Sun protection is essential to prevent skin damage and skin cancer. When you're shopping for sunscreen, make sure it offers UVA and UVB protection. Check to see if it's waterproof or water-resistant. A waterproof sunscreen maintains its Sun Protection Factor level after 80 minutes of exposure to water, according to the Melanoma Foundation. A water-resistant sunscreen maintains its SPF level after 40 minutes of water exposure.
A sunscreen with a higher SPF doesn't necessarily mean it's better.
SPF blocks the ultraviolet B rays (UVB), which cause sunburns. The SPF number on a label refers to the product's ability to block the sun's harmful rays. For example, SPF 15 sunscreen allows a user to stay in the sun 15 times longer before burning. The average time it takes a person to burn without sunscreen is about 15 to 20 minutes, according to Americanskin.org. If you wear SPF 15, you'll be protected for 300 minutes, or 5 hours (SPF 15 x 20 minutes = 300 minutes).
SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent and SPF 45 blocks 98 percent, Skincancer.org says. Products with an even higher SPF don't offer much more protection. Remember, no matter what SPF you use, you do need to re-apply.
There are endless amounts of sunscreens out there. The Active Gear Scout tested these popular products to see how well they lasted during tough runs, swims, bike rides, boot camps and daily outdoor activities. From smell to protection, here are the results.Find more popular products on GearUp.
Mission AthletecareSun Defeated Continuous Spray, $9.99 1 of 11
This fast-drying sunscreen works well. It does have a strong sunscreen-like smell. Still, it does its job. The Defeated Continuous Spray SPF 30 is meant for your body, not your face. This is a fast-drying product, making it difficult to rub the sunscreen into your skin. Make sure to coat your body well. This easy-to-use spray is great for cyclists who need to re-apply while on the road.
BadgerSport Sunscreen Cream SPF 35, $15.99 2 of 11
This organic sunscreen smells delicious and is made with plant-based oils, which makes your skin feel silky smooth. It does go on thick and you do feel like you're wearing sunscreen. But it doesn't have that typical sunscreen smell. After about an hour of running, small specs of lotion come off if you scratch your skin. If you're swimming for an hour or so, the sunscreen stays on. Just remember to re-apply as soon as you get out of the water.
NeutrogenaUltra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen SPF 30, $9.49 3 of 11
This very light sunscreen is great for everyday use or for a quick outdoor workout. It's easy to put on because of the spray and you don't feel like you have sunscreen on. However, you do need to re-apply more often. If you happen to sweat a great deal, the sunscreen will wear off.
Banana BoatSport Performance Sunscreen SPF 30, $9.99 4 of 11
This water-resistant sunscreen holds up fairly well with sweat. However, if you use it on your face, it tends to drip into the eyes. The label says it's water-resistant for 80 minutes. You're better off reapplying after 60 minutes because if you sweat profusely it probably won't hold up. This sunscreen is not ideal for everyday use. It also has that sunscreen scent and leaves your skin feeling greasy.
Beyond CoastalActive Sunscreen SPF 34, $5.99 to $44.99 5 of 11
This mineral-based sunscreen is not easy to apply and leaves a slight white layer, but it protects the skin well and once it's on, it stays on. This is a great product for tough training sessions, and not for everyday casual activity. After an hour of swimming, it still holds strong. Like every sunscreen, re-apply once you're out of the water or after a long and sweaty run or workout.
More Gear Items6 of 11
Check out Active GearUp for discounts on high-performance gear from your favorite brands.
California BabySuper Sensative (No Fragrance) SPF 30+, $19.99 to $39.99 7 of 11
If you have sensitive skin, this sunscreen is for you. It doesn't leave irritated bumps on the skin and goes on fairly smooth. The sunscreen will leave your skin slightly white, however it will fade after a few minutes. This is great for short runs. Try the Aloe Vera Cream. The natural herbs and oils feel refreshing. Use after the sun, shaving or on irritated skin.
KINeSYS Performance SunscreenSPF 30 Sunscreen Spray, $18.99 8 of 11
The spray is very light and smells tropical (there's a fragrance-free option too). It's not overpowering and it's better than the typical sunscreen smell. This sunscreen holds up well if you sweat. Just make sure you spray and rub the sunscreen into your skin. If not, you may get splotchy burn lines. This product doesn't drip off while participating in tough training sessions.
COOLASPF 30 Spray, $32 9 of 11
The classic spray uses the latest FDA non-mineral active and is super convenient to spray upside down to get to your back. The spray lasts for 40 minutes, is lightweight, smells good and works very well, if you remember to re-apply. Great for daily use. Mineral Sport SPF 35 Citrus Mimosa, uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide only as the actives, and offers 80 minutes of water resistance. It goes on light and smells nice. Put up to the ultimate sweaty run, nothing drips off.
MD MomsBaby Silk Babysafe Sunscreen Towelettes, $26 10 of 11
Although the label says these towelettes are made for babies, they are great for someone with sensitive skin. Surprisingly it doesn't sweat off when on a 30-minute run, but use two towelettes. Make sure to keep the towelettes sealed as they can dry out quickly. Not ideal for swimming, cycling or long-distance running. If out in the sun for a long period, opt for traditional lotion. But they are great to throw in your gym bag, purse or backpack for daily use.