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How to choose the right SPF for your skin

Sun care is a year-round skin essential, but summer’s ultra-strong rays and ample outdoors time calls for a full-body overhaul of your sunscreen game plan. First things first: There’s no one-SPF-fits-all option. “Sunscreen use is such a personal preference,” says Dr. Sheila Farhang, MD, a Tuscon-based dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon.

A key differentiating factor is whether to opt for a physical (aka mineral-based) versus chemical sunscreen. “Physical sunscreens formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been known to leave a white cast,” Dr. Farhang explains, though newer formulas avoid the chalky finish. Chemical sunscreens can be more sheer and quick-absorbing, but often contain ingredients like oxybenzone, which can be irritating and sensitizing.

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Here are Dr. Farhang’s SPF picks for five major needs that will keep you comfortably protected all summer long (and beyond). –Alexandra Ilyashov

Sunscreen for Melanated Skin

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Eleven by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun SerumSPF 35, $50

For deeper complexions, Dr. Farhang loves this lightweight serum “that doesn’t leave a white cast” from Venus Williams’ sun-care line. Test your knowledge on little sis Serena

When You’re Prone to Breakouts

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EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-SpectrumSPF 50+, $30

“Actual sunscreen ingredients don’t cause acne, but rather the formulation, so look for ‘oil-free’ and ‘non-comedogenic’” options with thinner consistencies (i.e., sheer or serum) when shopping for sun-care options, suggests Dr. Farhang.

Sensitive Skin SPF

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Vanicream Sunscreen: SPF 50, $18

Sensitive skin types should avoid chemical formulas, as well as fragrance and preservatives like parabens. “Vanicream is a brand typically known for those with sensitive skin or contact allergies, and I love that this is a sunscreen, free of ingredients that can irritate the skin,” she explains.

Makeup-Friendly Protection

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Supergoop Mineral Mattescreen: SPF 40, $38

Since zinc- and titanium-based sunscreens can make your face look powdery in photos, she recommends “a light or tinted sunscreen, which can function as your foundation,” like this Supergoop option, which creates a “soft mattifying finish, similar to what a primer would do.”

For the Sweat-ers

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Blue Lizard Active Mineral Based Sunscreen: SPF 50, $20

Whether you’re headed on a long hike, a snorkeling adventure, or are perspiration-prone, she recommends reaching for “a largely physical sunscreen formulation to avoid irritation or sensitivity, especially while sweating," with an SPF of 50, like this Blue Lizard pick.

Top photo Angelo Pantazis on Unsplash

This article originally appeared in BUST's Summer 2022 print edition. Subscribe today!

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