The 9 best sunscreens for men

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by Steven Rowe

Studies have shown that titanium dioxide, commonly found in sunscreens, protects skin from ultraviolet damage without harming human cells — but there’s a variety of ingredients in sunblock, and it can be tough to figure out which ones are right for you. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the best sunscreens for men (and everyone, really) are SPF 30 or higher and offer broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays — and ideally, they’re also water-resistant for sweat, rain, and everything else. When shopping for sunblock, you have a choice between chemical or mineral sunscreens in lotion, stick, and spray formulas, including ones that are sensitive skin-friendly.

So, what’s the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens? For starters, chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, where they then absorb UV rays. Because chemical sunblocks aren’t as thick as mineral ones, they’re often used in spray formulas and products for the face. However, two common chemical ingredients — oxybenzone and octinoxate — have been banned from sale in Hawaii because they’re potentially harmful to aquatic life, so each chemical sunscreen on the list is free from those ingredients. And while chemical sunscreens are generally considered safe for humans, certain ingredients such as benzophenones may cause an allergic reaction for some people. If you’re sensitive to sunblock ingredients, you might prefer mineral sunscreen.

Made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, mineral sunscreens stay on the skin’s surface to block UV rays and might be less irritating to the skin. Mineral-based sunscreens tend to be less harmful to coral reefs, too, and the picks on this list are “non-nano,” which means the particles are too large to be ingested by coral. One potential downside when compared to chemical sunscreens: Mineral options are thicker and can leave white residue on the skin. And while some people mix mineral and chemical sunscreens to potentially maximize sun protection, a study has shown this might actually limit UVA protection and make the sunscreens less effective, so it may be best to stick with one or the other.

Also, keep in mind that both chemical and mineral sunscreens may contain fragrance, a common cause of skin irritation. If you’re sensitive to fragrances, look for a sunblock that’s fragrance-free.

Depending on how to prefer to apply sunblock, you also have a choice between lotions, sticks, and sprays. Whichever sunscreen you choose, you’ll want to apply it before going outdoors and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating. Most options below are water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

With all that in mind, read on for the best sunscreens that are all coral reef-friendly, offer broad-spectrum protection, and are great for anyone to use on the face and body.

1. The overall best chemical sunscreen lotion

  • Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 10%, octisalate 5%, octocrylene 10%
  • Contains fragrance
  • SPF 50

This vegan and reef-friendly sunscreen is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and is cruelty-free. Featuring the brand’s own unique scent that gives off some serious summer vibes any time of year, this sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays, and it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. In addition, this noncomedogenic sunscreen contains antioxidant vitamin E. It’s also backed by a near-perfect 4.8 overall rating after more than 19,000 reviews.

According to a reviewer: “I absolutely love this sunscreen [...] It goes on smooth and smells amazing!!! It's perfect coverage without feeling like you're wearing any.”

2. The overall best mineral sunscreen lotion

  • Active ingredients: Titanium dioxide 3%, zinc oxide 3%
  • Contains fragrance
  • SPF 50

This SPF 50 mineral-based sunscreen offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and it’s non-nano, cruelty-free, and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It also contains antioxidant-rich ingredients such as eucalyptus and red algae for additional UV protection, and it has a light citrus scent. But since it’s a mineral sunscreen, it may leave a white cast on the skin.

According to a reviewer: “After an arduous hunt for a facial suncreen that didn't break out my sensitive skin, I got this marvelous bottle! It is a little on the noticeable side of suncreens when you first put it on, but I find that the white sheen goes away really fast and I haven't gotten any sunburn when biking out in the summer.”

3. A soothing, fragrance-free sunscreen lotion for sensitive skin

  • Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 20%
  • Fragrance-free
  • SPF 50

If you’re sensitive to fragrance and chemical sunscreen ingredients, this mineral sunscreen lotion is a highly rated option that’s fragrance-free and specifically formulated for sensitive skin. It contains non-nano zinc oxide with broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection, along with organic calendula flower extract, shea butter, coconut oil, and sunflower seed oil to soothe and moisturize skin. The cruelty-free sunscreen is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Like most mineral sunscreens though, it may leave behind a white cast on the skin.

According to a reviewer: “Loved this sunscreen. Used it on my husband, myself, and my 2 year old and it worked perfectly. It was a particularly sunny weekend and I needed something that would cover the entire family- this did the trick. My son has very sensitive skin and this sunscreen did not irritate him.”

4. The best chemical sunscreen stick

  • Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 10%, octisalate 5%, octocrylene 5%
  • Fragrance-free
  • SPF 50

This fragrance-free sunscreen stick offers broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection in a no-mess formula that’s easy to swipe on as needed. The reef-friendly, cruelty-free sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Plus, the lightweight, non-greasy formula contains antioxidant vitamin E, moisturizing shea butter, and cooling aloe. It’s also highly rated by Amazon shoppers, who have given it 4.5 stars overall.

According to a reviewer: “Love having the sun shield face stick available! Makes it so easy to keep this in your bag, apply liberally and frequently with no mess, no leaking, no hassle.”

5. The best mineral sunscreen stick

  • Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 20%
  • Fragrance-free
  • SPF 50

If you prefer a mineral sunscreen stick, this is a highly rated option with over 1,600 reviews. It’s noncomedogenic and free from fragrances that might irritate sensitive skin. In addition to providing broad-spectrum SPF 50 coverage, this sunscreen nourishes skin with shea butter, aloe vera, and sunflower seed oil. It’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, too. Like most mineral sunscreens, it may leave behind a white cast when applied.

According to a reviewer: “I really like this sunscreen stick. It is very small, so it is easy to keep in a pocket while out and about. I sometimes use it to reapply sunscreen to my face [...] It also doesn't make my eyes sting like other sunscreens do if sweat makes it get in your eyes. I have sensitive skin and allergies but this does not irritate my skin.”

6. The best sunscreen spray for face & body

  • Active ingredients: Avobenzone 2%, homosalate 5.5%, octisalate 4.5%, octocrylene 4%
  • Contains fragrance
  • SPF 30

Not only does this coconut-scented sunscreen provide broad-spectrum protection from the sun, but it also contains botanicals and aloe to moisturize your skin for up to 12 hours. The chemical sunscreen is reef-friendly, fast-absorbing, and according to reviewers, it feels lightweight and non-greasy — and you may find the spray-on formula is faster to apply than a lotion. The sunscreen is also recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Keep in mind though, the brand does not recommend spraying this sunscreen directly into the face — instead, spray it into your hands first and then rub it onto your face.

According to a reviewer: “This is, hands down, the best feeling sunscreen spray I’ve ever used. It is not greasy, sticky, shiny looking, and leaves NO residue. It is light and silky feeling on your skin. I’m in the sun everyday, and I’ve tried sunscreens at all price points, and this beats everything I’ve ever tried. If you want sun protection that truly feels weightless you will love the feel of this sunscreen.”

7. A lightweight sunscreen spray for hair & scalp

  • Active ingredients: Avobenzone 2%, homosalate 6%, octocrylene 6%
  • Contains fragrance
  • SPF 30

Though it can sometimes be overlooked when applying sunblock, the scalp needs UV protection, too — and this lightweight hair and scalp sunscreen is designed just for that. The non-greasy, quick-drying formula offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection without weighing down your hair, and it can be applied to wet or dry strands. According to the manufacturer, it can also be applied to the body, but it should not be sprayed directly into the face. The chemical sunscreen is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, reef-friendly, and recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. It has a banana scent.

According to a reviewer: “I have fine, thin hair and sunburn my scalp easily, I've been looking for years for a product made specifically for scalp/hair because sunscreen is a greasy mess, and I don't really like to wear a hat. I tried for the first time today as it was finally an outside day, sprayed in like hair spray, didn't notice a scent, so would say it can't be overpowering. I not only didn't burn today, but my hair looked and felt the same as any other day, so definitely did not leave it feeling like when I use regular sunscreen.”

8. A hydrating SPF face moisturizer

  • Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, homosalate 5%, octisalate 5%, octocrylene 7%
  • Fragrance-free
  • SPF 30

This SPF 30 face moisturizer is noncomedogenic and free from oil and synthetic fragrance, so it’s sensitive skin-friendly, and designed not to clog pores. The lightweight sunscreen also contains skin-soothing prebiotic thermal water and niacinamide, moisturizing glycerin, and ceramide-3 to restore and maintain the skin barrier. It’s a chemical sunscreen with reef-friendly ingredients, and you won’t have to worry about white streaks. While the lotion can help provide all-day hydration, it’s not water-resistant, so you should reapply immediately after swimming or sweating and at least every two hours for continuous broad-spectrum sun protection.

According to a reviewer: “This is the best moisturizer with SPF which I have ever used! The texture is nice & creamy & dries invisible on my dry, sensitive skin. It absorbs well. It never burns my skin like facial sunscreens always do. My skin feels soft & dewy after applying.”

9. An SPF lip balm with skin-soothing ingredients

  • Active ingredients: Zinc oxide 8%
  • Fragrance-free
  • SPF 30

This sunscreen lip balm offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 sun protection with reef-friendly, non-nano zinc oxide, and it’s also vegan and cruelty-free. The lip balm also contains soothing shea butter and antioxidant vitamin E. It’s free from synthetic fragrance, and one reviewer noted it “has no taste and a very mild smell.” However, this lip balm is not water-resistant, and like most mineral sunscreens, it may leave a white cast.

According to a reviewer: “This product is just what I wanted, soft smooth and with a slight sheen and SPF all in one! Would highly recommend. I didn't notice any real flavor or scent so that's a bonus.”

Study referenced:

Ginzburg, A., Blackburn, R., Santillan, C., Truong, L., Tanguay, R., & Hutchison, J. (2021). Zinc oxide-induced changes to sunscreen ingredient efficacy and toxicity under UV irradiation. Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, 20(10), 1273-1285.

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