Wearing sunscreen can help prevent not only skin cancer, but signs of aging, like wrinkles and dark spots. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone is into wearing it regularly: According to a 2020 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 12.3% of men and 29% of women older than 18 said they always used sunscreen when outside on a sunny day for more than one hour. That’s not great — especially considering that one in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.
One reason some people say they skip sunscreen? They don’t like how it looks or feels on their skin. The most common lotion sunscreens tend to have a white cast, which can cause a chalky appearance — something that's especially true for people with darker skin tones, historically not marketed to by sunscreen makers.
But sunscreen isn’t just a monolith anymore, as plenty of new products promise a new twist on the same old white lotion. Vacation’s Whipped Cream sunscreen, for example, which boasts a light, foamy texture, can be applied to skin as if it's a sundae — and even Kim Kardashian is a fan. Sunshine & Glitter makes a sunscreen with rainbow glitter in it, while the brand Unicorn Snot offers a similar shimmer with its SPF. Bare Republic offers mineral sunscreen sticks in fun colors like "punk-rock pink," "green goblin" and "electric blue," while plenty of sunscreen products double as makeup, such as an array of tinted sunscreens and setting sprays with SPF.
So, what do experts say about these more "fun" versions of sunscreen? As dermatologist Dr. Shari Lipner of Weill Cornell Medicine tells Yahoo Life, "For people that are already in the habit of wearing sunscreens, 'funscreens' probably have little impact. But for those people that have been reluctant to wear sunscreens, these new sunscreen formulations may encourage more regular use."
Dr. Michele Farber of the Schweiger Dermatology Group agrees, noting, "I always tell patients that the best sunscreen is the one they'll wear. Many fun sunscreens are more wearable, easier to apply or exciting to use, so they encourage sunscreen use. With that said, it's important to use enough sunscreen for proper coverage and choose a product that is at least SPF 30 — higher is better — and broad spectrum."
Michigan-based dermatologist Dr. Fatima Fahs offers a word of caution, though. "Sunscreens don’t do their job if they aren’t applied correctly," she explains. "Formulations like sticks, foams or oils may not be applied as liberally as a traditional lotion, so it’s important to put on an adequate amount to ensure protection. If concern for adequate application is there, I prefer using unique formulations like mists, sprays and sticks for reapplication on the go instead of as a means of primary sun protection."
New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner says that in order to make sure you are using the proper amount of sunscreen, it’s important to "make sunscreen a part of your every day routine."
"Leave it out on the bathroom vanity next to your toothpaste," he adds.
Kids, who may be even more reluctant to wear sunscreen, might benefit from these 'funscreens' — and Zeichner suggests making sunscreen application “a game.”
"I always give my kids multiple choices," he explains, noting that he keeps various brands of sprays, sticks and lotions on hand and lets them "choose what they are in the mood to use that day."