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The Sunscreens That Got Me To Wear Sunscreen In The Winter


I know that sunscreen is important. That is is preventative. That the science behind wearing it is real and that dermatologists say you should. But even still, sometimes it sounds a little... illogical. Like, if all winter I'm sitting inside, bundled from head to toe, and the sun sets at 4PM anyway, I still need it? Winter sunscreen sounds fake but OK.

A lot of that resistance comes from the fact that you can't actually see your sunscreen working. During the season of ordering in, skipping workouts, and dealing with unwanted body hair by covering it in sweaters and cozy pants, my MO is convenience and sunscreen is an extra step. And I’ll be the first to admit I usually… skip it. Except, this winter I haven’t! I’ve become a diligent winter SPF wearer, all because I’ve finally found a bunch of sunscreens that are absolutely delightful to slather on my face each morning.

It started with a list of pretty specific demands: I wanted it to be mineral and not chemical, because if I’m using something every day I want a skincare benefit I can actually see. (Zinc, the main ingredient in mineral sunscreen, is super skin-soothing and also my number one trick for not breaking out on airplanes.) The sunscreen of my dreams would be moisturizing and dewy, with extra points going to the ones that evened out my complexion. I should be able to use a lot of it (the recommended ½ teaspoon for my face and neck, in fact) without it feeling like a lot. And if we’re really getting into it, I wanted to see if there were any out there I didn't already know about. (Honorable mention to Josh Rosebrook and Unsun’s mineral formulas which are objectively great.) The bar was set high, but after months of testing here are the ones I’m keeping around till summer.

The All-Around Winner: Koa Anti-Pollution SPF 45+ Tinted

Ever hear of Koa? Me neither, before this SPF. It comes tinted and untinted, but I like the tinted version better—not because of coverage (it’s super sheer) but because I find you’re always better off starting from a place of not white with mineral sunscreens. It’s on the viscous side and melts into skin, so I can really pack it on without feeling like I’m wearing a lot of sunscreen. The finish is dewy and ever so slightly evens me out, good for days I don’t wear complexion makeup, which is most days. My skin just looks good when I wear this, which makes me want to wear it, which makes my skin look even better over time. It’s a positive feedback loop and I am here for it.

The One That's The Most Like A Face Oil: Supergoop Zincscreen SPF 40

When I mentioned to Ashley I was looking for new zinc sunscreens, she suggested this one—and it doesn’t disappoint. The little bit of mica and conditioning vitamin E make it almost like a face oil, with a similar glowy sheen that lasts. It’s also the option that I find leaves me with the most coverage—it can add some shine under tinted moisturizer, but brightens and evens well on its own. (Its peachy tint is more universal than something hued more true to skin—it brightens sallow tones across the board.) If you’ve wanted to jump on the Supergoop train but prefer a physical SPF, this is the one to try.

The Dermatologist Favorite: EltaMD Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41

Everyone talks about EltaMD’s UV Clear sunscreen, and look, I get it. But this all-mineral version, the thing my dermatologist handed me to use immediately after a laser treatment, is similarly great and doesn’t get nearly enough shine. It’s the only formula on this list that has zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which is often the culprit behind a white cast, but the slight tint makes that a non-issue. Honestly, I’m quite fair (especially now that I’ve been wearing SPF every day) and when I first squeezed this into my hand I was worried it would be too dark. Miraculously, as soon as I spread it onto my face it blended in perfectly and almost disappeared, taking with it my pores and any patches of redness. It’s also by far the biggest bottle (three oz.!) so you won’t feel bad about using it liberally.

The Most Skincare-y One: Kinship Self Reflect SPF 32

Want to amp up your sunscreen’s skincare capabilities? Add probiotics and a bunch of hydrating ingredients like glycerin and shea butter. This sunscreen has a whipped texture that feels the most like a cream and the least like sunscreen. It has a slight beige-y tint, but when you start rubbing it in it almost… foams up? I can’t properly explain this phenomenon but what I will say to you is: push through. After a few seconds of massaging, all the white streaks melt into the most perfect, dewy, radiant and totally clear finish. And the scent! Many thanks to Emily Ferber for finding this guy on Instagram, and Kinship for knowing I want my sunscreen to smell like a cupcake.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG