The Best Drugstore Sunscreen

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For most of my life, I've been the palest person in the room. I've been in friendly arguments about my paleness with fair-complexioned pals who argue that they are more Casper-ly than I. Look, I have some natural color, but it’s red, not a nice shade of beige, and it's because my blood shows through my translucent skin. As such, I've had to bite the bullet and finally take the advice of one Dr. Sexter (the best pediatrician in DC!), and add some SPF to my daily routine.

In the last few years, I've tried several different facial sunscreens, ranging from drugstore brands to ones recommended or prescribed to me by a dermatologist. But it wasn't until I found Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock that I really found a winner. There is talk about how, past SPF 45, the protection-level number on sunscreen bottles amounts to marketing bullshit (see WebMD). Fully acknowledging this, I still buy into what they're selling; it can’t hurt to buy the highest SPF available, which seems to be SPF 100+.

And here's what I can tell you: there have been no sunburn sightings since I started slathering 100+ on my face and body! Huzzah! The cream's lightweight and—as the name notes—super dry feel allows it to go virtually undetected in my makeup-application process. No white sheen on your face, no wretched sunblock smell, no worry that it will slowly melt off your skin and find its way into your eyes. Offer me a $200 alternative and all I’ll say to you is, “No, thank you!” Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, I am yours.

—Elizabeth Brockway

Photos by Elizabeth Brockway.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Saakshi Kaushik

    Is this available in the UK?

    • KatInEurope

      You can get it via Amazon UK, but at a price premium.
      It is a product worth getting pals to bring over if you can - it is also sold in Australia and NZ being the one sunscreen I don't ever burn with. I do tend to use the SPF30 for the specific reason that it makes me physically limit my overall exposure time, but that's one of my quirks.
      The only issue with this product is that because it is long lasting, you do need to cleanse really well - so double cleanse/washcloth/clarisonic/whatever.

      • Saakshi Kaushik

        Thank you!! Just found it on Amazon. Av price of £10 and the person selling seems as legit as can be. Has anybody used Clinique's City Block? I used it once a couple of years ago and found that it totally went a little schiz on my face. For a couple of days I found it left my face looking like you could fry an egg on it, and on others, it looked matte and dewy in the right places. How does the Neutrogena compare? Off to sweltering 45 degree centigrade days in Mumbai soon, will be needing some pretty strong stuff for face and body.

    • Krunce

      Do you guys get Biafine in the UK? They have a liquid/emulsion and cream for the face. I have the emulsion, and I prefer it to the Neutrogena, which I've used before in the past, mostly because it's a little less smelly.

      • Saakshi Kaushik

        I don't think it is as readily available as, say, La Roche Posay and other French brands. Will have a little gander around and see if I can find it. If not, there's always http://www.leguidesante.co.uk!!

  • http://coocooforcoco.blogspot.com/ colleenwelsch

    That's what I use! It's the bomb.com. It really keeps you from feeling slimy too.

  • Poulette

    Do you re apply during the day? That's always my hesitation with using chemical filters (such a bummer!) - that efficacy goes down during the day so by the time I would be walking home from work in the afternoon or if I go out for a lunch in the sunshine, I am no longer getting the protection I want... Any tips for dealing with this?

    • ITGElizabeth

      I haven't run into that problem during my typical daily life-- though much of the day is spent indoors at my desk. Whenever I'm on vacation and soaking up the sun, I tend to reapply after lunch or after a dip in the water just in case.

    • mrsnics

      So your question brought up a question i have been pondering. Do physical blocking sunscreens require less reapplication than chemical?? They seem like they should since there is like a layer that you can sort of see sitting on your skin but both of my favorite physically blocking sunscreens, Neutrogena pure and free liquid spf 50 and Anthelios 50 mineral, say you should reapply every 2 hours! Whats up? I tend to just do a touch up on the "hot spots" of my make up that has physical blocking sunscreen in it. I used to use the colorscience or peter thomas roth sunscreen powder for touch ups but got sick of the sort of dirty feel i would get.

  • tera

    love your Dr.s name. sorry, I just giggled like a 12 year old when I read it!

    • ITGElizabeth

      I know, right! Her name was originally Dr. Beer and then married and changed her name to Dr. Sexter. As an adolescent, I thought this was hilarious (I still do...).

  • Hope

    Elizabeth aka the One Mane, where do you find the 100+ version? The link's pic is of 100+, but Target lists it as the 45 SPF now.

    • ITGElizabeth

      Updated the link to Walgreens! My local Duane Reade carries the 100+ pretty regularly (I'm sure CVS, Rite Aid, etc. would do the same), but if not, the link will lead you there now :)

    • palerthanpale

      Soon, no one will be able to find it, due to new government regs misleadingly high SPFs (along with powdered spfs and others) will be banned in the U.S.

      Find some healthier sunscreen.
      http://www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen/

  • Ellie

    I used this religiously until I went to my dermatologist recently to discuss the slightly bumpy texture in my forehead (it's one of those things that you'd never be able to tell at first glance, but it drives me nuts). Immediately she asked if I was using this Neutrogena sunscreen and told me to switch to La Roche Posay's Anthelios SPF 60. A few days later the bumps were gone and I'm no longer a Neutrogena addict...

    For those of you who still want it, though, amazingly it's sold at Costco (in its normal size tube, not a supersized jug)!

    • Twix

      Same thing happened with me and Neutrogena's Oil-free Moisturizer :(

    • Angela

      Well that explains a lot! I used to use this sunscreen AND the oil-free moisturiser :/ Did your dermatologist explain what exactly in the sunscreen caused the little bumps?

  • cate

    I have been using this stuff since, in one of the more bizarre beauty experiences of my life, I attended the ill-fated Googa Mooga Festival in Prospect Park in Brooklyn on an extremely sunny day in 2012. I had to leave the festival to go in search of a Duane Reade to purchase sunscreen before I was burnt to a crisp and, like some sort of mirage in the middle of the desert, there was a Neutrogena truck (?!) parked on Prospect Park West, right outside of the park, handing out free tubes of this sunscreen.

    It was fate that we met, obviously. I've been using it ever since. It's great.

    • notdeadyet

      Oh wow, a Nutrogena truck?!

  • melissa

    THIS is my FAV sunscreen! In the summer I usually mix it with my liquid foundation and it's the best.

    • jazzypom

      Hey, my complexion is similar to yours in the icon, does it turn your skin with a blueish tint? My skin tends to be classified as medium dark (think mac NC50), and I find a lot of sunscreen leaves my skin with a blue tint.

  • Verdun

    PSA: This product gets a score of seven on ewg.org, for concerns of cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies & immunotoxicity. *debbie downer* If I could suggest an alternative, it would be La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, SPF 60 (score of three). I've used this stuff with amazing results--and it's just as "dry touch" as this neutrogena stuff.

    • Alisa

      Given that it's a mineral sunscreen, does it leave that dreaded white cast behind?

      • Verdun

        In my experience, not at all. It seems to kind of sink in or just disappear, leaving a matte finish. I've never walked away looking chalky or shiny with this stuff. And I feel really safe with it on; personally, I trust it all the way.

  • Celeste

    Oooh. For us insanely sensitive princess skin people (me; i get puffy and red as soon as any chemical sunscreen blocker touches my face) Neutrogena's sensitive skin line is ALSO great!! My favorite sunscreen. I have my friends haul it back from Seattle when they hop down the border ;)

  • Sara

    I am not a fan of chemical sunscreens. I prefer physical sunblocks with ZnO, so Neutrogena is not an option for me. I don't trust chemical sunscreens.

    • Celeste

      Neutrogena has a sensitive skin line which only uses ZnO and TiO as blockers. It's (relatively speaking) affordable too, at around $14 US for a tube of SPF 60?

  • Julianne_x

    I read good things about this sunblock and tried it in the year or two after it came out. Without thinking, I applied it on my face, and it was so strongly scented that it caused what seemed like a respiratory allergic reaction. I don't usually have allergies. (This was a few years ago, so the scent may not still be the same.)

    Drugstore products often seem to be strongly scented, which drives me to use things that are more expensive than I'd like. I use Neutrogena wet skin spray sunblock on arms & legs when outdoors, and even that is way more scent than I'd prefer, but I tolerate it for the cost and convenience.

  • http://ivysmaquillagecove.com/ Divya

    It indeed gives a good protection and a lot of people rave about it, which led me to buying it but unfortunately, it just didn't work for me..It eventually turns quite oily. Also it makes me white which doesn't look very flattering.

  • Rosie

    Was just thinking of getting this- dita mentioned it in her top shelf but didn't say much about it- you guys are mind readers

  • Nina

    I avoid chemical sunscreens at all costs, which is a shame, because I would really like to try this stuff - right now I'm using Cera Ve Broad Spectrum SPF 50, but it's quite thick and chalky and seriously washes me out, so I'm going to go back to Paula's Choice Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30, which I was using before.

    • mrsnics

      I tried that cera ve stuff and i looked like a mime! just completely crazy! i dont know why it is getting so much play in magazines lately.

    • Amanda

      I love the PC Hydralight. If you want SPF 50 though, try MDSolarSciences. They have an SPF 50 for like $30 and it does not leave a white cast on me. A little white initially but it goes away quickly. They sell the brand at Sephora now!

  • Charlotte

    Thank you!

  • Dru

    I use the SPF 50++ version, and that seems to work just fine for me - I think I got an Asia-only version or something? For those who don't like the idea of a cream, Neutrogena also has the Ultra Sheer Moisture version of this stuff, which is a lotion (looking at the labels, I noticed they said 'made in Korea')

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    I like their baby version of this for sensitive skin!

  • Joi2joi

    Unfortunately, this one breaks me out. :(

  • Riley

    I use this sunscreen and I loooove it. I used it in DR this week and I'm 100% sunburn free

  • Tamara

    This is my absolute favorite chemical sunscreen, application and protection wise- even better than its more expensive department store counterparts! So many people apply sunscreen sparingly like a moisturizer- I get so annoyed when I see so called YouTube "beauty gurus" rubbing a tiny amount b/w their hands and then patting it on their face, they probably get about a tenth of the spf protection that way, if any at all! You need a teaspoon amount for your entire face and neck which sounds like a lot, but this is why you need a sunscreen like Neutrogena Dry Touch, where I can literally pile on the stuff and it doesn't look greasy at all or leave a white cast!

    However I will be making the switch to physical sunscreens soon once I find a good one, still this sunscreen is still my fav if I ignore the whole harmful chemicals thing! (Not being preachy or sarcastic, genuinely love it!)

  • Amyzz

    My skin reacted terribly to this </3

  • Cristina

    This felt like the perfect sunscreen then I first applied it (because It didn't feel like sunscreen at all) but after a few days of use my skin became super dry and started peeling, my sister on the other hand didn't react to it at all so I'd suggest sensitive skin types be careful !

  • Stefani

    I agree I absolutely love this sunscreen! No whiteness or oilyness in sight which is so important for me because I have oily skin already! Definately recommend!

  • han car

    I too am in the superpale camp, and this stuff kicks some serious tush. I use spf70.

  • k80

    Guyssss I went straight out and bought this after reading this yesterday, and when I applied it this morning it felt greasy! I waited a while before putting on makeup and it was still greasy! Why me?!

    Does anyone know of a mineral/physical sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast or a heavy tint? (Clinique City Block is too tinted for my Casper skin and the Clarins UV Plus Day Screen leaves a white tint). This is getting expensive!!!

    • Badedasforever

      Two possibilities: Eucerin facial moisturizer with a SPF 30, or if you're being spend-y, Elta MD. If the Eucerin doesn't work on your face, use it as protection for your hands; people's hands tend to get neglected protection-wise, so it wouldn't be wasted money if it ends up being delegated to your hands.

      • k80

        Thanks! Which Elta MD should I try? Looking at the Clear SPF46 or the Physical SPF41 - both seem to have physical sunscreens in them - but which one is the most matte/leaves least white cast/wears best under makeup? Any info much appreciated!

  • martha

    The amount of additional sun protection you get from spf greater than 30 is very minimal (blocking 98% of rays vs 97%). Why not block more rays? Because often to get that additional blocking effect the formulation changes significantly and generally unfavorably

  • jazzypom

    Thank you so much, Melissa. Cool! If I see it, I'll give it a go. I do want a high factor. Thanks for the tip re: mixing it with foundation!

  • Mz Hrnandz

    CAN I USE THIS FOR FACE AND BODY?! CAN IT B RECOMMENDED FOR ME THAT I HAVE OILY FACE SKIN?! ALSO CAN I WEAR IT UNDER MAKEUP?!..

PRODUCTS MENTIONED

Neutrogena Sun Ultra Sheer
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 100+
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