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Updated January 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

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Buying guide for Best body sunscreens

Sunshine in moderation is actually healthy, especially since it helps bodies produce vitamin D, which strengthens the immune system. Prolonged exposure to UV rays, however, can result in more than one kind of skin damage, including premature aging and skin cancer.

Whether you’re enjoying a short walk or spending all day at the park, it’s important to protect your skin with body sunscreen. The active ingredients in body sunscreen help block UV rays to keep them from reaching the skin. While sunscreen can’t completely prevent UV ray damage, studies show it is effective at minimizing damage.

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Many skincare experts recommend using body sunscreen all year long, including the colder seasons. Even if you’re bundled up, your face and hands can be exposed to UV rays, so it’s a good idea to keep them protected.

Physical vs. chemical sunscreen

Physical sunscreen

Physical sunscreen, also called mineral sunscreen, coats the skin to form a protective barrier that reflects UV rays. The main active ingredients in physical sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These ingredients block both UVA and UVB rays and are recommended for daily or all-day wear.

Chemical sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen works a little differently in that it protects the skin by penetrating its outermost layers and absorbing UV rays. It’s formulated with a combination of active ingredients that may include avobenzone, oxybenzone, or octinoxate, to name a few. Chemical sunscreens are popular for their ease of application. They’re also quick to absorb, and many of them dry clear.

Key considerations

Understanding SPF

SPF stands for sun protective factor, which measures how long sunscreen protects the skin. The higher the SPF, the longer the skin remains protected. SPF is informally classified into three groups: mild protection (SPF 15 to 30), moderate protection (SPF 15 to 30), and high protection (SPF 30 to 100).

It should be noted that there is a bit of an expert divide when it comes to the efficacy of high SPF sunscreens. In the past, it was believed that sunscreens with higher SPF provided superior protection against UV rays. More recently, some experts have asserted that there are only marginal differences in protection between moderate and high SPF sunscreens.

Body sunscreen vs. facial sunscreen

Body sunscreen is generally intended for use from the neck down. While you can apply it to your face, it’s not formulated for the delicate skin of the face. As such, it could result in breakouts if you’re acne-prone.

Instead, it’s recommended that you purchase a separate facial sunscreen. These formulas are designed to spread easily over the skin so you can apply makeup or foundation over them. Facial sunscreens have a lightweight, colorless finish and absorb fairly quickly into the skin.

Formula

If ease of application is a top concern, make sure you choose a formula that is convenient for you. Body sunscreens are available in liquid, spray, and stick formulas.

Liquid: Liquid formulas are by far the most common body sunscreens. They remain popular for their affordability and ease of application and re-application. One of the pitfalls, though, is that liquid formula takes time to absorb or set. This means that some residue may transfer to your towels or clothing.

Spray: Spray formulas have risen in popularity thanks to their quick and easy application. Most spray sunscreens are clear, and they often dry faster than liquid formulas. Unfortunately, the spray steam is difficult to control, so product waste is fairly inevitable and can get expensive.

Stick: Stick formulas are the least-popular type of body sunscreen. While they’re convenient to travel with since they won’t leak or spray in your bags, they can be difficult to spread onto the skin. Some consumers prefer using them to cover only certain areas of the body, such as the tops of the feet or the chest. Simply swipe the stick for an easy, mess-free application.

Features

Water-resistant

Water-resistant body sunscreen is ideal if you spend time at the beach, pool, or waterpark. These formulas are designed to stay on the skin even if submerged for a prolonged period. As expected, water-resistant sunscreen can be a bit more challenging to wash off in the shower.

Noncomedogenic

Noncomedogenic body sunscreen is often recommended for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Physical sunscreens in this category are considered a better option, as chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and are more likely to clog pores.

For sensitive skin

Body sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin leaves out harsh ingredients like oil, alcohol, fragrance, parabens, and other known irritants. Instead, these formulas rely on naturally derived ingredients that soothe the skin such as oatmeal, aloe vera, or cocoa butter.

Accessories

Facial sunscreen: Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion
To maximize your UV protection, invest in a quality facial sunscreen. This one from Sun Bum offers broad-spectrum protection. It’s recommended by dermatologists for its lightweight, break-out-free formula.

Sun hat: Columbia Unisex Bora Bora Booney
Another way to protect your neck and face from UV rays is with a hat. We like this simple design from Columbia, which is made with wick-away material. It even has mesh panels to promote airflow around and inside the hat.

Lip sunscreen: Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 50
It’s important to protect your lips with SPF balm, such as this one by Coppertone. Its formula is infused with aloe and vitamin E to keep lips chap-free and moisturized.

Body sunscreen prices

Body sunscreen ranges in price from $6 to $40. The price mostly depends on the quality of ingredients as well as how popular and reputable the manufacturer is.

Inexpensive: If you need a basic body sunscreen and don’t have an underlying skin condition, you’ll find a wide variety of liquid, spray, and stick formulas for $6 to $10. Many sunscreens in this range are classic or original formulas produced by well-known brands.

Mid-range: If you have sensitive skin or are prone to acne, it’s recommended to stick to the $10 to $18 range. These formulas have premium or naturally derived ingredients that keep irritation and breakouts at bay.

Expensive: High-end body sunscreens produced by premium skincare manufacturers cost anywhere from $20 to $40. With some sunscreens in this bracket, you’re paying top dollar just for a name. With others, you’re paying for a tailored formula that suits your skin.

Tips

Apply 15 minutes before heading outside. To get the most out of your protection, it’s recommended to apply body sunscreen 15 minutes prior to exposure to direct sunlight.

Check the expiration date. Body sunscreens often have expiration dates, which are usually one to two years away. Even if you have an unexpired bottle from a previous year or season, you may wish to invest in a new one just in case.

Wrap or bag the bottle. Body sunscreen is notorious for opening inside purses and beach bags. To prevent a mess, seal it off with plastic wrap or keep it in a resealable bag.

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If you’re traveling abroad and aren’t checking any luggage, you’re limited to a travel-size bottle of sunscreen. You may need to buy full-size bottles at your destination.

FAQ

Q. Are there special body sunscreens to cover tattoos?
A.
Yes. Because UV exposure can deteriorate ink, many people with tattoos invest in specialty sunscreen to cover and preserve them. These formulas are commonly seen in stick form to make application easy. Unfortunately, these sunscreens are pricey, so it’s recommended to invest in a regular and more affordable formula for un-tattooed areas of the body.
 

Q. How often should I reapply sunscreen?
A.
It’s recommended to reapply every two hours if possible. If you’re not using a water-resistant sunscreen and take a few dips in the water, you should reapply it when you come out of the water.
 

Q. Why does my body sunscreen have such a strong odor?
A.
Formulas with strong odors haven’t been designed to mask it, which means they might be fragrance-free. The odors you’re smelling are the natural scents of the ingredients. If the smell is too noticeable, you may benefit from using a pleasantly fragranced sunscreen.

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