Introducing The Kit’s new editor-tested shopping awards, the Shop Smart Guide. The idea is simple: Every month, The Kit editors exhaustively test-drive items in desert-island categories — not the season’s exciting yet ephemeral trends but the evergreen essentials you’re most likely to buy now and wear or use forever. We’re talking mascara, jeans, retinol serum, black turtlenecks, white sneakers, etc. Our hope is that Shop Smart helps you reach that mythic shopping ideal: to buy less but better. Here, our guide to sunscreen.
As a beauty writer, I’ve asked many a dermatologist for their sunscreen recos. And while many have pointed to important attributes such as broad-spectrum protection and an SPF over 30, most held a position that boiled down to this: “The best sunscreen is the one you’ll wear.” Because at the end of the day, they just want you to find one you’ll actually use, so that you can protect your skin against UV damage and premature aging, and, most importantly, prevent skin cancer.
Indeed, one in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide is skin cancer, which makes a daily slather of SPF non-negotiable. The thing is, though, finding a formula you love and that loves your skin back (i.e., no white cast or thick, unpleasant texture) can be a total slog. So to help you find the one you’ll reach for every morning, we tested out piles of contenders and singled out the very best.
All-around winner: AlumierMD Clear Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 42
The cost: $52 for 60 ml, alumiermd.ca
The type: Mineral
The texture: A lightweight lotion that’s slightly tinted
The review: Coming in a plump tube that seems to last for ages, this cream disappears into skin without a trace. Made with the UV filters zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (chalky ingredients that traditionally have been tricky to formulate for use on darker skin tones), this mineral sunscreen doesn’t leave a white or purple cast. The oil-free lotion suits an oily and acne-prone skin type, but the big bonus is that it contains a plethora of antioxidants and active ingredients to make this more than just a sunscreen. Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and resveratrol help to soothe, hydrate and neutralize free radicals for amped up protection from aging aggressors.
Best sunscreen for touch-ups: Shiseido Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+
The cost: $40 for 20 g, ssense.com
The type: Chemical
The texture: A stick formula that glides onto skin and absorbs quickly
The review: Suncare is a daily practice, but a one-and-done approach doesn’t quite cut it. You need to have a good touch-up option on standby — especially if you’re getting direct or lengthy exposure. Experts recommend reapplying every two hours, so if you’re hitting up a patio or a picnic, it’s best to be prepared. This totally translucent stick makes the task a breeze, even if you’re wearing makeup. Perfect for warm weather, the formula boasts technology that senses heat, water and sweat to create a stronger barrier on the skin while remaining invisible. The pint-sized stick is ideal for on-the-go use, and beyond the face, the compact shape manoeuvres all kinds of small areas effortlessly. Swipe it over tops of ears, backs of hands, an exposed scalp … you get the idea.
Best drugstore sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Fluid SPF 50+ Facial Sunscreen
The cost: $30 for 50 ml, laroche-posay.ca
The type: Chemical
The texture: A very milky lotion that melts into skin
The review: This sunscreen is a legit standout, a beauty essential that delivers a luxe feel without making your wallet take a big hit. Yes, the price can’t be beat, but it’s the magic of the watery texture here that will win anyone over. It goes on like a high-end serum and feels weightless all day long. Upon seamlessly sinking into skin, the nongreasy lotion leaves a matte, invisible finish. Sophisticated yet heavy-duty, it’s also fragrance-free, suitable for sensitive skin, plus water- and sweat-resistant.
Best hydrating sunscreen: Laneige Hydro UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
The cost: $39 for 50 ml, sephora.ca
The type: Chemical
The texture: A lightweight cream that deeply quenches thirsty skin
The review: Say hello to major UV protection served with a big shot of hydration. The hero of this cream is the renowned K-beauty ingredient centella asiatica or cica, an ancient botanical with healing properties. The blend is also topped up with glycerin and hydro-ionized mineral water to provide long-lasting hydration, while aloe leaf and broccoli extracts offer soothing support. What’s most impressive is how it imparts immediate, blah-banishing dewiness, with zero ghostly residue in sight.
Best tinted sunscreen: Supergoop! Glowscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40
The cost: $48 for 50 ml, sephora.ca
The type: Chemical
The texture: A sheer lotion that acts like an illuminating filter for the face
The review: What would happen if your fave SPF and liquid highlighter had a baby? Well, this is it, friends! Balancing broad spectrum UV and blue light protection with honeyed pearlescence, this sunscreen creates a subtle golden glaze. Worn on its own it’ll look like you’ve just returned from a tropical vacay, and under makeup it enhances foundation and blush with natural-looking radiance. The formula doesn’t skimp on skin-friendly ingredients, either. A mix of hyaluronic acid, Vitamin B5, niacinamide and cocoa peptides make sure that the lit-from-within glow you see is also hydrating, soothing and shielding skin behind the scenes.
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Ingrie Williams is a Toronto-based freelance contributor to The Kit. She writes about fashion and beauty. Follow her on Instagram: @ingriewilliams