobial so you don’t have to worry about germs and grime building-up.
Price at time of publish: $69
Best for Easy Reapplication
Vacation Super Spritz SPF 50
Speaking of reapplication, this protective mist makes it incredibly easy to hit the recommended goal of re-applying every two hours. It too won’t mess up your makeup, instead leaving your skin feeling nice and refreshed and with the perfect satin finish— you may even forget you just put on sunscreen. The small bottle is great for keeping on-hand at all times; consider stashing it in your clutch for reapplying during an outdoor wedding ceremony.
Price at time of publish: $24
Sun Bum Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
Protect exposed areas on the skin below your chin with this easy-to-use spray. It makes it actually possible to hit all those hard-to-reach spots (think your back), and doesn’t leave behind a greasy residue. Plus, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a top pick for beach days or a seaside honeymoon.
Price at time of publish: $18.89
Meet the Expert
Dr. Mona Gohara is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and a board-certified dermatologist based in Hamden, Connecticut. She specializes in skin of color, medicinal dermatology, and surgical dermatology.
What to Look For in Sunscreens for Brides
Broad-Spectrum and the SPF Level
These are the top two things to check for in a sunscreen. Broad-spectrum means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays; you want protection against both, as UVA rays cause signs of aging and UVB rays are responsible for burning. As far as the SPF level goes, Dr. Gohara says SPF 30 should be the minimum.
Chemical or Physical
As we mentioned earlier, this comes down to a matter of what you like. Chemical versions historically tend to be more cosmetically elegant, although that’s changing with the latest iteration of mineral formulas. Mineral formulas, like the winning First Aid Beauty Mineral Sunscreen Zinc Oxide Broad Spectrum SPF 30, are generally recommended if you have sensitive or easily-irritated skin.
Up the ante by opting for a sunscreen that contains antioxidants in the mix, which will help add as another level of back-up protection. Many of the winners on our list do, including the Forah Everyday Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion.
What are some things to look for in sunscreens?
The most important non-negotiables are that it’s labeled as broad-spectrum and has a minimum of SPF 30, says Dr. Gohara. Additional antioxidants are also good to seek out.
What ingredients should you avoid in sunscreen?
As long as you don’t have a known skin allergy to any ingredients, Dr. Gohara says there’s nothing specifically to avoid, at least in terms of active sunscreen ingredients. That being said, she does say that fragrance-free is a good idea.
What SPF is best for a wedding or honeymoon?
For a wedding (and general day-to-day activities), Dr. Gohara says an SPF 30 is sufficient. If you’re honeymooning on a beach, in an especially sunny location, or are going to be outdoors for prolonged periods of time, up that to an SPF 50, she suggests.
Why Trust Brides
Brides contributor Melanie Rud has nearly 15 years of journalism experience covering the beauty and lifestyle space for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She’s also a recent newlywed, who packed no less than seven different sunscreens for her honeymoon to the Maldives.