Sun Safety

Best sunscreen for face – by skin type

“Best sunscreen for face” is one of the most searched skincare topics – so the MoleMap team has put together our top-rated list of facial sunscreens (which all have the tick of approval from dermatologists). Whether your skin is sensitive, dry, oily, or prone to acne – we’ve got you covered.
MoleMap Team
November 16, 2023
15 minutes

This arti­cle explains every­thing you need to know about the best sun­screen for face by skin type:

  • which sun­screens are rec­om­mend­ed by dermatologists
  • which sun­screens are best for each skin type
  • the dif­fer­ence between chem­i­cal and min­er­al sunscreens
  • and which sun­screens offer the best pro­tec­tion against the dam­ag­ing UV rays that can cause skin cancer.
Best sunscreen for face

Do you want to read this article later?

Do you want to read this article later?
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

When should I apply sun­screen to my face?

In Aus­tralia and New Zealand, we unfor­tu­nate­ly have the high­est skin can­cer inci­dence and mor­tal­i­ty rates in the world1. In fact, stud­ies show that hav­ing just five blis­ter­ing sun­burns before the age of 20 can increase your melanoma risk by 80%.2

That’s why skin can­cer experts agree that it’s essen­tial to wear a broad-spec­trum, SPF30+ sun­screen all day, every day, espe­cial­ly in the sum­mer months.

In fact, sun­screen guide­lines for both Aus­tralia and New Zealand rec­om­mend that we should be apply­ing sun­screen every day when the UV index is pre­dict­ed to reach 3 or above1. And not just in sum­mer, even in win­ter, the sun’s harsh rays can still dam­age your skin.

It’s rec­om­mend­ed that sun­screen is applied every day to the face, ears, neck, scalp if uncov­ered – and all parts of the body not cov­ered by cloth­ing. Aim to apply sun­screen as part of your morn­ing skin­care rou­tine to pro­tect your skin from the harm­ful effects of every­day sun expo­sure – and remem­ber to reap­ply it after every two hours of sun exposure.

This applies to the whole fam­i­ly – includ­ing babies, chil­dren and teenagers. Aus­tralian brand New Day Skin cre­ates facial sun­screens espe­cial­ly for teens and tweens.

Best sunscreen for face

Why do I need the right kind of sun­screen for my skin type?

Choos­ing a sun­screen that’s specif­i­cal­ly for­mu­lat­ed for your skin is cru­cial. It saves you wast­ing your pre­cious dol­lars on sun­block​‘tri­al and error’ – or worse, break­ing out in spots just before that impor­tant sum­mer event!

If sun­screen isn’t right for your skin type, it can cause irri­ta­tion, block­ages, break-outs and even aller­gies. Think of it like choos­ing a mois­turis­er and aim to choose a sun­screen that’s specif­i­cal­ly for­mu­lat­ed for your skin type.

The best sun­screen for your face gives you effec­tive, broad-spec­trum pro­tec­tion against UV rays (ide­al­ly SPF30+ or high­er), and is some­thing you feel com­fort­able wear­ing. Which brings us to our next point…

Best sunscreen for face

What's my skin cancer risk?

Answer six simple questions (takes less than 1 minute) to discover your risk and the right skin check for you.
Check my risk

What’s bet­ter: min­er­al or chem­i­cal sunscreens?

Sun­screens come in many dif­fer­ent tex­tures and for­mu­la­tions but, essen­tial­ly, there are two main types available:

  1. Min­er­al sun­screens (block­ers) – also known as​‘phys­i­cal’ sun­screens. These sit on top of the skin and phys­i­cal­ly block out/​reflect rays, as well as absorb­ing them. Look for min­er­al sun­screens that con­tain zinc oxide and/​or tita­ni­um oxide – prefer­ably both – to pro­vide broad-spec­trum coverage.
  2. Chem­i­cal sun­screens – con­tain spe­cif­ic chem­i­cals designed to absorb UV light. The UV is then trans­mit­ted into a very low heat ener­gy. These sun­screens sit in the out­er, non-viable lay­er of the skin, and absorb UV light through­out the day. The active ingre­di­ents in chem­i­cal sun­screens include avoben­zone, octi­nox­ate and oxybenzone.

Each type has its pros and cons and it real­ly comes down to per­son­al pref­er­ence and skin type. Min­er­al sun­screens tend to be less irri­tat­ing, so they tend to work best on sen­si­tive skins (includ­ing children’s del­i­cate skin) – how­ev­er, they can feel​‘heavy’ and be dif­fi­cult to ful­ly blend into the skin.

On the oth­er hand, chem­i­cal sun­screens can be a bet­ter option if you want a water-resis­­tant for­mu­la, play sports or sweat a lot and/​or want a sun­screen that quick­ly absorbs into the skin.

Sun­screen tech­nol­o­gy and for­mu­la­tions are improv­ing all the time. For exam­ple, many of La Roche Posay’s sun­screens con­tain a mix of both phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal block­ers, plus they are der­matolog­i­cal­ly test­ed for sen­si­tive skin.

Look for a sun­screen that:

  • Pro­vides broad-spec­trum pro­tec­tion against both UVA and UVB
  • Is specif­i­cal­ly tai­lored to your skin type
  • Is ultra-light and non-greasy so you can wear it every day
  • Doesn’t sting the eyes
  • Min­imis­es the impact on the environment

Read on to find out which sun­screens are rec­om­mend­ed for each skin type.

Best sun­screen for face type – sen­si­tive skin

If you have fair or sen­si­tive skin, look for a sun­screen specif­i­cal­ly for­mu­lat­ed for sen­si­tive skin, fra­­grance-free or hypoal­ler­genic. If you have sen­si­tive skin, it is best to always patch test a prod­uct before using.

Best sun­screen for face type – sen­si­tive skin
Above: Best sun­screens for sen­si­tive skin (left to right) Cetaphil Sheer Min­er­al Liq­uid Sun­screen SPF 50, Ultra Vio­lette Clean Screen SPF30, Neu­tro­ge­na Sen­si­tive Skin-Face Min­er­al Sun­screen Broad Spec­trum SPF50

Our favourite sun­screens for sen­si­tive and fair skin include:

1. Cetaphil Sun 50 Sheer Min­er­al Face Liq­uid Sunscreen

This broad-spec­trum SPF 50 liq­uid sun­screen is for­mu­lat­ed for sen­si­tive skin. Its light­weight for­mu­la blends quick­ly into the skin with­out leav­ing a white cast or greasy residue; and leaves a dry, mat­te fin­ish that’s suit­able for use alone or under make-up.

2. Ultra Vio­lette Clean Screen SPF30

Made in Aus­tralia, this envi­ron­­men­­tal­­ly-friend­­ly, min­er­al-based sun­screen is gen­tle on sen­si­tive, reac­tive and acne-prone skin and ide­al for those con­cerned about eczema, rosacea or der­mati­tis. Clean Screen fea­tures an invis­i­ble, broad-spec­trum for­mu­la­tion that’s loaded with zinc oxide to help defend skin from sun dam­age, and also organ­ic green tea and cucum­ber to soothe and bal­ance the skin and reduce inflammation.

3. Neu­tro­ge­na Sen­si­tive Skin-Face Min­er­al Sun­screen Broad Spec­trum SPF50

This gen­tle, 100% min­er­al liq­uid for­mu­la is non-clog­ging, oil-free and hypoal­ler­genic – plus it’s free of para-aminoben­­zoic acid and fra­grance, which means it’s suit­able for those with both sen­si­tive skin and acne to wear dai­ly. And, amaz­ing­ly for a gen­tle sun­screen, it’s also water-resis­­tant for up to 80 minutes.

Best sun­screen for face type – oily skin

If you often get a lit­tle​ ‘glowy’ through­out the day, search out sun­screens that have a mat­te fin­ish or lighter gel for­mu­la­tions which feel less heavy on your skin. Here are three of our faves:

Best sun­screen for face type – oily skin
Above: best sun­screens for oily skin (from left to right) Neu­tro­ge­na Invis­i­ble Dai­ly Defense Face Serum with SPF 60+, Shi­sei­do Urban Envi­ron­ment Oil-Free UV Pro­tec­tor SPF30, Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorb­ing Mois­tur­iz­er SPF30

1. Neu­tro­ge­na Invis­i­ble Dai­ly Defense Face Serum SPF60+

Oil-free and non-greasy, this light­weight hydrat­ing serum is infused with gin­ger extract to help improve skin radi­ance. It is water and sweat-resis­tant for up to 80 min­utes, so great for those who like to work up a sweat but keep look­ing cool! This SPF 60+ serum is also free from oxy­ben­zone and parabens.

2. Shi­sei­do Urban Envi­ron­ment Oil-Free UV Pro­tec­tor SPF42

This is an ultra-light, oil-free sun­screen lotion for every­day face pro­tec­tion. Oil-free and​‘mat­ti­fy­ing’, yet light­weight in feel, it’s designed to con­trol excess sebum while guard­ing against envi­ron­men­tal aggres­sors. It pro­motes the nat­ur­al beau­ty of skin by pro­tect­ing against the three major caus­es of skin cell dam­age – UV rays, oxi­da­tion and over pro­duc­tion of sebum – for soft, health­i­er-look­ing skin.

3. Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorb­ing Mois­tur­iz­er SPF30

If you tend to​‘shine’ much more than you’d like, this is the sun­screen for you. Cetaphil’s face sun­screen not only pro­tects the skin with SPF 30+, but con­trols oil while main­tain­ing hydra­tion. Fra­­grance-free, light­weight, and non-come­­do­­genic (non-clog­ging), this fast-absorb­ing yet mois­tur­is­ing sun­screen leaves a mat­te fin­ish for flaw­less wear.

Best sun­screen for face type – dry or mature skin

If you have dry or mature skin, choose a facial sun­screen that con­tains hydrat­ing, ultra-nour­ish­ing ingre­di­ents like hyaluron­ic acid, ceramide or col­loidal oat­meal. Ingre­di­ents such as glyc­erin and saf­flower also leave the skin feel­ing deeply hydrat­ed, with a nat­ur­al satin finish.

Best sun­screen for face type – dry or mature skin
Above: Best sun­screens for mature skin (from left to right) Avene Intense Pro­tect 50+, La Roche-Posay Tole­ri­ane Dou­ble Repair Face Mois­tur­iz­er UV SPF 30,La Roche Posay Anthe­lios Ultra Facial Sun­screen SPF50+

Our top picks for dry or mature skin are:

1. Avene Intense Pro­tect 50+

For thirsty skin, this anti-dry­ing for­mu­la­tion pro­vides hydra­tion for up to 8 hours. It offers an invis­i­ble fin­ish with no white streaks – even on dark­er skin tones. One of its star fea­tures is TRI­A­SORB™, an organ­ic sun fil­ter with the abil­i­ty to absorb and reflect UVB, short UVA and long UVA rays, as well as high-ener­gy vis­i­ble blue light.

2. La Roche-Posay Tole­ri­ane Dou­ble Repair Face Mois­tur­iz­er UV SPF 30

This mois­tur­iz­er with sun­screen pro­vides all-day hydra­tion and pre­bi­ot­ic ben­e­fits for the skin bar­ri­er. For­mu­lat­ed with a high con­cen­tra­tion of La Roche-Posay’s pre­bi­ot­ic ther­mal water, ceramide‑3, niaci­namide and glyc­erin; it has a light­weight, refresh­ing tex­ture that’s eas­i­ly absorbed into the skin.

3. La Roche Posay Anthe­lios Ultra Facial Sun­screen SPF50+

Ide­al for nor­mal to dry skin types, Anthe­lios Ultra Facial Sun­screen SPF50+ is a light and mois­tur­is­ing broad-spec­trum sun­screen that’s ultra-com­­fort­able, fra­­grance-free and der­ma­to­log­i­cal­ly test­ed. With Baicalin, an antiox­i­dant that fight free rad­i­cals on the skin’s sur­face, it’s also anti-eye sting­ing and leaves no white marks – bonus!

Best sun­screen for face type – acne-prone skin

If your skin is prone to break­outs, choos­ing a sun­screen can be a conun­drum: many acne med­ica­tions can make your skin more sen­si­tive to sun­burn — how­ev­er, many sun­screen for­mu­las can con­gest your pores, which leads to pim­ples and more breakouts!

The best sun­blocks for your skin can cre­ate a flat­ter­ing mat­te look, and pro­tect the skin with­out increas­ing break­outs. Always check the label and make sure it says​‘non-come­­do­­genic’ — this tells you the for­mu­la­tion won’t clog up your pores. Two pop­u­lar non-come­­do­­genic sun­screen ingre­di­ents to look out for are zinc oxide and tita­ni­um dioxide.

Best sun­screen for face type – dry or mature skin
Above: Best sun­screens for acne-prone skin (from left to right) La Roche-Posay Anthe­lios Melt-in Milk Sun­screen SPF 100, Eliz­a­beth Arden Pre­vage City Smart Broad Spec­trum SPF50 Hydrat­ing Shield, Neu­tro­ge­na Clear Face Liq­uid Lotion Sun­screen SPF55

Here are our top 3 picks for acne-prone skin:

1. La Roche-Posay Anthe­lios Melt-in Milk Sun­screen SPF 100

With a high SPF lev­el of 100, this for­mu­la is suit­able for sun-sen­si­tive skin that might also be oily or acne-prone. Wear­able alone or under make-up, it blends eas­i­ly with­out leav­ing a white cast.

2. Eliz­a­beth Arden Pre­vage City Smart Broad Spec­trum SPF50 Hydrat­ing Shield

Rec­om­mend­ed by der­ma­tol­o­gists, this rep­utable sun­screen is gen­tle enough for mature, acne-prone skin. The for­mu­la has a slight tint, which helps elim­i­nate any red­ness or white residue after application.

3. Neu­tro­ge­na Clear Face Liq­uid Lotion Sun­screen SPF55

An ultra-light lotion that’s also water-resis­­tant. Neu­tro­ge­na Clear Face con­tains avoben­zone, an organ­ic sun­screen fil­ter that’s effec­tive in pro­vid­ing broad-spec­trum UV pro­tec­tion, and it’s non-clog­ging, oil-free and fra­­grance-free. It’s also great val­ue, so it’s ide­al for dai­ly use.

Which SPF rat­ing should I look for in a sunscreen?

Facial sun­screens tend to be at least SPF (sun pro­tec­tion fac­tor) 50+, and for good rea­son. A high SPF sun­block can pro­tect your skin from the dam­ag­ing UV rays that cause pre­ma­ture aging and even help reverse the signs of dam­age by reduc­ing dark spots, improv­ing tex­ture and boost­ing skin bright­ness3.

The SPF tells us how long we can expect to be exposed to UVB rays before burn­ing com­pared to wear­ing no sun­screen. The high­er the SPF, the greater the expect­ed pro­tec­tion — for exam­ple, a SPF15 sun­screen pro­vides about 94% UVB pro­tec­tion, but pro­tec­tion is increased to 97% with SPF30 and to 98% with SPF50+.

What’s best in a sun­screen? UVA, UVB or both?

Check your sun­screen before you buy to ensure it is​‘broad-spec­trum’, which means it con­tains both UVA and UVB pro­tec­tion. Utravi­o­let A (UVA) has a longer wave­length, and is asso­ci­at­ed with pre­ma­ture skin aging, eye dam­age, while Ultra­vi­o­let B (UVB) has a short­er wave­length and is asso­ci­at­ed with skin burn­ing and skin can­cer4.

Remem­ber that apply­ing sun­screen doesn’t just help to reduce sun­burn, it can also help to reduce the signs of aging. Aging UVA rays are present all day long and all year round – even in win­ter – and you can still be exposed to UVA radi­a­tion inside a car or close to a window.

What’s more, UVB expo­sure has been proven to play a strong role in devel­op­ing melanoma, the most dan­ger­ous of the three most com­mon types of skin can­cer.

Mon­i­tor your skin

The good news is that all types of skin can­cer can be treat­ed if they’re found ear­ly enough.

MoleMap skin cancer clinics offers professional services such as skin check and mole check – to suit every bud­get. And if you’re wor­ried about a mole, spot or lesion any­where on your body, we encour­age you to book a check now.

To sum up, (and we can’t stress this enough!) we rec­om­mend that you always, always, always wear sun­screen on your face, neck, ears, chest and any part of your body that’s exposed to the sun, every day, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the sum­mer months.

And wher­ev­er pos­si­ble, cov­er up with high UPF sun pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and/​or stay in the shade. Your future skin will thank you for it!

References: 1. Australia: Melanoma Institute - New Zealand: - 2. American Association for Cancer Research: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers, June 2 2014 (6), 1080 - 3. 4.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

Latest News

Arrow IconArrow Icon

Sunblock vs sunscreen - What is the difference?

Read now

Is the sun safer in the winter?

Read now

Sunscreen and the difference between SPF and UPF

Read now

How to fade sunspots on your face: what works and what doesn’t

Read now

Understanding UPF: The best clothes to wear for sun protection

Read now

Sunscreen for dark skin: Do you really need it?

Read now

Want the security of ongoing mole monitoring?

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter

Get preventative tips & hints on how to spot suspect moles. Plus, sun smart giveaways.
Thanks for subscribing!
Keep an eye on your inbox. We'll be there soon with all the skinformation to help you stay safe.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.