Cream or spray, mineral or chemical, high SPF or not — there are lots of features by which you could choose a sunscreen. But what matters in the long run is whether you actually wear it, and wear enough of it.
If your sunscreen gives your face a chalky-white cast, or if it’s goopy or greasy, you’ll be tempted to spread it thinly. But the SPF on the bottle is what you get when you apply a thick layer — unrealistically thick, to be honest — so the thinner you go, the less protection you’ll get.
Likewise, if you hate your sunscreen — even because of something minor like the smell annoys you — you’ll conveniently forget to wear it as often as you should. Not even the best sunscreen can help you if you don’t use it.
My husband is one of those people who used to think sunscreen doesn’t work. He hated it, applied it thinly, never reapplied, and tended to get burned a lot. One day at the pool, I sprayed his back with the same spray I was using on our wiggly kids, and at the end of the day the parts of him that got sprayed were fine, while areas that got missed were sunburned. His takeaway from the experience was that the particular brand of spray sunscreen I used is the only sunscreen on earth that actually works.
In a sense, it is: He didn’t bother to wear other sunscreens, or didn’t apply them appropriately, so they couldn’t protect him. The sunscreen that works is the one you put on every day.