Golf is an outdoor sport that naturally leads to golfers spending hours in the sun a few times a week. This increases your risk of skin cancer and the rate at which your skin wrinkles and sags. These are serious consequences that make protecting yourself from the sun’s damaging radiation critical for golfers.
There are a number of things you can do to help protect yourself:
- Your golf bag and gear should include high-quality sun protection equipment like UV-rated clothing, sunglasses, hat, and an umbrella for those especially hot days.
- You should take advantage of whatever natural shade there is on your course as you make your way around.
- When your play isn’t scheduled by your club, you should also plan your rounds for when the sun is less intense in the morning and late afternoon.
From there, you should get your hands on a top quality sunscreen for golfers and have it in your bag permanently. This vital last step protects the areas you can’t otherwise cover (face, neck, hands, arms, and legs). The right sunscreen will stop sunburn, prevent skin cancer, and keep you looking young!
After thorough research into the requirements for sunscreen to be effective when used by golfers, SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best sunscreen for golfers. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for golfers.
For a sunscreen to protect golfers as they get around the course, it must have a number of factors:
Broad spectrum protection
You want complete protection from a broad spectrum sunscreen. This means the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB radiation. Without this classification a sunscreen will only protect you from UVB radiation.
Why do you need both? UVB radiation is responsible for the immediately visible sign of sun damage – sunburn. UVA radiation is responsible for altering the DNA of deep skin cells which can lead to melanoma and premature skin aging.
Which one of those sounds worse? If you use a sunscreen that doesn’t protect you from UVA radiation you’re leaving yourself exposed to far more damaging radiation that could cut your life short. Always make sure your sunscreen has a something like ‘UVA/UVB protection’ or ‘broad spectrum’ on the label. If it doesn’t offer this protection, throw it in the bin – it’ll do more good there.
This protection is especially import for golfers because you’re out on the course in the sun for hours at a time. This adds up and without adequate protection, you’re unnecessarily endangering yourself.
All of the sunscreens on SimplySunSafe provide broad spectrum protection as I only want you to have the best protection on offer.
Best SPF for Golf
Most people don’t really understand what SPF means and that’s because it’s quite confusing.
SPF indicates how much sun you can be exposed to without burning based on how long it takes your skin to burn without any sunscreen. If you take 1 minute to burn normally, wearing an SPF 15 sunscreen will result in you burning after 15 minutes. If If you take 10 minutes to burn, the same sunscreen will protect you for 150 minutes.
Don’t get too excited though. An SPF 50 sunscreen won’t protect you for hours on end if you have naturally resilient skin.You still need to reapply frequently as most sunscreen are only effective for up to two hours regardless of SPF rating (without accounting for the effects of water or sweat). Also, don’t give up on seeking shade and wearing sun-protective clothing as these are important extra measures.
There are a few problems with SPF as a measure of sunscreen effectiveness:
- It only assesses UVB protection. There is no rating system for UVA radiation so you have to look for specific active ingredients (we’ll get that below).
- The SPF rating is inconsistent as you also have to account for intensity of sunlight and thickness of sunscreen application in the time calculation above.
- It tricks people into thinking an SPF 30 sunscreen is twice as good as an SPF 15 sunscreen.
An easier way to understand SPF is to consider the amount of UVB radiation blocked by specific SPF ratings. This gives a much clearer picture of sunscreen effectiveness:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
After SPF 30, the gains in UVB protection are minimal. That’s why the FDA put a 50+ cap on SPF ratings as company’s were taking advantage of people’s lack of SPF knowledge. Remember that no sunscreen can offer you 100% protection.
So what SPF should you be looking for? Dermatologists know better than anyone and most of them recommend using a sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF 30. You get great protection (97%) and anything above this isn’t offering a big improvement. If you have particularly photosensitive skin (e.g. you have fair skin) look for a higher SPF, though 30 will get the job done.
Physical is better than chemical
Physical sunscreens sit on the skin and reflect harmful radiation, acting like a mirror on the skin surface. Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin and absorb harmful radiation before it reaches the skin. Sunscreens are usually either physical or chemical, but can be a combination of both.
When choosing a sunscreen for golf, physical sunscreens are preferred. Research shows that physical sunscreens stop more radiation from reaching the skin and block more of the harmful UV spectrum. There are other benefits to physicals – their less toxic ingredients are unlikely to cause irritation, they start to work on application (no delay), and they have a longer shelf life.
There are also downsides to using chemical sunscreens. More often than not, the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are endocrine disruptors (they mess with your hormones). The worst of these is oxybenzone, which should be avoided at all costs.
To make sure you’re getting a physical sunscreen, check the package for either ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ labelling. If you can’t find this, look for high concentrations of either zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (the two active ingredients of physical sunscreens).
SimplySunSafe recommends physical sunscreens and hybrids without oxybenzone. I don’t recommend purely chemical sunscreens, especially those with oxybenzone. For this reason a very popular sunscreen for golfers, GolfersSkin SPF 30+, is not featured in this guide. Although is has both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, it is 3.45% oxybenzone – a chemical that interferes with user hormones and should be avoided where possible.
Water resistance prevents sunscreens from sweating off the skin. This helps to ensure consistent protection during a round of golf and stops the sunscreen from stinging your eyes – which we all know is annoying.
A few years ago you might have picked up a ‘waterproof’ or ‘sweatproof’ sunscreen to prevent sweat from ruining your sun protection. Changes to marketing laws have banned these terms because they may mislead users – a good decision considering waterproof is a farfetched claim.
Now you need to look for sunscreens labeled as ‘water resistant’. The water resistance is allowed to be classified as offering either 40 or 80 minutes worth of protection. Obviously the higher number provides better resistance to sweat. These timeframes also serve as a good reminder that people should be reapplying frequently (based on the labeled instructions).
Sunscreens marketed as ‘sport’ sunscreen are generally water-resistant and have gone through some sort of manufacturer testing to ensure they’re appropriate for the rigors of exercise. Reading the feedback on these sunscreens is also good as the people reviewing will likely have used the product for a purpose similar to your own. So although not a sure thing, looking for ‘sport’ sunscreens can be an easy way to identify good sunscreens for golfers.
Rub on lotion not spray
Spray sunscreens have increased in popularity in the last few years. They are marketed for their quick and (supposedly) efficient method of application. This seems great for golfers on the go. You don’t want to spend too much time reapplying mid-round, so why not get a spray sunscreen?
There are a few great reasons to stick with lotions and avoid sprays. The FDA has been warning about the use of spray sunscreens for a number of years. The risks they pose have a greater effect on children, so this message is especially important if the sunscreen is for young golfers.
Essentially, spray sunscreens result in absorption of toxic chemicals through accidental inhalation. This direct exposure to sunscreen chemicals (especially nano and micro-sized ingredients) can lead to lung injury. If that isn’t bad enough, the FDA also suggest that spray sunscreens make it difficult to create a consistent layer on the skin. So their convenient method of application actually results in inadequate protection.
For the time being they are legal to be sold, though the FDA has threatened to ban them. At the moment, companies that sell them are trying to come up with evidence to prove they’re safe to use. In the meantime, spray sunscreens won’t be recommended on SimplySunSafe.
Appropriate for daily use
Your sunscreen for golf will be used regularly and sit in your bag ready for reapplication on the course. This means the ingredients must be both safe and gentle enough for frequent use. This ensures your skin won’t become irritated and you won’t experience any unintended side effects from constant use.
If you’re a golfer with particularly sensitive skin, you should stick with purely physical sunscreens with simple and natural formulations. These are the least likely to cause irritation and because there’s so few ingredients it’s much easier to identify the ones your skin may react to. I’d recommend BADGER Sport Sunscreen for golfers with sensitive skin, but there are a couple of good options outlined below – just read through the reviews and pay particular attention to the ingredient lists before you buy.
Best Sunscreen for Golfers Comparison
|BADGER Sport Sunscreen||EltaMD UV Physical||thinksport Sunscreen||Goddess Garden Sport||Skin Sunscreen Golf|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (9%) and Titanium Dioxide (7%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (6%) and Titanium Dioxide (6.4%)||Homosalate (5.0%), Octocrylene (5.0%), Octisalate (3.0%), Zinc Oxide (1.95%), and Titanium Dioxide (1.0%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||40 minutes||80 minutes||80 minutes||80 minutes|
|Fragrance free||Yes||Yes||Slight, inoffensive fragrance||Yes||Slight, inoffensive fragrance|
5 Best Sunscreens for Golfers
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare and golfing forums SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for golfers. All of these sunscreens are lotions that provide physical, broad spectrum protection with SPF 30 or more, are water-resistant, and can be used daily based on their gentle, non-toxic formulations.
BADGER SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen is always near the top of my recommended sunscreens. It is a fantastic physical broad spectrum lotion that is certified as 100% natural and 98% organic. Better yet, it has only five ingredients. That’s right, all that’s in there is zinc oxide (22.5%), sunflower oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, and sunflower vitamin E. But these five ingredients combine to provide all of the necessary features to make it the best sunscreen for golfers.
The high concentration of zinc oxide allows BADGER Sport to provide great, balanced UV protection. The formula is quite thick (that’s the nature of physical sunscreens) and takes some rubbing in. Because it isn’t absorbed like a chemical sunscreen, it will likely leave a white cast on your skin. This might not suit some people (and I’ve included alternatives below that don’t leave a white cast) but this is the price you pay for premium sun protection.
BADGER Sport is water resistant for the maximum available 80 minutes so it won’t go anywhere during a round of golf (including in your eyes). It has no artificial fragrance added, with the antioxidant-rich sunflower oil base giving off a slight scent that smells like oatmeal. This inoffensive natural fragrance shouldn’t trouble most people.
The limited ingredients that are all-natural make this sunscreen very well-suited to golfers with sensitive skin. There are no hidden or hard-to-identify ingredients, so if you’re fine with the above list, it’s unlikely this sunscreen won’t cause you irritation – even if you’ve had trouble with sunscreens in the past. On top of this it’s also biodegradable, non-nano, and harmless to coral reefs, making it environmentally safe.
Some users complain that it’s difficult to get off after use, but there’s a reason for that – it’s very water resistant. Sweat and water won’t make it come off (a great feature that ensures your protection) but some soapy water easily does the trick.
Something more cosmetic (invisible/clear) is more suitable for your everyday sunscreen. For a golfing sunscreen your primary concern should be protection and BADGER Sport has you covered!
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Simple formula
- 80-minute water resistance
- Thick formula
EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 is a high-SPF sunscreen that offers physical protection from both UVA and UVB radiation using zinc oxide (9%) and titanium dioxide (7%) as active ingredients.
EltaMD UV Physical is the sunscreen for you if you’re a golfer who wants a sunscreen that offers physical protection without the white cast. This fantastic, cosmetic sunscreen is particularly well-suited to female golfers who might want to wear some light makeup to the golf course. This is because EltaMD UV Physical has a transparent finish and light tint designed to blend with your skin tone, making it a perfect base for makeup.
The light tint aims to smooth and brighten skin tone. When used with makeup, EltaMD UV Physical blends seamlessly and looks natural. The tint accommodates many skin tones. Darker skin colors may notice it leaves an ashy look which can be easily managed with an appropriate foundation.
This sunscreen is free from parabens, oils, and added fragrances and was designed for extra-sensitive and post-procedure skin – so it’s gentle enough for your skin on its worst day. This makes it suitable for everyday use and great for golfers with sensitive skin.
On top of all of these great cosmetic features, this sunscreen also offers 40-minute water resistance, so it’s more than capable of dealing with the perspiration from a round of golf.
Though quite reasonably priced for its quality and features, this sunscreen is one of the more expensive options. To make it more reasonable, you might want to use this as your face sunscreen in combination with one of the other options for use on the body. This will reduce your costs while keeping your face free from the white coating usually associated with physical sunscreens.
- Lightly tinted
- Designed for sensitive skin
- 40-minute water resistance
- Lower levels of active ingredients
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+ is a great physical broad spectrum sunscreen with the highest marketable SPF rating. It’s thorough and balanced protection (between UVA and UVB) is achieved through a high non-nano zinc oxide concentration (20%). This is another low-toxicity simple formula sunscreen that focuses on including natural ingredients.
The manufacturer of this product, thinksport, is an industry leader on safe sunscreen products – both for consumers and the environment. You won’t find a spray sunscreen in their line up, nor ingredients known to be biologically harmful (e.g. oxybenzone). They follow the FDA directives to a T and this is why Thinksport Sunscreen was the first sunscreen to meet Whole Foods premium care requirements.
Recommended by dermatologists and used by pro athletes, this easy to apply sunscreen is full of natural ingredients like the oils from sunflower, jojoba, olive, raspberry seed, and cranberry seed. This makes it great for golfers with sensitive skin who may react to chemical sunscreens with questionable ingredients.
It fights against that hard-earned sweat you work up during a round of golf by being water-resistant for the maximum 80 minute period. Plus, it doesn’t feel oily or greasy on the skin and it’s mild fragrance is not a worry, even to those with sensitive noses.
Like most water-resistant, physical sunscreens this product does leave a slight white cast on most skin types. If this is a concern for you do note that its cast fades during use. If you’re looking for high-SPF and great protection, look no further!
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+ comes in two sizes – a 3 oz TSA compliant tube for travel (and golf bag convenience) and a larger 6 oz tube. If you really like this product, check out the larger version to get better value for money.
- High SPF
- Great value
- Reliable water resistance
- Thick formula
- Likely white cast
Goddess Garden Sport SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen is a physical, broad spectrum sunscreen that uses both zinc oxide (6%) and titanium dioxide (6.4%) to offer sound sun protection for any golfer. It sits a little lower on this list because of its lower concentration of physical active ingredients compared to those recommended above. Don’t write it off though, it’s a great natural product that is suitable for vegans.
The features of Goddess Garden Sport stem from the principles of the producer (safety for consumers and the environment). You know you’re in good hands when your sunscreen is biodegradable, reef-safe, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan, non-nano, non-GMO and comes in a recyclable container!
Goddess Garden Sport’s contains aloe vera and sunflower seed oil (both certified as organic) and doesn’t have chemical sunscreens or added fragrances. These features make it a great option for sensitive-skinned golfers who suffer from skin irritation. It is 80-minute water-resistant so it won’t get in your eyes or fail when you break a sweat on that clutch putt.
Goddess Garden claims their sport sunscreen goes on sheer but it tends to leave a white cast because of the physical protection and water resistance. This is especially true when you apply it correctly and are reapplying as necessary.
PLEASE NOTE: My recommendation of this product only includes the lotion version, NOT the spray version. As mentioned in the Buyer’s Guide I agree with the FDA’s concerns about spray sunscreens and do not recommend them on this site. Also recognise that a lot of the negative feedback for this product relates to the spray version and faults with its packaging, not for the lotion version I recommend here.
- Hydrating ingredients
- 80-minute water resistance
- Thick formula
- Lower levels of active ingredients
SKIN Sunscreen Golf SPF 30+ Lotion is a physical-chemical hybrid sunscreen that uses homosalate (5.0%), octocrylene (5.0%), octisalate (3.0%), zinc oxide (1.95%), and titanium dioxide (1.0%) to provide broad spectrum protection.
SKIN Sunscreen Golf is made by golfers for golfers. Its features were designed specifically to accommodate the needs of golfers and golfing conditions. Although this is the only golf-specific sunscreen featured in this list, it comes in at number five because of its chemical active ingredients.
Although not nearly as bad as oxybenzone (which I refuse to recommend), these ingredients do pose their own risks. They still get a fair rating from the EWG, but please be aware of their presence and take this into account. If you have sensitive skin, stick with one of the purely physical sunscreens above.
Now, on to the good stuff. SKIN Sunscreen Golf has 80-minute water resistance that prevents the lotion from sweating into and stinging your eyes during play. This sunscreen prides itself on its ability to resist the effects of perspiration for extended periods – just what golfers need throughout 18 holes of action. The non-greasy formula prevents the sunscreen from interfering with your grip and affecting your play.
The hybrid formulation allows some of SKIN Sunscreen Golf’s ingredients to absorb into the skin. This leaves you with a natural look and feel without the white cast left by most purely physical sunscreens – great if you’re going to enjoy the 19th hole in the clubhouse after your round.
This dermatologist recommended product is free from PABA, paraben, oils, gluten, and oxybenzone. On top of that, it contains manuka honey, aloe vera, and vitamin E to ensure your skin remains hydrated throughout your day’s play.
This sunscreen is very reasonably priced and made in the USA, so you know you’re getting a quality product.
- Made by golfers for golfers
- Non-greasy formula
- 80-minute water resistance
- Chemical ingredients
Hopefully this guide has made your choice of a sunscreen for golf much easier. It should also have helped you understand the features required so your sunscreen will protect you for all 18 holes.
SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best sunscreen for golfers. It ticked the boxes the best, though all 5 sunscreens listed provide the protection a golfer needs for a full round. Please read through each product’s details carefully and choose the product that best suits your skin. You might have to come back and experiment to find the perfect match for all of your needs, just remember to stick with it as sun protection is incredibly important.
If you’re a passionate golfer who knows of a great sunscreen not featured here, please let me know in the comments. If it’s up to scratch, I’ll likely add it to this guide!