While other parts of your body usually get some coverage from clothing, your face is almost always exposed to the sun. With this in mind, sunscreen manufacturers have made face sunscreens that are thinner and easier to rub in than regular sunscreens. Many face sunscreens are suitable for daily wear under makeup, and some double as moisturizers. If you prefer a dedicated facial moisturizer with SPF, we have a separate report with the best recommendations.
Reviewers say Neutrogena Clear Face (Est. $2.10 per oz.) is everything a face sunscreen should be: effective, lightweight, and gentle for delicate facial tissue. Neutrogena says the oil-free liquid lotion formula won't cause breakouts, even on acne-prone skin.
Available in SPF 30 and 55, Clear Face protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It is water-resistant up to 80 minutes. While the sunscreen gets strong ratings in expert tests for UVA and UVB protection, the SPF 55 version tested far short of that mark after water immersion, making it especially important to reapply after swimming. EWG says Clear Face provides moderate UVA protection and a good UVA/UVB balance. However, it singles out one ingredient, oxybenzone, as posing a potentially high health risk and gives Clear Face a moderate health-risk ranking overall.
Reviewers say Neutrogena Clear Face is lightweight and non-greasy, making it easy to apply and ideal to layer under makeup for daily wear. Paula Begoun of PaulasChoice.com praises the sunscreen's "water-light, silky texture and near-weightless finish," but says the cinnamon and cedar bark extracts in the formula may irritate some. A small number of reviewers do report problems with redness, rashes or other irritation. Experts note a barely-there smell, and users who notice it say it's inoffensive.
A close competitor to Neutrogena Clear Face, Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Face (Est. $4.70 per ounce) is also beloved for its silky, lightweight feel. Like Clear Face, it is oil-free, and many reviewers say it's gentle enough for daily wear.
Silk Hydration Face comes only in SPF 30. It protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. EWG says it provides moderate protection against UVA and a moderate balance of UVA/UVB protection. EWG gives Silk Hydration Face the same middle-of-the-road health-risk ranking as Neutrogena Clear Face. Like that sunscreen, Silk Hydration Face also has oxybenzone. EWG also flags the parabens and fragrance in Silk Hydration Face as potential irritants and allergens.
Editors at GoodHousekeeping.com say Silk Hydration Face is ideal for oily or combination skin, with testers saying it moisturizes without "film, whiteness, oil or tackiness." Reviewers agree, saying the sunscreen absorbs quickly and doesn't feel greasy. Hawaiian Tropic says the sunscreen has a "light tropical fragrance," but many reviewers say it's actually fairly strong. A handful of users do report redness and irritation.
If you like the idea of a face sunscreen but want something a bit more natural, Blue Lizard Face (Est. $3.60 per oz.) ditches oxybenzone in favor of a zinc-oxide formula that also leaves out fragrance and parabens. Like Neutrogena Clear Face and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration face, it is also oil-free.
Blue Lizard Face is SPF 30+ and protects against UVA and UVB rays. It is not water-resistant, though many reviewers say they find that it still holds up well during water sports. EWG calls it a "top choice for sun protection" that provides moderate UVA protection and a good UVA/UVB balance. EWG also gives Blue Lizard Face good marks overall for ingredient safety. Zinc oxide and octinoxate are the main ingredients. The latter is a chemical blocker, so note that this is not a purely physical sunscreen, which disappoints some reviewers.
Sunscreens that use zinc oxide often don't rub in as well as their fully chemical counterparts, and Begoun of Paula's Choice warns that's the case here. Though it doesn't leave white residue, "it can feel thick, and it has a slightly tacky finish," she notes. Begoun recommends Blue Lizard Face for normal to dry skin. Reviewers do say it can take some effort to rub in the lotion, but it ultimately absorbs well and doesn't feel greasy. They also appreciate the lack of added fragrance.
Elsewhere in this report: