by | May 5, 2021 | Bath, Reviews, Z

Last Updated: Oct 15, 2021 @ 3:26 pm.

What's the best premium sunscreen? You've probably seen these brands touted on social media. But how do they work in the real world? To find out, we took out a second mortgage on our house and purchased some popular premium sunscreens. To keep it fair, we did a blind test—we slathered on samples without knowing which brands were which! We then talked to a dermatologist to get her take on the ingredients. Here are the ones we recommend.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for the home and families since 1994. To keep things independent, we don't take money or freebies from brands we review! Our work is 100% reader-supported!


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Best Face Sunscreen

Absorbs quickly, no white cast
Wow! Loved how lightweight and smooth this sunscreen goes on—good protection(UVA/UVB broad spectrum). Caveat: not water resistant.
$37.00 ($21.76 / Ounce)

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Best Face Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen

Let’s talk premium sunscreens!

Yes, they cost a pretty penny. Yes, we emptied our piggy bank to try those expensive premium sunscreens. You’re welcome!

But seriously . . . why do folks consider purchasing a sunscreen that costs several times that of the drugstore variety?

For many folks, less expensive sunscreens are too greasy—especially if you want to put makeup on over your sunscreen.

Others with sensitive skin have had negative experiences or reactions to cheap sunscreen . . . and perhaps their doctor has suggested one of the more pricey sunscreens, most of which promise to be more gentle. (Caveat: even sunscreens that tout they work great on sensitive skin can still cause rashes or breakouts—your mileage may vary).

And yet other folks just like the smooth feel of more expensive sunscreens. If you have darker skin tones, paying extra for a sunscreen that doesn’t give you a ghostly white cast . . . well, that may make some sense!

For the best face sunscreen, we’ll give the crown to  EltaMD’s UV Clear Facial Sunscreen. Yes, it is crazy pricey, but we loved this sunscreen. Our readers with dark skin say they love it too–no white cast. And those with oily skin also found this smooth and not greasy sunscreen to be both effective and smooth.

Here’s more:

What We Liked

• UVA/UVB broad spectrum.

• No white cast.

• Smooth, not greasy.

• SPF 46.

• Works well with skin prone to rosacea or acne.

What Needs Work

• Dries out skin? We didn’t find this in our tests, but a handful of our readers said it made their skin too dry. Or it caused breakouts.

• Very pricey.

• Not water resistant. If you want a sunscreen that is water resistant, consider our next pick.

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Best Water Resistant Sunscreen

Velvet-like texture
Super easy to apply, we liked this pricey sunscreen's non-greasy feel and lack of fragrance. SPF 60, UVA/UVB protection and paraben free. Critics say it can sting if it gets in the eyes.
$35.99

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Best Water Resistant Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Sunscreen

This one is a reader favorite and it did well in our tests—it certainly was fast to absorb! Also nice: it is fragrance free and has a velvety texture. Here’s more:

What We Liked

 Lightweight.

• SPF 60.

• UVA/UVB coverage.

• Fragrance free.

• Oil free, paraben free, oxybenzone free, octinoxate free.

What Needs Work

• Some folks say it takes too much effort to rub it in. We didn’t see that in our tests, but we wonder if different skin types might have a different experience with this sunscreen.

• White cast? Again, didn’t see that in our own tests. But we see reports from some readers.

• Can sting the eyes.

• Stains clothes.

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Best For Darker Skin Tones

Reef safe—oxybenzone & octinoxate-free
A crazy-pricey, very small tube of sunscreen—but still rather amazing! It goes on clear with no scent or color . . . perfect for use under makeup. Wonderful smooth texture.
$34.00 ($20.00 / Fl Oz)

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Best For Darker Skin Tones: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

Perhaps you’ve heard the hype about this “invisible” suncreen that goes on clear—is it really worth the price? 

After trying it out and talking to our readers who are fans, we have to agree: it is rather amazing! With no scent or color, this sunscreen is great for those with darker skin tones or who want to wear makeup over their sunscreen—there is no white cast here.

What We Liked

• Weightless, smooth texture.

• No scent or color.

• Great under makeup.

• Excellent to use if you have a darker skin tones.

• Reef safe.

• UVA/UVB protection.

• Oxybenzone & octinoxate free.

What Needs Work

• Very small bottle, very high price!

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do extensive research, evaluating products with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability. When we purchase a product for hands-on testing, we do so with our own money. 

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

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