Kristin George wearing SPF sticks on skin with Solar Stick product on blue background

Put Your Best Face Forward This Summer with an Easy-to-Apply Sunscreen Stick

Protect your complexion (and slow down aging) with one of these picks.
By Kristin George
July 20, 2021
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This is part of our weekly series Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, and explore new techniques IRL.

If I could do one thing differently from my college years, I would never have gone tanning in tanning beds. (Can you relate?) Now I'm quickly approaching 40 and seeing the effects of the sun on my skin. Let's be honest, my skin's aging quicker than I'd like. One simple solution to slow aging? Sunscreen. 

We know we need to be wearing sunscreen every day to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of skin cancer, but sunscreen can be sticky, takes time to apply, and it's sometimes hard to find one that works well with your skin type. It can be easy to skip it altogether. Enter sunscreen sticks.

Sunscreen sticks are a convenient option because they are not messy like a lotion or a spray. They're small, portable, and super quick to swipe on. To get the most bang for your buck, I recommend only using them on your face, ears, and neck (even though technically you can use them all over your entire body in a pinch). And, if you have sensitive eyes, sunscreen sticks are a great alternative to lotions or sprays.

To dig a little deeper into sunscreen sticks, I chatted with Alexis Stephens, D.O., the lead board-certified dermatologist and founder at Parkland Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in Coral Springs, Florida.

Sunscreen sticks are quick to swipe on, but Stephens cautions, "When using a sunscreen stick, rub the stick back and forth at least four times to ensure full coverage, and then rub it in well using your hands. Sunscreen sticks are great but can go on patchy, and it's easy to miss spots." Stephens suggests reapplying at least every two hours and especially after swimming. She recommends sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30. Below, you'll find some SPF sticks that I love, plus one Stephens uses herself.

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blue lizard australian sunscreen
Credit: Courtesy of Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen

Best SPF Stick for Affordability

The Blue Lizard sunscreen stick is reef-friendly, vegan, and paraben-free. It's so easy to swipe on, but it does go on with a slight white cast. While there's no added fragrance in this one, it smells like coconut and you'll instantly feel like you're at the beach. I didn't experience any sunburn with the Blue Lizard stick; it definitely did it's job! I'm sold on this one because it's a more affordable option that really works.

Buy It: Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen ($9, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen)

md solar sciences stick
Credit: Courtesy of MD Solar Sciences

Best SPF Stick for Travel

This sheer, lightweight mineral stick applied easily, and it actually worked, too. The Solar Stick is white in the tube, but applies completely clear. I used it for multiple steamy days spent on a lake and did not burn. There's also a tinted version of the Solar Stick that's more like a highlighter giving you a little sun-kissed shimmer. These sunscreen sticks are small, so you can take them with you everywhere and swipe as needed. 

Buy It: Solar Stick SPF 40 ($22, MD Solar Sciences

sun better sunscreen stick
Credit: Courtesy of Skin Better Science

Best Dermatologist-Approved SPF Stick

Of course I had to know which sunscreen stick Stephens uses. "Personally I use the sunbetter stick", Stephens tells me. "I find it's not tacky or greasy and is great for acne-prone skin or to use when you're wearing makeup because it applies so smoothly without a white cast. It leaves a highlighter-like glow on your skin that's really beautiful." The sunbetter stick is definitely an investment, but it's worth it if you're looking for an SPF stick that works well with makeup. It leaves a luminous, slight shimmer on your skin. The one's ideal for all skin tones, but especially deeper skin tones because it doesn't leave a white cast after applying it. 

Buy It: sunbetter SHEER SPF 56 Sunscreen Stick ($55, Skin Better Science)