Which SPF is right for you?

Sunscreen can seem *extremely* complicated. You want something that’ll keep your skin safe…but not make you all chalky. Take a deep breath, read this guide—and prepare to slather with certainty.

Synthetic SPF

There are over 30 synthetic sunscreen ingredients—so basically everything that’s not a mineral SPF is a synthetic SPF. They’re most often referred to as “chemical sunscreens” and some popular ingredients are oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone.


• Thin and light, they feel silky on the skin
• Work well under makeup—yay!
• No chalky effect
• Work by absorbing UV rays, which is highly effective
• Great UVA/UVB coverage


• Can sometimes irritate your eyes
• Might aggravate sensitive skin or cause certain conditions (like rosacea and eczema) to flare up
• Some people are concerned with harmful effects of the chemicals being absorbed into the body, but there’s no scientific data to support that belief

Eco effect

Some experts claim the chemicals can damage delicate ocean life (like coral reefs), but there isn’t a decisive ruling on this yet—more research is in the works.

Our picks

Dermalogica Clear Start Clearing Defense SPF 30, $28,

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $12,

Mineral SPF

Also known as “physical sunscreens,” there are only two possible key ingredients (both of which are naturally occurring): titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. See those on the label and you’ve got yourself a mineral SPF.


• Mineral SPFs don’t get absorbed into your skin and bloodstream—they sit on top and reflect the light and heat away
• Won’t irritate your eyes
• Amazing for sensitive skin types
• They’re naturally broad spectrum (aka they protect against UVA/UVB rays)


• Might feel a little sticky or greasy
• Some formulas can leave that chalky effect or a white residue—but new tech is improving this factor
• Minerals require a more liberal, careful application—so be sure to slather!
• Can rub off, sweat off and rinse off more easily—meaning more frequent application is needed

Eco effect

No known downsides—just be sure to recycle your plastic packaging!

Our picks

 C’est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $15,

 Biossance Squalane + Mineral SPF 45, $39,

The bottom line? Both options are great: Just seek out an SPF of at least 30 and apply daily!


by Kelsey Haywood-Lucas | 6/12/2020