Everyone knows the pain and regret that comes the morning after a day in the sun without sunscreen. Redness, blisters, burns, cold/hot sensitivity, and peeling. Ohhhhh, if only you had reapplied…. or even just applied that first coat, right?! Sometimes, when you are out at the beach relaxing it can be all too easy to skip the sunscreen when you are focused on fishing, volleyball, surfing, or just relaxing. The problem with not wearing sunscreen while enjoying those bright summer days, aside from the ouch factor of a sunburn, is that it also speeds up the aging process and increases the risk of skin cancer.
So, why doesn’t everyone just wear sunscreen all the time? Remember how inconvenient, sticky, and just plain annoying sunscreen seemed when you were a child? Well, if those memories are what is stopping you from lathering up in sun protection, not to worry. Sunscreen has come a long way in recent years and has made vast improvements in texture and application. A lot of the high-quality sunscreens are oil-free, sport a clear finish, and don’t have to be applied as often, even during vigorous exercise or swimming. Additionally, some of the top quality sunscreens claim to even repair past sun damage and have added vitamins and minerals to make your skin feel even better than before. In short, modern-day sunscreen options today have come a long way from what your Mom used to paint you in. A new generation of options have been developed to keep you and your skin protected.
Before you plan your next beach trip, decide which type of sunscreen works best for your specific needs. Below we have compiled a list of some of the top sunscreens that are currently on the market to make your next trip out in the sun as painless as possible.
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios
- Smooth on skin
- Sun Bum
- Great smell
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer
Top 10 Sunscreens
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60
Roche-Posay can trace their brand's roots all the way back to the 14th century when an explorer stumbled upon the healing spring waters in the town of La Roche-Posay in France. The thermal spring water was used by kings in the 17th century, and in the 19th century, Napoleon built a Roche-Posay thermal spring hospital to treat the skin diseases of his soldiers. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that this company began branching off to create a wide variety of products to treat and protect the skin from afflictions. Today, they are one of the most trusted brands in the skincare industry and are often recommended by dermatologists.
This sunscreen is offered at an impressive SPF 60. It protects against both UVA and UVB rays, which means this product protects against premature aging and helps to prevent skin cancer. The Cell-OX Shield technology is a special blend of ingredients made only by La Roche-Posay that keeps skin protected in the harsh rays of the sun. To further protect skin from free radicals, this formula also has antioxidants.
This sunscreen is ultra light and melts into the skin like butter. For those with sensitive skin, it is allergy tested, paraben free, and fragrance-free. It can be applied 15 minutes prior to sun exposure and is waterproof to protect skin from damaging rays of the sun for up to 80 minutes before it needs to be reapplied.
This sunscreen costs about three times as much as the sunscreens that one would pick up at their local drug store. However, given the additional features of this sunscreen, as well as the comfort that comes with using a La Roch-Posay product, this sunscreen is well worth the padded price tag.
Sure, this sunscreen may cost a bit more than many of the other sunscreens on this list, but you are paying for a superior product. It keeps skin moisturized without feeling greasy, protects not only from the sun, but also from free radicals, and doesn’t need to be reapplied as much as some of the other sunscreens. If you have the extra money to spare, this sunscreen is the best choice.
- Brand Recognition
- Feels smooth against skin
- Recommended by dermatologists
- Some users do not like the smell of this product
Sun Bum Moisturizing Lotion
Sun Bum hasn’t quite reached the level of Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic in the sunscreen world, but they are quickly making a name for themselves. They have generated a loyal following by making sunscreen something fun and trendy, without seeming too serious and clinical. Users that have tried their products fall in love with not only the protection this sunscreen gives them but also the fun ape mascot that is found on every bottle.
This lotion is offered in an SPF 30, but users can purchase various levels of protection that start at SPF 15 and cap out at SPF 70. It protects against not only UVA rays, but also against UVB rays.
Past users have reported that the Sun Bum formula smells like summer in a bottle. Users should apply this sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being exposed to sun and it will protect skin- even when swimming or sweating- for up to 80 minutes before it needs to be reapplied. It is paraben free, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and oil free.
This is where this product really shines. It costs a little bit more than some of the tops brands that can be found at your local drugstore. Given its fantastic formula that offers excellent protection from the sun while still smelling great, this is a great choice for sun-goers without breaking the bank.
This is a great product that is set at a reasonable price point. It provides users with excellent sun protection without feeling greasy and uncomfortable, and the stylish and fun bottle will look great in your beach bag or backpack.
- Smells like summer in a bottle
Lotion tends to be a little too thick
Some feel it is not as water resistant as other types
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch
Neutrogena has become a household name since it was founded in 1930. Most readers probably have a Neutrogena product somewhere in their bathroom cupboards. Since their founding, they have been producing excellent skin care products that are set at reasonable prices, and claim to be the number one brand that is recommended by dermatologists.
The Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen is available in SPF 40, offering maximum protection from the sun. The Helloplex Broad Spectrum formula provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays, ensuring that users are protected from sunburn and premature aging.
What makes this sunscreen unique is how it sits upon the skin. Unlike some of the other sunscreens that visibly sit atop the skin, this sunscreen finishes clear and dries almost immediately. It is also water resistant for up to two hours before needing to be reapplied. It’s non-comedogenic- meaning that it will not clog pores, it is oil-free, and PABA free.
The price is one of the best features of this sunscreen. It is one of the most inexpensive sunscreens to make this list. Considering it comes with the name Neutrogena, and offers a whopping SPF 40, this is an excellent deal.
If you weren’t looking to spend a lot of money on your sunscreen, but you still want to be protected from the sun’s harmful rays, this sunscreen is an excellent choice for you. Additionally, if you hate when sunscreens make your skin feel greasy and shiny, you can’t go wrong with this product.
- Dries quickly and clearly
- Brand Recognition
Can sting face
When sweating, some have reported that it turns into a white goop atop skin
Coppertone SPORT Continuous
Coppertone became a household name in the 1950’s when it debuted the iconic Coppertone girl, and it has quickly become the highest rated brand of sunscreen on the market. Users know that when they purchase a Coppertone product, they are buying a brand that has spent years perfecting their only skincare product - sunscreen.
The Coppertone SPORT Continuous Sunscreen offers users an impressive SPF 50. This formula protects against 97 percent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which prevents not only sunburn but also helps to prevent premature aging and skin cancer.
Unlike many of the other sunscreens to make this list, this sunscreen is applied via a spray can. By spraying the lotion directly to your skin, you can ensure that you get an even coverage, and it is even able to be sprayed at an angle to reach those hard to reach areas. This formula also contains Vitamin E to offer antioxidants that protect skin from free radicals. It should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours, or even 80 minutes for those that are swimming or sweating excessively.
The price is one of the best features about this sunscreen. It is offered at an incredibly affordable price and is one of the least expensive sunscreens to make this list. With the weight of the name Coppertone, this is a great selection for your outdoor sunscreen needs.
Coppertone is one of the most well-known brands of sunscreen, so it is no surprise that it has made this list. If you want sunblock that comes with the guarantee of a superior company such a Coppertone, and you don’t wish to spend a lot of money, this is a great option for those long summer days lounging on the beach.
- Brand Recognition
- Easy application
- Lightweight formula
Can make skin feel tight
Fragrance might be strong
As stated above, Supergoop is relatively new but has a mission to make a sunscreen different than all other sunscreens on the market. It was founded by a woman that had a friend diagnosed with skin cancer in their 20's, and after, she set out to create a formula that was easy and lightweight enough so that users would want to wear it any day of the week. Since hitting the market, Supergoop has generated a dedicated following of users that wish to keep their skin protected year-round.
This sunscreen protects on a deeper level than most other sunscreens on the market. It is offered with an impressive SPF 50. Not only does it protect against UVA, and UVB rays, but it also protects a third layer deeper into the skin and protects against IRA rays (infrared rays). Infrared sunscreens are something that are generally new to the sunscreen market and are quickly picking up steam in popularity.
The lightweight formula is made from clean ingredients that use organic chemicals. Organic chemicals are better for everyday use, because they are absorbed into the skin making them more comfortable to use every day. It’s also non-comedogenic, meaning that it won’t clog pores.
The price of this sunscreen is a tad more expensive than some of the other sunscreens on this list, but considering that this product is made from high-quality products that are selected based upon modern research on sun protection, the slightly padded price tag is worth it.
If you were looking for a sunblock that you can take to the beach but is also light and easy enough to wear hiking, snowboarding, or an afternoon of shopping at a strip mall, then this product will fit your needs perfectly. It does cost a little extra than some of the other sunblocks, but past users claim that it is well worth the price.
- Light enough to wear everyday
- Offers superior sun protection
- Protects against infrared rays
- Slightly more expensive
- Formula is a little thin
- Some report that it has a strong smell
Skinmedica Total Defense Plus Repair
Skinmedica doesn’t carry the same clout in the industry such as Coppertone or Neutrogena, but it has generated many loyal customers that love their products. They formulate their products while using modern research to ensure that sun protection evolves as we learn more about how the sun impacts skin.
This sunscreen comes with SPF 34 sun protection from both UVA and UVB rays that shield skin from sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Their proprietary SOL-IR formula does what most other sunscreens don’t do, and that’s penetrate three layers of skin to protect against harmful infrared (or IR) rays.
Everyone has had days when they were out for too long in the sun and forgot to put on sunscreen. This formula claims to help repair damage that has already been caused to help skin look more healthy and hydrated. It is lightweight and safe enough to wear for all skin types without irritating the skin with harsh chemicals.
The price of this sunscreen is incredibly expensive, and far surpasses the price of many of the other sunscreens making this list. However, if you have the extra money to invest in this sunscreen, you will not be disappointed by not only the protection that it gives you against the sun but also how great your skin looks with continued use.
Sure, this sunscreen costs a lot more than many of the other products making this list, but given the extent of added benefits to the skin based upon the most recent and up to date research and discoveries in sun damage, this product is well worth the padded price tag.
- Claims to repair skin from existing sun damage
- Protects from infrared rays
- Very expensive
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum
EltaMD may not carry the same impact such as Coppertone or Hawaiian Tropic, but it is a well known and trusted brand by dermatologists and those that are familiar with clinical skincare. EltaMD focuses all of their research and energy on sunscreens and similar products to repair skin against sun damage.
This sunscreen is offered with an impressive SPF 46 and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It comes in a spray can that allows for an easy and even application, and it is lightweight enough to wear every day.
In addition to protecting skin against UVA and UVB rays, this formula also contains lactic acid, which helps to reduce breakouts and smooths the appearance of wrinkles. There is also niacinamide (also known as vitamin b3) and hyaluronic acid, which binds moisture to the face. It is also fragrance-free, paraben free, doesn’t contain any oils, and is non-comedogenic, so it won't clog your pores.
All of the great additions to this sunscreen make it a tad more costly than some of the other sunscreens to make this list, but it is nowhere near the most expensive. If you need a sunscreen that won’t irritate sensitive skin, this is well worth the slightly padded price tag.
For those that have a history of having their skin irritated by many brands of sunscreens, this sunscreen will be a perfect fit for you. In addition to protecting skin from the sun and preventing breakouts, it also has many ingredients that will help keep skin looking fresh and moisturized.
- Spray can offers easy application
- Promotes healthy and moisturized skin
- Slightly more expensive
- Needs to be reapplied more frequently after swimming or sweating
Blue Lizard Australian
Blue Lizard isn’t exactly a household name, but they have generated a loyal following over the years. This company focuses only on sunscreen, so you know that all of their research on improving their formulas are focused solely on UV protection.
This sunscreen has an SFP of 35+ and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. This will not only prevent uncomfortable and painful sunburns, but it will also help to prevent premature aging and skin cancer. It doesn’t have any of the harmful chemicals that can irritate skin and is composed of naturally occurring minerals such as zinc oxide as well as titanium dioxide (which sits on top of the skin and blocks harmful rays).
What makes this sunscreen unique is the bottle. Indoors, the bottle is white. But once it is taken out into the sun, the bottle will change to blue based upon the level of UV rays in the sky. Sometimes, on cloudy days, one would assume that there are no UV rays and skip the sunscreen and end up sunburned. With this bottle, you can actually see if there is any need for sunblock.
The price of this sunscreen runs right in the middle of the road. It is not the most expensive sunscreen on the market but is by no means the least expensive sunscreen out there. If you are in the market for an effective sunscreen but aren’t willing to spend top dollar, this is a great choice.
For those that are looking for a good quality sunblock that will last during active days on the beach or out camping and don’t want to break the bank, Blue Lizard is a great choice to pack along in your beach bag.
- Great for sensitive skin
- Color changing bottle
- Does not have a smell
- Very thick
- Leaves skin with white tint
- Difficult to wash off
Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch
The first batch of Hawaiian Tropic was mixed in a metal garbage can, and bottled in a humble garage. Since then, it has skyrocketed to one of the most recognized names in sunscreen. It is known for smelling like summer in a bottle and comes in a wide variety of options that offer many different types of sun protection.
Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch is offered in SPF 30. It keeps both UVA, and UVB rays off of the skin which helps to prevent uncomfortable sunburns, premature aging, and skin cancer. It is best to be applied approximately 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied every two hours after swimming or excess swimming.
In addition to keeping you protected from harmful ultraviolet rays, this formula also contains Shea butter and mango fruit extract to ensure that skin doesn’t lose moisture but stays soft and smooth. It also contains vitamins C and E, which can sometimes be depleted from skin that has had excessive exposure to the sun.
This is the most affordable sunscreen to make this list. With the assurance of the Hawaiian Tropic and all of the additional ingredients that help keep skin healthy and protected, this sunscreen is offered at a great deal.
For those that are looking for excellent protection from the sun without a heavy price tag, this sunscreen is an excellent choice. It comes with the assurance of being well known, protects against UVA and UVB rays, and will not break the bank.
- Pleasing scent
- Brand recognition
- Some find it difficult to squeeze from bottle
- Some feel it needs to be reapplied every hour instead of every 2 hours
Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sport Stick
Babo Botanicals is not a well-known company. It is a smaller, family company that is concerned with making great quality products that are derived naturally from nature. The company started because it wanted to produce products that are safe enough for newborn babies, and quickly grew a following of customers that also wanted to use skincare products that are derived naturally.
This formula offers an impressive SPF 30, and protects against UVA, and UVB rays. This ensures to block sunburns and will help to prevent premature aging. It comes in a stick form to make application easier and to promote even coverage. This stick is made from 15% zinc oxide which is one of the best sun repellents and is water and sweat repellent for up to 80 minutes.
In addition to excellent sun protection, this formula also comes with natural avocado, sunflower, watercress, and jojoba oils to keep skin soft and moisturized. It is fragrance-free, rubs on clear, and is hypoallergenic, making it perfect for any and all skin types.
Sometimes when a product is made with all natural ingredients, it costs a lot more than many of their competitors, but not in this instance. This sunscreen runs about mid-road in terms of price. It is not the most expensive sunscreen out there, but it is not the least expensive either.
For those that are concerned with the various types of chemicals that can be found in some of the other sunscreens that are currently on the market, this is an excellent alternative. Plus, it’s safe enough to use on the entire family without having to worry.
- Natural Ingredients
Some users dislike the tube packaging
Things we considered when selecting the best sunscreens
It should go without saying that the number one thing that we looked at when determining the best sunscreens is how well it protects from the sun. Many dermatologists agree that anything under an SPF 10 is considered to be insufficient, and anything over SPF 50 is considered to be overkill.
There are two different types of rays that cause sun damage (UVA and UVB) and an effective sunscreen can block against both. Recently, it has been discovered that there is a third type of solar ray that can also be damaging to the skin. This third type of ray is called infrared rays (IRAs). Many of the higher end (or more expensive) sunscreens protect against IRAs, so if you are looking to find a sunscreen that protects against all three, be prepared to dish out a little extra money.
There are two different ways to fight against sun damage, and that is to utilize ingredients that are organic and chemical based, or mineral and physical based. Mineral-based sunscreens are designed to simply sit on top of the skin and create a literal barrier of protection. These types of sunscreens are more widely used because they can accommodate most skin types without causing irritation because they do not actually penetrate the skin.
Organic and chemical formulas tend to be more comfortable to wear because they actually penetrate into the skin. This formula may be ideal for those that are looking for a sunscreen to wear on a daily basis, but may not be ideal for those looking for maximum coverage or that might have sensitive skin.
When it comes to sunscreen, there are a few brands that have become household names (such as Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic). Everyone is familiar with that pink bottle with the picture of the little girl in pigtails with the cute dog. Coppertone has dominated the market since the 1950s in the sunscreen market, and still delivers quality sunblock that is great for the entire family. There are other lesser known brands, however, that shouldn’t be discounted. These brands are bringing more to the table than just sun protection- they also provide additional vitamins and essential oils to help keep skin from losing too much moisture.
Many sunblocks offer more than just protection from the sun. Some go so far as to claim that they can help repair existing damage from those days out in the sun without any sunblock. Some brands offer all natural ingredients and also offer the addition of vitamins and essential oils to help keep skin healthy and hydrated. Many sunscreens offer their product in spray bottles that make it easier to ensure even distribution.
Less money spent on sunblock means more money to be spent on ice cream and hot dogs. It was important to keep the price of these sunscreens low, but without sacrificing the quality of the product.
Q: How much sunscreen should I use?
Many sunscreens are deemed inefficient not because they are composed of an inferior formula, but because the user simply didn’t apply enough. Experts advise that in order to ensure that you are getting the most out of your sunscreen, you should apply at least three tablespoons to your entire body upon your first application (and each subsequent application).
Q: What SPF is right for me?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. To determine what level of SPF that you need in your sunscreen, you need to examine what your usage will be for. Typically, for long days out in the sun where there will be a lot of swimming or sweating, it’s ideal to wear an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply at least every 2 hours. If you know that you are exceptionally sensitive to getting sunburns, it may be in your best interest to purchase sunscreens that are SPF 50 and/or apply more frequently.
Q: What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
UVA rays are the rays that are able to travel the deepest into your skin layers. UVA rays are not the ones responsible for your sunburn. They are responsible for damaging the layer of skin that is right below the top layer. And damage to this layer can cause premature aging. The UVB rays are the ones responsible for those nasty sunburns. These rays penetrate the top layer and are the contributing factor to skin cancer.
Q: Do I need to wear sunscreen on cloudy days?
Yes. We know, it doesn’t make much sense to wear something called sunscreen when the sun is hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. Keep in mind that it’s not the actual brightness of the sun that causes all the damage, it’s those invisible UV rays that the sun omits that does all the damage. Approximately 80% of UV rays are able to penetrate through even the gloomiest cloud cover to stealthily wreak havoc on your skin.
Q: Should I wear sunscreen in the winter?
Technically, yes. Just because the sun isn’t as warm in the winter time doesn’t mean that those nasty UV rays aren’t barreling towards your skin the moment you step outside. However, there is a bright side. Typically in the winter, you cover up most of your body when engaging in any outdoor activity, so your body isn’t as exposed as it would be if you were surfing the Pacific in July. Be sure to slap on a light SPF on your face and your hands (if you aren’t wearing gloves) to keep those UV rays off of your skin.
Q: What are infrared rays?
Infrared rays are responsible for heating the Earth (approximately 29 percent of Earth’s heat is from infrared rays). Science has made recent discoveries that these IRAs are actually detrimental to the health of the skin. Overexposure to IRAs can penetrate deep into the skin’s surface and overproduce something called matrix metalloproteinases and can cause the destruction of collagen, which causes the skin to age at a faster rate. Basically, overexposure to IRAs can cause the skin to age faster and nobody wants that.