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.
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). According to real reviewers, these three sunscreens 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 various-sized bottles (both SPF 30+ and 50+) or an easy-to-apply stick balm.
- SPF: 30+ (Also available in 50+)
- Water-resistance: 40 minutes
One reviewer wrote: “This is a very good sunscreen. I was looking for a type that does not stain (particularly my white tennis shirts) and so far this has worked well. It is not greasy and rubs in well.”
2. A Clean 50+ SPF Sunscreen
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 4.6-star rating and over 3,000 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 at the end of the day. One user explained that it “takes more effort to wash off after but it’s worth it with the great protection.” Regardless, that’s a potentially minor trade-off for such a high-performing sunscreen.
- SPF: 50+
- Water-resistance: 80 minutes
One reviewer wrote: “Best sunscreen — our whole family uses and we have it sent monthly through subscribe and save because we can’t live without it. It works well, smells fantastic, is not greasy, and does not make our 3-year-old’s eyes tear up or irritate anyone’s skin, ever. It also doesn’t turn the edges of our white clothes yellow from rubbing all day like other brands have done in the past.”
3. The Best Paste-Like Sunscreen
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, 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, “It’s easy to rub in and I like the tin rather than a hard to squeeze or drippy bottle.” Plus, it lasts for up to 80 minutes when you’re in the water.
- SPF: 30+
- Water-resistance: 80 minutes
One reviewer wrote: “Although it may take a bit getting used to, particularly if you used to spraying (ugh) or slathering sunscreen. The Raw Elements really works. It does not stain clothing, and leaves the treated area feeling soft, yet non greasy.”