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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Best Sunscreen Sticks: Dermatologist Recommended

Updated: Apr 11

In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive straight into the world of sunscreen sticks, providing you with the best sunscreen stick recommendations from a dermatologist (me 😁) who is passionate about sun protection.


Let's start with this video I created on why some people say that sunscreen sticks are not worth it.


In the video you'd have noticed how I easily applied the sunscreen stick to my skin. I didn't have to worry about washing my hands before application. So, yes, I love sunscreen sticks, especially when I am traveling!

 

Table of Contents

 

Why Sunscreen Sticks?

The simple answer is that they are easy to use and carry. This means that your adherence to sun protection is higher and more effective.

Having said this, I strongly believe that sunscreen sticks are not a replacement for your regular sunscreen. They are useful for reapplication and when you're on the go and don't have the time or resources to use a normal sunscreen.

Now, as promised, let's get to my recommendations.


Best Sunscreen Stick Recommendations by a Dermatologist


These two are my favorites. I will update this list if I find any better ones out there.

  • Beauty of Joseon Matte Sun Stick Mugwort + Camelia This sunscreen stick offers SPF 50+ UVB and PA++++ UVA protection, utilizing chemical filters like Uvinul A Plus and Tinosorb S. Its formula contains the darling of Indian spices, turmeric, known for its potent antibacterial and skin lightening properties. We Indians have been using it in skincare for centuries.

Beauty of Joseon Sunscreen Stick

One common problem I face with sunscreen sticks and sunscreens, in general, is that because of my oily skin, I would break out very soon. However, using sunscreens with an anti-acne ingredient became a godsend for me, and mugwort is one such inclusion in this sunscreen. Mugwort has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Other notewothy ingredients are camellia, known for its antioxidant-rich phenolic acids, and Centella Asiatica, green tea, hyaluronic acid, and neem. What sets this sun stick apart is its lightweight, almost matte finish that avoids the waxy, shiny residue common in other sunscreen sticks. It's effective for broad-spectrum protection without leaving a white cast and doesn't cause any skin irritation or acne for me.

  • CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Stick for Kids & Adults This is my preferred choice for folks with super sensitive skin. It's a physical sunscreen which, unlike most other sunscreen sticks, also has ceramides as well as an antimicrobial - Phytosphingosine (which will prevent acne).

CeraVe Sunscreen Stick SPF 50

Although this is a physical sunscreen, its special formulation ensures that the white casting effect is minimal. This sunscreen stick is great for all skin types but, especially for oily skin. Being fragrance-free, it is probably the best option for sensitive skin, too. So, if you have oily skin and are worried about acne, this product is a no-brainer sun protection tool to add to your bags when on the go.


Neutrogena  Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+

The presence of SPF 50 and PA+++ with 80 minutes of water resistance makes me feel confident in its sun protection capabilities, especially during those hot and humid sunny days. The only minor drawbacks are its mild scent and slight greasiness, which don't outweigh the benefits. If you're looking for a reliable sunscreen that's easy to apply and offers excellent protection, I'd highly recommend giving this one a try.

Now, you might be wondering why I haven't written anything about the one I am using in the video. Well, I am still exploring its ingredients, and although it's a good option, I don't think I need to add it to this list. If you still want to give it a shot, here's the link to it.


Other Popular Sunscreen Stick Products

Understanding Sunscreen Sticks


Although sunscreen sticks are typically designed with a specific purpose in mind - to provide targeted protection against UV rays, they have gained popularity due to their mess-free application and portability. Unlike traditional sunscreen lotions or sprays, they come in a solid, stick form, making them easy to carry and apply.

They are especially handy for protecting sensitive areas of the face, like the nose, ears, and lips. Their compact size makes them perfect for on-the-go use, whether you're hiking in the mountains or lounging on the beach.


How Sunscreen Sticks Work

They work pretty much the same way as other forms of sunscreens. These sticks contain active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide or chemical filters like avobenzone, homosalate, and octisalate.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers that sit on the skin's surface, reflecting and scattering UV rays away from the skin. This provides immediate protection upon application. Chemical filters, on the other hand, absorb UV rays and transform them into harmless heat. This dual-action mechanism ensures comprehensive sun protection.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Sunscreen Stick

Selecting the right sunscreen stick is crucial for effective sun protection. Here are the key factors to consider:

SPF Level: The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of a sunscreen stick determines its ability to shield your skin from UVB rays, which are responsible for causing sunburn. The SPF level you need depends on your skin type and the duration of sun exposure. Here's a quick guide:

  • SPF 15-30: Suitable for everyday activities and short sun exposure.

  • SPF 30-50: Ideal for extended outdoor activities.

  • SPF 50+: Recommended for intense sun exposure or sensitive skin.

Honestly, I would just go for SPF 50+ and not worry about the specific SPF numbers.


PA Rating: The PA rating measures UVA protection, while the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates protection from UVB rays. When choosing a sunscreen, find a product that offers broad-spectrum protection, guarding against both UVA and UVB rays.

Here's what different PA ratings indicate:

PA+: Some UVA protection

PA++: Moderate UVA protection

PA+++: High UVA protection

PA++++: Extremely high UVA protection


Your sunscreen should have at least a PA+++ rating.


Ingredients: The ingredients in your sunscreen stick play a vital role in its effectiveness and compatibility with your skin. Look for the following qualities:

  • Broad-Spectrum Protection: Ensure that the sunscreen stick offers broad-spectrum protection, which guards against both UVA and UVB rays. This shields your skin from sunburn and premature aging.

  • Hypoallergenic: If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, opt for sunscreen sticks labeled as hypoallergenic. These are formulated to minimize the risk of skin reactions.

  • Non-Comedogenic: For those with acne-prone skin, choosing a non-comedogenic sunscreen stick helps prevent clogged pores and breakouts.

Water Resistance: Consider the water resistance of the sunscreen stick, especially if you plan to engage in water-related activities. Water-resistant formulas provide longer-lasting protection, but remember to reapply after swimming or sweating to maintain effectiveness.


Skin Type: Different skin types have varying needs when it comes to sunscreen. Here are some tailored recommendations:

  • Oily Skin: If your skin tends to be oily, look for a matte-finish sunscreen stick to prevent a greasy feel.

  • Dry Skin: Opt for a sunscreen stick with added moisturizing ingredients.

  • Sensitive Skin: Individuals with sensitive skin should choose a sunscreen stick that is fragrance-free and formulated for sensitive skin.

How to Apply Sunscreen Sticks Correctly


Proper application of sunscreen sticks is essential for effective protection. Follow these steps:


When to apply: While most guides will advise you to apply sunscreen on freshly washed skin, I believe that sunscreen is almost always the outermost layer of the products you apply (unless you use makeup).


Also, the way I use sunscreen sticks is a little unconventional. I use my normal sunscreen when I leave home. Sunscreen sticks are what I rely on when I am on the go. So, that means about 3-4 hours after I have left home. Here's my guide on sunscreens based on skin type that you could use to decide which sunscreen to use when you're not on the go or if you choose to follow my style of sunscreen application.

Glide the Stick Evenly: Gently glide the sunscreen stick over your skin. For the face, apply in a zigzag motion to cover all areas, paying particular attention to the nose, ears, and around the eyes. Use at least 2-3 swipes per area to stay protected because a single layer of sunscreen present in these sticks is not enough to give you the required sun protection.


Don't Forget Your Lips: Lips are often overlooked but require protection. Use a lip balm with SPF or apply the sunscreen stick carefully to your lips.


Reapply as Directed: Reapplication is crucial for continuous protection, especially if you're swimming or sweating. Follow the recommended reapplication intervals mentioned on the product label. Again, apply at least 2-3 layers of sunscreen by swiping it over your face multiple times to stay protected.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Let's address some common questions about sunscreen sticks:


Are Sunscreen Sticks Effective?

Yes, sunscreen sticks are effective when used correctly. They offer targeted protection and are especially convenient for sensitive areas.


Do Sunscreen Sticks Expire?

Like all sunscreens, sunscreen sticks have an expiration date. Check the product label for expiry dates, and discard expired products.


Are Sunscreen Sticks Suitable for Sensitive Skin?

Yes, there are sunscreen sticks specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Look for hypoallergenic and fragrance-free options.


How to Clean or Sanitize a Sunscreen Stick?

The only reasons for which you'd want to clean your sunscreen stick are:

  1. To prevent any skincare product or makeup from previous use to come in contact with your skin upon application

  2. To prevent any bacteria or microbes from coming in contact with your skin

The easiest way to clean or sanitize your sunscreen:

  • Use a piece of cotton.

  • Soak it with a small amount of sanitizer.

  • Rub it on the exposed part of the sunscreen stick until you're certain that no product residue is left and that you have rubbed all the exposed areas.

That being said, I would urge you not to share your sunscreen stick. Not even with your kids.

Conclusion


In the battle against UV rays, sunscreen sticks are your trusty allies. They offer practicality and precision, ensuring that no area of your skin goes unprotected. We've covered the essentials of sunscreen sticks, from how they work to choosing the right one for your skin type.

But wait, aren't you forgetting something? What about sun protection for your hair? Yes, that's right. You need to practice sun protection for your hair too, that is, if you don't want your hair to be damaged by the sun. Don't worry, I have you covered. Read my article on sun protection for hair that discusses hair sunscreens and if you need it.

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