four top sunscreens

by Sophie Anderson

I love the sun. I love talking about the sun. I love listening to music about the sun. And, most of all, I love being in the sun. I’ve let my love of sunshine dictate most of my major life decisions, like choosing to stay in the south for college and migrating to sunny southern California post-grad. I even have a wide range of friends who have taken to calling me “Sunshine Sophie,” because of my obsession with warm weather (along with my sunny disposition, I hope).

Hence, I have never felt any sense of urgency in protecting myself from the sun’s warm and inviting rays. “What need is there for protection?” I have always thought. “The sun is my homie.” No hat / sunglasses / outerwear can come between us. And I certainly won’t taint a perfectly sunny day by smearing a greasy, smelly liquid all over my face – rendering me sticky and uncomfortable for the duration of the afternoon and zit-faced for weeks to come.

But, as science and Supermodels across the globe have taught us, this kind of thinking is naïve. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation IS dangerous, and not taking necessary precautions to protect against it can lead to wrinkles, sagging skin, sun damage, and, most dauntingly, skin cancer. So, I decided to face the facts, buck up and start wearing sunscreen every day.

In order to go 0 to 100 so quickly, however, I knew I’d have to find the perfect sunscreen. And, after hours of scouring the internet, reading reviews, and trying different products, I am happy to report that I have four top contenders. Read my thoughts on each one below:


1. Australian Gold

Of the four, this is by far the best value. When I purchased this, Ulta was doing a buy one get one 50% off deal, so I got two of these for the same price as one of the other three sunscreens listed below. Great, case closed then, right? Not only is this product cost-effective, but it has a pleasant smell, it’s both non-chemical and non-greasy, and it’s made by beautiful, tanned Australian surfers (or so I like to believe). So what is there to complain about? Don’t get me wrong, this is a great product and I will use every drop of the two bottles I purchased. But I do have a few qualms. Namely, the paste-like consistency was a little heavy for me. I could definitely feel it on my skin for a while after I applied it. I suspect this might not pose as much of a problem for people with oily skin, but since I have dry skin I tend to prefer products that are “waterier” in texture. Also, the tint on this is like a weird pinkish color that I’m pretty sure no human skin actually resembles whatsoever, so it looks a bit unnatural. If you were just hoping to wear this under your makeup, I’m sure it’d be fine. But in the summertime, I really can’t be bothered to put more than one product on my face at a time, so that was kind of a bummer for me. I will say though, this blends really nicely and does seem to protect my skin well, so overall I am satisfied with my purchase!

2. CoTZ

I like this better than the Australian Gold, despite it being both more expensive and having a lower SPF. Texture-wise, it’s also paste-like, but it blends seamlessly and the color looks a lot more natural on my skin. Plus, it dries quickly and very matte, which is great for anyone with an oily complexion. But, since I have dry skin, I prefer products that give a little more sheen to my face (the grass is always greener, right?). So, I found myself feeling dissatisfied with this finish, and wanting something a bit dewier.

3. La Roche-Posay

This sunscreen was my favorite of the bunch. My dry skin drank it up immediately and it left little trace on my skin. I would even feel comfortable applying makeup over top of this, because it is SO light weight. Although, I like the way this makes my skin look so much, I don’t feel the need to wear makeup with it. Unfortunately, this is the most expensive sunscreen of the four, and you really don’t get much product for your money. Not to mention, the packaging is a little weird looking… Not nearly as pretty as the other three. But, it is a great size to throw in your purse or travel with. And, because this is so fluid, you really only need a tiny amount to cover your entire face. So, all in all, I think it’s worth it!

4. Avène

This product was almost identical to the La Roche-Posay sunscreen in consistency, so I really had to get down to the nitty-gritty to decide which one I preferred. While this is still super lightweight, it’s slightly thicker in consistency – which I don’t mind, but I did find myself needing to use a little more to cover my entire face. It also has more of a traditional sunscreen scent, which I also don’t mind for the day-to-day but could be kind of bothersome on more formal occasions. What sealed this product’s fate as number two in my heart was the fact that it burned my eyes LIKE HELL when I tried to put my contacts in after applying it. I honestly wondered if I’d ever see again. Simple solution, right? Just put your contacts in first, Sophie! If that works for you, awesome. I just really can’t be confined to that strict of a schedule during my morning routine. Hence, this product will be forced to take home the silver. 

In all honesty, though, I’ll probably wear these interchangeably throughout the year. They are all great, lightweight sunscreens that do what they claim to. But, if I HAD to recommend one, I would definitely say go with the La Roche-Posay. Whichever you choose, wear sunscreen every day!!!!!!!! It is such a simple and easy step that will make all the difference in your skin. And, with products like these, I’ve found it easy to protect my skin without sacrificing comfort, thus allowing me to continue my passionate love affair with the sun, without pause.