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Whether you’re a skin care lover, a sunscreen fanatic or just a person with access to TikTok, you’ve likely seen an influx of content about powdered sunscreen. Rather than lotions, sprays or even the much-beloved sunscreen stick, we’re talking about sun protection that is literally in powder form. It comes in all sorts of packaging with different application styles and claims to be an easy, portable and mess-free way to protect yourself from UV rays all day long.
If you tend to be skeptical about new products or are just confused by the logistics of powdered sunscreen, you’re likely wondering how it works and how you can ensure you’re applying it correctly. We reached out to dermatologists to spill the powder on these SPF products.
What is powdered sunscreen?
According to Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, a fellow at the American Academy of Dermatology and board-certified dermatologist in Dallas, Texas, powdered sunscreens are physical sunscreens that are made from minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that physically block ultraviolet radiation.
Whereas many more traditional lotion sunscreens include chemicals like avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone, which absorb into the skin to absorb and diffuse harmful rays, physical or mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin to deflect the sun.
“They form a protective barrier on the surface of the skin, which reflects UV rays away,” Houshmand told HuffPost. “These differ from chemical sunscreens that use chemicals to filter out the sun’s damaging UV rays.”
Houshmand said powdered sunscreen is ideal for re-application throughout the day. It can be used both under and over makeup, giving you extra protection. It’s super light and breezy for folks who hate having sticky stuff on their face. Because it’s so light and portable, it’s easy to keep in your car or bag and can be effortlessly brushed on your face or arms to keep you sun safe on the go.
How do you use powdered sunscreen correctly?
While the super cute powdered sunscreens you’ve been seeing on TikTok are largely packaged as an all-in-one brush, powdered sunscreen also comes in makeup-like compacts and its own bottle, like baby powder.
If you’re using an all-in-one brush-on powdered sunscreen, Dr. Scott Walter, a board-certified dermatologist in Golden, Colorado, says to read the directions carefully to ensure the brush is primed correctly. Some powdered sunscreens ask you to shake the brush while some have you tap the product on a table or surface, ensuring the product gets through to the head of the brush.
“If you run your fingers through the brush, you should see a small plume of powder. If not, cap the brush and tap it several times,” Walter told HuffPost. “I recommend my patients apply for about 60 seconds and two passes using circular motions and light pressure to get the best coverage. Always ensure powder is flowing and re-prime if needed.”
Dr. DiAnne Davis, a member of the Women’s Dermatologic Society practicing in Dallas, said that if you’re using a compact or bottled powdered sunscreen, you want to use fully cover the application sponge or pad (or pour a generous amount into your hands) and then rub the product onto your entire face or parts of your body you’re covering.
How do you know you’ve applied enough powder sunscreen?
Houshmand, Walter, Davis and Dr. Papri Sarkar, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston, Massachusetts, all agree that because powdered products are so light and transparent, it can be hard to tell if you’ve applied enough. Because of this, they all recommend using liquid sunscreen in the morning as a base layer and then keeping powdered sunscreen on hand for reapplication during the day.
“Use a sunscreen lotion as your primary form of sunscreen,” Sarkar told HuffPost. “When it’s time to reapply, be generous with that sunscreen powder. Don’t worry if you’re a little powdery. Your natural body heat and dewiness will take care of that in a bit.”
To get the most from your powder, Sarkar suggests using a lot of the product and patting it into the skin or liquid sunscreen layer, rather than just gracefully brushing it on. Of course, if you’re in a pinch or just hate the feel of liquid sunscreens, Sarkar says it’s better to use powdered sunscreen as your primary product than nothing at all. Finding a sunscreen that fits your needs and lifestyle will help make sure you actually wear it regularly.
“The very best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually use consistently,” she said. “If the choice is between no sun protection and some form of sun protection, I’ll always take some. Sunscreen needs to be used generously and often so find one you love.”
To help you find the best powdered sunscreen for you, we’ve rounded up a selection of products. All products listed are SPF 30 or above, with broad-spectrum protection, meaning they work for both UVA and UVB rays. We’ve noted the ones that are water-resistant, as well as the tones/shades, finishes, prices and SPF for each. While all products can be used by people of all genders, we’ve pointed out the explicitly unisex ones and the ones that do not resemble makeup. And for those who are looking for extra shimmer and tint, there are also options that can fit into your makeup routine.
HuffPost receives a share from retailers on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
For oily skin and a matte finish
Sarkar says powdered sunscreen can be great for folks with oily skin or people who just like the matte look. "Sunscreen powders treat a lot of of the skin concerns that plague people when it's especially sunny," Sarkar told HuffPost. "Oily skin that makes you feel like people can see you from outer space? Instant mattification with a sunscreen powder."
The matte duo from Supergoop
contains the Mineral Mattescreen
, a matte skin primer with SPF 40 and the (Re)setting 100% mineral powder with SPF 35.
The powdered sunscreen comes in four shades: translucent, light, medium and deep.
Best water-resistant hydrating powder
If you're a total gym rat, love to go to the beach and pool in the summer or just tend to get sweaty, this powdered sunscreen from Brush On Block
may have your number. It's water- and sweat-resistant for 80 minutes and contains jojoba oil, safflower oil and rice lipids to be super hydrating in the heat or for dry skin. This powder is translucent and comes in SPF 30.
For easy application and touch-ups over a full face of makeup
Sarkar said that a tinted sunscreen powder can instantly upgrade your summer beauty routine. "Makeup wearing off due to a sweaty, summer day? Tinted sunscreen powders give just a hint of coverage to cover those blemishes that make us all a little more self-conscious," she said. "And they play well with makeup."
It's important to note that at least for now, powdered sunscreen shade ranges are generally lacking. This tinted brush-on sunscreen from iS Clincal has one of the best ranges available, with shades in bronze, cream, deep and ivory. It minimizes the look of pores, absorbs surface oil on your face, works well as a finishing powder, and has an SPF 40.
The cutest branding with a compact bottle you'll want to keep around
Sarkar emphasized that powdered sunscreen is ideal for re-applying and touchups throughout the day. Of course, that means you want to keep a couple around to always have one on hand.
"They're super portable," Sarkar said. "You can have one in your purse, your car, your desk etc. There's no excuse not to reapply on the go."
This sunscreen from Larkly comes in a super compact bottle that's easy to tuck into purses, glove boxes and drawers, yet the groovy branding means you may want to flaunt it on your counter or office desk. It's a translucent powder with SPF 30.
For highlighter lovers and people who love to shimmer
If you're attached to your highlighter and love to make your face shimmer and glisten, you may worry that powdered sunscreen will dim your glow. Dr. Doris Day,
a practicing dermatologist in New York City, says that finding a sunscreen that works with your makeup routine is imperative. "If you find one you like, you are more likely to use it consistently and to reapply it," Day told HuffPost.
This Sunforgettable Glow brush-on sunscreen from Colorescience is a SPF 50 powdered sunscreen with a pearlescent finish, giving your skin a shimmery, shiny glow. It's water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes and works on all skin types and tones.
For a unisex powder that doesn't look like makeup
Davis explains that while powdered sunscreen can be a great addition to a makeup routine, it's also a useful product for men, genderless hotties and folks that don't wear makeup.
"Powdered sunscreen is a great way to re-apply to the back of the hands if you are in the car driving or if you are going to be outside for long sporting events," Davis told HuffPost.
This SPF 30 powdered sunscreen from Nature's Apothecary is translucent, water- and sweat-resistant, hypoallergenic and reef- and river-friendly for all sorts of swimming. It can also be used like a baby powder to get sand off your feet before getting into the car.
The best drugstore version with brand recognition
If already know you like the tropical scent and floral packaging of drugstore brand Hawaiian Tropic, their powdered sunscreen may naturally fit into your lifestyle. This translucent powder has SPF 30 and layers well with makeup.
For superior coverage
Walter urges you to use a powered sunscreen that's at least SPF 30. He also said to pay attention to your face as the weather starts to get warmer. "If you notice your face tanning over time, this would be a sign that you’re not applying enough or not reapplying often enough," Walter told HuffPost.
He noted that finding a compact and portable powdered sunscreen can help you reapply during the day with ease. "Powdered sunscreen is easy to apply over makeup and portable with no mess," Walter said, "making them great for on-the-go reapplication."
For maximum coverage and super easy application, try this mineral brush sunscreen from Isdin with SPF 50
. It's a translucent powder that works with all skin tones and can be easily applied to your face as well as your arms, neck and ears.
For scalp lines and keeping your whole head protected
Walter explained that powdered sunscreen isn't just good for your face and arms, it can also be used for your scalp. To protect your whole head from the sun, powdered sunscreen can be applied almost like a dry shampoo around your roots to keep your scalp safe.
This Poof Mineral Part Powder from Supergoop is a translucent, unisex SPF 35 powder specially designed for hair parts and scalps. It comes in an easy-spray bottle that helps get the powder exactly where it needs to be.
Best compact powdered sunscreen
Finding a powdered sunscreen that works for you also means considering the packaging and application style. If you prefer a makeup compact-type package over an all-in-one brush, Davis suggests finding a pressed powder that comes with a sponge or application pad.
This translucent powder from Suntegrity has SPF 50 with a matte finish and comes with its own application pad.
For the kiddos
Sarkar said that powdered sunscreen can be great for kids to re-apply during the day. "They're effortless to use," she said. "Even a toddler can manage to smush some powder on their face if given a sunscreen brush."
This translucent brush-on sunscreen from Brush On Block has an extra fluffy brush for sensitive skin, and the bright color bristles make it easy to see if there's enough product on the brush. It's water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes and has SPF 30.