The Best Body Sunscreens

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As far as skin care products go, choosing the right body sunscreen isn’t the most difficult task. Still, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. According to Dr. Brendan Camp, who spoke to Bustle for this article, the best body sunscreens offer the following attributes: “broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance.” Those are the most important boxes you’ll want to check off, though there are some other factors to think about, which you’ll find outlined ahead.

The Expert

Dr. Brendan Camp is a board-certified dermatologist and Castle Connolly Top Doctor practicing with MDCS Dermatology in New York. He specializes in everything from run-of-the-mill dermatological conditions to cosmetic treatments like Botox, lasers, and fillers.

What To Consider When Shopping For A Body Sunscreen

Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreens are divided into two categories: mineral and chemical (though you will sometimes see a hybrid mineral/chemical sunscreen). “Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, like zinc and titanium, sit on the surface of the skin; they are not absorbed into the skin. They protect skin from UV radiation by reflecting UV off the skin,” Dr. Camp explains. As he mentioned, you’ll be able to distinguish a mineral sunscreen if it lists zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as one of the active ingredients on the back of the bottle. “Chemical sunscreens, also called organic sunscreens, absorb into the skin and convert UV radiation into heat energy, which is then released from the body,” adds Dr. Camp.

“If you have more sensitive skin consider using a physical sunscreen (aka sunblock),” advises Dr. Camp. “The active ingredients in sunblock are generally thought to have less potential for skin irritation, making them a good choice for those with sensitive skin.” At the end of the day, which type of sunscreen you choose is a simple matter of personal preference. The most important thing is that you’re using a sunscreen at all, so just try and find one you like.

Application Type

After deciding whether you want a mineral or chemical formula, you’ll want to consider the vehicle through which the sunscreen is applied. Today, sunscreens come in all different forms: lotions, creams, sprays, sticks, gels, and even powders. “Lotions or sunscreen sticks may provide better coverage than a spray sunscreen,” says Dr. Camp. “When applied outdoors, wind will often blow away some of the spray and may result in an uneven application.” Whatever type of sunscreen you choose, you’ll want to be sure to rub it into your skin evenly and thoroughly.

Reef Safety

If you plan on going swimming, you may want to consider a sunscreen’s reef-friendliness, though it’s worth noting that this is quite a complicated topic, and the term reef-safe isn’t regulated. (The science around reef-safe sunscreens is also admittedly murky, and the consensus seems to be that further research is needed.) Still, as Dr. Camp says, “Some chemical sunscreen ingredients, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, are potentially damaging to reefs. These two chemical ingredients were recently banned in Hawaii and may cause coral bleaching.” If you’re concerned about a sunscreen’s environmental impact, a pure mineral sunscreen is likely the best way to go.

White Cast

While mineral sunscreens may be the better choice for the environment and people with sensitive skin, they do come with one major drawback: They tend to leave behind a discernible white cast. “Because products with titanium and zinc sit on the skin surface and are not absorbed, they are more likely to leave behind a visible whitish residue,” agrees Dr. Camp. So, what should someone who’s interested in a mineral sunscreen do? “Some products promote the use of smaller ‘micronized’ particles to reduce the appearance of sunblock on the skin,” says Dr. Camp, so you can start by looking for one of those micronized formulas. Also, look for words like “sheer” or “clear” on the label, and again, to lessen the appearance of a white cast, be sure to rub the sunscreen into your skin thoroughly.

Sunscreen Tips

Now that you know what to look out for, refresh yourself on these essential sunscreen tips, recommended by Dr. Camp:

  • “It is important to note that no sunscreen is waterproof. The term water resistance refers to how long the sunscreen remains effective while swimming or sweating. A sunscreen with 40- or 80-minute water resistance means that after 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, you should reapply sunscreen.”
  • “It is recommended that you apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. Also, don’t forget to reapply sunscreen about every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.”
  • “Ears, lips, and feet are too often forgotten in sunscreen application, making them common locations for people to sunburn. When applying sunscreen, consider starting with these areas first so they are not overlooked.”
  • “Think of sunscreen as one component in a multipronged approach to sun protection. In addition to regular sunscreen use, remember to seek shade, avoid the sun’s rays when they are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., use sun-protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and use caution near sand, snow, and water because they reflect UV rays.”

Shop The Best Body Sunscreens

In a hurry? Here are the best body sunscreens:

1. Best French Pharmacy Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Body & Face Sunscreen SPF 60

2. Best Water-Gel Sunscreen: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Moisturizing Water Gel Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

3. Best All-Mineral Luxury Sunscreen: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection SPF 50 Body Shield

4. Best SPF 70 Sunscreen: COOLA Classic Body Sunscreen SPF 70

5. Best Classic Sunscreen Lotion: Sun Bum SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion

6. Best Mineral Sunscreen Spray: Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30

7. Best Sunscreen Lotion In Assorted Sizes: Supergoop! PLAY Everyday SPF 50 Lotion

8. Best Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Under $20: All Good Sport Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion

1. Derm’s Pick: Best French Pharmacy Sunscreen

Type: Chemical

“This easy-to-apply sunscreen absorbs easily and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth, while providing SPF 60 UVA and UVB coverage,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, another dermatologist who spoke to Bustle for this article. She adds, “It also contains the Cell-Ox Shield technology, offering antioxidant protection as well. It is safe to use on the face and body.”

La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios sunscreens are a staple in French pharmacies, thanks to their elegant formulas and high levels of sun protection, which makes them a pleasure to use. This one is also fragrance-free and safe for all skin types, including those that are sensitive.

2. Derm’s Pick: Best Water-Gel Sunscreen

Type: Chemical

“This lightweight gel lotion provides SPF 50 coverage and can be used on the face and body,” Dr. Garshick tells Bustle. “It is oil-free so won’t clog the pores and rubs in easily without leaving a greasy finish, while still hydrating the skin. It also is water resistant, making it a good option for those who are active outdoors.”

With your purchase, you’ll get three 3-ounce bottles; one for the bathroom, one for your beach bag, and a backup for when you run out.

3. Derm’s Pick: Best All-Mineral Luxury Sunscreen

Type: Mineral

“This all-mineral sunscreen uses Enviroscreen technology, protecting the skin from UVA/UVB, blue light, and infrared radiation. It contains a hydrating formulation so is not drying and is easy to rub in,” says Dr. Garshick.

Though pricey, this lightweight, antioxidant-rich sunscreen contains nourishing shea butter and soothing chamomile, so it’s a nice treat for dry skin. And though it’s a mineral formula, it doesn’t leave behind a glaring white residue, as it was formulated with a very slight tint.

4. Editor’s Pick: Best SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion

Type: Chemical

“This is my all-time favorite body sunscreen, especially for days at the beach or outdoor workouts,” says Rachel Lapidos, Bustle’s Senior Lifestyle and Beauty Editor. “It offers broad-spectrum SPF 70 coverage, it's water-resistant, and it doesn't leave a white cast. On top of that, it's packed with antioxidants, so your skin gets added nourishment along with full protection. The tropical smell doesn't hurt, either.”

5. Editor’s Pick: Best Classic Sunscreen Lotion

Type: Chemical

Faith Xue, Bustle’s Executive Beauty Director, likes Sun Bum’s SPF 30 sunscreen. She says, “This is a classic sun lotion, and for good reason. The banana scent just makes me happy, it goes on silky-smooth (read: not gloppy and white), and it makes reapplying actually enjoyable.”

What’s also nice about Sun Bum’s line of best-selling sunscreens is that you can choose from SPF 30, 50, or 70 (all of which feature the same summery scent).

6. Editor’s Pick: Best Mineral Sunscreen Spray

Type: Mineral

I love using baby-friendly products on my (adult) skin, as they tend to be gentler. Though I prefer to use a chemical sunscreen on my face, I’m less picky about dealing with a white cast on my body. I’m admittedly quite pale, but if you blend this sunscreen in well enough, the white cast isn’t as offensive as I’ve experienced with other mineral sunscreens. I also love that the simple formula is made with nourishing botanicals like aloe vera, calendula, jojoba esters, and sunflower seed oil. It leaves my skin feeling comfortably hydrated instead of greasy, and boasts 80 minutes of water resistance. Plus, the spray bottle is super convenient.

7. This Sunscreen Lotion That’s Both Editor & Derm Approved

Type: Chemical

Xue also likes Supergoop!’s PLAY sunscreen lotion. She says, “I'm a Supergoop! stan, and this classic formula is great as a waterproof option. I like all the different sizes, so you can toss one in your bag for on-the-go, or keep a larger pump-size at home to lather up before a beach day.”

This is also a favorite of Dr. Garshick’s. She tells Bustle, “Safe for use on the face or body, this moisturizing and lightweight sunscreen absorbs easily, making it a great option for those who are active. It provides SPF 50 broad spectrum coverage and is fragrance-free.”

Choose from three sizes: a travel-friendly 2.4 ounces, a standard 5.5 ounces, or a massive 18 ounces. This sunscreen is also sold in packs of two, if you’re looking to stock up for summer.

8. Last But Not Least: The Best Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Under $20

Type: Mineral

There are a lot of great mineral sunscreens out there to choose from, but All Good is a particularly solid choice because it’s affordable, suitable for both the face and body, and features a straightforward, eco-friendly formula. The zinc oxide-based sunscreen is enriched with nourishing, good-for-skin ingredients like aloe, calendula, green tea, and shea butter, and offers 80 minutes of water resistance, in addition to SPF 30 protection. It’s available in three sizes: 1, 3, or 16 ounces.


Dr. Brendan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist

Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist