Most of us can’t resist the temptation of having some fun in the sun as often as the weather allows. Even if you aren’t spending all day every day outside, though, it’s imperative to ensure that a good sunscreen is part of your daily routine.
The sun’s harmful rays don’t discriminate and you can be just as at risk of developing skin cancer sitting in a windowed office as you would be surfing down at the beach.
With so many different sunscreen choices available to us as consumers, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which sunscreens are the best for us.
The gold standard of sun protection when it comes to sunscreen is broad spectrum sunscreen products. In this guide we’ll take a look at exactly what broad spectrum protection is, why it’s superior, and how to find the absolute best broad spectrum sunscreen for you.
After thorough research into requirements for broad spectrum sunscreen to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ as the best broad spectrum sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 broad spectrum sunscreens.
Broad spectrum protection
There are quite a few different factors that go into a good sunscreen. Some of them are negotiable or dependant upon the situation for which you’ll be using the sunscreen. One thing you should never budge on is broad spectrum protection – always insist on this high level of protection.
What is broad spectrum protection, though?
The term ‘broad spectrum’ is in reference to the types of ultraviolet rays that a particular sunscreen product can protect you from.
While sunlight is part of the visible spectrum (meaning we know when we are avoiding it by hanging out in the shade), the damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun cannot be seen by the naked eye and so we need to know that whatever sunscreen we buy will protect us as much as possible.
Non-broad spectrum products will only protect from UVB rays, while the more comprehensive broad spectrum protection shields you from both UVA and UVB rays.
UVB rays are the type of ultraviolet ray responsible for the sort of sun damage we typically know as a sunburn.
Exposure causes skin to become tender, irritated, and pink. The longer your skin is exposed to these rays, the more red and burnt it can become, until eventually the skin blisters and becomes quite painful.
Extended exposure to UVB rays can increase risk for skin cancer, as well as cause skin discoloration in the form of sun spots or premature skin darkening as you age.
UVA rays are like the sneakier cousin to the UVB ray. They don’t cause sunburns, but the damage they do cause is typically not noticed until it’s too late to be reversed. UVA rays can even pass through glass!
This type of damage occurs on a much deeper level in the skin, affecting the actual DNA of your skin cells. This can increase your risk of developing skin cancer and cn also accelerate the visible signs of aging.
Typically this means skin that is thickened, leather, wrinkled, and saggy far before its time.
If you are looking for an easy way to remember the difference between the two types of ultraviolet rays, think of it this way: A is for Aging and B is for Burning.
The bottom line is that neither one of the types of UV rays are doing you any favors. You ought to do everything you can to protect yourself and your skin from the damage that can come from sun exposure.
This means refusing to settle for sub-par UVB-only protection and insisting on broad spectrum sun protection every time (see also sunscreen for UVA and UVB protection).
Best SPF for Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
The broad spectrum status of your sunscreen is important, but it is by no means the only thing you ought to pay attention to when considering which sunscreens to purchase for yourself or your loved ones.
Most of us understand that SPF ratings are important but don’t always know why. In order to make the most informed decision possible it can be helpful to take the time to understand exactly what SPF ratings are and how they work.
SPF stands for sun protection factor. The idea is that the SPF stands for how much longer you can stay outside without burning versus not using any protection at all.
So if you wear SPF 15 sunscreen it will take you 15 times longer to burn than if you’d gone outside without applying sunscreen. Following this line of logic, it would make sense to think that more is better and so you should always get the highest SPF you can find.
There are a few problems with this, though.
The first is that SPF only represents protection from UVB rays (the ones that burn) so it’s an incomplete picture of how protective a given sunscreen is.
The second problem has more to do with limitations on sunscreen in general. No sunscreen is going to be effective for more than a few hours – even less when exposed to harsh sunlight, water, or perspiration. So it is misleading to buy an SPF 100 product and assume that you can stay outside for 100 times as long without any ill effect.
A more helpful way to consider SPF ratings is by the overall percentage of UVB protection each rating represents. Take a look at the table below:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see looking at the table, once you pass SPF 30, the differences in the amount of actual protection offered are negligible.
Unfortunately, some sunscreen manufacturers like to take advantage of the fact that most folks don’t fully understand SPF ratings and products with SPF 50+ ratings can sometimes be quite a bit more expensive than their SPF 30 counterparts.
Dermatologists agree that SPF 30 is sufficient for most of us – if you need the extra protection offered by and SPF 50 product (in the case of a known risk for skin cancer or extra photosensitivity), just make sure you don’t end up paying an arm and a leg for an extra 2% or so of protection.
Physical is better than chemical
While it’s vital to get comprehensive protection that’s strong enough to shield you the way you need it to, it’s also a good idea to pay attention the ingredients a given sunscreen uses to provide you with that protection.
Not all sunscreens are created equal, I’m afraid. Based on their origins, sunscreen active ingredients can be categorized as either physical or chemical. Whenever possible choose sunscreens that have purely physical ingredients and never choose sunscreen that only use chemical ingredients.
Physical sunscreens are made using zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a mixture of the two.
Both ingredients provide broad spectrum protection, though zinc oxide is a little bit better at protection from UVA rays than titanium dioxide is. These ingredients work by sitting on top of your skin and providing a barrier against UV rays. Incoming rays bounce off of this barrier without ever reaching your skin and so do not cause harm.
Physical sunscreens are effective immediately upon application, and are considered to be calming to the skin – particularly with conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and melasma.
Chemical sunscreens are usually used in combination rather than alone because they don’t provide comprehensive protection by themselves. These can include: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.
These sunscreens require a 20 minute wait time after application before they become effective, due to the way that they work
Chemical sunscreen ingredients soak down into the skin, where they absorb UV rays before they have a chance to damage your skin. With repeated use these ingredients can cause skin allergy and even cross into the bloodstream, where some may cause disruption to the endocrine system.
Some sunscreens have both physical and chemical active ingredients, while some use exclusively either one or the other. Try to avoid chemical-only sunscreens, while combination sunscreens are okay in moderation.
The best option, however, is to aim for sunscreens that use only physical active ingredients. This will ensure that you get high quality protection without any of the negative side effects that go along with chemical options.
Best Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Comparison
|thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen||SanRe Organic Supple Sunshine Solar||derma E Antioxidant Natural||All Good Sunscreen Butter||Suntegrity 5-in-1|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (9%) & Titanium Dioxide (4%)||Zinc Oxide (16%)||Zinc Oxide (25%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||None||None||80 minutes||None|
5 Best Broad Spectrum Sunscreens
After through research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best broad spectrum sunscreens.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are not sprays, and are safe for daily use.
While it’s designed for babies, Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen can be used on any member of the family – that’s part of what makes well done baby sunscreens so wonderful!
Baby’s skin is about 30% thinner than the skin of an adult. That means that many products that wouldn’t irritate an adult do pose some risk of irritating baby’s sensitive skin. It also means that they can be more susceptible to sun damage because their skin is so much more fragile.
These problems of extra sun sensitivity and even sensitivity to harsh ingredients in the formula can plague adults as well, making it difficult to find a reliable product that provides you with a high level of sun protection.
Thinkbaby provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50+ using zinc oxide (20%) as the only active ingredient. The formula is also rated water resistant for up to 80 minutes so that you can splash and swim without the sunscreen washing off.
The finish of this sunscreen can be a bit oily, but not so much as to be a concern if you’re just lounging about by the pool rather than visiting the shops.
- High SPF
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Oily finish
SanRe Organic Skinfood makes it their business to produce high quality, moisturizing products that work. Their ‘solar’ line adds in natural sunscreen for extra protection.
Supple Sunshine Solar is designed for normal to dry skin – if you need help with oil control you might try the Aloe formula, while the Rose formula works wonders on folks with certain skin conditions or sensitivities.
SanRe’s Supple Sunshine Solar provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using a combination of zinc oxide (9%) and titanium dioxide (4%).
While these creams are loved by their users, this lower SPF and lower concentration of active ingredients are both part of the reason this product barely missed the number one spots on today’s list.
Supple Sunshine Solar is also a little bit pricier, making this a better choice for facial/neck use rather than full body if you want to help stretch your dollar a little bit farther.
No water resistance with this sunscreen, so be sure to keep drying when wearing it in order to maintain continuous protection.
The texture upon application is a little bit thick and you may notice the feeling of the sunscreen sitting atop your skin – if you find this unpleasant consider trying the Aloe formula as this is caused partly by the high level of moisturizing ingredients in this cream.
- Pleasant natural scent
- Not water resistant
When it comes to the delicate skin of our faces, many sunscreens just feel too thick or oily on the face. This is particularly true for anybody who already has an oilier complexion, and can make it impossible to find a sunscreen that does its job without making you look like you’ve face-planted into a vat of coconut oil.
Fear not, there are products out there that can help. If any of that sounds like you, then one of the best broad spectrum sunscreens for the face is going to be derma E’s Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen.
Formulated completely without oils, this may not work well for anyone with dry skin, particularly because it also has a high concentration of active ingredient zinc which is known to be drying as well.
This sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using a surprising 16% zinc. Unfortunately it isn’t waterproof, so this isn’t a great option if you’re looking to get wet.
However, if what you’re after is a sunscreen that will protect you while helping keep shine down and avoiding exposing your skin to irritating ingredients, this product is certainly worth a second look.
- Moderately priced
- Can be drying
If you’re on the go, portability is going to be a big concern for your sunscreen. No matter how much we all wish it were so, you simply cannot get by all day in the sun with just one application of your favorite sunscreen product. You need to reapply, so it’s vital to keep some extra handy.
With awesome products like All Good Sunscreen Butter, that can be as easy as slipping a little tin into your pocket. This petite package is 1 ounce, and about the size of a lip gloss tin for ultimate portability.
This sunscreen provides you with broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50+ using 25% zinc oxide as the active ingredient. That’s right: ¼ of this entire formula is zinc!
While this goes a long way toward reassuring you that you’re getting some pretty buff protection from the sun, it also means that the formula is a little bit thicker than most and can leave a white cast.
It’s also water resistant for up to 80 minutes so you can run, swim, and play the day away while only having to reapply every once in awhile instead of every time you get wet.
- Convenient size
- High SPF
- High concentration of active ingredient
- White cast
Suntegrity’s 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Face sunscreen comes in at number 5 on this list. It is worth noting, though, that the #5 placement has less to do with the quality of this sunscreen (hint: it’s fabulous) and more to do with the price and rather narrow range of use.
It comes in a decently sized tube, but is certainly pricey. The good news is that it’s meant to be used on just the face, which will help stretch the lifespan of each tube.
The idea behind this sunscreen is that it can function as a sun-shielding replacement for foundation. It’s made in 5 shades and gives moderate coverage so you can blend with other cosmetics as needed.
It does an absolutely fabulous job of blending with the rest of your makeup regime, while providing you with that oh-so-necessary broad spectrum, physical protection.
Rated as SPF 30, this product is made with 20% zinc oxide as the only active ingredient. While it isn’t water resistant, you can have confidence that your full face of makeup is backed by strong sun protection when you start with Suntegrity.
- Five shades
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Not water resistant
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful, are are ready to choose a high-quality sunscreen for you and your loved ones.
A lot of effort going into ensuring that each of these guides contains good information and some really great product recommendations – work of this sort is never done though, and I love constantly learning about new products! If there is a broad spectrum sunscreen out there that you love and feel should’ve made the list, let me know! I love hearing from all of my readers.
While thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ was chosen as the best broad spectrum sunscreen, all five of these products are real knock-outs. It’s important to remember when choosing sunscreen that each of us has different skin and different needs.
That might mean you find yourself trying a few different products before you figure out what work for you. If that’s the case don’t be discouraged – embrace the process and persevere so you can find the best sunscreen for normal skin!