It took a while to find a facial sunscreen that worked for me and judging by the DMs and texts I’ve gotten, I know I’m not alone.

FYI: Our skin on our face is more sensitive which is why there’s tons of different face sunscreens. That’s primarily what we will be talking about here. You still need sunscreen all over but our bodies are all pretty much fine with Banana Boat or whatever’s at the drugstore. SUNSCREEN IS DESIGNED TO LAST ABOUT THREE YEARS.

Let’s start here. There are two types of sunscreens: physical (sometimes called “mineral”) and chemical. They shield you from the sun in two different ways. 

Chemical sunscreens, such as octylcrylen, avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate, absorb the sun’s rays and break it down to release heat.

Physical sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are pretty self-explanatory: they physically block the sun’s rays by reflecting them.

Most sunscreens will contain one or the other, either physical or chemical. Some products will contain both kinds but there’s been lots of debate on which are better. Chemical sunscreens are banned in certain places due to their negative effects on coral reefs. Certain kinds, including oxybenzone, also may have an impact on the endocrine system in the body. It’s important to know that not every chemical-based sunscreen contains these ingredients.

On the other side, physical sunscreens have been known to cause a white cast on skin especially in photos taken with a flash or on darker skin tones. It’s sometimes harder to blend physical sunscreens into skin and you typically have to use more product since these sunscreens depend on how much skin they physically cover.

It also comes down to how you skin reacts. Chemical formulas tend to blend better but some skin types also can be more sensitive to these ingredients. For example, my skin HATES chemical sunscreens and will break out in painful, red bumps all over. It was so bad, I didn’t even want to chance it by trying to figure out which ingredient I’m allergic to. I straight-up switched to a physical formula, Drunk Elephant UmbraSheer Physical Daily Defense SPF, which melts into my skin without leaving a white cast. There’s no flashback in photos when I wear it either.

If you’re trying a new sunscreen, do a patch test on your jawline and wait 24 hours to see if there’s any reaction. Don’t make my mistake.

If you’ve experienced irritation from a sunscreen, or a foundation, concealer, etc., that contains a sunscreen, check the ingredients. You may be more sensitive to a certain kind. As per the Food and Drug Administration, active ingredients like sunscreen will be broken out in a separate box on the packaging or info pamphlet of the product or on the product’s website. When in doubt, Google it.

When you find the one you love, remember to apply it as the last step of your morning skin care routine — after moisturizer and before primer or color base (tinted moisturizer, foundation, etc.)

MAKE SURE YOUR SUNSCREEN IS LABELED FOR BROAD SPECTRUM. This is so important. UV radiation is classified into two types: UVB which is responsible for sunburns and plays a role in skin cancer, and UVA which causes skin tanning and aging, according to Skin Cancer Foundation. Exposure to both types increase your risk of skin cancer. It’s so important to look for sunscreens that say “Broad Spectrum” right on them. SPF or sun protection factor only measures the protection from UVB radiation, so a “broad spectrum sunscreen will protect you from both. In the U.S., if products list they are “broad spectrum” on their bottle, they MUST pass a test to ensure they protect from both UVA and UVB through the Food and Drug Administration. If it’s NOT broad spectrum, the bottle or packaging is required to have a warning that says it only protects against sunburn, not skin cancer or skin aging.

When looking for SPF, you’re usually safe with anywhere from SPF 30 and above. The SPF number is “a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin,” according to SCF. They explain it this way: “with SPF 30 it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.” According to American Cancer Society, SPF 30 filters out 97 percent of UVB while SPF 100 filters out 99 percent. However, TONS of factors play into it based on sun sensitivity, personal or family history of skin cancer, the altitude, etc. You have to make the best choice for you.

The best advice is that you can’t ONLY rely on a higher SPF. Sometimes, higher SPF numbers give people a false sense of security. Reapplication every two hours, no matter the SPF, especially if you’re out in the sun all day, swimming or sweating, is imperative. I know that’s hard if you’re wearing makeup so a powder sunscreen like these are a good investment. If you’re hiking, at the beach or something else where you’ll likely need to reapply a lot, I would totally skip a full face of makeup and opt for sunscreen and a tinted moisturizer. Also, take some time in the shade, wear a big hat, SLATHER YOUR WHOLE BODY (an adult needs about a full shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours) and don’t forget your neck.

Some tinted moisturizers and foundations might contain a sunscreen. That’s great for in a rush but I wouldn’t bank on that all the time — especially if it’s a day you’ll be out in the sun. I would still apply a sunscreen underneath. I think multi-tasking products are OK but they’re usually going to do one thing better than another and I just can’t risk my health for convenience.

There are obviously pros and cons with both kinds of formulas but I think that goes for everything. Finding a sunscreen that works for you might take a little trial and error, but it’s so worth it to protect yourself.