All the Sunscreens We Have in Our Beach Bags
One is a former swimmer who hails from sun-scorched Arizona, where she spent all of her free time hanging out at the pool. The other grew up in the Chicago suburbs, spending her summers at a strange reservoir that passed as a beach in Midwest suburbia. Both still spend a lot of time in the sun, but they're not about to do it without some protection. Here's a rundown of all the sunscreens they keep in their beach bags.
Skin color: Lighter black skin that tans easily
# of sunscreens in rotation: 5
Sun worshipper?: Yes. "I love to lay out."
Sunscreen philosophy: "For me, putting on sunscreen is as natural as brushing my teeth. There's a history of skin cancer in my family, so I've been pretty anal-retentive about using it ever since I was a kid. But the way I look at it, it's another health and beauty product to learn about—and I love doing that!"
Skin color: Light white skin that burns, then tans
# of sunscreens in rotation: 5
Sun worshipper?: Recovering. "I used to try to get a tan in the summer, but I'm trying to cut back."
Sunscreen philosophy: "Sunscreen can keep you alive and keep you looking beautiful at the same time! Seriously though, sunscreen not only helps protect against skin cancer, but also helps prevent wrinkles and sunspots.
Yet, even if I didn't care about getting cancer or my looks, I would care about preventing painful sunburns. You would too if you had ever gotten anything like the throbbing, deeply purple second-degree sunburn I got on my foot in the Caribbean because I was careless with my sunscreen application. That happened when I was 16, and it hasn't happened since."
Favin with some of her favorite sunscreens
Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Dry Oil Spray Sunscreen with Argan Oil
SPF: 4 or 8 (it also has higher SPFs if you want more protection)
Favin: "I love to lay out so tanning oil is a given for any beach trip. Protecting my skin is just as important as getting a good glow, however, so I like my oil to have an SPF component. This dry oil sunscreen just requires a quick spray for total coverage, and it smells like banana-coconut rum!"
For Looking Glowy
Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Ultra Radiance Lotion Sunscreen
SPF: 30 (50 if it's in stock)
Colleen: "On many summer weekends, I can be found stretched out on the swimming pier at my in-laws' lake house in Wisconsin. That's when I grab my Hawaiian Tropic bottle. It's a lightweight lotion that sinks into my skin easily, and I have yet to burn wearing it. But what I really love is that it makes me feel like a glowy golden goddess. That's due to the subtle shimmer and the beachy coconut fragrance. Applying this sunscreen doesn't feel like a chore at all."
For Quick Touchups
Coppertone Sport Spray
Colleen: "Lounging on the pier is an all-day affair with all my in-laws. After hours of drinking New Glarus beers in the sun, reapplying lotion without missing spots is about as hard as applying a liquid matte lipstick in a moving car. That's why I'll reach for this water-resistant spray sunscreen and just go to town. It's hard to miss spots when you keep on spraying and spraying. Plus, it's so easy to operate, even if you're a bit tipsy."
Neutrogena Sport Sunscreen Lotion
Favin: "Growing up in the Arizona desert, the only thing my siblings and I ever wanted to do was go to the pool. We were all on swim teams from ages 6–18, so putting on sunscreen became part of our morning ritual: by 6 a.m. every day, my mom had us slathered in goop. That goop was Neutrogena Sport Sunscreen, and the water-resistant formula did a bang-up job of shielding us from the Arizona sun. It's still my go-to goop for swim days."
For More Intense Water Sports
Australian Gold Lotion with Instant Bronzer
Favin: "Zooming across the water on a Jet Ski is one of my favorite vacation activities. I've learned the hard way, though, that being out on the water is different from being in the water. The light reflects off the ocean's surface and gives me what feels like a double-dose of sun, so I burn way more easily. That's why, when I'm on a WaveRunner, I go for a long-lasting sunscreen with a higher SPF. Australian Gold Lotion is designed to stay on for upwards of 80 minutes, and its instant bronzers make me look like a consummate beach professional."
Colleen with her holy grail face sunscreens
For Even Just Thinking About Going to the Beach
1. Elta MD UV Clear
2. Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen
SPF: 46 and 50, respectively
- Elta MD: from $15.99 with one of our deals (normally $32 at the dermatologist)
- Bioré UV: $11–$15
Colleen: "These are my two face sunscreens that I wear every day (more or less, sometimes it's hard to get up on time in the morning). So if I'm going to be outside, regardless of whether water is involved, I'll be wearing one of these. I love these lightweight sunscreens because they sink in quickly, don't leave a white cast, and don't break me out. I'll always have one in my beach bag for touchups."
Shop: Elta MD Sunscreen (from $15.99)
For Looking Cute
Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Balm
Colleen: "OK, this is not a sunscreen, per se, but it's a pretty tinted lip balm with SPF 15 that protects your lips while making them look bomb. But like, subtly bomb. The tints are very sheer, so they're perfect when you want a little color on your lips without looking like you're wearing lipstick to the beach. I feel especially glam when I pair this with some tinted brow gel, a cute braid, and some oversized sunglasses."
For Picnicking on the Beach
L'Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare Quick Dry Sheer Finish Spray
SPF: 30 or 50
Favin: "When I'm sitting in the sun but not trying to tan, this one's my favorite. The spray nozzle makes it a breeze to apply, and the high SPF is great for sun-sensitive skin. The best thing about this spray is that it doesn't make me feel sticky or clog my pores, so I don't feel gross while I'm, uh, stuffing my face with beach snacks."
For Spiking a Volleyball
Coppertone ClearlySheer Sunny Days Body Lotion
SPF: 15 or 30
Favin: "This sunscreen is so lightweight, I barely feel it when it's on. The true benefits come out after I've been playing beach games for a while: the lotion doesn't run into my eyes when I sweat, and the lemon-lime scent means I don't smell like sweat."
Colleen's two ride-or-die face sunscreens made the cut. See what else did.
Do you need a chemical sunscreen or a physical sunscreen? And what does SPF mean? Your questions answered.
Colleen is a makeup/skincare junkie who has a serious Sephora problem. She writes about all things beauty and occasionally does hand modeling for work. Her job is strange.