The water and sweat that so often accompany spending time in the sun can greatly reduce the effectiveness of most sunscreens.
That isn’t to say that minimal contact with water is going to completely ruin your fresh sunscreen application, simply that it can be important to take into account the types of activities you’ll be participating in while outside.
If you know that you’re going to be getting down and dirty, spending a humid summer day practicing your rock climbing skills, it’s reasonable to assume that you may get quite sweaty. Just as as day playing with jet skis means you’ll probably be dumped in the water at least a few times.
Although it can sometimes be difficult to find a sunscreen that will keep up with your active lifestyle, I’ve done all the hard work and chosen a few great waterproof sunscreens that are just as tough as you are.
After thorough research into requirements for waterproof sunscreen to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 50+ as the best waterproof sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 waterproof sunscreens.
Whether you’re getting wet or working up a sweat, your waterproof sunscreen needs a few key features to provide effective and lasting protection:
Broad spectrum protection
A crucial element of sunscreen is the type of protection it offers. You want to ensure that any sunscreen you choose is giving you broad spectrum protection to fully shield you from all (not some) of the sun’s damaging properties.
Products that offer this high level of protection will usually say either ‘UVA/UVB Protection’ or ‘Broad Spectrum’ in a prominent place on their packaging. This is because manufacturers know that broad spectrum protection will set their product apart in offering you comprehensive sun coverage.
The reason broad spectrum protection is so important is due in part to the way sunscreens are made. Certain sunscreens are formulated to protect only from UVB radiation, than both UVA and UVB radiation types.
UVB radiation is the form of solar radiation that is responsible for visible skin damage. Exposure to UVB radiation causes reddened, tender skin and sometimes even blistering – what we call a sunburn.
UVA radiation, on the other hand, is sneakier. It causes invisible damage to our skin by affecting the actual DNA of our skin cells. This accelerates the skin’s natural aging process which can result in thickened, saggy, wrinkly skin. It can also increase your risk for genetic mutation of the skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.
Clearly, neither one of these are the sort of thing we want attacking our skin simply because we like a good beach day now and again. This is why it is crucial to ensure that your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection – otherwise you’re paying for a product that is only getting half the job done.
Best waterproof sunscreen SPF
Most consumers are aware that the SPF rating shown on a product should be an important part of your decision making process. The real question is: why? Seriously, think about it. If someone who had never even heard of sunscreen before asked what the deal with this whole SPF thing was… what would you say to them?
You might say that it is a measure of how strong the sunscreen is, or that it tells the purchaser how long they can stay out in the sun when wearing that particular sunscreen, or that a higher SPF means a lower chance of getting burned or developing skin cancer due to sun exposure.
If any of those things would have been your answer, then you would have been at most about half right. The problem is, that is exactly what manufacturers of sunscreen count on. They love the idea that slapping ‘SPF 100’ on their label means that unsuspecting customers will line up to pay double the price for a product that may not be all that better for them.
Here, take a look at this table. It may help clear up some misconceptions about how much protection those SPF ratings really offer.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
SimplySunSafe, in line with the Skin Cancer Foundation, recommends using sunscreens with SPFs between 30 and 50. This is because, SPF ratings of 30 and above are nearly identical in protection.
Why, then, would you pay twice as much for SPF 100 than SPF 50?
Logic dictates that SPF 100 is twice as strong, but we now know that simply isn’t true. Likewise, SPF ratings only refer to the percentage of protection offered against UVB rays.
Most sunscreens only protect from about 30% of UVA rays compared to UVB, so it can be important to get the opinion of a trusted source such as the EWG about the balance of UVA to UVB protection offered.
Luckily, all of the sunscreens recommended here have already been check, and all of them offer wonderfully balanced protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.
Physical is better than chemical
As the type of protection offered by sunscreens can vary, so too can the ingredients used to provide you that protection. You are going to all this trouble to find a sunscreen that keeps your skin safe from harm so you want to ensure that whatever you choose isn’t going to become just another risk factor.
The active ingredients used in sunscreens fall broadly into two categories: physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreens. These categories are defined by how an ingredient goes about protecting you from the sun’s harmful rays.
Physical sunscreens act like, well, a physical barrier. They sit on top of your skin, and as the sun’s rays reach you, they bounce off of the sunscreen and fly harmlessly away. This process is similar to visible light hitting a mirror. Rather than traveling through the mirror, the light is reflected away.
Chemical sunscreens are designed to soak down into your skin itself. As the sun hits your skin, the chemical sunscreen absorbs the radiation before it can attack your skin cells.
Both of those methods sounds great at first, but both do have drawbacks. The difference is that one is sometimes annoying while the other is actively harmful.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients, however, can cause skin allergies with repeated use. They can also be absorbed into the body, where they mimic a variety of hormones and can cause health issue.
Physical sunscreens, due to the way they work, can cause a whitish cast on the skin or be difficult to rub in. However, physical sunscreens also have the added benefits of being more effective at stopping sunlight, working immediately upon application (no wait time!) and being gentle and calming on the skin.
For these reasons, SimplySunSafe prefers physical over chemical.
Water resistant for 80 minutes
It’s a bit of a misnomer to say that sunscreens can be ‘waterproof’.
Just with SPF ratings, manufacturer claims of ultra-extended periods of water resistance on sunscreen packaging had the intended effect of increasing sales, but it also increased the risk to consumers.
Many people misunderstood what the phrasing meant. Therefore a sunscreen that said it had passed an ‘8-hour’ waterproof test would be purchased, and then only applied once in an entire 8-hour beach trip. Because, of course, it’s waterproof for 8 hours.
The regulations for this type of labelling have changed in recent years as well, to reflect more conservative estimates regarding how long a sunscreen can actually hold up against the public pool, ocean, or sweat-laden cycling trip.
Nowadays these products will be labelled as water resistant for either 40 or 80 minutes. While there is nothing wrong with sunscreens showing a 40 minute water resistance, they simply won’t be as tough as the 80-minute variety.
Therefore, if you want the best waterproof protection possible, choose sunscreens that specifically say on the label that they are water resistant for 80 minutes – and then remember to actually reapply after 80 minutes has passed.
Choose lotions or sticks over sprays
Spray sunscreen options are becoming increasingly popular, but upon closer inspection they may not be the best choice.
For one, spray sunscreen options typically contain chemical sunscreens rather than physical. Even when the sunscreen itself isn’t a concern, though, you never want to use spray sunscreens on children or on the facial area.
This is because, as the FDA investigated, inhaling sunscreen’s active ingredients is a much more direct form of exposure than topical application. This could increase the risk of health complications down the road. Putting sunscreen on the face – or squirmy youngsters – is, of course, a much higher risk of inhalation than other areas of application.
Particularly when you need a sunscreen that is reliably water resistant, sprays are also a bad idea. They’re notorious for being difficult to apply evenly.
We’ve all seen the pictures online of people with streaky sunburns that are clearly from the improper application of sprays. Using a spray can put you at greater risk for sun damage. If you really want that extra convenience factor though (and there’s no shame in that – time spent poolside is always more fun in the water than it is on the sidelines reapplying your sunscreen), consider choosing a stick formula rather than a lotion.
Both lotions and creams can provide consistent application with adequately thick coverage, and sticks are particularly useful for areas such as the face, neck, and ears.
Best Waterproof Sunscreen Comparison
|Vanicream Sunscreen||BADGER Sport Sunscreen||All Terrain AquaSport||Goddess Garden Sport||Babo Botanicals Sport Stick|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (7%) & Titanium Dioxide (5%)||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (16%)||Zinc Oxide (6%) & Titanium Dioxide (6.4%)||Zinc Oxide (15%)|
|Water resistance||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||80 Minutes|
5 Best Waterproof Sunscreens
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 waterproof sunscreens. All of the sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and are rated as water resistant for 80 minutes.
This high-SPF sunscreen from Vanicream is simply fabulous.
It provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50+ via two active ingredients: zinc oxide (7%) and titanium dioxide (5%). It’s also rated as water resistant for 80 minutes.
However, the reason this sunscreen is sitting at the top of our recommendations list is due in large part to the inactive ingredients. The formula is non-comedogenic, meaning that it won’t clog pores.
Now, quite a few sunscreens are marketed as non-comedogenic, but that labelling doesn’t usually find itself on waterproof sunscreens because of their typically heavier formula.
Even better, it’s formulated with sensitive skin in mind, and users who tend to react to a wide variety of products on their skin report that they can use this antioxidant-packed formula without concern.
One of the least expensive options listed here, this Vanicream product offers tough water resistant protection in a formula that is still gentle enough to be kind to skin – and the added protection of an SPF 50+ formula is great for anyone struggling with additional photosensitivity.
If you’ve been searching for the best waterproof sunscreen specifically for sensitive skin, this product is the one for you.
- High SPF
- Formulated for sensitive skin
- Low concentration of active ingredients
Badger is a brand that has made a reputation for themselves when it comes to providing quality products that use wholesome ingredients.
Their Sport Sunscreen formula lives up to this reputation. This option provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 35 with a staggering 22.5% concentration of zinc oxide.
Even better, when your eye strays down to the list of ingredients, there are only 5!
This product’s formula is certified as 100% natural and 94% organic, giving you confidence that you are putting something on your skin that is no cause for concern. And of course, it is water resistant for 80 minutes.
The formula does have a sunflower oil base, with the addition of moisturizing tocopherols and jojoba oil, however, due to the high concentration of zinc oxide this product may be a bit too drying to individuals who have problems with dry skin.
Another point of consideration with this much zinc oxide in a product is that, while you’ll certainly be well protected, the lotion will leave a noticeable white cast on all but the fairest of skin tones.
(This sunscreen also comes in stick form. It’s the same amazing formula, just made for those who prefer the convenience of stick sunscreens.)
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Organic, simple formula
- Noticeable white cast
- Drying formula
AquaSport Sunscreen from All Terrain provides broad spectrum, SPF 30 physical protection with just one active ingredients: zinc oxide (16%).
The formula is water resistant for 80 minutes, and definitely geared towards an outdoor lifestyle with a focus on a formula that doesn’t stay slippery or greasy on the skin.
This means you can reapply as needed, even if you are a rock climber who simply can’t afford to have your hands slip because your sunscreen as too greasy.
On the flip side, this non-greasy formula does come out of the tube quite thick, which means that it can take a little bit of extra effort to rub in properly.
However, this isn’t too much of an irritant, especially when you consider the quality of protection you get from a non-greasy sunscreen with such a high concentration of zinc oxide.
- Moderately priced
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Large bottle
- Thick formula
Goddess Garden Organics doesn’t just make great products, they’re one of those companies that you feel good buying from. They are an exclusively woman-owned company that makes a point of promoting more conscious business practices.
Their Sport Natural Sunscreen is made with organic ingredients, in a recycled bottle. They support sustainable business practices, and give back to the community by supporting school, organic farmers, and more.
This particular sunscreen from their line of products provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 through a combination of zinc oxide (6%) and titanium dioxide (6.4%).
It’s also rated as water resistant for 80 minutes so you can enjoy plenty of sun and fun without concern – just remember to reapply regularly!
The formula itself is a little bit thick, so can take some rubbing to distribute evenly across the skin. The thickness of the formula doesn’t come from a super high concentration of active ingredients though, which means that this product will not leave a white cast on most skin tones.
- Responsible company
- Thick formula
- Low concentration of active ingredients
If your main concerns are portability and ease of use then Babo Botanicals has got you covered with their Clear Zinc Sport Stick sunscreen.
This sunscreen packs a lot of power in a teeny tiny package and might just be the best waterproof sunscreen for the face and other delicate areas. It provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 with a higher concentration of zinc oxide (15%).
Babo Botanicals’ clear zinc is not a cause for concern like clear zinc options from other manufacturers may be. They never use nanoparticles in their formulas – they utilize micronized zinc (which is bigger that nanoparticles) to reduce the whitening effect of this mineral active ingredient.
Keep in mind though, that because the ingredients are more natural, ‘clear’ is not ever really going to be perfectly clear.
Unlike other stick applications, the shea butter in this formula allows it to apply very smoothly which prevents your skin from feeling greasy or like you have a ‘heavy’ product on it.
While the outright price is not very high, when you consider the size of the tube you realize you aren’t getting quite as much for your money. Think of it like a premium charge for the ultra-convenience of a stick formula.
- Convenient stick formula
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Small package size
- More expensive for the amount you get
If you chose to read this guide today because you found yourself at a loss when it came to finding the perfect waterproof sunscreen for you or your family members, I hope that you now feel empowered to make a more informed decision, and that at least one or two of the products I’ve listed here have caught your eye as helpful recommendations.
While SimplySunSafe does recommend the Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 50+ as the best waterproof sunscreen, all of this products are wonderful choices. However, it is important to keep in mind that everyone’s preference are different and so you may have to try a few different options before you find your favorite.
Do you already have a favorite waterproof sunscreen product? If you don’t see it here, let me know! I love learning about new products so that I can continue to provide you (my wonderful readers) with recommendation for high quality, reliable products.