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The 5 best sunscreen sticks for SPF protection in 2024

These portable companions have come a long way — today, they're moisturizing, fast-absorbing and easy to use.

The best sunscreen sticks from Cetaphil, Coola and Blue Lizard on a blue background
The best sunscreen sticks of 2024 include picks from Cetaphil, Coola and Blue Lizard. (Amazon)

lf you've shopped for sunscreen over the past few years, you've probably noticed the many, many new ways you can protect your skin. From pricey SPF gels and foams to traditional creams, sprays and even the best sunscreen sticks, there are seemingly endless options for shielding yourself from the sun's harmful rays. (The selections don't end with product type, either: There are the best sunscreens for sensitive skin, the best sunscreens for faces, the best reef-safe sunscreens — the list goes on.)

Quick overview

The global sun-care industry is bigger than it's ever been, and it's growing by the day. According to a report by CNN and an analysis by Grand View Research, the value of global sun care is expected to reach $14 billion by the end of the decade, up nearly 25% since 2020. With more products flooding the market, consumers are left wondering: "What's the best sunscreen for me?" "How should I choose a quality sunscreen?" And, of course: "Wait, what does a sunscreen stick even do?"

Why do I need a sunscreen stick?

It all comes down to ease of use. "Stick sunscreens are good for smaller areas, like the face," said cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban. They also work especially well for protecting harder-to-reach places like the tops of your ears, and it's quick to swipe them onto sunburn-susceptible areas like the tip of your nose.

Of course, they're also portable: Stick sunscreens are often pocket-sized and easy to carry, and they allow you to reapply on the go without dirtying your hands. This makes them ideal for hikes, sports or other active situations when it's more challenging to re-up your sun protection, like when your skin is damp just out of a pool. Because they're solid, they're easy to pack for travel — you don't have to worry about a giant bottle of lotion exploding in your bag or holding you up at security. And while many stick sunscreens are mineral sunscreens made with zinc oxide, they're not like the zinc sticks you remember from childhood that gave lifeguards white noses: Most modern versions blend easily without leaving ghost-like stripes.

Can a sunscreen stick replace my regular sunscreen?

Short answer: No. Stick sunscreens "do not cover as much surface area with ease as lotions, mists or sprays," Shamban said. Since full coverage is key with sun protection, sunscreen sticks are meant only for more precise applications, not for preventing sun damage to larger areas like the entire back, chest or torso.

How do I use a sunscreen stick?

The experts I spoke with recommend making several passes across your skin with a sunscreen stick, and, whether or not you rub in the product, using enough to ensure the fullest coverage possible.

The best stick sunscreens of 2024

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50+ | Size: 1.3 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Reef-safe: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

I've researched and reported a dozen sunscreen stories over the past few months, and every dermatologist and skin expert I spoke with recommended EltaMD. Its products are uniformly stellar, hypoallergenic and great for all skin types — even the most sensitive skin. This sunscreen stick is no exception: It provides highly potent sun protection, glides on easily and lasts all day on dry land and at least 80 minutes in the water. 

Pros
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Good for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Potent broad-spectrum coverage
  • Works for face and body
  • Reef-safe
Cons
  • Applicator is a bit large for facial use, some reviewers say
$31 at Walmart
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$38 at Amazon$63 at SkinStore

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50 | Size: .5 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Reef-safe: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

This ultra-gentle mineral SPF stick is truly pocket-size (it's smaller than a key fob), and it works for all skin types and textures. It's an especially good pick if your face is easily irritated. The hero ingredient here is zinc oxide, but it's also packed with skin-nourishing beeswax and vitamin E. 

Pros
  • Ultra-gentle
  • Water-resistant
  • Skin-nourishing
  • Reef-safe
  • Fragrance-free
Cons
  • Leaves a bit of a white cast
  • Stick is very small
$8 at Amazon
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$12 at Walmart$10 at CVS Pharmacy

Active ingredients: Avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF: 50+ | Size: .5 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Reef-safe: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

The stick iteration of the TikTok-famous Supergoop Glowscreen SPF, this highly emollient sunscreen leaves behind a pretty, pearly glow — when I've used it on my cheeks, forehead and nose, people have commented on my "radiant" skin. 

Pros
  • Broad-spectrum coverage
  • Can be used with makeup
  • Not sticky
  • Extra-moisturizing
Cons
  • May be too heavy for oily skin
$30 at Kohl's
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$30 at Ulta Beauty$30 at Sephora

Active ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF: 50+ | Size: .8 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Reef-safe: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

Forgive the pun, but Coola is the hottest sunscreen around. In addition to providing broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, it's made with extra-hydrating, skin-healing ingredients including aloe, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. It's also nonsticky, nongreasy, lightweight and weirdly refreshing — this just feels amazing on your skin, especially on a hot day.   

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Skin-soothing
  • Broad-spectrum coverage
  • Cruelty-free
  • Reef-friendly
Cons
  • Wet, gel-like finish turned off some reviewers
$21 at Ulta Beauty
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$30 at Amazon$30 at Macy's

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50 | Size: .5 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Reef-safe: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

Australian brand Blue Lizard consistently puts out some of the best sun protection on the market, and this reef-safe, fragrance-free zinc oxide stick is pediatricians' most-recommended mineral sunscreen for kids. It's easy to apply, nonsticky, nongreasy and it's water resistant for up to 80 minutes. 

Pros
  • Pediatrician-recommended
  • Fragrance-free
  • Reef-safe
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Small size runs out quickly, some reviewers complain
$9 at Walmart
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$9 at Amazon$10 at Target