Summer may have come and gone, but as every dermatologist preaches, sunscreen is an all year-round game. But if you hate that thick, goopy, lotion-y texture, you’re in luck with the ushering in of the next generation of powder sunscreens that can seemingly do it all. These dry formulas protect against UVA and UVB rays and camouflage uneven skin tone with a faint tint, all while having a pleasant texture in a decidedly un-messy brush applicator.
But here’s the catch: according to Seattle-based dermatologist Dr. Laurel Geraghty, “It may be hard to wear enough powder sunscreen to get to the level of SPF shown on the bottle — you really have to dust and layer it on it!“
That means to really soak up all the benefits of a powder sunscreen, you’ve “got to apply it liberally,” she says, and reapplication is the name of the game here.
Even so, you should first start with a traditional cream lotion first to set a solid sunscreen foundation, says Dr. Corey L. Hartman, who calls powder sunscreens “a good adjunct” to liquid or cream formulations. “They’re really designed to absorb into the skin and act as a shield, if they’re mineral,” he explains. “While powder sunscreens are designed to sit on top of the skin and are great for replenishing throughout the day and adding to the foundation that’s already been set with the cream or lotion.”
When it comes to sun protection, I’ll take all the help I can get, so here are three leading dermatologists on their favorite formulations and exactly what to look for in a powder sunscreen so you can get every bit of protection your skin deserves.
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
“ColoreScience is my favorite powder sunscreen,” says Dr. Geraghty. “I love the little to-go wand that I can pop into my handbag for quick, no mess touch-ups while I’m running around. I love to dust it along my part line — almost like a dry shampoo — when I don’t have a hat with me.”
What’s more, this dust-on powder “has the best array of colors to help women or men to match their color, so it can go on as seamlessly as possible,” says Dr. Hartman. No white residue here!
To shop: $69; dermstore.com
Zo Skin Health Sunscreen + Powder Broad-Spectrum
Not only does this titanium dioxide and zinc-packed tinted powder protect against UVA and UVB rays, but its soft, smooth texture doesn’t make it feel like sunscreen at all. Equally important, it comes in three buildable hues: light, medium, and dark, so you can easily color match to your specific skin tone, and according to Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Sameer Bashey, the powder “blends really well into most skin tones” to “give your skin coverage as well as a glow.”
To shop: $65; zoskinhealth.com
Supergoop! (Re)Setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35
Supergoop! is known for creating sunscreen that doesn’t feel or smell like the scent we all know (and hate), and this cult favorite powder is no different. Formulated with 100% mineral zinc oxide — one of two FDA-approved mineral sunscreen ingredients — the ingredients are blended with hydrating ceramides and olive glycerides to lock in the skin’s natural moisture.
But don’t worry about getting any shine here, the coated silica diffuses light and camouflages the look of pores.”The nature of the powder itself is going to help with oiliness because that’s going to soak up additional oil,” says Dr. Hartman.
To shop: $30, sephora.com
Tarte Sea Set & Protect Mineral Sunscreen
“Mineral sunscreens can be best for acne-prone skin, as it sits on top of the skin, vs. chemical sunscreens, which are absorbed and can sometimes cause irritation,” explains Dr. Bashey.
Luckily, tarte found a workaround, and it’s best to look for formulations that “just keep it as pure as possible, I would say,” recommends Dr. Hartman, adding that clean formulas that have “no other preservatives” are your best bet to keep your skin clear.
And when it comes to powder sunscreens, it doesn’t get much cleaner than tarte’s vegan non-chemical sunscreen. Plus, it also pulls double duty to set makeup for up to 12 hours, thanks to it’s translucent hue, which works with all skin tones.
To shop: $28; sephora.com
Isdinceutics Mineral Brush
“Powder sunscreen is also great for those chronically exposed areas where we may want a bit of bonus protection — noses, ears, hands — for quick touch-ups in the car,” explains Dr. Geraghty. “So much UV light comes in through the side windows, especially.” And this do-it-all power sunscreen provides protection against free radical damage from pollution, blue light and infrared radiation as well, making it perfect to use anytime and anywhere on the body.
To shop: $55; isdin.com
Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Broad Spectrum SPF 45
“I’m glad that the stigma [of men not using sunscreen] is being erased,” says Dr. Hartman. “And I do think that it helps with powder sunscreens that don’t have a tint — it can get on your clothing.”
This Peter Thomas Roth gem of a powder sunscreen was formulated to be completely transparent, easy to apply and offer serious SPF protection, aka the perfect option for men who spend their days outside. “Powder sunscreens have traditionally been thought of as a product that only women would like to use and benefit from,” explains Dr. Hartman. “So leaving the tint out and making it convenient are really the driving force for men, so if you can accomplish those things, then we can get men to start using it more, which would just encourage more reapplication, which is going to prevent skin cancer.“
To shop: $21; revolve.com
Ilia Flow-Thru Radiant Translucent Powder SPF 20
Many of us with dry skin tend to steer way clear of powder anything, but not with this nourishing — and clean! — formulation from Ilia. Bonus: It’s infused with conditioning ingredients, like aloe, rosemary, and oil-balancing bamboo, it hydrates skin while keeping a shiny T-zone at bay.
But the first step to glowy skin is always a hydrated base, Dr. Hartman reminds us: “If your skin’s dry, please put a good hydrating moisturizer on first with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, qualine or glycerin, and then let the powder be the finishing and protective touch on top.”
To shop: $34; sephora.com
Brush on Block SPF 30
This mineral formulation is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it ideal for summer athletes and water lovers to easily reapply throughout the day, especially as most dermatologists consider reapplication necessary. “Sunscreens of all kinds need to be reapplied at least every two hours if you’re staying outside or exposed to UV light, or more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating,” says Dr Geraghty. And this power powder couldn’t make it easier.
To shop: $30; walmart.com