My Favorite Sunscreen Products | Anne Marie McNeill M.D., Ph.D

There are a number of sunscreens on the market. All of my favorite sunscreens have one thing in common: the active ingredients are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are mineral (as opposed to chemical) sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens are my favorite types of sunscreens because:
1) they are the most broad-spectrum and therefore provide the best protection from the sun, and
2) they are not chemical sunscreens and do not have the (theoretical) risks that some people worry about with daily use of chemicals on their skin.
Before I list my favorite sunscreens, I will note that daily use of sunscreen has been shown to reduce the incidence of all 3 of the common forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Daily use of sunscreen has been shown to reduce the incidence of actinic keratosis (precancers), solar lentigines (brown spots), and wrinkles. Lots of people will make up theoretical bad things about sunscreen, but all of the above benefits are proven in studies of thousands and thousands of patients.
That said, here are my favorite sunscreens. Some of these we sell at our practice and online, others you can buy at the drugstore. In general, the fancier (read: more expensive) the sunscreen, the formulation is such that it goes on very nicely and doesn’t show or smell. The drugstore kinds are generally more white (because of the zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide). But all of these sunscreens below will protect you well from the sun.
Elta MD UV Clear (spf 46). This is a lotion that goes on without leaving any discoloration or smell on the skin. It is very lightly moisturizing and I find that both men and women will use this daily without a problem. It has zinc oxide but is not white. It also has niacinamide, which has been shown to reduce redness, acne and rosacea (an added bonus!). It is by far the most popular sunscreen at our practice and I find many men and teens come in just to stock up on this.
Elizabeth Arden Rx TPF (spf 50+). This sunscreen goes on like a foundation. It has a light tint and is not creamy, much more of a light feel. It is the most cosmetically elegant sunscreen that I know of. TPF stands for Triple Protection Factor. This is because it is like 3 products in 1: SPF50 (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) + DNA Repair Enzyme Complex + Antioxidants. I think it’s really like 4 products in 1, because of the light coverage/foundation quality. DNA repair enzymes are important because there is emerging evidence that they can decrease the incidence of skin cancers in some people, and Antioxidants are important for anti-aging. I think this product is best for women who want a simple all-in-one product for the morning.
Colorescience Powder sunscreen (spf 50). This is an oldie but a goodie. It is a very unique formulation (powder) and delivery system (you just take the cap off and the powder is delivered by brushing it on your skin). It is just the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It is totally water proof; you can run your hand under water and see the water beading off of the powder. It is also great for people who play tennis, surf, run, or engage in other activities to work up a sweat. It will stay on your skin and not run or cause irritation to your eyes.
Neutrogena Pure & Free. This is a line of sunscreens by Neutrogena that comes in a lotion or stick formulation. It is just mineral sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide). Neutrogena calls their blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide “PureScreen.” Most of their products have their blend of chemical sunscreens, “HelioPlex.” PureScreen is whiter than HelioPlex, but it is better protection from the sun. Neutrogena markets this line to babies, but it is good for any age.
Elta UV Clear SPF 46, Elizabeth Arden Rx and ColoreScience are available for purchase on our website here:
ea rx web

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