The New, Easy Sunscreens: UV Protection for a New Age

We all know we have to use it. Check out all the ways science is making the process easier to abide.


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In case you haven’t yet heard, wearing sunscreen (at least a broad-spectrum, SPF 30) daily is an absolute non-negotiable, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation, and dermatologists everywhere. It can admittedly feel like a daunting chore, but on the bright side, today’s sunscreen is certainly not your momma’s sunscreen. Innovative new formulas and textures have made SPF more cosmetically elegant—and dare we say even enjoyable to use—than ever before. There’s also a host of other products to help round out your sun-care routine, including stylish clothing and even protective pills. Here, dermatologists weigh in on the latest and greatest sunscreen news and share their predictions for all of the exciting things still to come.

Souped-Up Sunscreens Are All the Rage

Sunscreens are classified as either chemical or physical. The former rely on chemical ingredients that penetrate into the skin, where they absorb UV rays. The latter sit on top of the skin and block said rays. In either category, there have been no new active sunscreen ingredients to hit the market for many decades, points out New York City board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Hale, M.D., SVP of the Skin Cancer Foundation. (Blame a stringent FDA-approval process.)

Instead, it’s the extra ingredients being added to sunscreens that are new and improved. More specifically, there’s been an increased emphasis on creating formulas that protect the skin not only from the sun, but also from high-energy visible light, AKA blue light, AKA the light emitted from electronic screens. “While HEVL doesn’t cause skin cancer, we do know that it can contribute to signs of premature aging and hyperpigmentation, including in those with darker skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and assistant professor of dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. In mineral formulations, this is achieved through the addition of iron oxides, ingredients that also give these sunscreens a tint; in chemical formulas, it’s via specific antioxidants that can help combat the damage caused by blue light, he explains. One to try: The Meaningful Beauty Anti-Aging Day Crème with Environmental Protection SPF30 ($65; is a lightweight, chemical formula that shields skin from UVA and UVB rays, as well as infrared and blue light.

There’s No Shortage of Sunscreen Formulas

Forget those goopy, cloying, coconut-smelling lotions of the past. These days, there’s a sunscreen formula to fulfill any and every type of product preference. Mineral formulations, notorious for being thick and chalky, are lighter and more blendable than ever. And whereas their tinted versions were once only available in a shade or two, they may now come in an extensive range of shades, ensuring options for all skin tones. Take Tower 28 Beauty SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen ($30;, which comes in 14 hues.

In general, “Companies are innovating formulas to be more consumer-friendly and improve the ease of reapplication,” notes Dr. Hale. Powders have been around for a while, but there are now gels, primers, setting mists, and more, all of which deliver your daily dose of SPF. For example, Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 ($20; is an undetectable gel (there’s also a Trader Joe’s dupe that went viral last summer); Naked Sundays SPF50+ Hydrating Glow Mist Top Up ($30; works beautifully under or over makeup.  But at the end of the day, both dermatologists we spoke with offered the same bottom line when it comes to SPF selection: The best sunscreen is the one that you’re actually going to use.

Consumer Attitudes are Changing, But Myths Still Exist

“People are much more accepting that they need to use sunscreen daily than they were five years ago,” says Dr. Zeichner. “They’re recognizing that it’s an essential component of an anti-aging regimen. The fact that it will ward off signs of aging is more motivating to many people than the idea that it will prevent skin cancer.” Still, our experts said they still hear the old “I don’t wear sunscreen because I need to get vitamin D from the sun” excuse. “Vitamin D is very important for bone and organ health, but it’s never been suggested that getting it from the sun is the right way to do so,” says Dr. Hale. “In fact, the skin receptors that absorb vitamin D are maxed out after about five to 10 minutes of exposure, and they’re activated even if you’re wearing sunscreen,” she explains, adding that getting vitamin D from your diet and/or a supplement if necessary is choice.

A Sunscreen Pill?

Yes, keep your eyes peeled for sun-protective supplement pills hitting the market. (They contain specific antioxidants that give your skin a base layer of protection equivalent to about an SPF 4, notes Dr. Hale. The most common one is Heliocare  ($32;, though there are other brands available at the dermatologist’s office.) There’s more innovation in this category and people love the ease of it, although we do need to underscore the fact that this is just another tool in your sun-protection toolbox, she adds. Don’t mistake these for an oral sunscreen, Dr. Zeichner cautions. “They are exactly what their name suggests—supplements that you can incorporate as an addition to your routine, but do not take the place of wearing sunscreen,” he says. Both doctors also call out that sun protective clothing is now more stylish than ever, with plenty of flattering, fashionable options. Expect this category to continue to grow as well.

New Things Are on The Horizon

So, what will the sunscreen scene look like five years from now? Dr. Hale hopes to see chemical sunscreen ingredients currently only available in the E.U. gain FDA-approval stateside. “Not only are these ingredients even more cosmetically elegant than those that we have, they’re also ideal for blocking the very prominent UVA rays, for which we currently don’t have great options,” she says. She also foresees more advancement in skin cancer treatment, specifically melanoma. In fact, Moderna recently announced that an mRNA melanoma vaccine has proved to be effective at preventing recurrence when paired with an immunosuppressant cancer drug. 

Dr. Zeichner expects a continued improvement in how people view and use sunscreen, thinking about it as a part of skin health, rather than just straight UV protection. The ongoing development of cosmetically elegant, multi-functional products will help people realize that it’s something to be integrated into your daily routine, rather than an extra step just to use at the beach, he says. Point being, sunscreens have evolved and changed immensely as of late—and things are only going to get better.

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