The weather is heating up and the layers are coming off, which means it’s time to start slathering on sunscreen during your outdoor pursuits. To help you pick out products that can handle all the activities you do, we tapped a handful of experts. They know how to separate hype from truth in the sunscreen world — and what to look for in each small bottle of protection. After all, sunscreen is your first defense against aging, and who really wants wrinkles right now?
To get a better idea of what ingredients to look for and what products to avoid, we talked with Tammy Lisi, Beyond Coastal’s formulation chemist and Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, the Senior Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundation. We also spoke with Dr. Rachel Nazarian, M.D., F.A.A.D.
“For a sport sunscreen, one should look for ingredients like Avobenzone and Octocrylene,” Dr. Hale says. When you think of waterproof ingredients, zinc oxide likely comes to mind thanks to all of those lifeguards in the ’80s with their white sunblock-covered noses — but you need more than just that ingredient. “You should look for at least one mineral active, [like] zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide,” Lisi advises. “To achieve water resistance and higher SPF, these actives cannot be used alone. [When] used with actives like octocrylene and homosalate we begin to achieve coverage desired for an active lifestyle,” Lisi says.
“People feel more comfortable when they use physical blockers like zinc or titanium,” Dr. Nazarian says. She also explained that for people concerned about specific ingredients, it’s smart to check the American Academy of Dermatology, because the doctors are constantly checking ingredients (and their effects on the environment) to make sure everything is safe. Specifically, avobenzone does a good job blocking the UV spectrum (A and B). Dr. Nazarian stresses the need for something that blocks both UVA and UVBpretty .
As for ingredients to avoid, Lisi recommends that people “steer clear of PABA and oxybenzone for various reasons. Avobenzone can react with iron and turn your whites orange, and is forbidden to use with zinc oxide.” It’s also worth noting that some research has shown that oxybenzone has adverse effects on coral reefs in laboratory settings — Hawaii banned certain sunscreens for this reason — so it’s best to avoid sunscreens that contain it.
Stick, Lotion or Spray?
“Stick products often achieve lower SPF levels with more water resistance easily,” Lisi says. And you have to be careful with the ingredients in sticks if you have sensitive skin. “The big downside of sticks is that people prone to acne can struggle with the high levels of occlusive ingredients in these products,” Lisi says. Using a lotion-type sunscreen is the easiest way to achieve good coverage overall. As for sprays? “In a wind-free environment, spray shows the best skin coverage and ease of use,” Lisi says. But she cautions that when it’s windy out, sprays are too lightweight for proper application, and environmentalists will say there’s more of a chance this sunscreen will miss your body and end up in the sand or ocean.
Coola Sport Body SPF 50 Organic Sunscreen Lotion
This formulation contains avobenzone and octocrylene, both of which are recommended by Dr. Hale. The water-resistant base filled with Agave leaf extract and avocado butter are both great for your skin. Just make sure to reapply every 80 minutes.
Beyond Coastal Active Sunscreen
The combo of avobenzone and octocrylene comes together again, this time with açaí fruit extract, aloe vera leaf extract and rosehip oil. You’ll have to reapply this lotion every 80 minutes, but the nice price and non-greasy, fast-absorbing characteristics of this lotion will have you stashing it in your gym bag for those spontaneous ultimate frisbee games.
Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Sport
All of Bare Republic’s products are free of chemical additives like oxybenzone and pumped full of good-for-you natural extracts. In this SPF 30 sunscreen, the ingredient includes Kukui seed oil, algae extract, sloe juice and coconut oil. Again, be sure to re-apply after 80 minutes of activity. It works just as well during a run as it does during a beach volleyball game.
MDSolar Sciences Mineral Sunscreen Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 40
If you’re looking to avoid oxybenzone, this all-natural mineral sunscreen stick has you covered. The lightweight solid lotion is easy to apply in public areas, unlike some mineral sunscreens that goop up all over your skin. This SPF 40 stick works on all skin types and is also oil free and filled with vitamin C. Be sure to re-apply every 80 minutes.
Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen Lotion
Thanks to Micromesh technology, this SPF 70 lotion is chemically engineered to allow sweat to pass through your skin, meaning your body can cool down without feeling extremely greasy. Again, you’ll have to re-apply every 80 minutes when swimming or sweating, but this one is also PABA-free.
Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen
If you love the smell of sunscreen, this spray is for you. The SPF 50 protection is boosted with vitamin C to help protect your face and body from those pesky free radicals. This non-aerosol mist is easy to apply all over. Remember to re-apply every 50 minutes.
Coppertone Sport Water Resistant Sunscreen Lotion
Here’s one of Dr. Hale’s favorites. “I use a base coat of lotion and then the spray to reapply,” she says. It’s PABA- and oil-free and rated at SPF 50. You’ll also need to re-apply this one after an intense 80-minute bocce battle.
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