Sunscreen for Surfers (2020 Edition)

You don't want to think about it. It's messy and gets all over the place. Sunscreen.

As surfers we are constantly in the sun. Wearing sunscreen is our best defense to protect our skin from the damaging rays of the sun.

We've got sunscreen that comes in sticks, sprays, tins and lotions. Just pick one and wear it.

Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 70
Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 70
Table of Contents
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    Why Is Sunscreen Important For Surfing?

    Sunscreen helps to protect the skin from damaging sun rays that may predispose one to skin cancer. Apart from this, sunscreen also protects the skin from premature aging and visible damage.

    A good sunscreen will a minimum SPF of 15 should be able to do the job quite well. However, there are several other factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing the best sunscreen for surfing.

    Sunscreen Protection Factor (SPF)

    The SPF factor shows how much a sunscreen will protect your skin from harmful sunrays. An SPF of 15 means a protection that is 15 times greater than the protection offered by bare skin. While an SPF of 15 should offer sufficient protection, a SPF of 30 will block over 96.7% of the UVB rays.

    Ideally, you should aim for a sunscreen with SPF factor ranging from 15 to 50. Remember that the effectiveness of SPF is influenced by how well you apply the sunscreen and what you do once you have it on, including going for a surf.

    UVA vs. UVB

    Harmful rays from the sun come in two main categories: UVA and UVB. Both rays are invisible and may be a cause for skin cancer. UVA rays are more common year round and are responsible for tanning. UVB rays are more intense and cause sunburn. They are common in direct sunlight.

    A good sunscreen should have a UVA/ UVB rating of four or five stars.

    Water Resistance

    A good sunscreen should be water resistant. A surf-specific sunscreen should not be easily washed off by water as you are surfing.

    Quality Ingredients

    A good sunscreen for surfing could be made with natural ingredients and/or chemical ingredients.

    While there is debate about which is best, one way to think about is that natural ingredients such as zinc oxide deflect UV radiation and provide a provide a physical barrier between you and the sun, while chemical ingredients absorb the harmful radiation.

    How To Use Sunscreens For Surfing

    Surfing sunscreen can come in the form of creams, lotions, or sprays. Sunscreens that are predominantly made from zinc oxide should be applied before surfing.

    Those that are made with chemical ingredients will need 20-30 minutes to start acting. Hence, they should be applied in advance before you can hit the waves.

    Sunscreen must be spread evenly on all exposed parts of the skin. Ample time should be allowed for the sunscreen to be absorbed through the skin layers.

    Sunscreen For Surfers

    There are hundreds of sunscreens that have flooded the market currently. While some are sold for dirt cheap, others will cost you an arm and a leg.

    The factors listed above, and not the price, should guide you when selecting the best sunscreen for surfing. We have analyzed the market and come up with sunscreens that should suit your needs as a surfer.

    Our Choice

    Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

    This sunscreen is vegan and reef friendly (it is octinoxate & oxybenzone free). It is a broad spectrum lotion with UVA/UVB Sunscreen with vitamin E for moisturizing your skin.

    Sun Bum sunscreens are designed to protect the skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays. When you consider that Sun Bum is hypoallergenic, reef friendly and formulated with high quality ingredients, we think it is one of the best choices you can make if your are going to be in and out of the water all day long.

    This sunscreen will protect your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays. It has antioxidants that helps to neutralize free radicals and should prevent premature skin aging. This product should be applied liberally 15 minutes before sun exposure. You should reapply after every 80 minutes of surfing, swimming or sweating.

    Pro surfers like Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson and Malia Manuel trust their skin to the Bum. And these guys make their money by being in the sun and surf all day.

    Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion
    Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

    Runner Up

    Badger - SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Cream

    If you are looking to let a little more sun in than a 50 SPF, we give you this SPF 30 zinc oxide sunscreen cream from Badger. This is a broad spectrum water resistant reef safe sunscreen that contain natural minerals and organic ingredients.

    Badger sunscreen products are widely available in local health food stores and online. Badger specializes in creating effective sunscreens that that are made from the highest quality natural ingredients. They offer seven products in the sunscreen line which include SPF 15 or 30 choices, baby specific, and scented or unscented.

    We love the unscented sunscreens which are hypoallergenic. All the sunscreens are made with zinc oxide as the natural ingredient which is recognized by the FDA as generally safe and effective. Zinc oxide offers broad spectrum protection from UVA/ UVB rays.

    Badger - SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Cream
    Badger - SPF 30 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Cream

    Other Sunscreens For Surfing

    Protect your skin. Find a favorite sunscreen and put it on before you get in the water. Your older self will thank you.

    Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

    This sunscreen spray from Sun Bum has a SPF of 30 and is vegan and reef friendly.

    It is broad spectrum and will offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. It is water resistant, paraben free, fragrance free, petroleum free, and cruelty free. It also contains vitamin E and smells like summer. Apply every two hours or every 80 minutes if you are in the water.

    We love the fact that it is very easy to apply and that it lasts for a whole hour and a half. It does not leave a lot of grease on the hands as well.

    Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 70
    Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 70

    Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 70

    This sun screen spray has all of the benefits of it's lesser-SPF sibling, but comes in at 70 SPF. If you are the kind of person how loves the beach, but doesn't love the burn that comes after the fun in the sun SPF 70 is probably your speed.

    You can also spray it and get back to business which leaves your hands free of sunscreen residue after applying.

    This sunscreen spray from Sun Bum has a SPF of 70 and is vegan and reef friendly. It offers broad spectrum protection from UVA/ UVB rays that lasts for up to 80 minutes. It contains vitamin E to help keep you looking dead sexy.

    Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 30
    Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

    Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Oxide Sport Sunscreen Cream

    This sunscreen cream from Badgers is unscented, broad spectrum protection, water resistant and reef safe. It contains natural minerals and organic ingredients. It's good for you and doesn't the ocean you love.

    It is water resistant and lasts on the skin for up to 80 minutes long. It does not have any added fragrance and is infused with natural compounds such as extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, and shea butter. It's prefect when you are going in and out of the water like a kook (or grom). Turtle would approve.

     

    Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Oxide Sport Sunscreen Cream
    Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Oxide Sport Sunscreen Cream

    Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Stick

    This sunscreen has an SPF of 35 and is predominantly made from zinc oxide. It is water resistant and lasts on the skin for up to 80 minutes. It is easy to apply and blends well with the skin leaving few if any white marks.

    It's unscented, broad spectrum, water resistant and reef safe. It contains natural minerals and 97% organic ingredients. It's all of the things we have come to love about Badger and it comes in a nifty stick to keep the application mess to a minimum.

    Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Stick
    Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Stick

    Badger - SPF 40 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Tin

    If you have gotten this far you are the type of person who wants options. Well, this is the only sunscreen on our list that comes in a tin.

    It's got 98% organic ingredient and natural minerals. It's reef friendly so the reef and fish you see swimming below you stay that way.

    This sunscreen has an SPF of 40 and contains four simple ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Sunflower Oil, Beeswax & Vitamin E. It is ideal for sensitive skin because it is all-natural and has no added fragrances.

    Badger - SPF 40 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Tin
    Badger - SPF 40 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Tin

    Kokua - Sun Care SPF 50

    This sunscreen from Kokua is offers 80 minutes of water resistance, is reef safe and contains natural zinc.

    This sunscreen from Kokua is all natural and has an SPF of 50. It offers broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB radiations. It has a high amount of zinc oxide at 25%. It is also infused with spirulina, macadamia nut oil, plumeria, and honey which help to tackle inflammation on the skin.

    This is a reef-safe sunscreen from Hawaii where they happen to know a little about the sun and the reefs. We are fans.

    Kokua - Sun Care SPF 50
    Kokua - Sun Care SPF 50

    Headhunter Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 45, Waterproof Surf Sunblock

    Headhunter is committed to creating the best surfing sunscreens for surfers. They boast of an “original” formula which features physical beta blockers and “heavy water technology” that allow the sunscreen to remain on the skin until it is washed off. The formula has a brown color tint to it, which if looks like you have a little bit of a tan after you apply it. This makes it visible so you can know that it is still working.

    This face stick is designed for surfing and comes in a pocket-sized version that is easy to carry around. It is in the form of a powder that won’t melt in warm conditions. It can even be applied in water. It is ideal for surfers who spend a lot of time in the sun. It contains both zinc oxide and octocrylene which ensures maximum protection from sun rays. These ingredients, while they may for good for you, don't do any favors for our ocean critter friends.

    This product is not called out as reef friendly, nor does it have organic ingredients or vitamin E. We give it to you as an option as that what we are here to do, but we think there are better, more environmentally friendly options that protect you just as well if not better in both the short an long term.

    Headhunter Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 45, Waterproof Surf Sunblock
    Headhunter Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 45, Waterproof Surf Sunblock

    Headhunter Surf Sunscreen SPF 50

    With an SPF of 50 and both UVB and UVA blockers it offers maximum protection from harmful sun rays. It is paraben free and hypoallergenic. It is also water resistant and lasts long on the skin.

    It does contain aloe vera, but does not call out vitamin E, organic ingredients or natural minerals like Badger or Sun Bum. As a product that is marketed to surfers, we are disappointed that doesn't do more to protect the surfers' skin for the long term or the critters of the sea. It is not reef safe. From that perspective, it is a better option for biking and sitting on the beach vs sitting on the beach, vs being in the water.

    Headhunter Surf Sunscreen SPF 50
    Headhunter Surf Sunscreen SPF 50

    Zinka - Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50

    Zinka is credited with introducing the first ever colored zinc oxide sunblock and is probably the first sunscreen to market to surfers back in the 80s when the color palette exploded on every piece of surfing gear you could find at the time.  They created the most water-resistant and broad spectrum sunscreens that are safe for all ages. It's been around because they made sunscreen fun and it works.

    Other than popping their product into a stick, it doesn't look like Zinka has changed with the times. This suncreen will protect you in and out of the water, but due to it's lack of reef-safe labeling, we would opt for a different sunscreen that takes ocean health into consideration. This is a good sunscreen for skating and snowboarding, but not surfing from our perspective. We hope to see reef-friendly options from Zinka in the future.

    Zinka - Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50
    Zinka - Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50

    Zinka - Nosecoat Sunscreen

    This sunscreen from Zinka contains 25% zinc oxide and provides total block from harmful sun rays. It reflects sunlight, blocks out UVA & UVB rays and is water resistant.

    It's fun and colorful and can help with getting the younger groms to put on sunscreen. But if you are only going to put sunscreen on your nose, you are in for one terrible night of sleeping through sun burnt pain. If you are looking for a sunscreen that is better for young and old groms, and the ocean, and can be applied to more than the nose, look else where.

     

    Zinka - Nosecoat Sunscreen
    Zinka - Nosecoat Sunscreen

    Zinka SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion 3-oz

    This sunscreen has an SPF 30 and contains zinc oxide. It offers maximum protection from UVA & UVB rays. It is paraben free which makes it safe for most skin types.

     

    Zinka SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion 3-oz
    Zinka SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion 3-oz

    Coppertone  - SPORT Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30

    This formula contains 5% zinc oxide as well as octisalate and oxybenzone. It offers maximum protection from UVA & UV rays. It contains vitamin E and is broad spectrum. This is another sunscreen on the list that probably better worn on the land and not the ocean as there are other reef safe options.

    Coppertone  - SPORT Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
    Coppertone - SPORT Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30

    Neutrogena - Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

    This sunscreen has an SPF of 50 and offers maximum protection from direct UV radiations. It has 100% zinc oxide which is about the highest that you will find in the market. It has a dry-touch formula that ensures that it has a non- greasy feel. It is also hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic (does not clog pores) which makes it safe for most skin types.

    Given its 100% zinc oxide content (which is great) and its lack of reef friendliness, we think this is a great option to use on land and not in the water.

    Neutrogena - Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
    Neutrogena - Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

    This wraps up our review of the best sunscreens for surfing. Feel free to write to us and let us know which other sunscreens have worked magic for you.