Most of us beauty buffs know the pitfalls of trying to find the perfect sunscreen to wear under our makeup and beauty products. Whether you’ve tried greasy formulas that make you feel like your foundation is sliding off your face or chalky ones that leave a strange white cast on your skin, it could discourage you from wanting to wear sunscreen at all.
And as always bears repeating, that’s a big no-no if you want to protect your skin from premature aging due to direct sun damage. And let’s not forget about UVA light that enters through windows and even blue light from computer screens and other devices (that’s right, home office workers, we’re talking to you).
If you’ve given up on this beauty holy grail quest, we’ve got some good news for you. The new wave of sunscreen lotions not only offers protection from the sun but also has the added benefit of giving your complexion an extra special glow.
Known as glowing or illuminating sunscreens, they’re available in both physical and chemical blocking formulas and are designed to avoid greasy and chalky residues. Before we get into our favorites, let’s talk about how glowing sunscreens can boost the radiance of your skin.
What Are Glowing or Illuminating Sunscreens?
As mentioned, glowing sunscreens come in both chemical and physical light blocking formulas. But how do they help function as both skin protection and a highlighter?
Some contain light reflecting ingredients such as mica that will give you that subtle sheen. But many also feature skin quenching and anti-inflammatory ingredients like hyaluronic acid, B5 and niacinamide to increase the health and radiance of the skin. In other words, they reach far beyond skin protection into actual skin care products.
So if you’re ready to get your summer shimmer going and protect your skin at the same time, illuminating sunscreens may be the answer to your beauty prayers. And to help you get started on your journey to glowing skin, we’ve gathered 21 of our favorites to share with you.
Our Favorite Glowing Sunscreens
These nourishing and illuminating sunscreens offer sun protection and other beneficial ingredients for your skin. While some come in a neutral tone, others are subtly tinted and can be worn under makeup or on their own.
And although we’ve focused on face sunscreen for this article, we did actually include several options that can be used on the entire body to get that all-over vacation glow. Let’s get started.
This beauty award winner comes in 4 subtle shades that can be worn on their own or under your foundation: dawn, sunrise, golden hour and sunset. The addition of hyaluronic acid and B5 will help to boost your skin’s moisture levels while niacinamide evens out skin tone.
This formula also contains antioxidant sea lavender and cocoa peptides to help filter out blue light. What’s that all add up to? Beautiful, glowing skin!
This non-greasy, 100% mineral formula will give you a subtle shimmer while protecting your face with the power of antioxidants. It also contains niacinamide and vitamin E for healthier skin and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes.
We also like that this formula is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, oils and fragrance.
This plant-derived sunscreen is 70% organic and made to protect your face from the sun as well as other types of environmental damage. Lightweight with a dewy finish, it will also nourish your skin with a combination of plant stem cells, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid.
It also contains neroli flower extract, which helps to calm, balance and moisturize the skin.
This multitasking moisturizer helps to protect you from UV rays, free radicals and pollution while also using light-activated Intelligent Drone Technology to boost your natural luminosity.
Now that’s what we call high tech beauty! We also like that this sunscreen contains a special bio-ferment from sage to even out your skin tone and is cruelty and paraben free.
If you’re looking for a dewy finish with a bit of tint, look no further. Available in (count ‘em) 30 different shades, this mineral sunscreen is skincare, sun protection and makeup all in one.
Plant based squalane, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide nourish the skin and even its tone, while non-nano zinc oxide protects you from UVA, UVB, UVC, blue light and pollution. No wonder this serum has racked up so many beauty awards. It’s truly super!
A favorite with clean beauty fans, Kinship Self Reflect is a reef-safe mineral sunscreen that’s great for blemish-prone skin. Superfood turmeric soothes and protects your face, while the addition of plant-based probiotic Kinbiome promotes clear skin and strengthens the skin barrier.
It’s also formulated without 1300 questionable ingredients according to EU cosmetic regulations. We told you it was clean!
This satiny smooth primer makes the perfect base to create a flawless look, and there are lots of reasons to love it. Blurring polymers help to reduce the look of pores and fine lines while hyaluronic acid, camellia oil and aloe vera nourish and hydrate the skin.
It also features the special ingredient Collalift 18, an anti-aging active made from the bark of the African mahogany tree, which wraps around the skin to protect it and improves elasticity over time.
Of course, you will pay a pretty hefty price tag for all that skin love. But if you really want to indulge in some serious face care, this is the way to do it.
If you’re on the hunt for a more budget friendly sunscreen, you may want to check out this pick from Innisfree. Featuring green tea, vitamin E, and sunflower seed oil, it hydrates and protects the skin barrier while imparting a subtle glow.
And best of all, it won’t break the bank!
Another budget friendly pick is this lightly tinted sunscreen from Sun Bum. Infused with antioxidant rich Kakadu plum, it boosts the skin’s luminosity while protecting it from solar rays. And because it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, it’s a great choice for a beach day.
It’s also reef-safe and cruelty free. Yay!
This broad spectrum mineral sunscreen will leave your face with a pearly glow while protecting it from damaging solar rays, blue light and pollution. It’s also enhanced with skin boosting acai fruit.
Added bonus: it’s certified clean by Target and is also vegan and cruelty free.
This fragrance and oil-free sunscreen creates a dewy look with light-reflecting mica and is also chock full of skin-loving ingredients. Vitamin E, aloe leaf extract, coconut fruit extract, and niacinamide make a powerful hydrating and skin brightening combination.
It’s also paraben and alcohol free.
This lightweight, non-greasy sunscreen has a pearl-like base that leaves you with a subtle shimmer. Perfect as a primer beneath your makeup, it’s also formulated with rosa canina fruit and peppermint leaf extract for a brightening and toning effect.
This lightweight formula works on all skin types to give you that sought after non-greasy glow. And because this is meant to be skin care as well as skin protection, it features a lot of other beneficial ingredients that keep improving your skin over time.
Niacinamide brightens and helps to diminish dark spots. Hyaluronic acids hydrate your skin, while aloe soothes and protects it. A winning combination!
This lightweight sunscreen absorbs easily into the skin, leaving a luminous finish that doesn’t look greasy. Great for normal to oily skin types, it features ingredients like aloe leaf extract, lotus flower water and soybean lipids to soothe, hydrate and protect your skin.
This tinted moisturizer can be used as a glowy base for the rest of your makeup or all on its own. Developed by dermatologists, star ingredients include green tea, and rosemary extract to fight free radicals, soothing sunflower seed oil to moisturize, and vitamin C and mushroom extract to fight off environmental aggressors. It’s also vegan, reef-safe and comes in sustainable packaging.
Just be aware that the tint may be a bit too dark for very fair skin types.
If you’re looking for a mineral sunscreen that won’t leave behind a ghostly residue on medium to dark skin tones, you may want to check out this option from Unsun. You can use it on its own or as a color corrector and primer to sit under your makeup.
Their unique blend of natural extracts includes shea butter to soften and smooth, bitter orange to reduce inflammation, and beetroot to decrease hyperpigmentation. We also like that this sunscreen is reef-safe and not tested on animals.
Added bonus: it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes and also comes in a light to medium tone.
Indulge your skin while you protect it from the sun with this luxe pick from the Japanese skincare brand Tatcha. The special silk extract will leave your face feeling like, yes, silk. Meanwhile, the Japanese wild rose shrinks the look of pores as loquat leaf extract protects and calms the skin.
All that with broad spectrum coverage. We’d say that Tatcha definitely has you and your face covered!
This lightweight moisturizer blends in with any skin tone to lock in hydration, fade the look of dark spots and leave you with a subtle glow.
Special ingredients include antioxidant packed Kalahari melon, niacinamide, aloe and hyaluronic acid. And although the original version has a light desert melon fragrance, it’s also available in a fragrance-free formula.
We also love that the inner vial is refillable, which will save you $5 when you need to replace it.
Want to get that subtle glow all over your body and not just your face? This super clean choice from Kopari replenishes dehydrated skin while offering broad spectrum protection.
This gel-like formula glides on easily and is also packed with skin indulging ingredients like macadamia and hibiscus oil, vitamin E, avocado oil, and coconut oil to nourish, protect and calm the skin.
Available in gold and rose gold, it’s also vegan and cruelty free.
Another top pick for that all-over is this body lotion from Cay Skin. With a pearlescent finish, it illuminates all skin tones without leaving a white cast.
It’s also infused with nutrient-rich sea moss and antioxidant cocoa seed butter to hydrate and protect the skin. This lotion also has the Sephora clean beauty seal and is vegan and fragrance free.
This spray-on and water resistant sunscreen dries quickly and leaves the skin on your entire body with a subtle shimmer. It’s also free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, phthalates, parabens and PABA.
Whether you’re at the beach, poolside, or just running around town, you’ll be glowing all over!
Keep on Glowing
As you can see, the new generation of sunscreens has transformed sun protection into something that can also be classified as skincare. Whether you choose to wear these illuminating sunscreens as a primer or all on their own, your skin will thank you for their nourishing and protective properties and pay you back with a gorgeous glow.
You may also be interested in: Blue Light Sunscreen [Is Blue Light Skin Care Necessary?]
The 21 Best Glowing Sunscreens:
- Supergoop Glow Screen SPF 40
- Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50
- Coola Full-Spectrum 360-Degree Sun Silk Drops Organic Sunscreen SPF 30
- Dermalogica Prism Protect SPF 30 Moisturizer
- Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
- Kinship Self Reflect SPF 32 Sunscreen
- Charlotte Tilbury Invisible UV Flawless Primer SPF 50
- Innisfree Daily UV Sunscreen SPF 36
- Sun Bum Glow 30 Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30
- Solara Suncare Vacation Glow Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
- EltaMD UV Glow Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- Heimish Artless Glow
- Watermelon Glow Recipe Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50
- Thank You Farmer Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF 50
- MD Solar Science Gleam + Glow SPF 50
- Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 30
- Tatcha Silken Pore-Perfecting Sunscreen SPF 35
- Fenty Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer SPF 30
- Kopari Sun Shield Body Glow SPF 50
- Cay Skin Isle Glow Body Lotion SPF 45
- Coppertone Glow with Shimmer SPF 50