Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means: family vacations, long walks on the beach, and lots and lots of sunshine! Before you head out to enjoy your fun in the sun, there are a few important things you need to keep in mind. Sun is great, but it can also cause some serious damage to your skin down the road. Choosing the right sunscreen now can save you from a lot of problems like sunburns and even skin cancer. To help you prepare for this summer, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best sunscreens of 2018.
We have sunscreens for people who have sensitive skin, sunscreens for people who only want just the bare minimum amount of protection, sunscreens for people who want something strong enough to repel even the most stubborn sun rays, and even sunscreens for people who don’t want to rely on potentially harsh chemicals to get the job done.
Before we get to the list, though, here are a few things you need to know before you start shopping, so that you can choose the best sunscreens for you and your needs.
Sunscreen, Sunblock, Suntan Lotion: What’s the Difference?
While most people use the words “sunscreen” and “sunblock” interchangeably, you might be surprised to learn that they are actually two different products. Although both provide you with protection from the sun, they approach this job in two completely different ways.
Sunscreen has a chemical-based formula that is designed to penetrate the skin. It gives you protection from the sun by absorbing harmful UVA rays before they can damage the skin. UVA rays make up nearly 95 percent of the ultraviolet rays that reach the Earth, and they can penetrate skin very deeply to cause skin cancer and premature aging. Active ingredients in sunscreen like zinc oxide and titanium oxide work to deflect these rays so that they cannot be absorbed by the skin.
Sunblock, on the other hand, protects against UVB rays. UVB rays can also cause cancer over an extended period of time, but are more likely to cause you a bad sunburn in the short term. Unlike sunscreen, sunblock offers a physical layer of protection, acting as a barrier on top of the skin that reflects and scatters sunlight before it can penetrate the upper layers of skin. Most sunblocks are made with both organic and inorganic ingredients, as opposed to sunscreen, which is made with more chemicals.
A third commonly misused “synonym” for sunscreen and sunblock is suntan lotion. Suntan lotion is much less common now than it was in previous decades, and is used exclusively for getting a tan. Unlike the other two options, suntan lotion (or sometimes “suntan oil”) contains a very low SPF, and can even contain an ingredient that attracts the sun. Its purpose is to draw the sun to the skin so that the user can get a tan but, as research has proven, this is not usually a great idea if you want to keep your skin healthy and cancer-free.
Sun Protection: What You Need to Know About SPF
Another important factor to consider when shopping for sunscreen or sunblock is SPF. SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor,” and should be clearly displayed on the bottle of sunblock or sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the more protection the sunscreen provides from UVB rays.
The lowest recommended SPF, especially for children, is in the 15 to 30 SPF range. To put it simply, if the SPF is higher, you can stay in the sun longer without ill effects, although it is still recommended to reapply every 80 minutes to two hours.
Interesting fact: Contrary to what many people have heard, the SPF does not apply to UVA rays, which can penetrate skin more deeply than UVB rays, and cause premature aging. As we mentioned earlier, though, most sunscreens protect you from UVA rays, but the SPF has nothing to do with the level of UVA rays the sun protects you from. For more information about that aspect of the formula, be sure to check the back of the bottle or the product listing on Amazon.
Natural Sunscreens – Protection for the Chemically Opposed
Although everyone agrees that the sun can be harmful to skin health, not everyone agrees that the chemically-based sunscreens or the only-partially-organic sunblocks on the market are safe. In fact, some people even claim that the ingredients used in these products are not only unhelpful in preventing skin cancer, but can even cause skin cancer. It has also been said that sunscreens and blocks can cause hormonal changes in adults and children as a result of extended use.
While there is not yet a solid, scientifically proven reason to stop using the commercial sunscreens and sunblocks we are used to (don’t worry, though: the FDA is investigating the matter as we speak), some people prefer to go with a more natural, organic option when it comes to skin care. For those people, there are more and more options available every day.
These organic sunscreens include safe, normally hypoallergenic ingredients like almond oil, zinc oxide, coconut oil, shea butter, red raspberry seed oil, and carrot seed oil. In fact, you can even use these ingredients to make your own sunscreen at home! You should keep in mind, though, that sunscreen made from these ingredients is not always as strong as the commercial brands we mentioned before, so it is safer to go with an option that has been approved by the FDA and has its SPF clearly listed on the bottle.
Now that you have a better idea of what you need and want in a sunscreen, here is a list of the best sunscreens of 2018, and what makes them so great.
Top 10 Best Sunscreens of 2018
1. Water Resistant Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
The first sunscreen on our list is made with zinc oxide, which can protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. This formula is especially useful because is waterproof. That means that whether you are going swimming or just sweating a lot as you frolic in the sunshine, you’ll never have to worry about losing your sun protection. And, at SPF 45, it offers some pretty impressive coverage!
2. Blue Lizard Australian
This sunscreen is one of our favorites. Not only does one application offer over 240 minutes of waterproof sun protection, but the bottle also turns blue when it senses harmful UV rays! This can alert you to the need to put on sunscreen, which can save your skin a lot of irritation. Plus this formula is made in Australia – and no one knows more about sun than Australians, right?
3. André Lorent Daily Rehydrating Sunscreen
This sunblock is as luxurious and as good for your skin as your daily moisturizing cream. It protects you from the sun, but it also keeps your skin hydrated and glowing. It even has anti-aging properties! With an SPF of 30, it is a great way to keep your skin safe, while pampering it a little too.
4. NO-AD Sport Sunscreen Lotion
NO-AD Sport Sunscreen Lotion is one of the best bargains on our list. First introduced in the 1960s, this brand was created to give people twice the protection for half the price of its competitors. NO-AD, like its name suggests, never uses television, print, radio, or online advertising to get the word out about its products, so they can give you the sunscreen you need without making you pay for their publicity in the process.
5. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen
This tiny bottle of sunscreen packs a big punch. With the highest SPF on our list (SPF 70!), this product is meant to provide you with as much protection as possible. This isn’t your mother’s sunscreen though: you can wear this sunscreen every day under your makeup to stay protected without changing your beauty routine in the slightest.
6. TotLogic Natural Sunscreen
For those who love the sun but hate chemicals, TotLogic Natural Sunscreen could be exactly what you’re looking for. This sunscreen is non-toxic, environmentally friendly, AND it gives you waterproof sun protection that lasts for up to 80 minutes at a time. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, this sunscreen won’t clog pores, and is hypoallergenic to boot. Plus, it is just as safe for babies as it is for adults!
7. Banana Boat Sport Performance Faces Sunscreen Lotion
Banana Boat has long been one of the most popular names in sun protection. This particular formula absorbs quickly to offer you SPF 30 protection from both UVA and UVB rays. It is sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and it contains no oils that will make skin greasy or shiny. It, like the sunscreen above, is also hypoallergenic, and safe for most skin types.
8. Coppertone SPORT Continuous Sunscreen Spray
Coppertone is another well-known sunscreen brand, and it deserves its great reputation. Unlike the other sunscreens on this list, this sunscreen comes in a spray bottle. Just hold the bottle as if it were a can of hairspray, apply an even layer to all exposed skin, and you’re done! This tough sunscreen provides SPF 50 protection, and includes Vitamin E and other moisturizers to keep skin feeling soft and fresh.
9. Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion
With a name like Sun Bum, how could this one not be good? This moisturizing sunscreen lotion is perfect for those with sensitive skin. According to the product description, it is “Non-comedogenic, Paraben Free, Cruelty Free, Gluten Free, PABA free & Oil Free.” This means that it is great for everyone who loves the environment, as well as their skin. This natural sunscreen is great for nature lovers of all ages and skin types, and is available in several different SPF levels.
10. Aveeno Natural Protection Oil-Free Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
Aveeno isn’t just a leading lotion brand anymore: it also makes some fantastic natural sunscreens that are both chemical- and oil-free. This one even contains Active Naturals Oat to soothe any sunburn you might already have, while the natural zinc oxide and titanium dioxide keep your skin from burning anymore. This product is made entirely from minerals, so there is no need to worry about anything toxic. It is hypoallergenic and made for sensitive skin, so it offers great sun protection for just about everyone.
Did you find a sunscreen you like? Let us know which one you chose in the comments section!
If you’re looking for something fun to do in the sun, check out our review of Amazon’s top grill pick of 2018!