When it comes to sunscreen, people want it all: great protection, easy application and a light, nongreasy feel. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 (Est. $11 for 3 oz.) , No-Ad Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 45 (Est. $8.50 for 16 oz.) and Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50 (Est. $9.50 for 5 oz.) all fit the bill, experts say.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer is beloved by both users and experts. Skin care expert Paula Begoun praises this sunscreen, which goes on creamy and dries to a "weightless" matte finish – something that is uncommon among sunscreens. She says it's a great option for people with oily skin types who want a sunscreen that doesn't feel heavy or greasy.
No-Ad Sunscreen Lotion has a thinner consistency that is may run if you perspire heavily. Reviewers say it tends to leave a shiny, somewhat greasy residue behind. It may be better suited to those with normal to dry skin. Users say Neutrogena Ultra Sheer, on the other hand, really stays put all day. Neutrogena Wet Skin – a relatively new product -- also stays put according to reviewers, but it has a stickier texture.
All three formulas are water-resistant for 80 minutes, then need to be reapplied. Neutrogena Wet Skin, however, is the most convenient. The formula -- which is available in three SPF strengths -- comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle. It also takes water resistance to a whole new level. The formula is designed to adhere to wet skin, eliminating the need to towel off before reapplying. Experts say it's a great option for families with young children who don't want to be bothered with reapplying sunscreen.
Each of these formulas relies on a slew of chemicals to provide broad-spectrum protection. Avobenzone -- one of the leading ingredients in the United States for UVA protection -- is the main active in each. Although each is approved under the latest FDA standards, users say Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray leaves much to be desired. Several reviewers say that even when reapplying the formula often, they still get burned. It's possible that user error is involved -- some users say the formula works wonders -- but we saw enough complaints to give us pause about recommending the sunscreen as our Best Reviewed pick.
No-Ad contains antioxidants in the form of olive oil and vitamins A and E. It's also loaded with other good-for-skin ingredients like aloe and cocoa butter. Neutrogena Wet Skin contains a small amount of vitamin E, but any benefit is negated by its high alcohol content, an irritant that can be especially drying to skin. Ultra Sheer used to contain vitamin E, but the most recent formulation leaves the antioxidant out all together.
We ultimately chose Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen -- available in six different SPF strengths -- as a Best Reviewed product because the formula is well loved by users and experts, it's very effective and has a pleasant texture. At roughly $3.67 an ounce, however, it can add up fast. For those on a budget, No-Ad Sunscreen Lotion may be a better option.
Sport-formula sunscreens are designed to resist sweat during physical activity. Many of the most popular formulas are spray-on sunscreens, which are convenient because they don't need to be rubbed in. However, a fair amount of product is lost in the air during application (which can lead to less coverage), and users can't spray these sunscreens directly on their faces. Furthermore, the FDA is investigating potential risks involved with spray-on sunscreens -- namely the risks involved with possible inhalation of chemicals during application. Until further information is known, experts say it's best not to use spray sunscreens on children.
There are two sunscreens that get top marks in this category: Coppertone Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 Sunscreen (Est. $8.50 for 6 oz.) and Aveeno HydroSport Wet Skin Spray Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 (Est. $10.50 for 5 oz.) . Both formulas combine the convenience of a spray-on formula with the strength of a sport formula.
Coppertone does well in professional tests where it's shown to provide the required UVA and UVB protection. It exceeds expectations for holding up to excessive sweat and water, which is why it's been named an InStyle Best Beauty Buy for five consecutive years. Aveeno HydroSport is a relative newcomer and hasn't been reviewed as often but provides an innovative twist for convenience. The formula is designed to adhere to wet skin without the need to towel off before reapplying it. Editors at Allure magazine say it really does stick -- even when skin is soaking wet.
The downside to HydroSport is it can leave skin slightly sticky, something Paula Begoun says is likely due to the film-forming agents used in the formula (which allow it to adhere to wet skin). The same can be said for Coppertone Sport. Users say it has a strong chemical odor that is overwhelming when sprayed in an enclosed space with little ventilation. This is common of all spray-on sunscreens, but reviewers note that Aveeno HydroSport smells better than similar products.
Both formulas provide broad-spectrum protection with a slew of chemical ingredients, including avobenzone. Coppertone is available in SPF 15, 30, 50, 70+ and 100+ formulas. All but the SPF 15 formula contain vitamins A and E for added antioxidant protection. Aveeno also contains antioxidants in the form of vitamins C and E. But both formulas also contain alcohol, which Begoun says "puts skin at risk for dryness and irritation, which in turn hurts healthy collagen production." Neither formula is recommended for sensitive skin.
The two sport sunscreens are fairly equal, but Coppertone Sport High Performance Continuous Spray is the Best Reviewed product because it's reviewed more often and gets positive ratings from dozens of users.