New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The best and worst sunscreens for every occasion

From a self-proclaimed sunscreen addict, these are the glowy, nourishing sunscreens you need in your makeup bag — and the ones to avoid.
Lianna O’Grady
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

Sunscreen should be a necessity in everyone’s bag, especially if you, like me, struggle with sensitive skin that peels easily after walking around the city on a sunny day. In addition to protecting skin from sunburns, sunscreen prevents acne, post-inflammatory acne scars, premature aging and, most importantly, skin cancer. The tricky part is finding the right sunscreen for your skin type. If you don’t know where to start, my tip would be to research the best sunscreens for your specific skin type and find one that you could easily incorporate into your daily routine. So, as a self-proclaimed sunscreen addict — with reactive, acne-prone and combination-to-oily type skin — I am here to lead you to your perfect sunscreen.

Inevitably, you may run into a few that just don’t feel right on your face – in that case, you always have the option to use it on your body. What truly matters is that you apply your SPF every day!

Note that sunscreen is labeled as broad-spectrum if it protects from both UVA and UVB rays, and PA+ ratings measure the ability to block UVA rays, with PA++++ as the highest level of the four-level ranking because it blocks up to over 95% of UVA rays.


The cult classic: Tatcha — The Silk Sunscreen broad spectrum SPF 50

A beige Tatcha lip tint with spf next to a purple Tatcha sunscreen stick.
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

The fan favorite sunscreen recently made a grand return with new and improved mess-free packaging that now stops the sunscreen from leaking. For those who want to avoid chemical sunscreen formulas, this weightless mineral formula breaks the stereotype of what a mineral sunscreen should feel like. The light tint also gives the skin a natural glow and can act as a primer to your foundation.


The makeup substitute: Tower 28 — SunnyDays Tinted SPF broad spectrum 30

A tub of Tower 28 tinted sunscreen.
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

If you’re looking to cover up redness or uneven skin tone without foundation or concealer, SunnyDays might be the product for you. While I like the natural finish, it is also fairly moisturizing, so I prefer to use it when it isn’t hot and humid outside. Amounting to the same coverage of a sheer foundation, make sure not to over-apply this SPF as it can be hard to blend out with your bare hands. 


The grab on the go: Round Lab — Birch Moisturizing Sun Stick SPF 50+ PA++++ 

A Round Lab sunscreen stick.
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

This is my favorite sunscreen stick. The moisturizing formula feels luxuriously silky during application and glides smoothly without feeling like a greasy stick of butter across my face. The Birch Moisturizing Sun Stick removes little makeup upon application and is not irritating to the skin at all, and I can bring it on-the-go with me for convenient and sanitary SPF reapplication throughout the day.


The viral: Beauty of Joseon — Relief Sun: Rice + Probiotics SPF 50+ PA++++

A tube of Beauty of Joseon sunscreen in front of a Round Lab sunscreen stick.
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

Viral products don’t always live up to their hype, but that isn’t the case with Beauty of Joseon’s best-selling sunscreen that had the Internet’s skincare sphere in a chokehold. I’m on the last few squeezes of my second tube, which speaks volumes. It is very nourishing, but also lightweight, so it never feels or looks cakey. However, it is worth noting that Relief Sun leaves a slight burning sensation on the rare days when my skin is extra sensitive and dry. Some users online have also reported breakouts after use.


The barely there: Bioré — Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ & Aqua Rich Aqua Protect Lotion SPF 50+ PA++++

Two blue Biore sunscreen bottles. One bottle is a tube while the other is a stick.
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

No one does summer sunscreens better than Bioré — its formulas have the barely-there, refreshing feel that is suitable for both face and body. The Aqua Rich Watery Essence and Aqua Protect Lotion have its main descriptors in the names: watery essence and lotion in the most literal sense. The former starts as a white liquid that turns clear during application, and the latter is a clear gel. I prefer the Aqua Rich Watery Essence because the bottle contains a ball for shaking before use to help prevent the sunscreen from separating.


Banned from my pouch: La Roche-Posay — Anthelios Anti-Shining Invisible Fresh Mist SPF 50 & Uvidea Anthelios Tone-Up Clear Cream SPF 50+ PA++++

Two white La Roche-Posay sunscreen bottles. One bottle is a tube while the other is a cylinder spray.
(Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

I love La Roche-Posay for its skincare products, but these two sunscreens are among the worst I’ve ever tried. I picked up the sunscreen spray last summer for my outdoor tennis lessons, hoping for a sanitary, sweat-proof formula. Anthelios Anti-Shining Invisible Fresh Mist claims to be anti-shine and for sensitive and oily skin, yet it does the exact opposite. It leaves an oily film that makes it feel like I’ve just used Trader Joe’s olive oil spray on my face. The same goes for the Uvidea Anthelios Tone-Up Clear Cream. Although it claims to have pore coverage as printed on the tube, it only emphasizes your greasy pores. Normally, if a product feels heavy for me, it could mean that it could be an option for people with dry skin. However, I doubt these two La Roche-Posay sunscreens would feel moisturizing to anyone — just greasy.

Contact Katie Liao at [email protected].

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