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Ingredients and qualities to look for in sunscreen for men

Many high-quality sunscreens are marketed toward women, but men need an effective skincare routine, too!

Finding appropriate sun protection for men's skin shouldn't be so difficult. Learn what qualities to look for when you're trying to find the ideal sunscreen for men.

Sunscreen for men: why should you use one?

Even brief exposure to solar radiation can cause minor damage to the skin, which often leads to more problems later, such as hyperpigmentation or skin cancer.

You receive UV radiation simply by walking the dog in the afternoon or having lunch outside, so applying sunscreen every day to your face, neck, ears, and scalp are crucial steps in averting photodamage. 

Men's skin, though it tends to be thicker and more oily, still needs care and protection. By including sunscreen made for men into your routine, you can boost the skin's shield against age-related changes and sun damage. 

Do men with facial hair need to wear sunscreen?

Whether sporting facial hair or a bald scalp — or both — finding a sunscreen for men that protects and cares for your skin is important in preventing short- and long-term sun damage.

Harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin, despite the minimal protection of facial hair. Dermatologists often find skin cancers concealed beneath beards and goatees.

What are the minimum requirements for sunscreen?

The fundamental requirements for a good sunscreen for men are simple: Find a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and apply it every day.

A rating of SPF 30 blocks 97% of the UVB rays that burn your skin. Broad-spectrum sunscreens block both the UVA rays that cause wrinkles and sunspots and the UVB rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. 

If you are venturing into direct sunlight for extended periods, reapply your sunscreen at least every two hours, regardless of the SPF. Sweat and water can wash away sunscreen, so apply a new layer immediately to ensure full protection.

The American Academy for Dermatology recommends that you spread a quarter-sized amount on your head, face, ears, and neck.

If you use that measurement as the basis for the share you apply to the torso, arms, hands, and legs, you should use close to one fluid ounce in total. That’s the amount in a shot glass.

Types of protection

Sunscreen comes in two forms: mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.

Some common chemical ingredients, such as oxybenzone, have been shown to cause ecological and biological concerns among scientists because the chemicals can affect hormone balance in humans and potentially harm aquatic life.

Alternatively, mineral sunscreen for men containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is a good option for those looking to conceive.

Since mineral sunscreens are essentially suspensions of white powder, they may leave a chalky white cast on the skin. Men with darker skin tones can look for tinted sunscreens to reduce the effect of the white cast; the cast from applying good formulations tends to fade quickly. 

Some men may prefer to use chemical sunscreens, as they are less likely to be visible in their beards or stubble. As long as you aren’t trying to conceive, chemical sunscreens (without oxybenzone) can be a good choice.

It’s important to pick a sunscreen that you’ll actually wear daily!

Lifestyle considerations

Your workday skincare routine should include applying sunscreen, especially on your face, neck, ears, hands, and other areas potentially exposed to the sun.

A layer of moisturizer containing SPF 30 or higher should suffice for those days you spend mostly indoors, but carry some extra sunscreen with you, just in case you go outdoors unexpectedly, and make sure to reapply.

If you’re going to be in the water or participating in vigorous activities outdoors, you may look for water-resistant sunscreens that can remain on wet skin for 40 to 80 minutes.

Reapply water-resistant sunscreen:

  • Every two hours when not perspiring or swimming
  • Immediately upon emerging from the water
  • Every 40 to 80 minutes when perspiring
  • Immediately after toweling off

Sunscreen options

Facial sunscreen for men is suitable for the more sensitive areas from the neck to the top of the head, but the area around the eyes can be challenging to preserve.

Cream sunscreens are the gold standard for application, because they apply evenly across the skin, and you can generally see where you’ve missed a spot. As an alternative, stick sunscreens are a great way to apply to the delicate eye area or the back of the hands — both areas often accumulate significant sun damage, so make sure to look for an efficient approach to keeping them spot-free. 

Spray sunscreen is an option, but we don’t usually apply enough for it to evenly cover the entire skin area.

It takes more than we think to get even coverage with a spray: Some studies show that it may take more than 250 seconds of spraying on each limb to get enough coverage. If you do choose a spray, make sure you spray all over, and rub it around to guarantee that you've shielded all visible skin. Make sure not to spray it toward your face, as there is an inhalation risk, no matter if it’s mineral or chemical.

Skin types

Identifying skin type — normal, oily, dry, combo — will help you choose the right sunscreen and develop a healthy skincare routine.

A dermatologist can help you to identify your skin type, although everyone should select products with few irritating ingredients. 

Sensitive Skin

Look for the words "sensitive skin" on the label of the sunscreen for men, and avoid products containing synthetic fragrances.

Watch out for products marked "unscented," as they may still contain masking fragrances. If you have rosacea, use sunscreens with only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Allergy-Prone Skin

We recommend using mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to start, and slowly incorporate chemical sunscreens if you prefer, to see what works best for you.

Work with your allergist to determine what other ingredients you need to avoid when selecting sunscreen.

Dry Skin

Dry skin will benefit from a double application of moisture: Be sure to use a good moisturizer on your skin, and choose sunscreen for men that includes "moisturizing" or "dry skin" on the label.

You should add lip balm with an SPF 30 and broad-spectrum protection, too.

Oily Skin

If your skin is oily or acne-prone, be on the lookout for sunscreen for men that lists “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores" on labels.

The ingredients should be oil-free so that your skin remains clear and healthy. Look for a moisturizing sunscreen, or an SPF moisturizer, that can double up as a single step in your skincare routine.

Why buy sunscreen for men?

Men's skin deserves care and protection, and sunscreen for men is a crucial part of that process.