Even if your clothes (like bathing suits) are pretty resistant to chemicals, oil, and stains — what about when you’re wearing sunscreen underneath your everyday wardrobe? The best sunscreens that don’t stain clothes are few and far between, though there are options that protect both your skin and your attire. In order to keep your clothes clean, you’ll also want a formula that’s free of avobenzone without being chalky or oily. And like any other great sunscreen, SPF and water-resistance are also important.
What To Look For When Choosing A Sunscreen That Doesn’t Stain Clothes
First, what is avobenzone? It’s an oil-soluble ingredient that absorbs ultraviolet light, so it’s common in sunscreens. However, in addition to potential health and environmental concerns, this ingredient may result in stubborn orange stains on your clothing. (Basically, it oxidizes with certain minerals to create rust.) As a result, it’s best to avoid avobenzone altogether if you’re looking to avoid stains.
Mineral-based formulas are often a better alternative — but even though they don’t contain avobenzone, some all-natural options can be chalky or overly oily which can result in their own stains. Luckily, certain zinc oxide formulas are specifically designed to absorb quickly into the skin without leaving behind a white or oily residue (and if the white does get on your clothes, it’ll wash out more easily than rust stains).
Shop The Best Sunscreens That Don’t Stain Clothes
In a hurry? These are the best sunscreens that don’t stain clothes:
- The Best Overall Stain-Free Sunscreen: Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen
- The Best Paste-Like Sunscreen That’s Also Cruelty-Free: Raw Elements Face and Body Certified Natural Sunscreen
- A Mineral Sports Sunscreen With SPF 50 Protection: Thinksport Sunscreen
According to real reviewers, these are some of the best sunscreens that won’t harm your clothing, but they’ll still protect your skin in the presence of sun and moisture.
1. The Best Overall Stain-Free Sunscreen
Because it’s avobenzone-free and instead made from reef-friendly active minerals, Blue Lizard is the number-one pick if you’re trying to avoid sunscreen stains. It offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and remains water-resistant for up to 40 minutes — plus, it doesn’t contain any fragrances or parabens, making it great for sensitive skin. The bottle even turns blue in the presence of UV light, so you know exactly when you need to apply it. Get it in either a 5-ounce or 8.75-ounce bottle.
One reviewer wrote: “We’ve been using this on our son, who has red hair and very light, fair skin, since he was a baby, and he’s never burned while wearing! He’s going on 6, so we feel pretty good about that lol. It absorbs well, is creamy and lightweight, and doesn’t have a smell. It’s also never stained clothes or discolored them.”
SPF: 30 | Broad-spectrum protection: Yes | Water resistance: Up to 40 minutes
Also available on: Bed Bath & Beyond, $13 (3 Oz.)
2. The Best Paste-Like Sunscreen That’s Also Cruelty-Free
It’s not cheap, but those who have invested in Raw Elements certified natural sunscreen have called it their “new go-to” and the “best sunscreen ever.” In short, this paste-like formula comes in a reusable, recyclable tin and offers full-spectrum sun protection while remaining reef-safe, skin-safe, cruelty-free, and clothes-friendly. Since it doesn’t contain the usual harmful chemicals or allergens, it’s also a great pick for those with sensitive skin. Some reviewers have found this sunscreen particularly easy to control and put on — according to one fan, “Compared to traditional sunscreen this stuff is actually easier to rub in.” Plus, it lasts for up to 80 minutes when you’re in the water.
One reviewer wrote: “Wanted an eco-friendly option that wouldn’t harm ocean life, but that also worked really well, came without plastic packaging, and wouldn’t count as a liquid while traveling. I looked at a lot of options, but this was the only one that checked all my boxes. I didn’t find it difficult to rub in, but it does take longer to apply than a liquid or spray -- which is to be expected. I was pretty pale (Wisconsin winter) when I headed to Thailand and was worried I would get burnt, but I didn’t. [...] After water exposure, you can see the whiteness of the product a bit, but that shows me that it’s still on and I could rub it in again. Didn’t stain my swimsuits, even my black ones.”
SPF: 30 | Broad-spectrum protection: Yes | Water resistance: Up to 80 minutes
Also available on: REI, $19
3. A Mineral Sports Sunscreen With SPF 50 Protection
Also avobenzone-free and mineral-based, ThinkSport is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s designed for optimal protection in rigorous environments. That said, even though it offers SPF 50+ and UVA/UVB protection as well as 80 minutes of water-resistance, it’s surprisingly gentle on skin and clothing. (It was actually the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements because it skips the rest of the harmful chemicals, too.) No wonder it has an overall 4.5-star rating and over 3,100 reviews.
While many reviewers have reported that it goes on smoothly and doesn’t leave behind much residue, others have noted that it can be tough to remove and may rub off on clothing — so be sure to test it before wearing it with your more delicate items. One reviewer explained, “Because it is a physical sunscreen it could get on dark clothing and on furniture cause it is slightly oily. I would be careful to rub this cream in good and wipe off the palms of hands to help prevent this.” And another shopper wrote that it “requires a [bit] of scrub to get it off in the shower if I haven't worn it many hours, which to me is a good sign of [its] longevity.”
One reviewer wrote: “This product worked VERY well [...] in Jamaica with intense sun and sweating while playing volleyball and also while swimming in the ocean. It was also gentle on skin and did not leave an overly-white haze after applying. Highly recommended!”
SPF: 50+ | Broad-spectrum protection: Yes | Water resistance: Up to 80 minutes
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