Summer 2014 Best Sunscreens Under $20

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It used to be that drugstores offered a small selection of sunscreens every season, and the biggest decision was between Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic. Nowadays, some drugstores have entire aisles devoted to sunscreen: lotions, creams, sprays, dry oils, SPF 8 and SPF 50+, PABA-free or water-resistant. While the selection can seem daunting, the good news is that there are great choices for everyone for less than $20. Here are some of our favorites.

Find the One for You

Find the One for You

It used to be that drugstores offered a small selection of sunscreens every season, and the biggest decision was between Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic. Nowadays, some drugstores have entire aisles devoted to sunscreen: lotions, creams, sprays, dry oils, SPF 8 and SPF 50+, PABA-free or water-resistant. While the selection can seem daunting, the good news is that there are great choices for everyone for less than $20. Here are some of our favorites.

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreens

Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens are actually sunblocks: they sit on the surface of the skin and prevent UV rays from getting to your skin. They usually contain titanium or zinc oxide. Sometimes the ingredients in physical sunscreens can add a whitish cast to the skin, but they can be much less irritating to sensitive skin. Try Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive, SPF 30+ ($18.50)

Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by your skin, where they absorb UV rays. They usually contain ingredients like Octylcrylene, Avobenzone and Octisalate. While they can be more irritating than physical sunscreens, they do a better job of blocking both UVA rays (the ones that generally age you) and UVB rays (the ones that generally burn you) than physical sunscreens. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 45 ($10.69) not only offers full protection, but also feels almost weightless.

Is SPF 60 Twice As Good As SPF 30?

Is SPF 60 Twice As Good As SPF 30?

SPF generally indicates how long you can stay out in the sun before you burn, so wearing SPF 10 should technically enable you to stay in the sun 10 times longer than you normally would. But it’s a bit more complicated. As the American Melanoma Foundation notes, an SPF of two will absorb 50 percent of ultraviolet radiation, an SPF of 15 absorbs 93 percent and an SPF of 34 absorbs 97 percent. 

If you notice, there’s no SPF 100 on the shelves anymore, since the general consensus is that anything over SPF 50 will provide few advantages. Sunscreens with higher SPFs also tend to be heavier and greasier than sunscreens with lower SPFs. Sticking with a sunscreen with an SPF between 30 and 50 is a smart choice to protect you against premature aging and skin cancer. Try NO-AD Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 ($9.99) which gives you a healthy amount of product that is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Lotion or Spray Sunscreen?

Lotion or Spray Sunscreen?

Spray-on sunscreens make it easier to cover hard-to-reach spots and touch up your sunscreen during the day, but it’s definitely more expensive (and you can get uneven coverage since you can’t see where you’ve applied it, especially if you’re not spraying close enough to the skin). For instance, Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 is $9.99 for 8 ounces, or $1.25 per ounce, while the exact same product in a continuous spray form is $12.99 for 9.5 ounces, or $1.37 per ounce.

However, if you’re more likely to apply sunscreen if you simply spray it on instead of slathering lotion around, it may be worth it for you. Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen, Body Mist, SPF 45 ($10.79) is a particularly refreshing option for hot summer days. When applying a spray sunscreen, make sure to keep the can close to your skin and apply a generous coating; and try not to inhale the product.

Don’t Forget Your Lips

Don’t Forget Your Lips

Just like the rest of your skin, your lips can flake, peel and burn if unprotected from the sun. Fortunately, there’s a wide selection of both clear and colored lip sunscreen that will keep your pout looking young. Just remember to apply liberally during the day and especially after eating. ChapStick Lip Balm with SPF 30 ($2.19) is an ideal and incredibly affordable option, while Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm ($8.99) not only has SPF 20, but also comes in a beautiful selection of colors.

Cover-up in Your Cosmetic Bag

Cover-up in Your Cosmetic Bag

We usually don’t think about sunscreen in our face powder, but it’s a wonderful way to refresh your sun protection without disturbing your makeup. Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Airbrushing Pressed Powder SPF 30 ($13.95) is a mineral powder in compact form for on-the-go touchups. For even more sun protection at an even more affordable price, try e.l.f. Studio SPF 45 Sunscreen ($6), a loose powder that offers full UVA/UVB Protection.

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