Your 20-years-from-now self will thank you for applying these early and often.

Karla Walsh
July 16, 2021
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Turns out, a shocking amount of Americans are A-OK with getting burned. Only about 1 in 10 Americans (11%) apply sunscreen daily, according to the 2020 RealSelf Sun Safety Report. It's high time to change that, dermatologists and oncologists agree.

That's because slathering on SPF isn't just the #1 step to help your skin look younger, but it's also crucial for skin cancer prevention. Those who use SPF 15 or higher regularly are 40 percent less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and approximately 50 percent lower risk for melanoma compared to their non-sunscreened peers, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation.

While some of the best sunscreens on the market can clock in at $50 or more, you need not make a hefty investment to save face (and shoulders, arms, legs…).

"Great sun protection is available at all price points," explains Ted Lain, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. "The higher dollar ones usually are easier to apply, can be layered under makeup and may include beneficial ingredients in addition to sunscreens that may improve the health and appearance of the skin."

But as long as you look for these qualities in your sunscreen, you can certainly score stellar sun coverage in a budget-friendly sunscreen. Dr. Lain and Annie Gonzalez, M.D., a board certified Miami Dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology, recommend seeking out sunscreens with these details on the label:

  • SPF 50 or higher
  • Broad-spectrum, which means it protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. (Learn more about the difference between UVA and UVB here.)
  • Waterproof
  • Ingredients tailored to your skin type. "Those with oily skin should look for lightweight sunscreens that contain ingredients like isododecane or silica," Dr. Gonzalez says. "Individuals with dry skin should look for ingredients like oils, dimethicone, aloe and glycerin, and should avoid gel or spray sunscreens with alcohol."

Aim to apply 1 ounce (picture as much as would fill a shot glass) to the entire body every 2 hours, suggests the American Academy of Dermatology Associationespecially when outside. But that doesn't mean you should skip it when indoors.

"Sunscreens are not just for summer. UVA rays stay consistent throughout the year, and these are the rays responsible for aging and skin cancer development. Applying a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen is important all year-round," Dr. Lain adds.

And remember that your bottle definitely has a shelf life: "Sunscreens should be either used completely or replaced every 12 months, less if they are stored in a hot car or other extreme environment," Dr. Lain says.

The 4 Best Sunscreens Under $15 to Protect Your Skin from Aging, According to Dermatologists

Best Budget-Friendly Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin:

Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55
$10.97
SHOP IT
Amazon

"This all-purpose sunscreen designed specifically for acne-prone skin. It helps absorb oil so you don't feel greasy, and it won't clog your pores," says Dr. Gonzalez. "The higher SPF is great for those spending all day in the sun and will offer more protection against sunburn than products with a lower SPF. The SPF 55 is not a necessity, however it does the job at a great price!"

Users agree that this total-body, broad-spectrum sunscreen is lightweight, breathable, "moisturizes but doesn't leave my skin greasy, and it dries matte." It offers enough protection to help with other skin challenges, too.

"I have mild melasma (darker pigmented areas) on my face. Being out in the sun without protection makes the melasma spots become darker. I've been using this sunscreen daily for six months and it has made such a difference! I can be outside for hours and this sunscreen does an amazing job of protecting my skin," one fan raves.

Best Budget-Friendly Sunscreen for Oily Skin:

Cetaphil Pro Oil Absorbing Moisturizer With SPF 30 Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
$14.59
SHOP IT
Target

Dr. Gonzalez also gives the thumbs-up to this Cetaphil moisturizer with SPF, especially "for those with oily skin. It helps absorb oil while protecting you from the sun's rays. It also uses a lower concentration of sunscreen filters for greater hydration and less irritation."

Cetaphil calls its magic potion "micropearltechnology," which promises to leave a matte finish while absorbing oil and reducing shine. It's oil-free, fragrance-free and gentle on sensitive skin.

A long-time fan says, "I've been using this product since 2014. I got a sample from my dermatologist and I was hooked. I love the smell and the consistency—it makes my skin feel moisturized but not oily. And the best part about it is that it has built-in SPF 30."

Best Budget-Friendly Sunscreen for Dry Skin:

Aveeno Protect and Hydrate Sunscreen Body Lotion SPF 60
$9.99
SHOP IT
Target

Dr. Lain advises patients to focus on trusted brands, such as Aveeno, Neutrogena and La Roche Posay, and this high-SPF, broad-spectrum option from the first on that list really hits the mark.

With prebiotic oats in the mix, it leaves skin feeling soft and moisturized, yet not greasy.

"I love how light and pleasant the fragrance is compared to most sunscreens," a five-star reviewer says. "The viscosity is perfect—not too runny and not too thick, so it is easy to apply and soaks into the skin. I burn incredibly easily, and this has saved me so far this year. It truly has been sweatproof during games of tennis and yard work in 95° weather."

Best Budget-Friendly Sunscreen for Anti-Aging

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30
$10.99
($19.99 save 29%)
SHOP IT
Amazon

For face-only protection (and additional wrinkle-fighting benefits), this is among your best bets, according to Dr. Gonzalez.

"CeraVe's facial moisturizer with SPF is a great sunscreen for most skin types because this product is oil-free, paraben-free, and non-comedogenic [translation: it won't clog pores]. It also includes hyaluronic acid, an ultra-hydrating ingredient that can help reduce the appearance of fine lines," she adds.

The day cream also features Niacinamide, which can help calm skin, and should be suitable for sensitive, dry, oily or acne-prone skin.

According to one fan, it's a "great, oil-free moisturizer with SPF at a very reasonable price. It does not irritate my sensitive skin, and has made my face noticeably softer. It also absorbs rather quickly so that I can wear foundation over it without feeling too greasy. I've tried more expensive moisturizers, but I much prefer this product."