Hawaii has a beautiful tropical climate. The consistency and warmth of the weather across the year makes Hawaii the ideal location for outdoor activities. This means whether you’re a local or a tourist, you’ll be spending a lot of your time out in the sun.
And who could blame you? But all this time in the sun comes with some risk. It’s important to make sure you can enjoy this time safely, protected from the sun’s harmful radiation.
Your first step should be wearing clothes that protect you (like long-sleeve shirts, sunglasses, hats) and hanging out in the shade whenever possible. But all the beautiful beaches, activities, forests, and mountains mean you can’t spend all day in the shade.
So whether you’re in the water getting wet, on the trail working up a sweat, or just need a sunscreen for everyday use, SimplySunSafe has a high-quality sunscreen for you!
After thorough research into the requirements of effective sunscreens for Hawaii SimplySunSafe recommends Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best option to protect you from the Hawaiian sun. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for Hawaii.
Protection from the Hawaiian sun isn’t easy. To provide effective protection, your sunscreen will need a number of must-have features:
Broad spectrum protection
Rays from the Hawaiian sun contain two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The first is UVB radiation. You’re most familiar with this radiation as it causes the most visible sun damage – sunburn. So when your skin turns red (and maybe even blisters) you’ve had a bit too much UVB. Standard sunscreens offer protection from UVB radiation.
UVA is just as, if not more, dangerous than UVB. UVA radiation penetrates deep into your skin altering the DNA of skin cells potentially leading to skin cancer and gradually advancing the signs of aging (by promoting skin sagging and wrinkling). Only sunscreens labelled as broad spectrum offer protection from UVA radiation.
Broad spectrum protection is a must in your next sunscreen, particularly if you’re out and about in Hawaii. Sun protection factor (SPF) does not indicate UVA protection so when you buy your next sunscreen, check the label for the ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB’ wording.
Best SPF for Hawaii
SPF is probably the one number you use to choose your sunscreen. This isn’t a bad idea as it’s true that the higher the SPF the greater the protection. But it’s important to have a deeper understanding of exactly what those 15, 30, 50+ numbers mean.
So what is SPF? SPF indicates the amount of protection a sunscreen will give you from UVB radiation (how much protection you get from sunburn). But the numbers aren’t as simple as they should be. SPF 15 sunscreen lets 1/15th of the UVB radiation through and SPF 30 lets 1/30th through. That’s a strange and confusing way to rate sunscreens.
This technically means that although an SPF 30 sunscreen doesn’t offer twice the protection from sunlight when compared to an SPF 15 sunscreen, it should protect you for twice as long. But even this isn’t necessarily the case. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say you should also account for time of day, UV index and how much sunscreen you apply. Getting in the water also has the effect of intensifying damaging radiation and deteriorating sunscreen.
Regardless of SPF you should be reapplying sunscreen at least every 2 hours (more frequently if you’re in the water), and straight after swimming, towelling off or sweating a lot.
To simplify SPF and get things clear in your mind, check out this table that shows how much protection you get for each level of SPF.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
That’s better! Now you can see that from SPF 30 the increases to SPF don’t really get you that much more protection. The difference between SPF 30 and SPF 100 is a measly 2% more blocked UVB (if that!). You can appreciate now how easy it would be for companies to mislead consumers by using high SPFs. This is why the FDA now limits sunscreens to SPF 50+.
So which SPF should you be using to protect yourself while you’re enjoying the Hawaiian life? The experts agree that SPF 30 is enough to protect everyone. SimplySunSafe only recommends sunscreens over this level and reminds you to always use multiple forms of protection (including sun safe clothing and shade).
Physical is better than chemical
Depending on the active ingredients used, sunscreens will work in different ways. They can either absorb light as it reaches your skin (chemical sunscreens) or reflect the light before it reaches your skin (physical sunscreens).
SimplySunSafe only recommends physical sunscreens or hybrids of physical and chemical for a number of reasons. The most important is that the research shows that physical sunscreens protect against more of the UV spectrum and stop more radiation from reaching the skin. On top of this they:
- last longer once applied properly
- are less likely to cause irritation compared to their chemical counterparts
- work without delay (no need for a 20 minute wait)
- have a longer shelf life
There are also reasons to avoid chemical sunscreens. Unfortunately, some of the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are endocrine disruptors (they mess with your hormones when absorbed!). In particular, sunscreens that use oxybenzone should be avoided altogether. It has some pretty nasty side effects that EWG (a human health authority) aren’t too impressed by.
To make sure you’re only choosing safe sunscreens look for ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ labeling on your next sunscreen. If it’s not clear, double check the active ingredients contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide (physical sunscreens) and not oxybenzone.
To simplify this process, all of the sunscreens below have been double checked against EWG’s sunscreen database to ensure they are highly recommended for both UV protection and ingredient safety. You can choose a sunscreen from this list knowing its ingredients are safe for your skin and body.
A review of the best sunscreen for Hawaiian sun wouldn’t be complete without accommodating for water resistance. With all of the beautiful beaches and hiking trails you have at your doorstep in Hawaii you’ll eventually be getting wet or working up a sweat in the sun. Your sunscreen will need to be able to resist moisture and remain effective throughout your adventures.
To ensure it can get the job done you should be looking for ‘very’ water resistant sunscreens. These products are also marketed as 80 minute water resistant. But what about ‘waterproof’ sunscreens? They don’t exist anymore. A few years ago the FDA decided ‘sweatproof’ and ‘waterproof’ were over-the-top marketing claims, so now all you can get is 40 and 80 minute water resistant sunscreens.
Another great way to quickly spot appropriate sunscreens is by looking out for those marketed for ‘sport’, ‘water’ or ‘ocean’ use (it’ll be on the label). Although they don’t need to meet any specific requirements to use these terms, companies will usually test them under the relevant conditions. Plus the reviews you read on these products will also be super relevant to your intended use, so if they’re positive, you know you’re onto a winner.
(If you’re in Hawaii and are looking for an everyday sunscreen that doesn’t need to be water resistant, check out recommendations 4 and 5 below. I’ve included them as options for people who want protection but aren’t going to be doing anything too rigorous.)
Rub on lotion not spray
Spray sunscreens have flooded the market in the last few years because of the convenience of easy application. You’re probably tempted to pick one up for Hawaii because you’re so keen to get out and enjoy the sunshine. However, you should stick to the traditional rub on lotions for your sunscreen needs. Both the FDA and EWG agree there are two benefits to using lotions instead of sprays.
The first is that you don’t inhale any sunscreen. The chemicals in sunscreens are generally safe for your skin (so long as you pick one of the recommendations below), but they’re not so safe on sensitive internal lung tissues. They are particularly harmful to children which is ironically who spray sunscreens are marketed towards for convenience.
Research shows that spray sunscreens make it hard to apply a consistent and thick enough layer to your skin and therefore offer insufficient protection from the sun. Choose a lotion so you can apply your sunscreen properly and protect yourself effectively.
Appropriate for daily use
As the weather is perfect pretty much all year in Hawaii, you’re going to be using your sunscreen a lot. This means you might need it everyday day and even reapply a few times a day. To make sure your skin and body is safe, you need a sunscreen with a gentle formula that protects you without affecting your health.
This is where sunscreen ingredients come into play. I try to recommend sunscreens with physical active ingredients, as many natural and organic ingredients as possible and as few chemical ingredients as possible. This makes all of the sunscreens below suitable for daily use. If you have particularly sensitive skin read through the detailed reviews below as I highlight key ingredients that may trigger your sensitivities.
Best Sunscreen for Hawaii Comparison
|Badger Sport Sunscreen||thinksport Sunscreen||EltaMD UV Pure||BurnOut for Face & Body||DeVita Solar Protective|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)||Zinc Oxide (10%) & Titanium Dioxide (5.5%)||Zinc Oxide (18.6%)||Zinc Oxide (14%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||80 minutes||80 minutes||None||None|
5 Best Sunscreens for Hawaii
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for Hawaii. All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and can be used safely every day.
Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen is a brilliant physical sunscreen that SimplySunSafe rates as the best sunscreen for Hawaii. It earns this prestigious title through a number of key features that separate it from the competition. This include it’s simple formula, great UV protection, and quality given its price.
Badger Sport has what could be the simplest sunscreen formula on the market today. It consists of only 5 ingredients (zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, and sunflower vitamin E) and is certified as both 100% natural and 98% organic. As the entire ingredients list fits on a single line, people with even the most sensitive skin can rest assured this sunscreen won’t cause them any irritation. On top of this, the unusually high concentration of zinc oxide (22.5%) enables it to provide unrivalled protection from the entire UV spectrum.
This ‘sport’ sunscreen is designed for outdoor activities and use in water. Badger Sport has 80 minute water resistance which makes it perfectly suited to protect you in Hawaii. If you look at the feedback this product has, a lot of people complain about it being hard to remove. I see this as a positive because when I apply my sunscreen I want it stay put. Plus, it’s nothing that a quick shower with soap can’t clean off easily.
It has a pleasant, mild fragrance (that reminds you of oatmeal) and, to keep those beaches beautiful, its natural ingredients are biodegradable, non-nano, and coral reef-safe. One drawback to this sunscreen is that it can take a bit of elbow grease to rub in (because it’s a physical sunscreen that sits on your skin). It will leave a slight white cast on most skin tones though this is a minor inconvenience considering the quality and lasting protection it offers.
There’s another convenient bonus to the number 1 pick as you can buy it as either a stick or lotion. Both are equally effective so choose your preferred application method and get this amazing sunscreen for yourself.
If you’re doing a fair bit of tropical travel this sunscreen is perfect. It also made the grade as the best Mexican sunscreen on SimplySunSafe.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Simple, biodegradable formula
- 80-minute water resistance
- Thick formula
Thinksport Sunscreen came a close second to Badger SPORT in this sunscreen for Hawaii breakdown. It is more cost effective which is great for everyday users but provides just that little bit less sun protection and has a more complex formula.
Thinksport’s broad spectrum, physical sun protection comes from its 20% concentration of non-nano zinc oxide. This allows it to provide fantastic, balanced UV protection, better than most sunscreens on the market, but the lower concentration means it just missed out on first place on this list.
Thinksport, the manufacturer, is well-known in the industry as a company that takes great care to make their products as safe as possible by following all relevant FDA guidelines to the letter. As an example, they don’t use oxybenzone in any of their sunscreens and refuse to make spray sunscreens based on the current evidence of their potential harm. This is why I’m more than happy to recommend thinksport as they align with the values of SimplySunSafe so closely.
As if that’s not enough, thinksport Sunscreen was the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods premium care requirements, is recommended by dermatologists and used by professional athletes.
Thinksport’s natural ingredients include oils from sunflowers, jojoba, olives, raspberry seeds, and cranberry seeds. These combine in its gentle formulation so it’s safe for users with sensitive skin. It has no added fragrance and the natural smell that remains is inoffensive.
This product has the maximum level of water resistance at 80 minutes but it doesn’t feel oily on the skin. It will leave a white cast on on most skin types which fades during use. This actually works as a convenient reminder to reapply often which is a must to keep yourself effectively protected.
thinksport Sunscreen comes in a 3 ounce TSA compliant tube for travel and a larger 6 ounce tube for better value for money. So whether you’re flying to Hawaii for a holiday or live in this tropical paradise there’s a version of thinksport that’s perfect for you – making it one of the best sunscreens for travel.
- High SPF
- Great value
- Reliable water resistance
- Thick formula
EltaMD SPF 47 UV Pure Broad Spectrum is a physical, broad spectrum sunscreen that uses a combination of transparent zinc oxide (10.0%) and titanium dioxide (5.5%) to provide effective and balanced UV protection to its users.
Its gentle formula was specifically designed for daily use, though it is more complex than our number 1 pick, so those with sensitive skin should read through the ingredients carefully. The formula is non-comedogenic and fragrance, oil, paraben, sensitivity, dye, hormone, and gluten-free. That’s a bit of a mouthful that can be summed up by saying it doesn’t have anything in there that will hurt your body or skin.
The texture of this sunscreen is arguably superior to the two sunscreens above as it has a smoother, lighter feel and rubs in more effectively. It will still likely leave a white cast on darker skin tones, but when used in combination with foundation can become unnoticable. This is a great feature as there aren’t many water-resistant, physical sunscreens that can manage this. Especially those that are 80-minute water resistant (which is exactly what you need for Hawaiian life).
An additional benefit of this sunscreen is the inclusion of antioxidants that combat skin-aging by fighting free radicals released by exposure to UV radiation. This will keep you looking young as you enjoy the island life.
This is the most affordable sunscreen on this list which makes it a great option for regular users and families who need a high-quality sunscreen that can be trusted to protect you regardless of conditions (sweat, swell, and sweltering heat!).
- High SPF
- 80-minute water resistance
- Lightweight formula
- Lower levels of active ingredients
BurnOut SPF 30 for Face & Body is the first sunscreen for Hawaii that isn’t water resistant. I’ve included it (and the next recommendation) for people who need an everyday sunscreen that’s a little more cosmetic (easier to apply and less noticeable). After all, locals and tourists can’t spend all day every day hiking, surfing, and swimming. So for those of you who want to enjoy a more relaxing day in the sun, BurnOut Face & Body is a great choice.
BurnOut Face & Body is a physical, broad spectrum sunscreen with a high concentration of non-nano zinc oxide (18.6%) that allows it to provide comprehensive UV protection to users. It was specifically formulated for everyday use on sensitive skin making it a suitable option as a daily sunscreen.
There is a considerable difference between the texture of the sunscreens previously recommended and this non-water resistant option. It is a lightweight lotion that is easy to apply, and dries to a clear, matte finish (it doesn’t look greasy or chalky). Even customers with darker skin tones come away happy with the finish which is very impressive considering this sunscreen still has a high concentration of zinc oxide.
People with sensitive skin who’ve struggled with irritable sunscreens in the past should definitely try BurnOut Face & Body. Its formula is free from chemicals, parabens, petroleum, fragrances, oils, and nanoparticles. It’s also enriched with plankton extract, aloe vera, and antioxidant vitamins to hydrate and nourish your skin while it protects you and works well as a base for makeup so you can seamlessly add it to your daily beauty routine.
BurnOut Face & Body is the most expensive product featured on this list though you get what you pay for. The combination of its high quality protection and cosmetic features make it one of the best sunscreens on the market. It would’ve been higher on this list but water resistance is an important feature when you live on an island!
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Matte finish makes it a great base for makeup
- Formula feels a little thick
- Slightly expensive
DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer is another ‘cosmetic’ option for use as an everyday sunscreen in Hawaii. It offers physical, broad spectrum protection using 14% transparent zinc oxide (no white cast!). It comes in last on this list as water resistance is important in Hawaii and it has a lower concentration of zinc oxide than its competitor on this list, BurnOut Face & Body.
DeVita is another brilliant company that make incredibly safe products, both for the consumer and the environment. DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer is reef-safe, and paraben, nanoparticle, cruelty and fragrance free. It is also marketed as 100% vegan and just skimming the ingredient list (which features japanese green tea extract, essential oils of lavender and chamomile, seaweed extract, and grape seed extract) will make you feel healthier.
DeVita Solar Protective’s natural ingredients give it a slightly less cosmetic feel compared to BurnOut Face & Body. It takes a bit more effort to get it to a matte finish but you’ll get there with a little massaging. Once clear this sunscreen works perfectly as a base for other cosmetics and isn’t noticeable on the skin.
As the name suggests, DeVita Solar Protective is also a moisturizer that first protects before working to nourish your skin. This is just an added bonus to an otherwise fantastic sunscreen and if you use this as your daily sunscreen you’ll notice the difference this feature makes to your skin in no time.
DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer comes in both a 7 ounce and a 2.5 ounce bottle. This means there’s an option for people who want more value for money and those who need a smaller container that’s easier to travel with.
When doing further research on this product you may come across some mixed reviews from a couple of years ago. This relates to a change in zinc supplier that didn’t work out for DeVita as it changed the consistency of the product. Fortunately DeVita listened to their customers and fixed the product so their lifelong customers could continue to enjoy this great sunscreen.
- Hydrating ingredients
- Less cosmetic texture
I hope this guide helped you choose the perfect sunscreen to protect you from the beautiful Hawaiian sun. It should have at least taught you a fair bit about sunscreen and what you should be looking for to get high-quality protection.
All of my research and assessment of important features pointed towards Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best sunscreen for Hawaii. However, read through the detailed review of each product (they’re all amazing sunscreens) to ensure you’re choosing the best sunscreen for your specific needs.
If you’ve had success with a sunscreen in Hawaii and it’s not featured on this list, let me know in the comments. I’m always on the hunt for awesome sunscreens and who knows, I might love it so much I add it to my recommendations!