Sunscreen Guide for 2021: The Best Picks
If there was ever a summer to take 100% advantage of, it’s the Summer of 2021. After a year of a world-wide pandemic, on-and-off lockdowns, online learning, working from home and a whole lot of mask-wearing and social distancing—we’re ready to get outdoors and soak in every second of sunshine.
But spending time out in the sun means sun protection. And since not all sun protection is created equal, we’re here to help you choose the best type, protection level and formula for each activity you’ll be enjoying this summer.
WHAT TYPE AND LEVEL OF PROTECTION SHOULD YOU USE?
SPF (sun protection factor) measures the length of time a product protects your skin against reddening from UVB, compared to how long the skin takes to burn without it. For example, if it takes twenty minutes to begin reddening without protection, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents it for up to fifteen times longer—about five hours. To maintain the SPF, make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours and right after swimming or heavy activity.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends using an SPF of at least 15—or at least 30 if you are going to be outside for a full day, are sun-sensitive, have previously had skin cancer, or have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. An SPF of 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays and one of 30 or higher blocks 97%.
Broad-spectrum protection: This means that a product shields against UVA as well as UVB rays. Most broad-spectrum sunscreens and sunblocks with an SPF of 15 or higher do a good job against UVB and short UVA rays; if they also contain avobenzone, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide, they should be effective against the entire UVA spectrum.
Even with the ideal sunscreen, some UV rays can get through to your skin and cause damage. The Canadian Cancer Society states that “…sunscreens are not meant to be used so that you can stay out in the sun longer. They are meant to increase your protection when you have to be outside. Use sunscreen along with shade, clothing and hats, not instead of them.”
FOR BABIES & KIDS
When you’re buying sunscreen for the littles, look for formulas that are kid-friendly and gentle. Bonus points if they’re easy to apply! These are some of our top picks:
Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen – A customer fave and top-rated EWG sunscreen, Thinkbaby is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Bonus: it goes on smooth, smells fantastic and is a broad spectrum SPF.
Sun Bum Baby Bum SPF 50 Spray – This pump spray sunscreen is ideal for littles. Loaded with ingredients that help nourish and protect sensitive and delicate skin, it still absorbs easily with a non-oily feel.
Green Beaver Natural Mineral Sunscreen Spray for Kids – This hypoallergenic sunscreen is the perfect chemical-free solution for kiddoes. Light and fragrance-free, it’s gentle on skin but fiercely protective.
FOR YOUR FACE
Sunscreen doesn’t stop at your neck! To be truly sun-safe, make sure to not forget to protect the delicate skin on your face from the sun’s harsh rays. These are some of our top picks:
Australian Gold Botanical SPF 50 Tinted Face Mineral Lotion – One of our all-time faves now comes in fair, medium and dark shades, perfect for all skin tones. Formulated for sensitive skin, it makes an excellent light foundation for worry-free days in the sun.
COOLA Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 with White Tea – For active outdoor time, stay fully covered with this paraben-free, lightweight sunscreen infused with evening primrose & linseed oils to even skin tone and balance moisture.
Consonant Skin+Care The Perfect Sunscreen SPF 30 – This 100% natural, fragrance-free sunscreen applies smooth and non-greasy without white residue—all while delivering optimal protection using minerals to block damaging rays.
FACIAL MOISTURIZERS WITH SPF
The simplest way to ensure the skin on your face is protected is to use sunscreen every day. Choose from the above facial sunscreens or the below moisturizers with SPF, as both are equally effective:
Origins Ginzing SPF 40 Energy-Boosting Tinted Moisturizer – Protect and hydrate, energize and perfect with this multi-tasker. Coffee and Ginseng boost moisture and add a sheer tint while SPF protects from UV rays. Zing, indeed!
Cyberderm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30 – Finally, a light-weight, daily moisturizer that provides full UVB and UVA protection. Contains zinc oxide—yet blends beautifully transparent on all skin tones.
MAKEUP WITH SPF
Even if you already use sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF, you can protect your skin further with your makeup! Here are our fave three products:
COOLA Rosilliance Organic BB Cream Golden SPF 30 – Want endless glow and sun protection? This SPF 30 BB+ cream evens your skin tone and hides imperfections for a luminous no-makeup look. You, just glowier!
bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15 – Full of clean mineral pigments and non-chemical protection, this talc-free foundation perfects your complexion with lightweight, buildable coverage that’s naturally luminous.
Clinique Moisture Surge Sheertint Hydrator SPF25 – Keep skin plump and dewy for 12 hours with this oil-free, sheer tinted hydrator that is sweat and humidity-resistant. Complexion perfection and protection all in one.
FOR EVERY DAY
Wearing sunscreen every day is one of the best—and easiest—ways to protect your skin’s appearance and health at any age. Our faves are:
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 50 – This broad-spectrum UVA/UVB high protection formula is quick-absorbing, fragrance- and paraben-free, non-comedogenic, and water-resistant; leaving only a healthy glow.
CW Beggs and Sons Defense Moisturizer SPF 30 for All Skin Types – Hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, this everyday sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays while restoring your skin’s natural moisture barrier and improving its luminosity.
Avene Tinted Mineral Fluid Spf 50+ – This soothing, hydrating, unscented, tinted SPF 50+ sunscreen provides broad, lasting, stable and effective UVB-UVA protection while illuminating your skin.
FOR OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS
If you’re going to be active this summer (think hiking, swimming, running!), we suggest broad-spectrum sunscreens with high SPF and water-resistance. These are some of our faves:
Australian Gold SPF 30 Lotion Sport – Sweat and water-resistant, this sunscreen cools, deodorizes and cleanses while protecting. The quick-dry formula contains Kakadu Plum, which promotes collagen production.
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Continuous Sunscreen Spray – This easy-to-apply, sheer, mineral sunscreen spray provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection made from safe minerals that protect the skin from UVA/UVB rays.
All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Spray – Repair and protect with a water-resistant, UVA/UVB protective barrier sunscreen that contains non-nano zinc oxide and includes calendula, aloe, green tea and rose hips.
FOR A SUNLESS GLOW
The *only* safe tan is the one that you don’t get from sun or UV exposure (yes, including tanning beds). Luckily, there are lots of excellent ways to get a natural glow from a bottle that doesn’t turn your skin orange. Here are our top picks:
Eco Tan Hempitan Body Tan Water – Made from natural ingredients, this spray-on formula delivers a long-lasting, super-dark tan. It’s also non-comedogenic, dries instantly and has a gorgeous scent.
St. Tropez Self-Tan Classic Kit – Perfect for glow-on-the-go (even if you’re not going out!), a small-size bronzing mousse and applicator mitt (for a flawless finish), will provide a healthy, golden tan.
Clinique Self Sun Face Tinted Lotion – It “shows where it goes”—and develops quickly—easily creating natural-looking, sun-kissed colour, with no surprises. Ideal for all skin types it’s oil-free and non-acnegenic.
AFTER SUN CARE
Don’t forget to prepare for the worst. Getting a bit too much sun on a day out happens to the best of us. Be ready this summer by stocking up on after-sun to soothe, heal, and nourish. Here are our faves:
Thinkbaby Aloe Gel After Sun Lotion – A solution for skin that’s made without harmful chemicals, this after-sun lotion provides quick relief to those who’ve spent too much time outside.
Sun Bum Cool Down Hydrating After Sun Lotion – Got skin that needs TLC after a socially-distanced day outside? Enriched with aloe and vitamin E this lotion absorbs quickly, leaving skin smooth and soft.
Written by Jennifer Hamilton