How To Choose The Best Sunscreen To Prevent Tanning Your Body And Face
There’s no excuse these days to go out sunbathing without proper protection.
Public health campaigns have raised awareness about the carcinogenic properties of UV rays and it’s common knowledge you should use sunscreen to minimize your chances of developing skin cancer.
When properly applied and with the appropriate SPF rating, sunscreen won’t stop the tanning process but it will reduce your chances of skin damage from wrinkles right through to cancer.
Since you’ll see this acronym plastered across all sunscreens, we’ll kick off today with a quick definition of SPF…
SPF: What Does It Mean and Why Should You Care?
SPF stands for sun protection factor. This measures how well the sunscreen will stand up to the sun’s UVB rays. These are the type that cause sunburn.
Unfortunately, calculating these ratings is not straightforward since it’s non-linear. We’ll give you an example:
- SPF 15: Filters 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30: Filters 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50: Filters 98% of UVB rays
Despite what some manufacturers might claim, no sunscreen can safeguard you against 100% of these harmful rays.
If you take the advice of the American Academy of Dermatologists, you should shoot for a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30.
With those basics in place, we’ll jump right in to highlight our curated list of the finest sunscreens in a glutted market. If you’ve been hunting for the best fit and found analysis paralysis kicking in, kick that to the curb and roll with one of our top 10!
10 Best Sunscreen Reviews
If you’re looking for maximum protection under those beating rays, look no further than skincare legend Neutrogena’s Ultra-Sheer sunscreen rated at SPF 100+ to keep you safe throughout the day.
Dry-Touch technology baked in gives you a matte finish stripped off any greasiness. This sunscreen works well for all skin types even if you have oily or combination skin prone to breakouts.
How about if you’re not a fan of lotions? Well, you can pick up this powerful product in either spray or stick form, too.
We’d personally recommend rolling with the lotion, though. You can apply this sunscreen to the face and body fuss-free.
Water-resistant for up to an hour and a half of swimming action, you won’t need to endlessly reapply your sunscreen if you’re in and out of the pool or ocean.
Neutrogena serves up broad spectrum protection safeguarding you against both UVA and UVB rays. In plain English, you’ll stop your skin from aging prematurely while also reducing any chance of skin cancer occurring later down the line.
Containing Helioplex and Avobenzone to ramp up protection, this lotion is free of parabens and come recommended by dermatologists.
For a highly capable ally against the ravages of the sun that won’t block your pores, this SPF 100+ beauty is top of our list with just cause.
If you play a lot of sports outdoors and you want to keep your skin soft, supple and protected from those harmful UV rays, you’ll need a sunscreen cut out for some heavy punishment. Banana Boat’s Ultra Sport steps up to the plate and smashes a home run.
Rated SPF 50, 98% of UVB rays will be blocked. Thanks to broad spectrum protection, you’ll also stop UVA rays from wreaking sun damage on your skin.
As with all the most effective sunblocks, Ultra Sport won’t leave your skin feeling greasy and it won’t inflame or irritate sensitive skin either.
From the pool to the ocean, whether your body gets covered in sweat or sand and ideal for use in windy conditions or extreme heat, protection is as close to complete as possible. This is marketed by Banana Boat as Stays on in 7 Conditions.
You’re advised to apply a golf-ball sized amount of lotion roughly 15 minutes before you head out into the sun. This allows the sunscreen to work its way in before you get down to action outdoors. While you won’t need to endlessly reapply your Ultra Sport, you should top it up every couple hours to keep yourself safe and sound.
This lotion from Banana Boat is among the strongest example of sunscreen for serious sports fans so what are you waiting for?
Badger’s range of sunscreen runs broad and deep but our personal favorite is this delicate lavender-scented lotion laced with zinc oxide.
All-natural ingredients extend beyond that enticing Bulgarian lavender encompassing sunflower oil, beeswax, seabuckthorn. Rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, you’ll be protecting your skin while also giving it a welcome shot of nourishment with a side-serving of detoxification.
While you’ll benefit fully from that impressive range of ingredients, you won’t need to endure any BPA or phthalates in the plastic tube meaning you can do your bit for the environment while also staying safe yourself.
There are no chemical actives either so you won’t be menaced by oxybenzone or octinoxate. If you spend any time around reefs, Badger Active is guaranteed to be biodegradable and it won’t damage the precious coral either.
Organic and entirely non-GMO, this broad spectrum sunscreen comes from a family-owned and family-run firm making organic skincare products in the US for the past 20 years.
Next up, we’ve got a sunscreen milk targeted at anyone with exacting tastes and a more fluid budget. If you’re looking for a cheap sunscreen, this is not for you.
What makes La Roche Posay’s Anthelios worth that stiff price tag then?
The broad spectrum SPF 60 works equally well on the face and body so you won’t need to mess around with a pair of bottles.
The milk formulation penetrates your skin quickly and easily and leaves no trace of oiliness or greasiness once it’s worked its way in.
If you like to take a dip in between sunbathing, this cream is water-resistant for a full 80 minutes. After this length of time in the water, you should towel yourself dry and apply another thin layer of sunscreen. Whether you go in the ocean or not, reapply every 2 hours.
How about if you can’t face the thought of heading to the beach without your makeup on?
Well, you don’t need to skip the sunscreen or your favorite beauty products. Slip the sunscreen on followed by makeup and you’ll stay beautiful without compromising your skin health under the sun.
This melt-in sunscreen has been rigorously tested by dermatologists. It won’t block your pores and it comes entirely free of fragrance and parabens.
Allergy-tested and suitable for sensitive skin, you’ll get the complete package and a perfect line of defense against everything the sun throws your way.
You’ll not only slash the risk of skin cancer to the bone but you’ll also ensure your skin doesn’t get battered and prematurely aged even if you spend more time than you should do on the sun lounger.
Packed with vitamin E and parsol 1789, you will give your skin a welcome dose of moisture so it remains more receptive to tanning without allowing harmful rays to damage it.
Non-comedogenic, you’ll get no annoying blocked pores that can precipitate breakouts and you’ll get no ingredients known to trigger common allergies either. This lotion is not tested on animals so comes certified cruelty-free as well as paraben-free. With no oil or gluten in the mix either, this really is a multipurpose sunscreen suitable for practically anyone.
The lotion stands up to a full 80 minutes of swimming before it loses its power and needs reapplication so it’s ideal for water bunnies.
As with all Sun Bum products, this sunscreen comes ratified by the SCF (Skin Cancer Foundation) so you can buy with complete confidence.
Next in line, we’ve got another reasonably pricey but remarkably effective lotion from EltaMD with this broad spectrum SPF 50 rated gem.
The Sport formulation makes this a wonderful weapon against the harm wreaked by the sun even if you spend your time engaged in boisterous outdoor activities. When the sweat is pouring from you, the sunscreen will stay neatly in place.
With 9% transparent zinc oxide, you’ll enjoy robust protection whether on wet or dry skin. Neither the burning or aging rays of the sun will make their way through for a full 2 hours. Simply reapply after this length of time and enjoy continued fortification.
With its high zinc content and absence of oxybenzone and avobenzone, this formula makes a wonderful choice if you’ve got sensitive skin.
As with all the top sunscreens, this formulation comes fully backed by the Skin Cancer Foundation. It’s also highly recommended by dermatologists so you can’t ask for much more in a sunscreen.
Hawaiian Tropic serves up a silky smooth SPF 30 sunscreen with no octinoxate or oxybenzone meaning you can safely swim around coral reefs without leaving harmful by-products in your wake. You’ll be able to take a dip for up to 80 minutes before the sunscreen needs to be reapplied.
Sheer Touch is rammed with natural ingredients from shea butter and mango fruit extract through to plenty of vitamin E.
These powerful botanicals combine to soften and nourish your skin while keeping it safe from both UVA and UVB rays.
You won’t get any greasy residue left behind once Sheer Touch is absorbed into your skin and the oil-free formulation means it works well if you’ve got combination skin prone to irritating breakouts.
If you prefer a bit of fragrance to your sunscreen, notes of coconut, guava and passion flower bring this tropical sunscreen alive on your skin.
Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as an effective broad spectrum protection agent, the 8oz bottle goes a long way and it’s also incredibly keenly priced. With sunscreen this good and this cheap, there’s simply no excuse for leaving yourself exposed.
Ramping things up to SPF 70 protection, Coppertone delivers a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks out just about anything harmful the sun throws your way while allowing you to bask safely and to your heart’s content.
The manufacturer recommends using an entire ounce of lotion every time but we’d suggest you could get by with a little less.
Once you’ve worked the cream into your skin, you won’t be left with any oiliness and the vitamin E will keep your skin moisturized without risking any breakouts.
Coppertone contains both octinoxate and oxybenzone. While these are highly effective ingredients for combating those lethal UV rays, they also tend to agitate sensitive skin so think twice if your skin is a little hard to handle. There are plenty of sunscreens specifically designed for you so there’s no need to risk inflaming your skin.
Attractively packaged and priced well within anyone’s budget, this is a solid all-rounder from a brand with plenty of heritage.
As we edge to the end of our showcase of the best sunscreens on the market, we’ve got another entry from Hawaiian Tropic in the form of Island Sport.
Rated at SPF 50 and kicking out broad spectrum protection against all types of damaging rays, your skin won’t burn and it won’t be aged under the sun either.
If this level of sun protection is not to your liking, you can opt for SPF 15 and 30 variants for slightly less protection if you’ve got darker skin and you can weather a little more exposure to the sun.
The lightweight make-up of this sunscreen makes it a smart bet if you play plenty of sports and you don’t want the acrid taste of sunscreen running down into your eyes.
This formulation is super-simple to apply and it absorbs rapidly so you can get straight down to action without hanging around.
That signature coconut and mango scent finishes this sunscreen off perfectly so why not give some a try? Your skin will thank you now and further down the track, too!
To round out our collection of the best sunscreens on the market, we’ve got another Neutrogena classic, this time specifically formulated for use on your face.
With an off-the-chart SPF 110 rating, the broad spectrum lotion stops excessive aging brought about by sun damage while also cutting back the chance of skin cancer developing.
While it might be tempting to write off that SPF rating as pure marketing hype, this lotion has been rigorously tested by dermatologists and proven to safeguard skin up to 6 layers deep.
As with any decent product designed for the face, this sunscreen will do its job without blocking your pores so you won’t get pimples in the quest for skin protection.
Moisturizers and conditioners will keep your skin looking supple and young while also blocking almost all harmful rays to give you comprehensive cellular protection.
With that batch of the most effective sunscreens put to bed, what factors should inform your buying decision?
While it might seem like the simplest purchase you’re likely to make, there are nevertheless several key elements to bear in mind when you’re on the sunscreen trail.
Make Sure The Sunscreen is Broad Spectrum
When you’re out in the sun, you’ll be exposed to 2 types of rays:
Both are potentially harmful in their own different ways. For starters, they can both be instrumental in bringing on skin cancer.
Beyond this obviously devastating impact, UVA rays can cause cosmetic damage to your skin in the form of wrinkles, too. UVA rays are strong enough to penetrate glass so you should remain fully on guard if you want your skin to stay at its best.
These UVA rays are subdivided into UVA1 and UVA2 rays. There’s no set SPF rating for these rays so what can you do to mitigate their effect?
Luckily, the answer is simple. Look out for a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum defense and passes the test for this laid down by the FDA.
This benchmark ensures that UVA protection is proportional to UVB protection so you’re giving yourself the best chance possible of avoiding sun damage to your skin while also dramatically reducing your risk of skin cancer.
Shoot for a broad spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or above for everyday use.
With that guidance in mind, what type of formulation is most effective?
Opt for Water-Resistant Lotions
A lotion is straightforward to apply and maximizes your chance of a consistent, even coverage.
Sprays, on the other hand, tend to be tougher to apply in enough volume to adequately protect yourself.
Sunscreen sticks, like sprays, might be convenient. You’ll need to keep going over the same spot, though. We don’t recommend these for anything but emergency use.
When you’re choosing a lotion, keep your eyes peeled for water-resistant formulations. You’ll generally see that these sunscreens will stand up to 80 minutes of swimming before you need to break out the bottle and reapply.
Even if you don’t intend to spend much time in the water, this type of sunblock will also work well to combat sweating which, let’s face it, is highly likely to occur when you’re under the sweltering sun for hours.
Check the Ingredients
Sunscreen formulas can be broadly divided into:
A mineral sunscreen, also known as a physical sunscreen contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. This type of formula sits on top of your skin while deflecting the UV rays.
A chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, makes use of chemicals like avobenzone or oxybenzone. These chemicals absorb the sun’s rays so your skin doesn’t do so.
For anyone with sensitive skin or acne, a mineral formula is by far the best bet. They are also a much more natural and reef-friendly sunscreen solution.
The leading benefit of their chemical counterparts is the completely transparent finish.
You can sometimes find combination sunscreens that embrace the best of each method but these are in the minority.
Alongside the active ingredients in a sunscreen, you tend to find preservatives that inhibit microbe growth. Some manufacturers also make bold claims their formulas contain antioxidants capable of soaking up free radicals.
The truth is, these are generally in too low a concentration to have any meaningful effect.
Keep these simple pointers in mind and stick to one of the products we’ve highlighted above and you should have no trouble at all finding an effective sunscreen so you can stay protected year-round.
There’s no reason now you don’t know exactly what to look out for when you’re choosing sunscreen.
You can by all means use tanning oil to accelerate your tan. If you do so, you can comfortably use sunscreen to provide you with the protection you need while intensifying your tan at the same time.
These products work wonderfully together so check out our look at the best tanning oils if you want your skin to go browner more rapidly. If you tread this route, just be certain not to skip the sunscreen.
Always pay attention to best practice when you’re sunbathing, too. Avoid the sun during those danger hours from noon to 4pm and wear a hat to protect your head from those beating rays.
Come back soon as we’ve got plenty more of the best sun-related products coming your way along with the usual handy hints and guidance!