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5 Sunscreens That Are Neither Greasy Nor Chalky

In our latest column, "Ask a Fashionista," you can solicit our strongly held opinions on everything from how to wear a midi skirt without looking like a tree stump to whether a certain retail CEO should go ahead and resign already.

Q: I'm looking for a lightweight, everyday facial sunscreen that isn't greasy and doesn't white me out. Any recommendations? -- Jessica, San Diego

A: Although many people know that sun exposure will turn you into a wrinkled hag and/or give you skin cancer, people often choose to skip the sunscreen -- because most sunscreens just really suck. 

First things first: You need to understand that there are two types of sunscreens: chemical, which is more common, and physical sun blockers. Chemical sunscreens include ingredients like avobenzone, mexoryl, octinoxate and octisalate. They get absorbed into your skin, and work by then absorbing the sun's rays, thus protecting you. Physical sunscreens, which include zinc oxide and titanium oxide, sit on the top of your skin without being absorbed, and block the UV rays. 

Having tried at least 7 million different sunscreens in the course of my tenure as a beauty editor, I can tell you that in general, physical sunscreens can give you that ghostly pallor you're looking to avoid. On the flip side, chemical sunscreens can be harsh if you have sensitive skin, and they often feel greasy. (There's also some controversy about safety, although most dermatologists agree that the amount used in sunscreens is safe. Read about it over at the Environmental Working Group's website.) 

Before you despair and just decide to wear a huge hat all summer, don't. There are plenty of both kinds of sunscreens that are also aesthetically pleasing. Here are my favorites, for every possible situation: 

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Clarins UV Plus Multi Protection Day Screen SPF 40, $22.50: If you want to use a physical sunblock without looking like a mime, the key is to find a fluid (often called a "veil") formulation. This is my perennial favorite. It goes on smoothly and blends perfectly. You can wear makeup over it without it pilling, which sometimes happens with thicker physical sunscreens.

L'Oreal Paris Silky Sheer BB Face Lotion SPF 50+, $8.99: One of the reasons BB creams became so popular is because they're multi-taskers, often including sunscreen. The problem is, if the creams are a bit thicker, women generally don't use enough on their faces to provide adequate sun protection. You can get around that again by using a fluid formulation. This one is tinted yet sheer, contains a high SPF (via chemical sunscreens), and absorbs well without leaving a greasy sheen. 

Supergoop Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40, $28: This sunscreen contains both zinc, a physical blocker, and octinoxate, a chemical blocker. It goes on smoothly and dries down without a hint of greasiness or white residue. 

La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Ultralight Sunscreen Fluid, $29.99: A veil version of a chemical sunscreen. This one also absorbs instantly and is great to use under makeup because it's so lightweight. 

RéVive Intensite Creme Lustre Day Firming Moisture Cream SPF 30, $385: This is the money-is-no-object, do-everything choice. It contains a chemical sunscreen, but because it is in the most luxurious anti-aging cream ever, it never feels greasy or heavy. 

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