Monday, July 15, 2024

The 14 Best Drugstore Sunscreens for Protection on a Budget

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As the last and one of the most powerful steps in a skincare routine, sunscreen doesn’t get the credit it deserves because it has long had the rep of being the most dreaded product. Not only are you supposed to use the two-finger rule to measure your SPF accurately, but many of the ones on the market also make a laundry list of promises only to leave you with a pasty white cast or a glob of grease. Still, feelings aside, sunscreen is a must for improving your skin’s health.

“Sunscreen protects the skin from UV damage, which can lead to skin cancer and signs of skin aging such as fine lines, stubborn wrinkles, photodamage including brown spots, and skin laxity. Since we are exposed to UV rays every day, even in the winter months, it is important to make it a part of your daily routine to protect the skin from this damage,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, tells Think of it as a barrier protecting all the progress your skin has made from using those expensive face serums daily.

“It is important to remember that if you are doing other anti-aging treatments—whether it is topical serums or creams, or in-office procedures—and not wearing sunscreen consistently, you are not protecting your investment. While there are lots of treatment options to address signs of skin aging, regular use of sunscreen can help to prevent these changes from happening,” Dr. Garshick adds.

Whether you prefer a tinted version, powder formula, or zinc-based SPF, it shouldn’t break the bank. After all, unlike most skincare items, which may be fun but not entirely essential for your routine, wearing sunscreen daily does more than prevent premature aging or hyperpigmentation: It can protect you from life-threatening skin cancer.

“Skin cancers, both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers, as well as negative cosmetic changes associated with photoaging, are well-known issues caused by cumulative UV exposure over time,” NY-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lauren Penzi explains.

So if you want to spend your next paycheck on a fancy SPF, go for it! Just know the higher price point doesn’t make the formula more efficacious. These 14 drugstore sunscreens do everything they’re supposed to, and more. If SPF-related breakouts are your skincare nemesis, we have an acne-defying SPF here. Hate feeling greasy all day long? Try a matte-finish sunscreen. And if you’re looking to spend less than $10 for protection, we’ve got you covered. For every skin woe, preference, and budget, these are the best drugstore sunscreens to ensure you’re shielded from sun damage without spending a ton.


Best For Winter


Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50

Key ingredient Hyaluronic acid
Size 3 oz
Recommended skin type Dry


Best Tinted Formula


UV Clear SPF 46 Tinted Face Sunscreen

Key ingredients Hyaluronic acid
Size 1.7 oz
Recommended skin type Sensitive


Derm Favorite

Blue Lizard

Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Key ingreients Zinc Oxide
Size 5 fl oz
Recommended skin type Sensitive


Best Oil Formula


No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30

Size 1 fl oz
Recommended skin type All skin types


Best For Summer

Sun Bum

Face 50

Key ingredients Vitamin E
Size 3 fl oz
Recommended skin type All skin types


Best For Sensitive Skin


Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Key ingredient Hyaluronic acid
Size 5 fl oz
Recommended skin type All skin types


Best Moisturizer/SPF Hybrid


Daily Oil Free Facial Moisturizer SPF 35

Key ingredients Edelweiss extract, niacinamide
Size 3 fl oz
Recommended skin type Sensitive, combination


Best Lightweight Formula


Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 70

Size 3 fl oz
Recommended skin type Combination


Best For Travel


Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 60

Key ingredients Prebiotic oat
Size 2 fl oz
Recommended skin type All


Best Overall


EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin and Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-Free Mineral-Based Sunscreen Lotion with Zinc Oxide, Dermatologist Recommended, 1.7 oz Pump

Key ingredient Hyaluronic acid
Size 1.7 fl oz
Recommended skin type Acne-prone skin


Best For All Over

Hawaiian Tropic

Sheer Touch Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30

Key ingredients Vitamin C & E
Size 8 ounces
Recommended skin type All


Best Overall

La Roche-Posay

Anthelios Light Fluid Face Sunscreen SPF 60

Key ingredients Vitamin E, thermal spring water
Size 1.7 fl oz
Recommended skin type All


Best For Acne-Prone Skin


Oil Control Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 30

Size 4.0 oz
Recommended skin type Acne-prone


Best Under Makeup

e.l.f. Cosmetics

Holy Hydration! Face Cream SPF 30

Key ingredients Hyaluronic acid
Size 1.7 oz
Recommended skin type Combination


What should you look for in a drugstore sunscreen?

The higher the SPF, the better the coverage. “It is important to look for a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher and provides broad-spectrum coverage, protecting the skin against UVA and UVB rays,” Dr. Garshick says. You should also consider your lifestyle. Are you an active person who does sports or goes to the gym frequently? You might want to look into water-resistant formulas.

“Beyond this, since the best sunscreen is the one you will use, find a product that you like and find easy to apply, as sunscreen is only effective if you use it,” she says.

Dr. Lauren Penzi adds that you should look for sunscreens formulated with specific ingredients. “Consider additional ingredients based on your skin type. For example consider purchasing sunscreen with hyaluronic acid if you’re prone to dryness,” she says.


What’s the difference between the types of sunscreen?

Shopping for sunscreens can get pretty confusing once you realize how many different types there are. The most common ones you’ll hear about are mineral and chemical sunscreens. Here, Dr. Garshick breaks the two down.

  • Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical blockers, typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin.” Mineral formulas are better for those with sensitive skin, as its not as irritating.
  • Chemical sunscreens work by converting UV rays into heat and then releasing the heat from the skin.”

Dr. Lauren Penzi, a NY-based board-certified dermatologist

Dr. Marisa Garshick MD FAAD, a NY-based board-certified dermatologist


Why trust ELLE Beauty?

Nerisha Penrose is the Beauty Commerce Editor at Since joining in 2017, she has interviewed countless skincare professionals and has personally tested the latest and greatest products across makeup, skincare, and hair care.

Beauty Commerce Writer Tatjana Freund is a Beauty Commerce Writer, covering makeup, skincare, and haircare products and trends.

Beauty Commerce Editor Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music).

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