When things heat up do you flock to the beach with the crowds? Or maybe you only get the chance to hit the beach up on vacation? No matter how often you go, sunscreen should be a regular fixture for your trips to the beach.
It feels great to take in the sun but remember it comes with a risk. Spending time at the beach exposes you to dangerous UV rays which can lead to sunspots, melanoma and skin cancer. And harm caused by UV radiation can be amplified by the reflection off the sand and water. Read on to make sure you’re using the right sunscreen for your beach sessions.
As always, sunscreen shouldn’t be your only form of sun protection. Wearing UV protective clothing, a hat and polarized sunglasses will help keep the sun’s harmful rays at bay. Also, whenever possible stick to the shade – beach umbrellas, tents, and shelters are awesome if you plan to spend the whole day at the beach. Try to factor in the time of day too, as the UV index varies throughout the course of day. You put yourself at greater risk of sun damage in the middle of the day compared to early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
When looking for the best sunscreen for the beach there are a number of things to take into account. Your sunscreen should be: broad spectrum, SPF 30+, water resistant, physical (as opposed to chemical), and a rub on lotion (not a spray formula).
Having researched extensively, SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best sunscreen for the beach. Keep reading for an in depth explanation of these elements in the detailed buyer’s guide, as well as reviews and a comparison table of the top 5 sunscreens for the beach.
To make the most of your time at the beach and to make sure you don’t go home red like a lobster, you should look for a number of must-have features in your beach sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
One important factor when shopping for sunscreen for any occasion is broad spectrum protection. That’s because when you spend time in the sun, you’re exposed to not one but many different types of UV radiation. Ensuring that your sunscreen says broad spectrum on the label is ensuring that you’re protected from both UVA and UVB rays.
Why is it important to be protected against both UVA and UVB rays? Well, that comes down to the different ways in which they penetrate the skin.
UVB rays damage the superficial layers of your skin causing you to tan or burn. (Remember, there is no such thing as a healthy tan… one might be more unpleasant than the other, but neither is good for you.)
UVA rays on the other hand penetrate deeper into your skin beyond the outer layer causing sunspots, and premature aging. Unsurprisingly both of these types of radiation are bad for you and can lead to cancer. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your sunscreen offers you broad spectrum protection.
How do I do that? Just check the label. Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ and make sure that the product advertises protection against ‘UVA/B’ rays. It’s an FDA requirement that all sunscreens are broad spectrum nowadays but it’s better to be safe than sorry and will only take you a second to double check.
Best SPF for the Beach
When choosing the best sunscreen you want to make sure you’re getting enough coverage. But how much do you really need and how can you choose accordingly? Well, the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates just that. And, it probably already plays an important part in your decision making process. The thing is, most people don’t really understand how it works or what that big number on the bottle really means.
When you see a bottle of sunscreen labelled SPF100, are you getting 100% coverage? In short, no. When you use SPF100, you block most of those dangerous UVB rays but 1/100th still reaches your skin. That means you’re getting around 99% coverage. So, the higher the SPF, the better, right? Well, technically yes, but not as much as you probably think.
Take a look at this table to see how much protection you get for each level of SPF.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Interesting, isn’t it? There’s actually not much difference between SPF 30 (97%) and SPF 100 (99%). So, which SPF is right for me? Across the board dermatologists and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend you choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of no lower than 30. This will ensure you have adequate protection when outdoors for extended periods of time but be sure to reapply regularly, especially if you are swimming or sweating a lot. (You could also check out the swimming sunscreen SimplySunSafe recommends.)
Physical is better than chemical
Sunscreens are classed into 2 main types – physical and chemical. What makes a sunscreen physical or chemical are the active ingredients and how they work to protect you from the sun. Physical sunscreens reflect sunlight before it reaches your skin and chemical sunscreens absorb sunlight as it reaches your skin.
Here at SimplySunSafe I always recommend physical or combination sunscreens over chemical sunscreens for the following reasons:
- They work immediately upon application
- They last longer
- They are less likely to cause irritation
- They have a longer shelf life
As you can see there are plenty of reasons to ‘get physical’ (see what I did there?) when it comes to choosing a sunscreen. More importantly, here’s the one reason shouldn’t choose a chemical one. Some of the active ingredients used in the chemical variety are endocrine disruptors (that means they mess with your hormones – gross!). The worst of these active ingredients is oxybenzone. Be sure to check the label and avoid it at all costs.
While you’re checking the label you can also look out for a few keywords and active ingredients too. The words ‘physical’ and ‘mineral’ are good indicators that a sunscreen is not chemical. If you’re still unclear, look for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide among the active ingredients listed.
If you’re going to try out one of SimplySunSafe’s recommended sunscreens rest assured that they have all been checked against EWG’s (a human health authority) sunscreen database. That means they’re strongly recommended for both ingredient safety and UV protection.
If you’re going get hot and sweaty at the beach, you’re probably going to want to cool off with a quick dip in the sea. So, the best sunscreen for the ocean is going to be a ‘very’ water resistant (for up to 80 minutes) one. That means it won’t come straight off in the water, and it won’t sting your eyes.
These days sunscreens are marketed as either up to 40 minutes or 80 minutes water resistant. So, ignore any which claim they are ‘waterproof’ or ‘sweatproof’. These terms were actually banned by the FDA a few years ago because they consider them to be false advertising.
As always, you can identify ‘very’ water resistant sunscreens by looking out for a few keywords on the label. Anything that is marketed for ‘sport’, ‘water’ or ‘ocean’ should be a safe bet but you can always read up on reviews before trying a new product too.
Rub on lotion not spray
Spray sunscreens are becoming increasingly popular but are they actually any good? Based on 2 important criteria (safety and effectiveness), I have to say no.
As far as safety is concerned you’re better off reaching for the traditional rub on sunscreen. That’s because while the chemicals in sunscreens are usually safe for your skin, they’re not for sensitive internal lung tissue. And when you use spray sunscreens you can accidentally inhale these potentially harmful chemicals.
The other problem with spray formulas is that they’re generally less effective. That’s because it’s harder to apply a thick enough layer to provide adequate sun protection. This is much easier to do when using a rub in lotion. So, forego the convenience of a spray formula for better coverage and sun safety. You’ll be thankful in the long run.
Best Sunscreen for the Beach Comparison
|BADGER Sport Sunscreen||thinksport Sunscreen||Block Island Natural Mineral||Sunology Natural Body||Tropical Sands All Natural|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (22%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (7.5%)||Zinc Oxide (6%) & Titanium Dioxide (6%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||80 minutes||40 minutes||80 minutes||40 minutes|
5 Best Sunscreens for the Beach
After thorough research into the needs of beachgoers that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, participating in skincare forums, and reading medical journals SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for the beach. All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone and are water resistant.
A regular fixture in SimplySunSafe’s reviewed products and the best sunscreen for the beach this year is BADGER SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen. This product ranked #1 because it not only meets all the requirements previously listed in this guide but it’s also made from all natural ingredients. This biodegradable sunscreen is gentle both on the environment and on your skin.
BADGER Sport Suncreen offers broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays using the safe mineral zinc oxide (22%). It’s chemical free and only has 5 ingredients – organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, organic jojoba oil, sunflower vitamin E and of course zinc oxide. It’s also safe for people with sensitive skin because it’s fragrance free and has such a short ingredients list.
This sunscreen is also water resistant for up to 80 minutes making it a great choice if you want to take a quick dip while you’re at the beach. Just remember to reapply when you get out and dry off.
Perhaps the only thing I can fault this product is that it leaves a white cast when applied. But that’s normal in sunscreens with high levels of zinc oxide and is a sign that you’re getting excellent coverage from the sun. It’s also a great visible reminder of when to reapply.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Simple, biodegradable formula
- 80-minute water resistance
- Thick formula
A close second to BADGER Sport is thinksport Sunscreen. While its ingredients list is a little lengthier than BADGER Sport’s it more budget-friendly, so if you spend a lot of time at the beach, this might be the summer sunscreen for you.
Like BADGER Sport, thinksport’s active ingredient is zinc oxide (20%) making it an excellent physical sunscreen which offers balanced broad spectrum protection. However, it offers slightly less protection than BADGER Sport’s 22.5% zinc oxide concentration.
Thinksport as a brand, have a solid reputation for making sure their products meet all relevant FDA safety guidelines. Their sunscreen is oxybenzone-free and they do not make any spray sunscreens as they have yet to be deemed safe for consumers’ lungs. Thinksport Sunscreen was also the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods premium care requirements and is recommended by dermatologists and used by professional athletes.
This product is gentle enough for consumers with sensitive skin. It has no added fragrances so it won’t irritate. Thinksport’s mild formula also includes natural ingredients such as sunflower, jojoba, olive, raspberry and cranberry seeds oils which will nourish your skin.
This product is water resistant for up to 80 minutes but it doesn’t feel greasy when applied. And like other physical sunscreen it will leave a white cast on most skin types. I know this might be a deal breaker for some users but try to see it in a positive light. At least you’ll know when you need to reapply.
The linked version of this thinksport Sunscreen is a 3 ounce version. This is already great value for money but if you’re a regular user you can also opt for a 6 ounce tube that is even more cost effective.
- High SPF
- Great value
- Reliable water resistance
- Thick formula
Another eco-friendly, natural sunscreen, Block Island Suncare Natural Mineral Sunscreen came in as the third best sunscreen for the beach. Compared to BADGER Sport and thinksport it’s a little pricier but it offers a similar level of protection with 22% zinc oxide.
Block Island Suncare use natural and organic ingredients in their sunscreen like aloe, shea butter, green tea, coconut oil and jojoba seed oil. This product is non-toxic and it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, dyes or fragrance. And it’s non-irritating, so this is a safe choice for kids or users with sensitive skin.
If you’re vegan, this product is cruelty-free too so you can rest assured knowing it hasn’t been tested on animals. And, it’s both eco-friendly and reef safe too.
While Block Island Natural Mineral is water resistant, it’s only water resistant for up to 40 minutes, so if you plan to spend all day in the surf, I wouldn’t recommend this product for you (though you might like our list of surfing sunscreens). This is probably better for the morning beach goer who just wants to spend an hour or two there, have a quick dip and then head home. If you do swim, always remember to reapply after towelling off for optimal coverage.
If you don’t like thick sunscreens, this might be a good one for you. Block Island Natural Mineral formula is on the runnier side, making it easier to rub in. So, if you’re impatient when it comes to applying sunscreen give it a go. However, due to the high zinc oxide content, Block Island Organics, like BADGER SPORT and thinksport may leave a white cast when applied.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Lightweight formula
- Hydrating ingredients
- White cast
Sunology Natural Sunscreen Body came in at number 4 on SimplySunSafe’s best sunscreens for the beach because while it’s a broad spectrum, water resistant physical sunscreen with a high SPF, it’s on the pricier side. The active ingredients are zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (7.5%). These ingredients offer balanced physical coverage against UV rays but in slightly lower quantities than most of the other sunscreens reviewed in this guide.
Another alternative for people with sensitive skin, this gentle, fragrance-free sunscreen is infused with natural moringa oil. Moringa oil contains lots of nutrients and antioxidants, which will nourish your skin. Sunology Natural Sunscreen Body has an earthy smell which dissipates quickly.
Sunology work hard to make sure their products don’t harm the environment or their consumers for that matter. This sunscreen is oxybenzone, paraben and cruelty-free. And it’s reef safe too.
You’ll find, as most users do, that this moisturising sunscreen has a silky smooth texture that rubs in quite well. Because it’s a physical sunscreen, it may leave a white cast.
- High SPF
- Reef safe
- Slight white cast
Tropical Sands All Natural SPF 30 Sunscreen is a popular choice among beach goes which also stood up to SimplySunSafe’s stardards. It’s a broad spectrum, water resistant, physical sunscreen which provides solid protection from the sun’s dangerous rays. It’s active ingredients are micronized titanium dioxide (6%) and zinc oxide (6%). The lower quantities of these active ingredients were a big part of why this product came in at number 5 but it’s affordable price and positive reputation make it worth trying out.
This lotion is another safe choice for sensitive-skinned consumers as it’s all natural, hypoallergenic and doesn’t contain harsh chemicals. It’s fragrance free too and includes lots of lovely natural ingredients like eucalyptus, jojoba and coconut oil. It’s also formulated with green tea, a powerful antioxidant.
Tropical Sands’ loyal users love this product because it’s easy to rub in and it doesn’t leave a white cast. This is because its active ingredients are micronized. (Don’t worry there are no nano particles if that’s not your jam!). This means Tropical Sands All Natural is less visible but still works as a physical sunscreen that sits on the skin’s surface without being absorbed. No doubt this product is also easier to rub in because it has a lower zinc oxide and titanium dioxide content. So, this advantage comes at the expense of better coverage.
Some more good news – Tropical Sands All Natural is certified biodegradable so you can rest easy knowing you aren’t leaving any impact on the environment. This sunscreen is reef friendly and can be used in the ocean but bear in mind it is less water resistant than other sunscreens reviewed in this blog post. It will last for up to 40 minutes in the water so if you’re a water baby, this probably isn’t the right product for you.
- 40-minute water resistance
- Lower levels of active ingredients
I hope that this blog post has made your life a little easier when it comes to choosing the perfect sunscreen for your beach needs. At the very least it should have given you some more insight into how to make an educated decision about how to choose a high-quality sunscreen.
After considering the pros and cons of many different sunscreens, I’ve chosen BADGER SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best sunscreen for beach use. It ticked all SimplySunSafe’s boxes, as it’s a broad spectrum, very water resistant, SPF30+, physical sunscreen. That said, the other products reviewed in this are all solid options too, so be sure to read through the reviews carefully for your specific needs.
If you have a go-to sunscreen that you always take to the beach and it’s not featured in my review, please let me know in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for great new products and if it meets SimplySunSafe’s standards, I might just add it to my recommendations.