Best Powder Sunscreens to Keep Skin Protected Year-Round

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

INSTYLE

The Best Face SPFs For Every Skin Type

You will have heard it a million times before: wearing a face SPF every day is key to healthy – and healthy-looking — skin. A good sunscreen blocks the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which wreak havoc on the health of our skin and its cells, leading to decreased collagen and elasticity, fine lines, pigmentation, and an increased risk of skin cancer if an SPF is not used. 

Historically, SPFs have been sticky and greasy, quick to clog pores, and prone to imparting a grey hue over darker skin tones. The good news is that now, thanks to much-improved formulas and innovative technology, there are plenty of facial sunscreens that protect your skin while also being a pleasure to use. Look for formulas that have both UVA and UVB protection, a minimum of SPF 30, and a formula that suits your skin’s specific needs.

Another factor to consider in your sunscreen selection is its effect on the environment. While the science around exactly how damaging sunscreen is to our oceans is inconclusive, what ingredients should we be looking out for to make the best choice possible? A marine biologist, Professor Cinzia Corinaldesi from the Università Politecnica delle Marche and Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at Skin55, provid a five-step guide.

Avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate

The main chemicals to watch out for are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are commonly used in sunscreen to absorb UV light. “We [have] demonstrated that oxybenzone, octinoxate and enzacamene caused complete coral bleaching even at very low concentrations,” says Professor Corinaldesi. Octocrylene is another chemical that’s potentially harmful to marine life, with the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory compiling a handy list of the ingredients we should try to avoid. 

“Certain organic filters have been identified in water sources worldwide and there seems to be a suggestion that they are not easily removed by common wastewater techniques,” adds Dr Mahto. “Many of the filters have also been found in various species of fish worldwide — the impact of this is uncertain on the food chain.” 

Opt for a mineral sunscreen instead

Mineral sunscreens, which typically contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are thought to be less harmful to coral reefs in comparison to their chemical counterparts. “Mineral sunscreens rely on inorganic filters, which form a physical barrier on the skin surface,” explains Dr Mahto. 

It’s worth remembering, though, that some research suggests zinc oxide can also pose a danger to marine life. “Our studies indicate that zinc oxide nanoparticles are very harmful to marine organisms,” says Professor Corinaldesi, but adds that titanium dioxide with surface coatings — as found in Green People’s scent-free SPF 30 — “has a much lower impact on coral reefs”. 

Look for non-nanoparticles 

Particle size matters, too. While nanoparticles can be absorbed by coral reefs, research suggests that larger non-nanoparticles (a label you’ll see on lotions) are better for the environment. Ren’s Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 uses non-nano zinc oxide, while Stream2Sea’s sunscreens contain non-nano titanium oxide. “Consumers should look out for sunscreens that use non-nanoparticles because nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are expected to be more harmful to marine organisms than non-nanoparticles,” explains Professor Corinaldesi. 

Read beyond the ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-safe’ labels 

The increase in demand for eco-friendly sunscreens means that a lot of brands are now marketing their products as ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-safe’. This usually means they don’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate — the two chemicals banned in sunscreen by countries such as Hawaii — but they could still contain other chemicals on the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory list that are potentially harmful to the environment. “Consumers should check the ingredients on the label of the products,” Professor Corinaldesi comments. 

Don’t forget the packaging 

Beyond the ingredients in sunscreen, it’s important to consider the packaging as well, with discarded sunscreen bottles contributing, in part, to the 8m tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans every year. Brands such as Green People are using recyclable plant-based packaging made from sugar cane; a much more eco-friendly option compared to traditional plastic containers.

BEST SUNSCREENS TO SHOP RIGHT NOW:

Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defense SPF 50

Doubling up as both a moisturiser and an SPF 50 sunscreen, Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defense is an industry favourite, perfect for those with sensitive skin thanks to its oil-free, fragrance-free formula. It doesn’t leave a chalky residue either, making it a good choice for darker skin tones.

£30, available at Kiehls.co.uk.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel SPF50+

If you suffer from blemishes, you may find that sun protection leaves your skin feeling greasy and prone to breakouts. La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel is specifically designed for people with those concerns, offering a non-comedogenic, feather-light formula with a velvet finish alongside SPF 50 protection.

£17.50, available at LookFantastic.com.

Skinceuticals Advanced Brightening UV Defense SPF 50

With tranexamic acid and niacinamide, this is a supercharged SPF that’s as good at protecting skin from the sun as it is preventing and reducing discolouration. Put simply, it’s an excellent choice if you want an SPF that works really, really hard. 

£45, available at LookFantastic.com.

Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 30

Making great SPFs its speciality, Supergoop’s latest launch is the Glowscreen SPF 30, a formula that offers the dewiest, most luminous glow, as well as an SPF of 30. With hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, niacinamide, and protective cocoa peptides, it doubles up as a skincare staple too – and you’ll actively look forward to applying it each day.

£15, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defence SPF 30

Non-toxic to marine life, this formula protects skin from UVA and UVB while offsetting free radical damage from the environment, thanks to potent antioxidants grape juice, sunflower shoot extract, and astaxanthin. 

£29, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Avène Intense Protect SPF50+

Especially good for those with sensitive or reactive skin types, Avène’s Intense Protect is as light as silk and ultra-gentle. Not only does it contain the brand’s soothing thermal spring water and pre-tocopheryl, a powerful antioxidant, but it also houses TriAsorB, the first organic sun filter that absorbs and reflects UVA, UVB, and blue light. A must-try.

£20, available at Lookfantastic.com.

Kate Somerville UncompliKated SPF 50

Facialist to the stars, Kate Somerville also has this easy-to-use spray-on SPF in her product repertoire. Not only will it protect skin from the sun, but thanks to a light-diffusing silicone powder and hyaluronic acid in the formula, it helps to set make-up, mattify and hydrate skin. What’s not to love?

£32, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops SPF 50

Offering a customisable approach to sun protection, Dr Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops can be worn undiluted as a serum or a few drops can be added to your regular skincare for lightweight SPF 50 protection. It’s a high price point, but it goes a long way, and works well on all skin tones. 

£110, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Shiseido Clear Suncare Stick SPF50+

Utilising Shiseido’s WetForce technology, which makes the formula work harder when it comes into contact with water or sweat, this Clear Suncare Stick is particularly brilliant for holidays, humid environments, or when playing outdoor sports. The handy stick packaging means it slots easily into your bag and can be rolled onto areas of the face and body as and when needed. 

£28, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Ren Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen

A silicone-free formula that protects against all forms of light, Ren’s SPF offering is kind to the environment and forms a non-comedogenic barrier that fends off external aggressors. 

£30, available at LookFantastic.com.

Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution SPF 50

From blue and UV light to pollen and indoor pollution, this intelligent formula is packed full of antioxidants to protect the skin from all manner of external aggressors. Using organic mango leaf extract, it is delightfully lightweight in texture and promises eight hours of hydration while doing its protective thing.

£44, available at Selfridges.com.

Tan-Luxe Super Gloss Serum

For those who still want to look like they’ve spent an optimal time in the sun (even if that’s not the case), this serum delivers an immediate sun-kissed bronze glow while deeply hydrating skin (thanks to hyaluronic acid and squalane) and protects skin from the sun.

£35, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect

Great for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, this SPF feels like a moisturiser but acts as an all-bases-covered skin-protecting formula. From blue light to pollution, it’s got your skin covered for every eventuality, plus it contains multi-weight hyaluronic acid and skin-softening emollients to leave skin in excellent nick in its wake. 

£55, available at Feelunique.com.

Chanel UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily Defender SPF 30

When you live in a city, the effects of pollution on your skin are as much a threat as sun damage. Luckily Chanel has the solution in the form of the brand’s UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily Defender, which gives broad-spectrum SPF 30 or 50 protection as well as creating a barrier against pollution and free radicals.

£46, available at Allbeauty.com.

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