Beat the Burn: The Best Sunscreens

It’s Wednesday! Around here, we call it “bump day.” Each and every Wednesday we’ll post a tip, trick, gadget or something fun and random to get you through the rest of the week. 

This is not a sponsored post. I’m just providing my opinions on products I’ve personally tried. Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to the sun and products, so what works for me may not work as well for you.

 Since I suggested a sunny golf getaway earlier this week, I thought I’d offer up some suggestions on which sunscreens to pack once you’ve booked your vacay. I realize that for most of you, it’s the dead of winter and the idea of needing sunscreen is ridiculous. I’m being optimistic though and hoping that several of you have a warm-weather holiday in the works. If you don’t, perhaps reading about sunshine and outdoor activities will warm you up!

I’ve lived in the Caribbean for over three years, and sunscreen every single day has been an absolute must for me. I used to be one those stupid teens basking in the sun with a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic at the ready. Remember? It was right next to the Sun In, which was one brilliant idea gone terribly wrong (lesson quickly learned!). However, with age comes wisdom, along with the ability to burn much more easily. Living so close to the equator, the sun is strong and skin damage happens quickly! And aside from the health benefits of protecting your skin from the rays, no one looks good with a burnt nose or weird tan lines.

The sunscreen industry has exploded in the past few years, and it can be an overwhelming experience to see all of the brands and versions at the store. It’s not just a matter of determining which SPF you need. You have to choose between lotions, sprays, creams, and sticks. Do you want waterproof, water resistant, or something that you can apply when wet? Do you want a sport version, a face version, an extreme sun version? It’s ridiculous!

So many choices!

So many choices!

Because I’ve tried my fair share, I wanted to help you narrow down your choices. I’ve tested a few different brand names, several versions within each brand, and have even tried them out in a variety of situations. I’ve slathered on sunscreen for everyday errands, at the beach, on a boat, on the golf course, and on the tennis court. Some have become a go-to brand in our house, others hit the bottom of the trash bin. So here’s what worked for me, and what absolutely did not.

Banana Boat

While I liked the feel of the Sport Performance SPF 50 lotion, it applies well and is non-greasy, this is an excellent example of a sunscreen that simply doesn’t work for me. I used to carry this around in my golf bag, but even after multiple applications over a few hours on the course, my arms and legs still got burnt. Needless to say, I trashed it. What good is a sunscreen that doesn’t protect you from the sun? Pass this over at the drugstore and go for one that actually works. It may be cheaper than the others, but you get what you pay for.

Okay, I admit that sometimes I still lay out in the sun with a tanning spray that has a flimsy SPF. I get that it’s stupid…but I’m human. And I hate it when I go back to Canada and receive comments on how pale I am! Really? On those days of stupidity, I use the Deep Tanning Oil SPF 4. It’s an oil so it’s greasy, but I’ve never actually burned while using it. However, the most I sit out for is an hour before I apply a proper sunscreen. So be careful! I wouldn’t recommend counting on this as proper sun protection if you’re out on the water or at the beach all day.

Hawaiian Tropic

This was by my side every summer!

This was by my side every summer!

I couldn’t possibly write a post about sunscreen and not include this legendary brand. Right now, the only item I use is the Oil Spray SPF 4, although I think I’ll try their actual sunscreen products next. It works as well as the Banana Boat oil spray, but the thing about this product is the smell. It’s a scent that instantly reminds me of those lazy summer days, and being a carefree teenage girl whose only concern was getting a good tan and watching the boys stroll by on the beach. Ah memories!

Ombrelle

I’ve been using this brand for 13 years and it hasn’t failed me yet! I bought my first bottle for our honeymoon in Bahamas back in 2001. Perhaps I’m biased because it’s a subtle reminder of our first vacation together as Mr. & Mrs., but this brand always works. My only complaint about the SPF 60 lotion is that it can be a bit thick and it’s hard to get off your hands. Which I suppose could be expected considering it has a SPF of 60, but I didn’t have the same problem with some of the other high SPFs below. This is fine on a boat or poolside, but when you’re getting ready to grip a golf club or a tennis racquet, it’s a problem.

That being said, I decided to try out the Clear Continuous Sport SPF 60 spray  and it did not disappoint. This stuff is just as effective as the lotion, and I love that I don’t have to rub it in. You can just spray it on and go! This leaves my hands clean when I reapply on the golf course. And being a spray, I can apply it to my back and shoulders on my own. It may be sexy to have my hubby apply lotion to my back on the beach, but I would rather avoid the awkward tension of asking a stranger when I’m wearing a tank top on the tennis court.

Neutrogena

While I’m open to trying new things, I am a creature of habit and have certain items that are my go-to. For example, when we buy our wine by the case (it’s cheaper that way…honest) there are certain bottles that I always buy. I have dedicated them as our house white, house red, and, of course, a house Champagne. In the same vein, Neutrogena is officially our house sunscreen, although some days the wine is more essential than the sunscreen!

My first experience with Neutrogena sunscreen was their Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 45 lotion. I used this religiously for the first six months of our Caribbean adventure. It works great and I love that it lives up to its name. It is not greasy and you don’t need to wash your hands after applying it, making it great for reapplying during sports. It also does its job and keeps me from getting burnt. The only real complaint I have is that the bottle is small at only 3 fl oz. For a vacation the small bottle may be quite handy, but if you wear sunscreen often, you’ll need to stock pile this as a bottle doesn’t go very far.

Being a sporty gal, I went ahead and purchased the Ultimate Sport SPF 70 lotion next, which works just as well, but doesn’t apply as neatly as the Dry-Touch version. Thankfully, they also provide a spray so I’ve switched to that and it works great!

In my constant search for a good face sunscreen, I was happy to see that the Ultimate Sport also came in a face version. I snatched it up and regretted it the moment I put it on. This one is a HUGE miss for Neutrogena as it really, really stings! And I know I’m not the only one that’s experienced this. It was actually a topic of conversation amongst a few ladies, Bre included, at one of our golf clinics. I’ve stopped using this on my face and found a great replacement, which I share below.

Because we do spend some time at the beach, and almost every weekend in our pool, I wanted an easy to apply, waterproof version, and was happy that Neutrogena had a few options. I love the Wet Skin SPF 50 spray as it really does cut through wet skin and you can apply right out of the pool, without having to dry off first. Unfortunately, the Beach Defense SPF 70 spray isn’t my favorite. I feel like I have to reapply it a lot more than the others, and I still come home from the beach with more color than I’d like.

My favorite face sunscreen

My favorite face sunscreen

Clarins

After many, many attempts I finally found a daily sunscreen for my face that is non-greasy, absorbs quickly, and does not make my already oily skin break out. A big accomplishment! I am in love with Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen SPF 40. Whether I’m out running errands or sweating it out playing golf or tennis, I use this every day on my face, neck, and ears (never forget the tops of your ears!). I even use this if I’m heading to the beach, or hanging out in the sun by the pool all day. I apply it one hour before going out and I never need to reapply. It stays on through swimming, sweating, and a full day out in the sun. I’ve gone through many bottles of this stuff, and if they ever discontinue it I will be devastated.

Ouidad (pronounced “wee-dod”)

As someone with thick, wavy, unmanageable hair, this company captured my attention a few years ago. They are the “curl experts” and have a lot of great products for the curly-haired gal. So I was thrilled when I saw that they provide a sun protectant spray! The sun doesn’t just damage our skin, it does a number on our hair too. Add in the salty sea water, and my hair is getting a double whammy whenever I go to the beach. I usually cover up my tresses with a hat while I’m out golfing or playing tennis, but the exposed pony tail/braid/bun still needs some protection. A few quick spritzes of Ouidad’s Sun Shield Sun & Sport Leave-in Spray and I’m good to go. I also spray this on my hair after swimming. It works as a detangler and the wet hair soaks up the spray, protecting it while it dries in the sun. If you want to try out the Ouidad line, we have a special coupon code for our readers, because who doesn’t love to save?

After Sun Care

Don’t forget to pack an after sun product for those days when you’ve indulged in a little too much Vitamin D, and end up looking like a nicely cooked lobster. I like Banana Boat’s Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel. However, I’ve found that a generic one works just as well. I use After Sun Aloe Vera Gel from Life Brand, which is a Canadian line. I also keep a version of aloe gel with lidocaine in it, for any burns that are painful. Thankfully, I haven’t had to use this a lot, but it’s nice to have around in the event my guests get a little ambitious with their holiday tanning.

When the sun sets, you might need one of these

When the sun sets, you might need one of these

Do you have any tropical vacations planned? Are you loyal to certain brands?

 

 

 

 

 


7 Comments

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      Stacie – I have a few bottles of Neutrogena Sport Face for you if you’d like, lol! I was surprised that it bothered me, as I use other products from that brand, including their face wash. Odd how that works. Funny enough, I was golfing today and when I went to use one of my Ombrelle spray bottles, the mechanism stopped working. Now I have a full bottle of sunscreen and now way to get it out 🙁 Should have mentioned that as a downfall of the sprays.

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      Thanks Alice! I’ve never heard of Arbonne, but it’s now on my radar. Do you find it just as effective for extreme sun exposure, or is it best used as a daily preventive sunscreen? I love the idea of using less chemicals on my skin.

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