THE best sunscreens are built to last. They withstand the elements and stay put whether you’re sweating on the run or jumping into the ocean. So after applying layer after layer throughout the day, your skin is left with a thick layer of SPF that needs to be carefully removed before you go to bed.
“A lot of times you’re applying sunscreen, especially in the summer, covered in sand, sweat, dirt, bug spray — just the grime of having a good time,” says Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, California. “So it’s important to really cleanse our skin in order to maintain that healthy skin barrier and decrease the risk of any of these products irritating our skin or causing acne.”
While a gentle cleansing milk is sometimes just enough to cleanse your skin, when you take the sunscreen off you need something that can lift a little more.
“The best cleansers for removing sunscreens, whether chemical inorganic sunscreens or physical organic sunscreens, are moisturizing foams or those that fall under the double cleansing method“, says Dr. Lee. These options allow you to gently, yet effectively remove sunscreen and anything else on your skin without over-drying it.
Once you’ve grabbed one of the cleansers below to remove sunscreen from your face and body, be sure to emulsify it completely before you put it on: Wet your hands and mix a drop of cleanser between your palms for a few seconds until it’s creamy and thick, then apply. “As long as you really build up that lather and then massage it into the skin and then give it a good rinse, that’s the most important thing,” says Dr. Lee.
Shop the best cleansers to remove sunscreen from your face and body
Moisturizing cleansing foams to remove sunscreen
“I like hydrating foaming cleansers because they remove just about everything,” says Dr. Lee. “So not only oil-based products, but also water-based products.”
Pavise, Gentle Amino Powerwash – $64.00
This face wash was specifically designed to remove sunscreen, and it does an amazing job. So good that we crowned it “Best Luxury Cleanser for Removing Sunscreen” during the SPF Well+Good Award 2023. It’s infused with amino and glycolic acids to gently cleanse and exfoliate sunscreen layers without leaving your skin feeling stripped and dry.
Double cleanse to remove sunscreen
“Some people want two products instead of one, and that’s the double-cleanse method,” says Dr. Lee. “We often use either an oil cleanser or a cleanser balm, and that basically breaks down the oil-based skincare products, and then we use a foaming or water-based cleanser to remove the oil-based products. ‘water.”
Sahajan, cleansing essential oil — $48.00
Right now it’s my favorite cleanser to use as the first step in a double cleanse. I like that it comes in a bottle so I don’t have to worry about emptying a jar and that it’s lightweight but effective. It breaks down sunscreen, makeup, and any other oil-based products on my face so I can wash them off easily.
Shower gel to remove sunscreen
“With the amount of sunscreen we put on if we’re away for a day, I often recommend using one of those silicone scouring pads to break down the product and get into those crevices,” says Dr. Lee. “But if someone’s had a little too much fun and got sunburned or has cuts or scrapes, I ask them to calm down and not use scrub brushes or pads, because again, you’re trying to protect and maintain that skin barrier.”
Olay Body Wash, Cleansing & Firming — $12.00
Dr. Lee is pretty neutral on the body wash you use as long as you can lather it up. One of my favorites is this Olay cleanser which contains soothing niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 commonly used in skincare products. Once you’re done in the shower, turn up the humidity by pairing this wash with the Revitalizing Moisturizing Hand & Body Lotion Olay ($10). “You have to have a good diet,” says Kate Biberdorf, PhD, a chemist and brand ambassador for Olay Body. “If we can get into the habit of using the same products every day, washing our bodies and then using this lotion twice a day, we’ll have better skin.”
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