By: Team RDF
Whoever spent the last few decades working on sunscreen's PR is probably on a yacht in the Pacific. That's because sometime between Y2K and the birth of TikTok, sunscreen became more than just recommended - it's became a trend. Just check out its search trajectory since 2004:
We're not mad about it. Alongside sunscreen's meteoric rise to celebrity has come a wealth of available info on how, when, and why to use it. While we aren't the experts, here's what we've been told:
- Wear sunscreen every single day (not just to avoid early aging, but for your skin's fundamental and preventative health)
- 30 SPF or higher (aim for 50, because we tend to apply less than the label recommends)
- Broad spectrum (to protect against UVA and UVB)
- Mineral vs. chemical is up to you (mineral sunscreens tend to be heavier and thicker but also tend to last longer than chemical)
Now that you have the basics down, here's our top picks for every budget...
The basic staple
Sun Bum caught our eye a few years back when they started to get big and now they're everywhere. Born in 2010, they've grown steadily throughout the states and expanded their line to include everything from sunscreen sticks to lightweight facial creams.
We've used Sun Bum ourselves and we can confirm it's great. Although we aren't fans of scented products for the face, their body sunscreen has a great smell and lasts an entire surf session. They've also been regulars on the top 10 lists, so we think it's fitting they're our entry level go-to.
Shop here and pick up an 8oz bottle of their bestseller for about $15. We know that may not be the cheapest "starter" sunscreen out there, but we think sunscreen is one product that isn't worth pinching pennies over.
The step up
If Sun Bum is considered a rising star brand, SuperGoop! is the eclipse. Originally founded by Holly Thaggard to promote sunscreen use in schools, SuperGoop! has grown into one of the most popular sunscreen-only brands in recent memory. And for good reason: they've steadily expanded their line to cover all of your sunscreen needs in almost every format imaginable (lotions, sticks, tints...).
If you're looking for a sunscreen that goes on completely clear, check out their bestselling Sunscreen Unseen. Or stock up with a tub of SuperGoop! Play for long-lasting everyday use.
Shop here and pick up the 18oz tub for $58 (it lasts awhile).
The level up
Without a doubt, the brand that most dermatologists have recommended to us is Elta MD. We're not sure if Elta has some kind of promotional partnership going on, but without fail, derms point us to their UV Clear almost every single time.
It definitely does its job (although it does sting if you get it in your eyes) and it doesn't cause breakouts or inflammation. Its foundation is highly scientific and trusted, which helps justify the price, but we'd mainly recommend it for facial use only (if you have the funds).
Shop here and pick up 1.7oz for $37. It's not cheap, but it can last a few months since it's only going on your face. Pro tip: check out some other websites like Dermstore and you're bound to find it on sale.
The final boss
The world of luxury sunscreen is strange. It's not a world we're familiar with and to be honest, we're not sure it's one we're comfortable with either. In our opinion, something as basic and important as sunscreen shouldn't be marked up by hype.
That said, we're rounding out our list with La Mer's UV Protecting Fluid. It covers all the bases (broad spectrum, 50 SPF) and comes with some of La Mer's fabled skincare ingredients.
If you're not familiar with La Mer, here's the rundown: they've been a luxury staple for decades after essentially making their name on a single product (Creme de la Mer). It's incredibly expensive, celebrities have sworn by it, and customers rave about it.
So, it's no surprise that the reviews for La Mer's sunscreen are largely raving as well. Admittedly, we haven't tried it and we likely won't. But after digging through the reviews of all the "top-shelf" sunscreens, this one does seem to take the crown.
Shop here and pick up 1.7oz for $95. Too expensive for us, but if you try it, let us know your thoughts.
One more note...
When we founded RDF, we talked to as many doctors as we could. The supplement industry is widely unregulated and we wanted to understand why. Turns out, the FDA is backlogged with tons of regulations they're working through. Why is this relevant? We heard that the FDA's slow pace affects more than just the supplements industry. Other ingredients are also waiting to get approved, including ones that could be in sunscreen. Multiple doctors mentioned how in other countries, sunscreens have different, and potentially better, ingredients because they've been approved by the local regulatory bodies. Point being: if you're traveling abroad, check out the local options. You might just stumble upon something better than what's on this list.
Sunscreen + RDF Pro-grade Skincare
When we formulated Skin, we kept UV in mind. That's why we added Vitamin E. It helps protect against UV-damage and is an incredible sidekick to your daily sunscreen. And, like the rest of our powders, it's as easy as a scoop into your favorite drink. Why not double down on the skin protection?
Shop Skin blend here.