The 10 Best Body Sunscreens Dermatologists Recommend for Year-Round Protection
Despite its importance, sunscreen application isn't always prioritized, especially when it comes to the body. But just like the face, your chest, arms, back, and legs need to be protected from the sun's damaging UV rays. "A shot glass worth of sunscreen should be applied if you are out in the sun to your entire body, every two hours and whenever you get out of water," says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Rita Linkner, MD.
But finding the best body sunscreen requires a lot of consideration, starting with the type of sun protection you want. Sunscreens are broken up into two categories: mineral and chemical.
"Mineral sunscreen (often referred to as physical sunscreen) uses minerals including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients to protect the top layer of skin by deflecting UVA and UVB rays from the skin," explains Laura Dyer, a New York City-based physician assistant specializing in aesthetic and clinical skincare. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens contain organic carbon-based compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone; these ingredients create a chemical reaction and protect the skin by changing UV rays into heat and then the heat is released from the skin, adds Dyer.
As for when you should use each, board-certified aesthetic plastic surgeon Michele Koo, MD, FACS, says there's no right answer. "Everyone has their own preferences and their own threshold of how much skin protection they desire," she says. "I personally use both. I use chemical sunscreens when I know I'll have intense prolonged sun exposure during hikes, trips to the beach, skiing, etc. Your skin will let you know how effective it is."
From there, you have your choice of lotion, spray, and stick formulations, which can then be further broken down based on ingredients, water resistance (more on that in a second), broad-spectrum SPF level (as a general rule of thumb, Dyer recommends to always use an SPF of 30 or higher), and other factors. It's important to understand sunscreen verbiage, and if you foresee yourself swimming or sweating while wearing sunscreen, know that water resistant formulas do not mean waterproof, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Sunscreen will stay on your skin for 40 to 80 minutes, depending on the product and what's on the label," he notes. That means you still need to reapply after getting out of the water; just be sure to pat dry before applying, so it doesn't drip off the skin, adds Dr. Zeichner.
What's more, deciding which sunscreen is right for you is totally dependent on your skin type, notes Dyer. "Acne-prone skin does better with physical sunscreen over chemicals, because both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are non-comedogenic (won't clog pores)," she points out. For those with darker skin types, a chemical sunscreen may be easier to apply, however there are great tinted mineral sunscreens that won't make the skin appear pasty or white. And if you have skin sensitivities like rosacea, avoid alcohol as an ingredient, since it can be harsh and drying, warns Dyer.
All in all, it really just comes down to what works for you, your skin, and your lifestyle. "The best sunscreen is ultimately the one you are actually using," says Dr. Zeichner. "With so many textures and delivery systems on the market, there's something out there for every personal preference. But, the sunscreen only works if you actually put it on," he adds.
Looking for a new body sunscreen? Below, explore the best sunscreens for the body that not only offer adequate sun protection but also cater to a variety of skin types and concerns to provide comfortable coverage.
The 10 best sunscreens for the body, according to dermatologists
- Best Overall: Supergoop Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50
- Best Mineral: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Body Shield SPF 50
- Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Sunscreen SPF 30
- Best for the Neck and Chest: Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen
- Best for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Activewear Lotion Sport Body Sunscreen SPF 60
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Vanicream Sunscreen Sport SPF 35 Body Sunscreen
- Best for Dark Skin: Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- Best for Mature Skin: Rodan + Fields Reverse Brightening Defense Fluid Lotion SPF 50+
- Best for Everyday Use: Solara Sunscare Clean Freak Nutrient Boosted Daily Sunscreen
- Best for Kids: Babo Botanicals' Broad Spectrum Daily Sheer Sunscreen SPF 40