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9 Best Sunscreens for Every Kind of Activity

Dermatologists reveal the best sunscreens for every kind of activity, including running, hiking, swimming, attending an outdoor wedding, and more

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Choosing the right sunscreen for every occasion

Sunscreen is an essential part of any skin care routine no matter the weather or season. However, chances are you’re likely to think about it less, or even forgo it, during the colder, winter months. Come spring and summer, you’re ready to slather on all the sunscreen necessary to go outside, from beaches and pools to outdoor weddings.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, daily use of SPF 30 sunscreen can reduce the risk of skin cancers and skin precancers, and even prevent premature skin aging (goodbye, fine lines and wrinkles). But, how do you know how to choose the best sunscreen for every occasion? We spoke with dermatologists who helped us select the best sunscreens for every kind of activity you can think of.

vanicream via walgreens.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

Running outdoors

$32.48, pack of 2

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“I always recommend picking sunscreens with mineral active ingredients over a chemical sunscreen, as they are less irritating and offer excellent broad spectrum coverage,” says Samer Jaber, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York City. “My favorite is Vanicream SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen. It has zinc and titanium, is great for sensitive skin, and it’s non-irritating, as it free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, and other preservatives.” Not sure what “broad spectrum” means? Here’s how to decode your sunscreen label.

via peterthomasroth.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

Hiking

$30

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“Outdoor enthusiasts have a higher rate of skin cancer because reapplication is an issue,” cautions Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist in Hamden, Connecticut. That’s why she recommends a stick for around the eyes, and a powder for the face. “It doesn’t run into your eyes with activity, plus it is absorbent,” she says. It’s also easy to stash in your pocket or backpack for easy applications on the go, which Dr. Gohara says you should be doing every two hours. (Check out the Badger Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF 35 and Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Powder SPF 45.) “I also recommend using an antioxidant cream after your time in the sun, such as Manuka Doctor’s Drops of Crystal Cashmere Touch Cream. It’s enriched with anti-oxidant properties, thus giving extra protection,” Dr. Gohara says.

via isdin.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

For every day

$55

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“It’s important to apply sunscreen every day, no matter what your skin type is,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Centers in New York City. “Many times I have patients come to me asking if there’s really a benefit to wearing an SPF all the time, because they hate the way it smells, feels, or reacts with their makeup. I recently discovered the ISDIN Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+, which is an ideal every day sunscreen. It’s formulated with 11 percent zinc oxide, vitamin E, and DNA Repairsomes. It absorbs almost instantly into the skin, without any tacky and sticky residue,” she says. If you plan on wearing foundation, it’s also helpful to find makeup formulated with SPF, like ISDIN’s Skin Drops. (These are the 8 sunscreen dos and don’ts you need to know.)

via neutrogena.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

When golfing

$31.34, pack of 3

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“For children and even adults, I love Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunscreen,” says Shari Sperling, a board-certified dermatologist of Sperling Dermatology in Florham Park, New Jersey. Though zinc and titanium are both physical blockers from the sun that may remind you of the traditional lifeguard with a white nose, she says these sunblocks have come a long way. “Nowadays, there are invisible preparations that rub in well and don’t appear white,” Dr. Sperling says.

via walgreens.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

After a medical procedure

$16.38

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“As a plastic surgeon, I’m always wary when a patient of mine goes out into the sun post-op, so I recommend they cover any scars with Mederma Scar Cream Plus SPF 30. The best thing you can do for your scar is to protect it from the sun and this product is clinically shown to reduce discoloration, improve overall appearance, softness, and texture of scars,” says Jennifer Levine, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City. “Another great product is Neocutis JOURNÉE 30. It is great to use post-procedure as it has UVA/UVB SPF 30 sun protection and works well with all skin tones,” Dr. Levine adds. (These are the 13 sunscreens dermatologists use on themselves.)

COOLA via sephora.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

Cycling

$26.00

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“The Coola Mineral Sport Sunscreen Stick is easy to apply, sweat-resistant, and contains a mineral formula that gives the broadest durable coverage,” says Annie Chiu, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist of The Derm Institute in North Redondo Beach, California. When cycling, use this stick all over your face, as well as a cream such as Blue Lizard PF 30+ Sensitive Sunscreen on your body.

via colorscience.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

Outdoor wedding

$65.00, varying shades

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If you know you’ll be attending an outdoor wedding in the near future, don’t worry about having to ruin your makeup with a creamy facial SPF. “The Colorscience Sunforgettable SPF Powder 50 is great to use to retouch on top of makeup throughout the hours of an outdoor wedding,” says Dr. Chiu. This pocket-sized brush will fit perfectly in your clutch and goes on as flawlessly as your favorite powder foundation. (Even if you’re careful with sunscreen, these strange things can increase your risk of a sunburn.)

iS Clinical via dermstore.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

At the beach or pool

$78

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Spend as much time as possible under an umbrella, sport a large brimmed hat and clothing that offers sun protection, and slather on the sunscreen. “Extreme Protect SPF 30 takes sunscreen protection to an entirely new level,” says Bryan Johns, president and CEO of iS CLINICAL by Innovative Skincare. “Not only does “EP30” provide SPF protection from the sun, it is a true treatment product for the skin. It moisturizes as it delivers huge levels of antioxidants to protect the skin in a much deeper and more thorough level… It is so effective that even if you apply it after sun exposure, it helps calm and soothe red, inflamed skin associated with sunburn.”

via eltamd.com, Olga Skorobogatova/Shutterstock

Wear non-greasy body and facial sunscreens to a picnic

$36.00

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“I love the Elta 46 UV Clear, an incredibly lightweight, non-greasy SPF that layers well with moisturizers and makeup,” says Dr. Chiu. For exposed parts of your body, “the Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF 50 is a feather-light formula with broad coverage and antioxidants to prevent photo damage and premature aging,” says Dr. Chiu. These are the best sunscreens for every skin type.

Sources
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on May 11, 2020

Aubrey Almanza
Aubrey Almanza is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and King's College London. Her writing has appeared in Prevention, SHAPE, and Reader's Digest, among others. She specializes in data-driven content on topics of wellness, beauty, culture, art, and fashion.