10 Best Sunscreens of 2020

Reviewing Sunscreens in 2020

Even with the best sun protective apparel, you should always use one of these top-rated broad spectrum sunscreens to protect the parts of your body not covered by UPF apparel. From your ears to your toes, every part of your skin—no matter the color—is vulnerable to sunburn and damage if overexposed to UV radiation. Make sunburn a thing of the past by using the best sunscreens of 2020!

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Top 10 Sunscreens for 2020

10) La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen, SPF 60

The SPF 60 might be overkill, but we like that La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen achieves its protection factor with reef-safe ingredients. Its water resistant and fragrance-free formula provides safe broad spectrum protection for most skin types, whether for everyday use or extended activities. Additionally, La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios sunscreens feature antioxidants and Vitamin E to defend against free radicals and repair damaged skin.

9) Thinksport Sunscreen, SPF 50

The first physical (non-chemical) sunscreen in our top 10, Thinksport’s SPF 50 sunscreen is reef-friendly and water-resistant for 80 minutes. We especially like that Thinksport prioritized your skin’s health without resorting to questionable ingredients. It’s usually available at a reasonable price, but you may run out quicker than usual because it’s a little greasy and thick. Still, this is a great sunscreen if you’ll be in natural waters where the potential to impact marine life is a factor.

8) Banana Boat Sun Comfort, SPF 50

Reef-safe ingredients, 80-minute water resistance and SPF 50 protection are highlights of this quality sunscreen from Banana Boat. Additionally, the “Sun Comfort” sunscreen lotion offers a pleasant moisturizing, non-greasy application. This benefit is especially important when reapplying at the beach, as it’s meant to allow sand to brush off easily. And remember, reapply at least every two hours!

7) Coppertone Sport, SPF 50

The first spray lotion to crack our top 10, Coppertone Sport’s SPF 50 chemical sunscreen offers broad spectrum protection and water resistance, but still at a great value. Aside from the mediocre spray mechanic and it not technically qualifying as reef-safe, this is a great alternate sunscreen if you need a spray option, especially when exercising outside.

6) BullFrog Water Sport Armor Tech, SPF 50

Although it isn’t reef-safe, BullFrog’s Water Sport Armor Tech sunscreen is a great chemical sunscreen lotion featuring 80-minute water resistance. Since it contains oxybenzone, it’s great for the pool, but not as suitable for natural bodies of water. Still, for pools or land-based activities, Bull Frog’s non-greasy, long lasting formula is a great option.

5) Banana Boat Ultra Sport Performance, SPF 50

Our top-rated spray sunscreen, Banana Boat’s Sport Performance offers broad spectrum SPF 50 protection with the convenience of a spray application. It’s hard to beat the cost (often available for under $1 per ounce), and this is a great sunscreen backed by the reputable Banana Boat brand. Plus, this was recently updated to remove oxybenzone, therefore making this reef-friendly! Still, as convenient as Banana Boat’s Sport Performance is to apply, we prefer lotions over spray applications because it’s easier to tell how much you applied with a lotion.

4) Blue Lizard Active Mineral-based, SPF 30

A unique mineral-based combination lotion featuring zinc oxide and octocrylene, Blue Lizard’s Active SPF 30 sunscreen qualifies as reef-safe. We really like this sunscreen because it has both the physical and chemical elements of a sunscreen, providing the best of both worlds while minimizing its impact on our actual world. A quick peek at Amazon.com and you’ll see that most users also agree that it’s hard to beat the competitive price and effective performance. Therefore, it’s one of our new favorites!

3) Banana Boat Dry Balance, SPF 50

Broad-spectrum and reef-safe, Banana Boat’s Dry Balance SPF 50 sunscreen lotion offers maximum protection, but also leaves a soft, matte finish as opposed to the sometimes sticky or greasy films left by inferior sunscreens. Equally suited for daily use or a long day at the beach, we believe the unique “Dry Balance” only further justifies what’s already a very reasonable price per ounce.

2) Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport, SPF 50

Although this chemical sunscreen from Hawaiian Tropic isn’t reef-friendly (it contains oxybenzone), it is easy to apply, doesn’t leave you ghostly and doesn’t smell like chemicals. It’s also usually one of the most affordable sunscreens, which helps encourage frequent use with generous applications. Of course, this is important because its thinner “ultra light” consistency might incline you to reapply more frequently. Overall, it does the job and often at less than $1 per ounce, but we recommend Hawaiian Tropic’s Island Sport lotion for when you know you’re staying on land.

1) Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen, SPF 50

Despite the name, this isn’t just for babies! In fact, this broad spectrum mineral sunscreen is good for all ages because it uses zinc oxide for reef-friendly UV protection, making Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen one of the only sunscreens we reviewed to achieve an SPF 50 rating without resorting to reef-harming ingredients. Since it’s free of any questionable ingredients, Thinkbaby’s zinc oxide sun lotion is safe for all ages (6+ months), water resistant for 80 minutes and it was the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods’ Premium Care requirements.

Sunscreen + UPF Apparel

Broad spectrum sunscreen plays a critical role in sun safety. However, for the safest, surest and most cost-effective UV protection, a good sunscreen is best paired with UPF 50+ apparel. Shop Rayward Apparel’s UPF sun protection clothing today, including our new Sun Bound collection of sun shirts!

Bonus: Need a reminder about why you should be wearing sunscreen and protecting your skin? Check out this TED Ed video lesson by Kevin P. Boyd:

About Rayward’s Sunscreen Reviews

Many sunscreens are available in multiple sizes and/or SPF ratings. Several factors, including performance, ingredients and cost, can vary based on the SPF rating. Therefore, each review applies most accurately to these exact products, and is based on ingredients available at time of publication.

Sunscreen is never waterproof. In fact, FDA regulations only allow a “water-resistant” rating of either 40 or 80 minutes. Regardless of the rating, you should always reapply sunscreen after sweating, towel drying or water submersion of any duration.

Reef-safe (or “reef-friendly”) labels are determined by each sunscreen’s ingredients and their recognized impact on coral reefs and marine life. At the time of publication, both oxybenzone and octinoxate are generally recognized as damaging to coral reefs. Therefore, we believe that including oxybenzone or octinoxate disqualifies a sunscreen from earning a “reef-safe” label. Some places even prohibit the use of sunscreens containing these and/or other ingredients. Please check with local regulations to ensure your sunscreen is approved.

Before purchasing ANY sunscreen, you should ALWAYS check the product label.

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Everything You Need to Know About the UV Index

Couple Hiking at Sunset with UV Rays

Wondering what the Ultraviolet (UV) Index means? Or perhaps you’ve heard of the UV Index, but you’re not sure how to use it. Either way, you’re in luck as we’re sharing everything you need to know about the UV Index. Continue below to learn what it is, how it’s determined and why it matters!

What Is the Ultraviolet (UV) Index?

The Ultraviolet Index, more commonly known as the UV Index, forecasts the risk of skin damage from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It’s an invaluable resource when planning to spend any time outdoors.

The index ranges from 0-11+, with the higher values indicating an increased level of radiation exposure. These index values are also grouped by threat level, associated with anywhere from “Low” to “Extreme” levels of overexposure danger. For a TL;DR-friendly video, see below:

How Is the UV Index Calculated?

In the United States, the Ultraviolet Index is calculated by the National Weather Service. Their model predicts the ground-level strength of UV radiation while factoring ozone levels, weather conditions and elevation. This helps predict the length and intensity of UV waves, which determines their impact on our skin. If you are like us and enjoy nerding out over weather models, check out this more detailed explanation from the EPA.

How to Check the UV Index

You can get the UV Index from most popular weather providers, such as The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. If your favorite weather source does not share the Ultraviolet (UV) Index, you should consider finding a source that does.

You can also use the following widget to lookup your UV Index by zip code. Give it a try now:

Alternatively, if you have an Alexa-enabled device, you can specifically ask for the day’s UV Index, in addition to full weather forecasts. This is a great step to take before leaving the house to help you take the necessary precautions to stay sun safe.

Woman at the beach after checking UV Index

How to Use the Ultraviolet (UV) Index

Once you know the UV Index, it’s time to apply this information and plan around it. Your exact course of action depends on the Ultraviolet Index value, so here’s a breakdown:

UV Index = 0-2 (Low)

Yay! You can safely enjoy the outdoors with even minimal UV protection. We still recommend sunscreen, sunglasses and lightweight UPF apparel.

UV Index = 3-5 (Moderate)

In this range, your risk of exposure increases to the point where sun protection is essential, especially during midday. Apply an SPF 30+ sunscreen and wear a hat, sunglasses and UV protective clothing.

UV Index = 6-7 (High)

Once the Ultraviolet Index reaches 6, you’re in the “High” risk levels. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and long-sleeved UPF 50+ apparel, in addition to a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen. If possible, limit your UV exposure during late morning through mid-afternoon.

UV Index = 8-10 (Very High)

Sun protection is now critical for even short periods of sun exposure. Additionally, indirect UV radiation becomes a greater threat, so beware of surfaces that reflect UV radiation, such as water and sand. Generously apply (and re-apply) sunscreen and wear UPF 50+ sun protection clothing, a wide-brimmed sun hat and sunglasses. And remember the “shadow rule!” If your shadow is shorter than you, which is typically near midday, you are exposed to even higher UV radiation levels.

UV Index = 11+ (Extreme)

Today’s gonna be a doozy! If possible, plan any outdoor activities for the morning or late afternoon to avoid the especially high levels of UV radiation around midday. Guard your skin with UPF 50+ apparel, sunglasses and a sun hat, and don’t even think about going outside without broad spectrum sunscreen.

Water reflecting UV rays

More Adventure. Less Exposure.

The Ultraviolet Index is not meant to scare you into staying indoors, but to help you go outdoors safely. If you make checking the UV Index part of your daily routine, you’ll stay one step ahead of sun damage.

To prepare for even the most extreme levels of UV radiation, protect yourself with UPF clothing from Rayward Apparel. Shop our Sun Bound collection of sun shirts now, featuring UPF 50+ t-shirts, long sleeve shirts and lightweight hoodies!

Source: EPA.gov

What Are The Best Sunscreen Alternatives?

Beach Umbrella for UV Protection

Sunscreen plays a vital role in sun protection. There are many occasions and activities that demand the type of protection that only sunscreen can provide. For instance, you may have a required uniform or dress code that leaves your skin vulnerable and exposed. Or perhaps you need or prefer the portability of a tube of sunscreen. But is sunscreen always your best option? To be clear, we aren’t advising against the use of sunscreen. However, sunscreen is not without its disadvantages, and in many circumstances there are better alternatives. Continue below as we highlight the best (and worst) sunscreen alternatives, featuring everything from shade to UV clothing.

First, a Few of the Worst Sunscreen Alternatives

A few minutes surfing the internet and you’ll come across dozens of so-called sunscreen alternatives. The problem however, is that most of these don’t meet the minimum protection recommended by dermatologists. Therefore, to alternate your sunscreen for any of the following would be ill-advised, and potentially dangerous. Despite what less-informed sources might tell you, the following are NOT safe alternatives to sunscreen:

  • Non-UPF Clothing: Many shirts offer UV protection equivalent to SPF 10 or less, which is to say they do not offer sufficient protection. Worse yet, their protective qualities typically drop when wet. Therefore, don’t consider standard clothing as an alternative to sunscreen unless you see a UPF rating proving otherwise.
  • Natural Oils (Sesame, Coconut, Olive, Almond, etc): There are several natural oils that do provide minimal UV protection, but the keyword here is “minimal” (think in the range of SPF 4-10). You may feel reassured knowing you smell better with some of these oils, but you should not count on them for safe sun protection.
  • Shea Butter: With an estimated SPF between 3 and 10, shea butter offers such minimal protection that we would never fool ourselves into thinking we were significantly safer for having applied it. You may receive other benefits from applying shea butter, but this should not be used in place of sunscreen.
  • Aloe Vera: While aloe vera is a tried-and-true natural remedy to soothe a sunburn, it will not help you prevent one. Unless mixed with other agents, aloe vera alone offers insignificant UV protection. As with all of the previously reviewed sunscreen alternatives, aloe vera should only be used as a last resort, and only while on your way to get proper sun protection.

What Are Safe Sunscreen Alternatives to Prevent UV Damage?

Shaded Hammock in Caribbean


This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how much skin damage you’d avoid by spending more time in the shade. Whether it’s from a tree, umbrella, canopy or awning, use your shade! Scan your environment for opportunities to give your skin a break from the sun (but do NOT use clouds!).

Sun-blocking or UV Cosmetics

This one comes with a mighty disclaimer. That being that your cosmetic either states its UV protection, or it comes recommended by dermatologists specifically for sun protection. That being said, there are cosmetics that provide a protective barrier for your skin. Please consult the product label and your doctor before relying on cosmetics as your sole form of UV protection.

UV Clothing

The absolute best sunscreen alternative is performance UV clothing. The combination of a UPF sun hoodie and UV protective hat, for instance, protects your face, neck, torso and arms. UV clothing protects you immediately and doesn’t require reapplying every 1-2 hours. Additionally, UV apparel doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy, it’s reef-friendly, and it’s less expensive in the long run. For more about how UV clothing works, check out this short video from the Mayo Clinic:

Rayward Apparel’s Sun Bound collection, for instance, is lightweight, breathable, stylish and—most importantly—effective at preventing UV damage. Through a blend of viscose from bamboo and natural cotton, we’ve achieved the highest possible fabric UV protection rating, UPF 50+. This means that not only does our UV clothing avoid the application issues of sunscreen, but it also blocks more than 98% of UV rays. 

In conclusion, when you look back at the best safe alternatives to sunscreen, you are left with few options. Unless you wear UV-blocking cosmetics, stay in the shade and/or avoid the sun altogether, then we think the choice is clear: trust UPF 50+ UV clothing if you want a safe alternative to sunscreen.To learn more about Rayward Apparel’s UV clothing, and to shop our Sun Bound collection of UPF 50+ apparel, visit our shop today!

Sun Protection for Your Hair

UV Protection Hats for Women

You likely know by now that the sun’s UV rays damage your skin, but did you know that the sun also damages your hair? That’s right! The same harmful UV radiation that leads to sunburn takes a major toll on the health of your hair and scalp. Keep reading to learn how to protect your hair and stave off sun damage with UV protection hats for women and men, in addition to hair products formulated for sun protection.

How Does the Sun Damage Your Hair?

Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays leads to damaged cuticles, or the outside cover of each strand of hair. Too much sun exposure also damages the keratin protein in your hair, which is its key structural material. Additionally, using hair irons, straighteners and rollers, as well as spending time in swimming pools with chlorinated water, contributes to hair damage by weakening your hair’s natural defenses. Plus, if your hair is light-colored or fine, it’s especially susceptible to UV damage.

Not Wearing a UV Protection Hat? Check for Signs of Sun Damage to Your Hair

Sun damage looks different for each hair type, but common signs include dry or brittle strands, discoloration, split ends, frizziness or thinning. Ultimately, sun damaged hair is difficult to manage, and dries quickly. If your hair looks and feels dry, there’s a good chance it has suffered from sun damage. It doesn’t take long for healthy hair to succumb to the sun’s harmful UV rays, but fortunately there are ways to protect it. Speaking of which…

Woman Protecting Her Hair with a UV Hat

Protect Your Hair with UV Protection Hats

The simplest, most effective and least expensive method of hair protection is with UV protection hats for women and men. Hats rated with a UPF 50+ sun protection factor will block over 98% of UV rays (especially critical in exposed areas like beaches). This probably goes without saying, but keep in mind that UV protection hats only protect the hair secured within your hat. If your hair extends below the shade line of your sun hat’s brim (and putting your hair up is not an option), then you could consider hair products specifically formulated to shield your hair from UVA and UVB rays. These are available in liquid and spray formulas and protect your hair similar to how a broad spectrum sunscreen would protect your skin. To reduce the effects of chlorine or sea water on your hair, thoroughly rinse your hair with clean water as soon as you can.

Additionally, UPF neck gaiters are also an option. The multi-functional tubes of fabric, often simply referred to as neck gaiters, can be fashioned into many styles of headwear, including foulards, scarves and hoods. You can even turn neck gaiters into a hat or hat liner!

How to Fix Sun Damaged Hair

For hair that has already been damaged, try repairative hair products, such as a conditioner appropriate for your specific hair type. While we’re experts on UPF apparel, we suggest speaking with your stylist or barber about which hair products are best for you. Fortunately, sun damage to your hair is usually not permanent. Going forward, take care of your hair by following a restorative hair regimen and protect yourself in the sun with our UV protection hats.

To learn more about our UV protection hats, gaiters and sun shirts for men and women, shop Rayward Apparel today!

For an-always-useful refresher on the sun and your skin, check out this video:

Sources: Cleveland Clinic

How To Wear A Neck Gaiter

Sunrise Hiking with Neck Gaiters

Neck gaiters, as the name suggests, are typically worn around your neck. However, did you know that there are over a dozen ways to wear a neck gaiter? Rayward Apparel’s UPF 50+ neck gaiter features a closed tube design that allows for many different styles and functions. Ready to learn how to wear a neck gaiter as multi-functional headwear? Continue below as we outline some of our favorite ways to wear a gaiter!

12 Ways to Wear a Neck Gaiter

#1 – Neck Gaiter / Neckerchief

First and foremost, you can wear your neck gaiter as, you guessed it, a neck gaiter! This simply requires pulling it over your head and leaving it loose around your neck. This will offer UV protection for your neck, while also keeping you comfortable in a wide range of temperatures.

#2 – Face Mask / Half Mask

Another popular style is as a full or half face mask. Learning how to wear a neck gaiter as a face mask is as simple as pulling it over your head and then allowing the soft, stretchy fabric to rest around either your nose, ears and/or mouth, depending on how much protection you need.* This is one of our favorites for fishing, especially when paired with a bucket hat.

#3 – Hood

A hood is one of the easiest styles to make with your gaiter. To make a hood with your gaiter, first pull the entire garment over your head and down around your neck. Next, pull the top of the back of the tube up and over your head towards your forehead. Lastly, take the top edge of the tube underneath your chin and either leave it where it is, or pull it out slightly towards your mouth to create a little extra protection for your face.

#4 – Balaclava

Creating a balaclava with your neck gaiter is probably easier than you think! First, pull the gaiter over your head and around your neck. Next, pull the back of the tube over your head to create a tube, leaving your face temporarily still exposed. Lastly, take some of the fabric a few inches beneath your chin and carefully fold enough of it up to cover your nose, while still leaving as much as possible to protect your neck and chin. If you did it right, you’ll have two layers of fabric over your mouth and nose to keep you warm.

#5 – Headband

For a quick and easy headband, simply fold your neck gaiter over itself a few times and slide it up over your ears and across your forehead. You can also pull the headband down to create a blindfold (and we’re not here to judge whatever you’d be doing with a blindfold)!

#6 – Beanie / Cap / Hat Liner

For a lightweight beanie cap or hat liner, simply take your gaiter and turn it inside out. Next, place one end around your head, and twist the middle of the tube a couple times. Lastly, take the part above where you twisted the tube and pull it back down over your head. Done correctly, you’ll have formed a two-layer beanie!

#7 – Do-rag / Sahariane

To wear your neck gaiter as a do-rag or loose bandana, just pull a third of the tube over the top of your head, while letting the other end hang loosely at the back. For maximum protection, consider covering your ears too for the additional UV protection of this vulnerable area. A slight modification of the do-rag turns your neck gaiter into a sahariane. Start by turning the gaiter inside out. Next, lay it over your head like a flat mohawk from your forehead to the back of your neck. Place one hand inside of the tube and hold the bottom layer of fabric against your forehead. With your other hand, pull the top layer of fabric back over your head to form a cap. If you did it right, you’ll have a little cape in the back to protect your neck!

#8 – Bandana / Pirate

Arrrrrr you ready to learn how to wear a neck gaiter as a pirate bandana? The first step is to turn the gaiter inside out. Step two involves putting both arms through the tube from opposite directions, and grabbing opposite sides of the tube with each hand. Next, pull your hands together to form a knot about a third of the way along the tube. Lastly, shape the larger opening for your head, put it on, and adjust the knotted small end for the back of your bandana. 

#9 – Foulard

Ready to learn how to wear a neck gaiter as a foulard? I hope so, because this one is super simple, but very useful. To wear your gaiter as a foulard, the process is similar to creating a do-rag, except this time you want to contain your hair within the tube. Start by pulling the entire gaiter around your neck. Next, pull the entire tube up towards your forehead. Now, pull just the top opening towards the back of your head, keeping your hair within the tube of what is now a foulard!

#10 – Hairband / Head Scarf

Similar to the headband are the hairband or head scarf styles, which just require adjusting the placement of the gaiter’s fabric. For a quick hairband, simply slide the overlapped band of fabric towards the back of your head so it no longer rests along your forehead. To create a head scarf, just open up your hairband slightly and pull the lower portion of the fabric in an angle over your ears.

#11 – Hair Tie / Ponytail

For a lightweight hair tie and something to keep your hair out of your face, take your neck gaiter and wrap it a few times around your ponytail. If you go outside, you are always prepared to transform your hair tie into a UPF 50+ sun protection gaiter!

#12 – Wristband

Whether as a fashion statement or because you just need a temporary place to store your gaiter, you can always twist it a few times around your wrist for an instant wristband! We find this useful when stepping inside, out of the sun, and somewhere that you no longer need face or neck protection.

For a neck gaiter to work all the different ways described above, you need one with a stretchy, versatile design. Rayward Apparel’s Lightweight UV Neck Gaiter is a perfect example of a simple, yet versatile gaiter. While our UPF 50+ neck gaiters can be worn in any of the styles described above, we suggest wearing them however best shields as much of your unprotected skin as possible. This is because overexposure to UV rays is directly linked to certain types of skin cancers, and our UPF neck gaiters are first and foremost designed to protect you from the sun. If you want to learn more about when to wear a UPF neck gaiter, check out our related post.

Visit our online store to get your Rayward Apparel neck gaiter today!

Rayward Apparel's Del Mar UPF 50 Neck Gaiters

If you still have questions about how to wear a gaiter, let us know in the comments below. Plus, we’d love to hear how you wear your neck gaiter!

* Rayward Apparel’s neck gaiters are not designed for preventing the spread of disease. They have not been tested for their effectiveness at preventing the spread of disease, such as COVID19. Therefore, they should not be used as an alternative to any appropriately-rated face masks.

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