Walk into any drugstore in the summer months and you will be greeted with a wall of brightly colored bottles and tubes of every kind of sunblock and sunscreen imaginable. It is, in fact, a bit overwhelming. Which ones are good? What SPF is adequate? Is the spray-on sunblock worth the higher cost? Does the wet skin stuff work? What’s the best one for the face? These were the thoughts that ran though my head as I stared at the possibilities available at my local drugstore the week before I left on vacation. My family and I were about to spend a week at the beach and I needed to prepare for seven days of sunshine and salt water.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on sunscreen but I have tested a number of them and I’ve come up with a few favorites. There is nothing fancy or expensive here. I’ve seen all of these for sale at my local grocery and drugstores. Each one held its own on long days at the beach. Two of them I’ve used every summer for a couple of years but I feel very comfortable recommending all four.
My Favorite Sunblock for the Beach
In my experience there is really only one sure-fire way to avoid a sunburn, and that’s to apply a creamy lotion with high SPF all over your body BEFORE you leave the house. In fact, you should apply it before you put on your bathing suit. This way all the spots near the suit will be covered and you don’t have to worry about getting icky white cream on your bikini.
This summer I discovered Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion in SPF 50. It’s a rather thick lotion that goes on white but fades after several minutes. It definitely protected me from sunburn, because I didn’t even get pink on this trip and I spread it on all over my skin every morning. But what I really loved about this was the smell. For Americans of a certain generation summer smells like Coppertone. I’m transported to the beach every time I open a bottle. My aunt, who met us on our vacation, commented on the scent every morning. “Oh Heather, you smell so good. You smell like summer!”
Spray on the Sunblock!
I’ve used Banana Boat Kid’s Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30 for the last couple of years. These kind of spray on sunscreens are the best for reapplying sun protection on children (or adults!) who don’t want to know about sunblock. The spray is clear so you don’t get any of the dreaded white streaks my children and husband dislike so much. For quick touch ups on the go it can’t be beat. This has a place in my bag on every summer outing and family bike riding excursion. The SPF 30 versions gets a “best” rating and excellent review from Beautypedia, but be warned, the SPF 50 version is different. It contains alcohol and definitely stings.
If you want to spend the day at the beach and you don’t want to get a burn you’ll need to reapply your sunblock a few times over the course of the day, and you’ll definitely need to put more sunblock on after getting out of the water. Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach and Pool Spray Sunscreen SPF 70 is another great spray for reapplying sunblock at the beach. Like the Banana Boat spray above, this one goes on clear. What’s great about this is that you don’t have to dry off before spraying this on. It sounds like a minimal benefit, but I love the feeling of getting out of the cold water and lying in the sun while the water slowly evaporates. With this spray I don’t have to worry about getting a burn while I indulge in some sun bathing. For kids its fabulous. When do they ever take the time to dry off? This stuff is sticky, it needs to be that way to work, but it is effective. Check out the review on Beautypedia for more information on the product and how it works.
Sunblock for the Face
I while back I wrote about my favorite sunblock for the face, but that one only comes in SPF 15. For the beach I needed something stronger. SPF 30 is perfect for me because I also wear a hat, and because anything higher stings if I put it on my face. This summer I tried out Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion for the Face SPF 30 and I love it. It’s lightweight, fragrance free and is neither oily nor too drying. I found it to be pretty much perfect. It does sting if it gets in the eyes though, so avoid that area and wear dark sunglasses and a hat to protect your peepers.
For more great sunblock options check out WebMD’s list of best sunscreen. If you’d like to read more about sun protection I’d recommend Garance Dore’s delightful article SPF 101 or Beautypedia’s Learn from Your Burn, Understanding and Preventing Sunburn.
Disclosure: I purchased all these product with my own money and have not been compensated by the brands for writing this post.
Do you have a favorite sunblock? Have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments below!