Imagine this situation: you’re out and about, walking down the street, going about your day. The sun is bright, strong, too strong, and you know you should reapply your sunscreen, but doing so can be a bit of a headache: you have makeup on, your bag is too small to carry around a 50ml bottle of sunscreen, your hands aren’t clean enough to be touching your face, and so on. It’s all a big inconvenience, but we bring good news: stick sunscreen is a thing, and it might just be your best bet when it comes to reapplying sunscreen.
Stick Sunscreen 101
So what is a stick sunscreen, anyway? Stick sunscreen is a solid bar of sunscreen that you apply directly to the skin, as if it were a giant lip balm. Stick sunscreens are often packaged in plastic tubes, similar to lipsticks. Rotate the bottom, the stick slides up, and you’re ready to apply it to your skin without ever using your hands.
There are colored stick sunscreens (favored by surfers and athletes who want to see where their sunscreen is going) and clear stick sunscreens, which are the ones we recommend for daily use. In addition to being suitable for the face or body, most of these sunscreens have a virtually invisible finish.
Stick sunscreens are pretty versatile: you can use them as your basic sunscreen option, applying them every day before sun exposure, or use them as your touch-up option. Because they’re so small and portable, stick sunscreens are great to carry around in your bag–or even pocket!–as you go about your day. Pull them out every few hours to top up your sun protection, or whenever you feel the need to shield more exposed areas, like your nose, ears, or forehead.
Before we dive straight into the product recommendations, here’s a note on application: the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends that you apply your stick sunscreen with four passes on each area. Try back-and-forth motion to ensure you’ve got the skin fully covered and haven’t missed any spots.
Our Top 11 Favorite Stick Sunscreens
Now that we’ve explained the basics of stick sunscreen, it’s time to take a look at our favorite options. We’ve selected 11 stick sunscreens that stand out for various reasons. We hope you’ll find your match!
SVR Sun Secure Stick Mineral SPF50+
Many people looking for sunscreen sticks want them specifically because they are mineral. In that particular category, we like the SVR Sun Secure Stick Mineral SPF50+, a super compact all-mineral sunscreen. In this formula, you’ll find a superstar pairing of physical sunscreens: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. In addition to offering broad-spectrum protection, these sun filters are both highly stable and rather friendly to sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, or if you’re looking for the ideal sunscreen for top up protection in particularly vulnerable areas, this 100% mineral option from SVR is perfect for you.
Australian Gold Face Guard Sunscreen Stick SPF50
Best with natural ingredients
Make no mistake: this product may look like a lip balm, but it’s a stick sunscreen! As you would expect from Australian Gold, Face Guard Sunscreen Stick SPF50 is made from natural ingredients native to Australia. Here, the star ingredients are Kakadu plum extract and tea tree oil, two powerful antioxidants that help prevent the appearance of signs of aging. Aloe vera promotes hydration, while botanical oils and butters nourish the skin.
Bioderma Photoderm Stick SPF50+
Best for sensitive areas
A sunscreen stick is one of the best ways to ensure adequate sun protection for sensitive areas, such as blemishes or scars, and more exposed areas, such as the nose or the top of the ears. This Bioderma stick was specifically created for sensitive areas. The filters used in the formula are Octisalate, Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus, and Uvinul T 150. In addition to these, the formula contains antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect cells from the oxidative stress associated with sun exposure. It is resistant to water and perspiration.
Beauty of Joseon Matte Sun Stick Mugwort + Camelia SPF50+
Best Korean sunscreen stick
It may be unfair to describe this product as the best Korean sun stick of all time, but it’s certainly the one on everybody’s mind in 2023. The Beauty of Joseon Matte Sun Stick Mugwort + Camelia SPF50+ hasn’t been out long, but it’s already developed a cult following, thanks in no small part to its oil-regulating benefits and matte finish. The formula combines new generation sun filters (including our friends Uvinul A Plus and Uvinul T 150) with a revitalizing blend of botanical extracts. The result is a practical sunscreen stick that not only protects your skin, but also boosts the skincare benefits of the rest of your routine and (again, this important) leaves the skin feeling and looking smooth, with a natural matte finish.
Clarins Sun Care Invisible Stick SPF50
And now for this writer’s favorite stick sunscreen: the one and only Clarins Sun Care Invisible Stick SPF50. This crystal-clear sunscreen offers very high sun protection with a completely transparent finish. Key to the formula’s success is the combination of new generation sun filters Uvinul A Plus and Uvinul T 150, among a few others. Presented in a super-small, super-portable package, this tiny stick is ideal for reapplying sunscreen throughout the day. You don’t even need a mirror to apply it on your face: just swipe it on your skin and you’ll be good to go!
Esthederm Sun Photo Reverse Anti-Dark Spots Cream-in-Stick
Best for the hands
More than a stick sunscreen, Esthederm Sun Photo Reverse Anti-Dark Spots Cream-in-Stick is a brightening cream in a stick format. It has been specifically formulated for pigmented skin, so it combines brightening ingredients with a complex of sophisticated sunscreens: Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus, and Uvinul T 150. With this brightening formula, soft texture, and invisible finish, this stick is perfect to use on the face and décolleté–but we especially like the idea of using it on the back of the hands, to offer sun protection and help fade dark spots and patches of pigmentation.
Heliocare 360º Sport Transparent Stick SPF50+
Best for athletes
A sunscreen stick is the ideal sun protection product for athletes, and Heliocare has created the ideal product with them in mind. Heliocare 360º Sport Transparent Stick SPF50+ is a clear stick with an invisible finish, which can be easily applied on the go. It is resistant to water and sweat, as would be required of a sunscreen for athletes and, of course, features Heliocare‘s star ingredient: Fernblock®+, a botanical ingredient with strong antioxidant and repairing benefits.
The Saem Eco Earth Waterproof Sun Stick SPF50+
Best waterproof sunscreen stick
From Korean brand The Saem comes the Eco Earth Waterproof Sun Stick SPF50+, a stick sunscreen that seems to have it all. In addition to offering very high protection against UVB and UVA rays (it’s got a PA++++ rating!), this sunscreen stick also offers a brightening and anti-wrinkle effect. The key ingredients here are the natural extracts that offer the skin a calming and anti-stress effect: among others, you’ll find in this product the natural properties of maca root extract, fireweed extract, moringa extract, and acacia peptide. Despite its gentle natural formula, this little stick sunscreen has got another trick up its sleeve: it’s also waterproof!
Mustela Sun High Protection Sun Stick SPF50
Best for children
If you’re looking for a sunscreen stick suitable for the whole family, including the little ones, Mustela Sun High Protection Sun Stick SPF50 might be a good choice. Unlike many other stick sunscreens designed for kids, this one isn’t made from mineral sun filters–so it won’t leave a white cast on the skin. Here, protection is provided by a combination of filters of recognized effectiveness: Tinosorb S, Uvasorb HEB, Uvinul A Plus, and Uvinul T 150. But since we are talking about a Mustela product, we cannot forget avocado oil, the brand’s star ingredient that helps protect and restore the skin barrier and, at the same time, gives the product its rich, easy-to-apply texture.
Avène Sunsistick KA SPF50+
Best for actinic keratosis
Avène Sunsistick KA SPF50+ is a specialized stick created for sensitive skin prone to actinic keratosis (AK). Let’s start with the sun filters: this stick features a combination of five filters that provide very broad UVB/UVA protection: Avobenzone, Octisalate, Tinosorb S, Uvasorb HEB, and Uvinul A Plus. In addition to these filters, this stick features Vederine™, an active ingredient that stimulates cell repair and strengthens the skin barrier. The stick itself is white but goes on sheer on the skin, making it perfect for the daily prevention of actinic keratosis.
And here’s an interesting detail: at 20 grams, this is the largest sun stick on this list. Use it up!
Martiderm Pigment Zero DSP-Cover Stick SPF50+
Best for dark spots and hyperpigmentation
We’ve been looking at mostly sticks up until now, but the Martiderm Pigment Zero DSP-Cover Stick SPF50+ is completely different: it’s a tinted stick, specially created for skin affected by dark spots and hyperpigmentation. In practice, this is a product that combines three functions: treatment (due to the depigmenting and renewing action of kojic and salicylic acids), protection (due to the sun filters that offer protection against UVA/UVB rays), and concealment (due to the tinted formula).
Use it daily in your morning routine to disguise dark spots and other imperfections, and watch how it improves the appearance of areas of hyperpigmentation over time.
Now that we’ve introduced you to eleven of our favorite sunscreen sticks, it’s time to pick yours! Will you go for an all-mineral formula? A tinted version? An everything-proof stick for your athletic outings? Whatever you choose, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the addition of a stick sunscreen to your daily routine. Make sure to also look through the many, many other sun protection alternatives we have in the shop. There’s no such thing as too much sun protection!
Beauty Writer & Editor