As you know, wearing sunscreen every day is an essential part of maintaining healthy skin. And you have plenty of options—from a range of SPFs to different types of sun blockers. Sunscreens come in different forms, too. For example, if you'd rather not apply extra creams or lotions to your face, you're in luck: you also have the option of using a sunscreen stick.

In the right situation, sunscreen sticks can be super convenient. But are sunscreen sticks effective, and do they really provide the same level of protection as a traditional sunscreen lotion? What's the best way to use them? Read on to find answers to these and other common questions about this innovative form of sun protection.

Are Sunscreen Sticks Effective?

Sunscreen sticks are an effective way to block the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays as long as you use them properly (more on this later!). Like all sunscreens, the Food and Drug Administration strictly regulates stick sunscreens. This means they must meet certain safety and effectiveness standards before hitting the shelves.

Sunscreen sticks come in a variety of types, using mineral blockers, chemical blockers (like Oxybenzone), or even a combination of both. Some, like EltaMD UV Stick Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+, also include other protective and skin-soothing ingredients. This 100 percent mineral blocker packs antioxidants to fight free radicals and protect your skin from daily environmental stress. It's easy to apply, mess-free, and doesn't leave behind an unsightly residue—all while shielding your skin from UVA and UVB rays.

Because it's made of Zinc Oxide, it's also great for people with sensitive or acne-prone skin, especially on the face.

Benefits of Sunscreen Sticks

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Portability and Convenience

Sunscreen sticks are ideal for when you're on the go. Since these formulas are firmer in texture, they're better able to withstand warmer weather without compromising texture or consistency. Whether you're spending the day out hiking or watching your kid's weekend soccer tournament, these compact sticks slide seamlessly into your backpack, purse, tote, or even your pocket without the risk of leaking or spilling.

Targeted Application

Sunscreen sticks can be better suited for delicate, precise areas than traditional lotions or creams. Think those small, often-missed areas that tend to see a lot of sun, like the bridge of your nose and the tops of your ears. They're also perfect for topping off places that need a little extra protection, like a healing scar. Because of how they're formulated, you can apply them to more sensitive areas, like your eyelids, without risking them running into and stinging your eyes.

Less Mess

For kids who don't like being slathered in sunscreen, sunscreen sticks can be a life (and skin) saver. Plus, reapplication is a breeze. You can apply sunscreen sticks directly to your skin, so there's no need to scour the streets for a bathroom to wash your hands after applying. If you're the type to skip reapplication in favor of clean, nongreasy hands, sunscreen sticks can help keep you honest.

How to Use Sunscreen Sticks for Full Protection

As with spray sunscreens, the key to effectiveness is to use stick sunscreens properly. Sunscreen sticks are firm in texture and go on completely clear, so some people may not apply enough or spread them evenly for full coverage. Apply your SPF stick slowly and firmly. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends passing over the same area of skin four times to ensure you're totally protected.

Switch Up Your Formulas

Combining sunscreen sticks with traditional cream or lotion is a great way to level up your sun protection routine. For example, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen lotion of SPF 30 or higher, like EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, as part of your normal morning routine. Then, touch up throughout the day with an easy-to-use sunscreen stick.

When used properly, sunscreen sticks can be a welcome addition to your skin care routine. Combine this with other forms of sun protection—like a wide-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing—and you'll be rewarded with healthy, glowing skin year-round.



    Maria Robinson, MD, MBA is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist with over ten years of clinical experience. Dr. Robinson has a passion for nutrition and integrative dermatology, and is the co-founder of, where people can explore holistic dermatology treatments. Through her writing, she strives to empower people with accurate health information so they can make positive decisions that lead to healthy and vibrant skin.

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