Beauty Favorites Skincare Suncare

Summer Sunscreen Testing Part 1: For the Body

June 2, 2017

Best Summer Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

As promised I have a sunscreen roundup series of everything I’ve tested over the past several months – 95 days to be exact. The sunshine here in Florida is stronger than anything I’ve experienced in California. Our first week here both Andrew and I got burned from being outside just a mere 5 minutes simply walking around our backyard. I immediately unpacked sunscreen bottles and sprays that I had brought with me from our move and we used everything up in a matter of a couple days because we sprayed it everywhere. After using everything up we began our search for the best formulas that weren’t greasy, didn’t have that sunscreen spray, felt long lasting and were the most effective at preventing burn and tanning. Unfortunately so far the only way to avoid getting darker is to stay out of the sun or be covered up entirely. Over the past three months we’ve put quite a few sunscreens to the test.

This sunscreen edit is going to be split up into two parts: body and face. In gathering all the tubes we’ve tested, I found that there were around 25 different formulas we tried and we gave each one a thorough test run (with the exception of the tinted face ones which I tested but my husband did not). Both of us wished there was a formula that could be truly suitable for both face and body and while there are many formulas designed for multi-use, we’ve found for the most part we have to use separate formulas. Many bottles we used up entirely, mostly for the body. We each have our favorites which I’ll mention at the bottom.

Favorite Body Sunscreens | The Beauty Look Book

When it comes to sunscreen I have to admit it’s all a bit confusing. So many articles, doctors, specialists each have their own opinion on what the minimum SPF you should use. Some say sunscreens with high SPF numbers aren’t more effective over SPF 50. Others say the minimum amount you should wear is SPF 30 and if that’s the case then what’s the point of something with SPF 10 or 15? Also a look at some of the bottles I have and others online also show some have a PA rating which I wasn’t aware of. I did some research and discovered that the SPF (sun protection factor) measures how a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, but that there is another rating to measure protection from UVA rays. This apparently isn’t measured in all countries and I looked up every sunscreen I tested and most of them don’t have a rating (a PA followed by + or ++ or +++). So while most sunscreens will say they are “broad spectrum” to cover both UVA and UVB protection, it’s difficult to measure how much UVA protection there is which appears to be due to the fact that there’s no adopted standard in the US. According to Skincancer.org, “To make sure you’re getting effective UVA as well as UVB coverage, look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, plus some combination of the following UVA-screening ingredients: stabilized a avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. MexorylTM), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.”

Then there are different types of sunscreen such as physical vs chemical. This site and this article help break it down, but still as one with super sensitive skin, I always proceed with caution. Many of my friends prefer mineral sunscreens (which are physical and chemical free) but I know some people have sensitivity to zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide which are their only active ingredients.

All that being said I’m still learning about sunscreens. We tested different formulas to see what lasted the longest and also how each formula felt on the skin. Traditionally I’ve found that I liked spray formulas because they are easy for me to apply on my own especially on my back. I’ve read mixed reviews about sprays and the biggest concern is that you don’t always know that you’re getting the proper coverage since product is prone to evaporation when you mist it before it hits the skin. With sprays we’ve both made a point to try and mist each other and give each area several layers to try and get as full coverage as possible.

Up first are a mix of what we consider to be the longest-lasting formulas and then thoughts on some sprays. For body sunscreens it’s a must for me that there’s no white cast. I know many of them look white once you apply but the color disappears after a few minutes. In general the ones with a white cast tend to feel thicker and heavier on the skin. I wanted to see if I could find something that would be effective without being thick.

Sunscreen Testing for Body | The Beauty Look Book

Shown from above from left to right. Note that a number of these are water resistant with a time limit. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been in the water for 80 minutes so I can’t report on the time claims. But I will note which ones did the best in water.

  • Supergoop! Super Power Sunscreen Mousse Broad Spectrum SPF 50 (c/o), water resistant 80 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%
    • This is the latest from Supergoop! and I love this one. It’s a lightweight hydrating mousse that is long-lasting with a very light clean scent. It has a whipped texture when you dispense it and it’s easy to apply and blend into the skin. It contains Blue Sea Kale to provide antioxidant protection from heat rays, and shea butter, olive and avocado oils to keep skin hydrated. My husband felt this was too hydrating for his skin and for him since he sweats more in the heat this one felt a bit heavy on him but he does agree it lasts a long time. On me it was perfect.
  • Moroccanoil Sun Lotion SPF 30 and SPF 50 (c/o)
    • Active Ingredients: Homosalate (12%), Oxybenzone (6%), Octisalate (5%), Avobenzone(3%), Octocrylene (2.5%)
    • Both are hydrating lotions with the signature Moroccanoil scent but to me I detect a hint of licorice (which nobody else I know can smell in it so it must just be my nose). This is the most hydrating formula I’ve tried – these formulas have Argan Oil, Coconut Oil and Glycerine. Both the SPF 30 and 50 last a long time on the skin. For me I find them too heavy for every day normal use, I prefer them for the beach or outdoors. My husband on the other hand finds them hydrating but doesn’t mind the emollient feel. These have a super moisturizing feel and they do make the skin noticeably softer and helps with any dry patches or texture. The SPF 50 version noticeably helped prevent me from tanning a lot more than the SPF 30.
  • Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 85+, water resistant 80 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 10%, Oxybenzone 6%
    • This one is a spray that works on wet or dry skin, on dry skin I felt it was just ok. It adheres well but the drydown isn’t my favorite and it wasn’t quite as effective on me at preventing darkening. Re-application on wet skin however is another story and I wholeheartedly like this one on wet skin. For some reason I found it adhered easily on wet skin and worked when we went swimming in our pool and at the beach. Your mileage may vary on this one.
  • Supergoop! Anti-Oxidant Infused Sunscreen Mist SPF 50, water resistant 80 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3.0%, Homosalate 4.0%, Octinoxate 6.0%, Octisalate 3.0%
    • This is one I’ve used up a number of times, it does have a slight alcohol scent but it’s a non-aerosol and the bottle says it has 35% less alcohol than other sprays although it does not specify which brands they are referring to. I find the misting dispenser to be really effective at applying product. I feel like it gives a more continuous mist which dispenses more product. I like this one because it’s non irritating, easy to apply and I can get my back without getting my hands greasy and spray those harder to reach places on my own. The only downside is that excess from sprays can get on the floor so if you spray inside the floor can get a bit slippery.
  • Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, water resistant 80 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 2.24%, Homosalate 8%, Octisalate 2.4%, Octocrylene 4.48%, Oxybenzone 2.88%
    • This is both one of our top picks, we have tried a few other face sunscreens from Kiehl’s in the past and really liked them, for this formula they have both SPF 30 and 50. It’s a semi thick cream but is easy to blend, feels weightless, doesn’t have that greasy feel and has a good dry down. This lasted well in the pool and is completely fragrance/scent free. We found it really good at protecting the skin and since it has a lightweight texture it’s easy to reapply without feeling like you have layers of product on the skin throughout the day.
  • Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray, Broad Spectrum SPF 30, (c/o) water resistant 40 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.7%, Oxybenzone 5%
    • I think I would 100% love this if it had a higher SPF. This is a light weight oil spray that has skincare properties to hydrate and nourish the skin and hair. It contains organic Indonesian Nyamplung Oil to protect skin and hair from the drying effects of sun, salt water and chlorine, senna extract defends from UV damage, Plane Tree extract fights free radicals. I really like the feel and hydration this offers. I rub this on my body and any excess on my hands I apply on the hair. It has a lightweight aloe almost honey-like scent that’s completely natural. The sun and heat can dry out the skin so I love that this is an oil that nourishes the skin. I need to invest in some of their After Sun Care like this After Sun Gel Ultra-Soothing product. If you have any good burn relief products you like that aren’t sticky let me know!
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray, Broad Spectrum SPF 50, water resistant 80 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.5%, Oxybenzone 5%
    • This is another great sunscreen spray with SPF 50+ and it has no white cast. So many of you have raved and recommended Shiseido for sunscreens and I really think they have great formulas. However most of them have that white cast which I just detest. Many of you have said they fade after a few minutes and I think if you’re fair or light skin it does seem like it will disappear after setting. However on those of us with medium-tan to deep skin there’s still a contrast even with the dry down. Anyways this spray is completely clear. You can use it on both face and body but I prefer it on the body. It’s lightweight and has no greasy feel although it does have a slight hydrating effect with a glow. I found this to be very effective and long lasting in the water.

Up next are what we consider to be among the best non-greasy body sunscreens. At this point in our lives we’ve both agreed that we can live with a slightly greasy feel as long as there’s no hideous sunscreen scent. We are more conscientious about taking care of our skin. We have however found some great ones with no greasy residue.

Non Greasy Sunscreens for Body

Shown above from left to right:

  • Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, water resistant 80 minutes
    • Active Ingredients: (See above listing)
    • Shown same as the above photo because this is in the top pick for my husband in favorites for effectiveness at protection, preventing burn and minimizing tanning while still being lightweight, quick absorbing and suitable for both face and body. For me it’s in my top three for body. It truly is non-greasy, unscented and has a nice dry down. We really love Kiehl’s – this tube is completely used up, my husband loves it for both the face and body. We need to restock soon.
  • Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen with Cellular Response Technology, Broad Spectrum SPF 50, PA+++
    • Active Ingredients: Homosalate 10%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%, Avobenzone 3%
    • This is in my top 3 for lightweight sunscreens. It’s oil-free for face and body, it is enriched with their Cellular Response Technology to preserve and protect the skin’s glow – and my husband even commented that my legs looked like they had a really nice glow with this on. Because it has a no-grease residue this is another good one for me to reapply every 2 hours and as the day progresses I don’t feel like I’m layering on tons of product.
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 55
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.8%, Oxybenzone 6%
    • With this one I have mixed feelings primarily because it seems to have a lack of consistency. I bought a tube from CVS in store and then bought a multi-pack at Costco and while the product names are identical, the ingredient listing and order was not. I purchased them within a couple weeks of each other, both in Florida. I don’t know if one has a cheaper formula than the other or if they simply just changed it depending on distribution timing. This one has a creamy texture that’s semi thick but glides on the skin nicely. It does indeed have super sheer feeling finish but it’s not liquid so it doesn’t feel like it just dissolves on the skin. We both really like the formula, matte finish, long lasting effect. It did work to protect our skin – but as I’m already one who finds ingredients confusing, the difference in listings between the tubes makes me suspicious about quality.
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, Broad Spectrum 60
    • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 10.72%, Octisalate 3.21%, Octocrylene 6%, Oxybenzone 3.86%
    • This brand has been recommended to me by friends and readers for years. It’s one I’ve wanted to try for a while but every time I see it in person I can’t help but be completely overwhelmed by the options! This one is actually for the face but my husband likes this on the body because of the lightweight feel and matte drydown. He feels this is one of the most effective ones for his skin and likes that if he sweats it doesn’t sting his eyes. We picked ours up from Blue Mercury but I’ve looked at the La Roche-Posay site and have been trying to figure out what to try next. If you have any specific recommendations please let me know what formulas worked for you.

That rounds up our body sunscreen testing! We only had 1 miss which wasn’t included here because we used a face sunscreen stick on our body and both broke out in a horrible reaction. It’s not included here because I suspect it was user error rather than product error. We were lucky to have a lot of hits and I was super lucky nothing caused an allergic reaction as I’ve almost always broke out in red bumps with drugstore sunscreens. In summary here are our thoughts on the best, longest lasting and what we recommend:

  • Longest lasting ones on the skin for best water-resistant formulas for both of us include the Supergoop! Super Power Sunscreen Mousse and the Moroccanoil SPF 50, these are also the heaviest with the most emollient feel
  • Longest lasting formulas for skin but lightweight if you’re not in water include the Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with SPF 50 and Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Sunscreen with SPF 50
  • Best lightweight winners for my husband are the La Roche-Posay Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid Anthelios 60 and Kiehl’s
  • Best lightweight winners for me are the Supergoop! Everyday Sunscreen with SPF 50 and Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray, I also like the Kiehl’s as well but prefer the other two if I had to only pick 2

Because of the improved lasting power of so many of these we’ve found that we need to triple wash ourselves in the evenings with shower gel. Some of these really stick to your skin! If you have any sunscreen favorites for the body let me know in the comments. Any brand recs appreciated but if you can leave the formula name as well those are super helpful as so many lines have multiple formulas it’s so confusing when I’m at the store to pick one!

Face sunscreen roundup to follow soon! For those curious about the accessories shown:

Press samples include Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray and the Supergoop! Sunscreen Mousse.

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  • nic

    The best I have found is the Replenix SPF 50 Spray for body and face. It takes 8 sprays for 1/4 tsp. on face and don’t forget 8 more sprays for the neck! Skinceuticals Physical Fusion is great for face as well.

    • Hi Nic – thanks for the tips! I really appreciate the recs – will add both to my list to check out πŸ™‚

  • Maja Harder Thygesen

    This is just what I needed! I am so picky with sunscreens and there aren’t a lot of guidance if there when researches online 😊
    http://www.majaharder.com

  • mtnbird

    Thank you for sharing such great info! I’m excited to try several of the brands you mentioned this summer (especially the Supergoop foam). I have sensitive, reactive skin like you and have found my all time favorite to be COOLA Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50 ($36 at Sephora/Ulta/Nordstrom/Dermstore etc). It sprays evenly, clear, and absorbs quickly (it also comes in many different scents, though I prefer the original). It’s especially great for hiking — never feels greasy, even when sweating. Thought it would be worth mentioning! Excited to hear your thoughts on Face Sunscreens. πŸ™‚

  • Adrienne Whyte

    Sabrina, as a fair-skinned blonde who tries to stay out of the sun (I’m pretty tired of having actinic keratoses frozen off my face and hands), I always wear a wide-brimmed hat when I must be exposed. I also read every review I can get my hands on. Consumer Reports had a good one. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/sunscreens.htm

    From your list, I am most happy with La Roche Posay 60.

    • Hi Adrienne – you’re right a wide brimmed hat is a must! I have a few but think I need to find a larger one to give me more coverage/shade.

  • Roshni

    thanks for informative post, i needed this for the summers here. I need not research much on Sunscreens now, so good to have stopped by here. La roche looks a perfect one for me. thanks and cheers

  • Catherine Shi

    This is so so so so helpful <3 Thank you so much Sabrina!! I'm allergic to octinoxate and I'm iffy about the other chemical sunscreen ingredients so I've struggled my whole adult life to find sunscreens I can wear, but like many of your readers and Consumer Reports have noticed mineral only formulations just don't protect as well. And my BF pretty much just won't wear sunblock at all unless it's really dire like we're going to be outside all day and I've spent hours guilting him about skin cancer. Normally, living in SF, it's easy to just wear something on my face (Tatcha, 3lab and Glossier are my current favs) and simply cover up the rest of my body but we're going on a few vacations to warm places this summer and I've just been dreading it! We've been using Alba Botanica and Cetaphil but to be honest don't love any of them, so reading your descriptions and experience helps SO MUCH. 😊

    • Hi Catherine – glad this post helped! I updated the post with a list of active ingredients so you know which ones to avoide with octinoxate. I totally get you or the BF not wearing body sunscreen in SF, I didn’t wear it on the body when I lived in San Diego because the weather is so nice and mild you don’t feel the sun like you do other places.

      If you’re going to travel somewhere warmer/humid I understand your dread! Not sure where you are going but if you’re anywhere in Greece they have a lot of Korres sunscreens which are natural and you can’t find them in the US. We wish we had stocked up a couple years ago but since we were carry on only we only bought what we thought we’d use. Also it appears Asian countries have a lot of better formulas. Anywhere in France will have pharmacies that stock Avene, La Roche Posay (the European formulas are also different from the US).

      So not to worry! There are plenty of options πŸ™‚