Sunblock for the Beach – My Favorites from the Drugstore

The best sunblock for the beach from the drugstoreWalk 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

Sunblock for the Beach - The Style Confessions

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!

The best sunblock for the beach

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.

Sunblock for the Beach - The Style ConfessionsIf 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

Sunblock for the Beach - The Style ConfessionsI 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!

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12 Responses to Sunblock for the Beach – My Favorites from the Drugstore

  1. Greetje Kamminga July 29, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Hah… I have the best protection of all: I don’t sit in the sun anymore. Or perhaps an hour on a terrace but even then never at noon. (Mind you, I do sun couches, which is bad too.)
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    • anne the SpyGirl
      July 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Ah, Greetje — watch out for sun couches (= tanning beds?). My boyfriend used to have treatments in those for a chronic skin condition, UNTIL HE GOT MELANOMA! He’s fine, but it was a scary discovery when it happened.
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    • Heather Fonseca July 30, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      I’ve never done a tanning booth, as they’re called here in this part of the US. Honestly I don’t like the look of a tan. I’ve always preferred pale skin, which is probably why I’ve always worn sunscreen. I do love the feeling of the sun on my skin though! Sun bathing feels so good sometimes.

  2. MARLA ROBINSON July 29, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    My all time favorite is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock. Doesn’t block my pores or leave my face or body feeling greasy.

    • anne the SpyGirl
      July 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

      Me too! I found however that the 55 SPF IS more greasy and stings if it gets in the eyes. I’m going back to the 30, once I use up what I have. It also has a pleasant scent.

    • Heather Fonseca July 30, 2013 at 8:14 am #

      A lot of people love Neutrogena’s ultra sheer dry touch. I don’t know why I don’t. I should like it! I have combination skin and struggle with oil overload in the summer so it should be great, but I think it might actually be too dry for me. That’s just my opinion though. Everything I’ve read about it says it’s great, especially the SPF 30.

  3. Sharon July 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I am a firm believer in sunblock. It helps slow the aging that sun can cause. One reason I look like I am still in my 20’s. Okay, okay, early 30’s. It is mandatory in the summer that myself and my children put sunblock on before going out in the everyday sun. When we are at the pool I like to reapply it often. I think one misconception people of color have is that they don’t need sunblock, but everyone should wear it. As of right now, I have Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic.

    • Heather Fonseca July 30, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      It’s true Sharon! Everyone should wear sunblock when it’s hot and sunny. I wear it year round because it’s almost always sunny here, but anyone can get a burn if they’re not careful. Good for you for getting it on your kids too. Mine fight me.

    July 30, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    I use the Neutrogena Wet Kids spray too…sometimes just when I’m popping out for a bike ride. I haven’t gone to the pool since the end of May, I think. Too humid/hot, if you can believe that. So I’m not blazing through the sunscreen this summer!

    For drugstore brands, I also like Neutrogena Age Shield Face Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 110 for my face if I’m going to be outdoors a lot. I’ve been wearing variations of it for years, though lately, I’ve been wearing non-drugstore brand Anthelios since I’m hibernating!
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    • Heather Fonseca July 30, 2013 at 8:09 am #

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that like the wet kids spray by Neutrogena. I used to love their Age Shield Face lotion when it came in SPF 30, but I can’t find it anymore and the higher SPF’s burn when I put them on my face. And yes, I can totally understand staying out of the sun when it’s hot and humid. Usually when it gets really hot here I just stay inside near the air conditioning. I hate the heat!

    July 30, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Great post Heather! I also love that facial sunscreen you mentioned — I’ve been using it for awhile now. As for the rest of my body, I haven’t been too smart — I prefer tanning oil and 4 SPF. It’s hard to discipline myself after doing things a certain way for so long, but I know I need to change my habits!
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    • Heather Fonseca July 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Honestly I wish they made a tanning oil with a 15 spf. The lotion is nice but who needs the white streaks? I love how the lighter SPF’s are tinted so they make your skin look darker, not paler! I guess I’ll have to keep on looking. I’m glad you like the coppertone face lotion. I thought it was good for a drugstore brand.