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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What Are The Worst Sunscreens?

Family Wearing Bad Sunscreen at the Beach

As previously mentioned in our blog highlighting the disadvantages of sunscreen, not all sunscreens are created equal. In fact, some are so bad we aren’t comfortable recommending them as complements to our sun block clothing. However, because sunscreen products and ingredient compositions constantly change, listing qualities of the worst sunscreens is more helpful than a list of specific sunscreens to be avoided. Effectively, these are the types of sunscreens that are the worst, featuring more of the attributes and ingredients that make bad sunscreens bad.

Sun Block with Unnecessarily High SPF Ratings

Many sunscreens attempt an appearance of additional effectiveness by means of the highest SPF rating possible. While this alone does not make sunscreen unsafe or bad, it is misleading. This is because an SPF 50 and SPF 100 lotion both need to be reapplied every 1-2 hours, yet higher SPF ratings sometimes fool people into thinking they can stay in the sun longer. Meanwhile, during that 1-2 hour time period, you are only receiving marginally better protection, as SPF 50 already blocks 98% of UVB rays. As a result, we agree with the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation of at least SPF 30, but anything from SPF 30 through SPF 50 is ideal.

Sunscreens that Damage Coral Reefs

Another common feature in the worst sunscreens is a long list of coral-bleaching ingredients. Only additional research can reveal the full extent of damage sunscreens cause to coral reefs. However, as of now, both oxybenzone and octinoxate are linked to coral bleaching. Unfortunately, at least one of these ingredients is found in many sunscreen products. Of course, if you definitely aren’t going into the water, then this is less concerning. 

Coral Reef with Sea Turtle damaged by Sun Block

Expensive Sunscreens

Our next gripe with the worst sunscreens has to do with their price. Sunscreen is not cheap, and a quality sunscreen usually costs anywhere from $2-4 per ounce. Prices can escalate quickly into the $5+ dollars per ounce, especially for face lotions. Given that you should be applying at least 1 ounce per application, you’ll run through bottles quickly. With Rayward Apparel’s sun block clothing, on the other hand, your protection isn’t on a timer and won’t run out. In fact, if you consistently wear UPF apparel, you’ll quickly start saving money by needing to buy less sunscreen.

Non-water Resistant Sunscreens

Another set of sunscreens that you may consider avoiding are those that aren’t water resistant. The FDA allows sunscreens to claim either 40-minute or 80-minute water resistance. All things equal, we prefer the 80-minute water resistance. You should know that currently, not sunscreen is “waterproof.” Seriously reconsider any sunscreen making such claims. If you want waterproof protection, wear UPF clothing that maintains its UV protective qualities even when wet, such as Rayward Apparel’s bamboo-based Sun Bound collection.

Palm Tree Blocking Sun

Non-Broad Spectrum Sunscreens

While some of the previous sunscreen issues could be a matter of personal preference, this one is not up for debate. Therefore, we’ll keep it short: you NEED broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sun block protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and anything else isn’t keeping you safe. Unless clearly labeled as “broad spectrum,” do not use it. Fortunately most popular sunscreens are now broad spectrum, and all UPF sun block clothing offers broad-spectrum protection.

For more information on decoding sunscreen labels, check out this handy guide from the American Academy of Dermatology:

If the above painted a dire picture of sunscreen, then take comfort in the fact that there are also many great sunscreens. Choosing the right one just requires considering how you intend to use your sunscreen, as well as carefully examining the product label. Also, some of our criteria for the best sunscreens are more about personal preference than they are about sun safety. So as long as your sunscreen’s qualities don’t prevent you from using the product properly and protectively, it’s ok! Perhaps you get more comfort using an SPF 75 instead of SPF 50, for instance. Or if you know you won’t be in the water, it’s probably ok if your favorite sunscreen isn’t reef-friendly or as water-resistant. 

Ultimately, you should be using sun block clothing to protect as much of your body as possible, and only relying on sunscreen (or a safe alternative) for the areas not covered by UPF apparel. To shop Rayward Apparel’s sun block clothing, also known as UPF apparel, click here!

What Is the Best Sunscreen?

Sunscreen Lotion with SPF

To safely protect your skin from the sun, you need the complementary defenses of SPF clothing and sunscreen. For body parts coverable with UV protective apparel, we recommend SPF clothing for men/women. For more on the advantages of SPF clothing for men/women, click here. However, UV clothing won’t cover all of your skin, and those areas need protection too! Without further ado, continue below to learn about the best sunscreens.

Broad-spectrum or Bust

Simply put, you should not use any sunscreen that isn’t offering broad-spectrum protection. Without a broad-spectrum protection, your sunscreen is only blocking half of the sun’s damaging UV rays. A broad spectrum designation indicates protection against both UVA and UVB rays. An important distinction because UVA rays are linked to skin cancer, and UVB rays cause sunburn. Too much of either has negative health consequences, so protect yourself from both. Interestingly, all UPF-rated clothing is broad-spectrum, so you have a little less to worry about with UPF apparel.

SPF 30 or Higher Sunscreen

Dermatologists recommend using a minimum of SPF 30, and who are we to disagree? The advantage of SPF 30 sunscreen versus lower SPFs is that you are blocking more of the sun’s UV rays. Keep in mind, however, that a higher SPF does not mean you can suddenly spend hours in the sun. No matter your SPF, you still need to reapply every 1-2 hours. Relating SPF to UV clothing, consider that what SPF is to sunscreen, UPF is to fabric. Although different methods determine the exact ratings, the principle is the same. We recommend pairing your sunscreen with UPF 50+ apparel so that your clothing blocks over 98% of UV rays, which can still be accomplished with lightweight SPF clothing for men/women.

Lotion or Spray Sunscreen?

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends lotion sunscreen for a couple reasons. Firstly, it’s easier to make sure you apply the right amount when using a lotion. Secondly, you don’t have to worry about accidentally breathing in the overspray. Speaking of overspray, there is usually less waste with lotions as everything you squeeze out gets applied. Fans of sprays will point out the ease of application, especially if you’re covered in sand (or already sunburned… hey, mistakes happen!). We like the reassurance of a lotion, so that’s our go-to. Of course, we’ll admit that this one has a little more to do with personal preference, but now you know where we stand!

Sunscreen Lotion Squeeze Bottle

Water Resistance

Any sunscreen you plan to use around the water should have some degree of water resistance. The FDA regulates sunscreen claims of water resistance, allowing a water-resistant rating of either 40 or 80 minutes. All else equal, we recommend the 80-minute water resistance. This way you can spend more time swimming or surfing! Just remember, sunscreen is never waterproof, so always reapply after soaking or sweating.

Reef-safe Ingredients

Increasingly in the news are sunscreen ingredients and their impact on coral reefs and marine life. While much remains unknown about the full extent of any reported harmful effects of sunscreen, the best sunscreen is one that leaves nothing to chance. With that in mind, and based on data available at the time of our publication, we recommend “reef-friendly” sunscreens that avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which are generally recognized as damaging to coral reefs. In fact, you’ll likely notice an increasing number of beaches and destinations banning sunscreens containing these ingredients, so best to play it safe with effective natural sunscreens or mineral sunscreens.

Coral Reefs Impacted by Sunscreen Ingredients

Chemical vs Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens

The last decision you have to make about your sunscreen is choosing between a chemical or physical sunscreen (sometimes referred to as mineral or natural sunscreens). Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that are absorbed into your skin, while physical sunscreen ingredients sit on the surface of your skin. With a physical sunscreen, you are effectively creating a barrier of minerals to prevent UV rays from reaching your skin. Due to more research being available about physical/mineral sunscreen ingredients, we prefer these to their chemical counterpart.

There are many sunscreens that meet all of our performance criteria, so your decision usually comes down to budget, application type and ingredients. Of course, some sunscreens are bad and others should be avoided, but once you find a sunscreen that’s easy to apply and meets our safety requirements, just remember to use it! For help choosing the best sunscreen, check out our summary of the 10 Best Sunscreens of 2020! Keep in mind, however, that your best sun protection comes with a combination of sunscreen and UPF apparel. To find the right sun clothes to complement your sunscreen, shop our lightweight SPF clothing for men/women today!

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