For the 50+ Traveler

1
Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

Top Pick
Check Latest Price

This vegan, reef-friendly sunscreen lotion is a big hit on Amazon with 80 percent of nearly 1,000 reviewers awarding it 5 stars. It is made in Florida and free from oil, oxybenzone, octinoxate, parabens (which are artificial preservatives), and even gluten. It offers 80 minutes of protection when you’re swimming or sweating and up to two hours of protection otherwise.

Sun Bum’s formula, which contains a healthy helping of vitamin E, is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and is certified cruelty-free in addition to being vegan. The fact that it’s hypoallergenic means everyone in the family should be able to use it on their bodies. But note that this moisturizing sunscreen lotion isn’t meant for use on your face. Reviewers say if it gets in your eyes, it stings.

Sun Bum says the lotion “smells like summer,” but that’s not everyone’s ideal. One reviewer wrote, “I feel awkward smelling of coconuts at the office.” If you’d rather not smell like coconuts at the office, or wherever your vacation is taking you, then this might not be the sunscreen for you.

Some reviewers say the chemical sunscreen protection (that is, the active ingredients avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene) causes irritation, and at least one suspected the product caused her to break out. Our recommendation: If you have extremely sensitive skin or a history of adverse reactions to chemical SPF ingredients, consider mineral-based sunscreen options instead.

Key Features

  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Vegan
  • Reef friendly

Specifications

  • Brand: Sun Bum
  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene

Pros

  • High quality
  • Oil free -- no greasy feel
  • Made in the U.S.

Cons

  • Strong scent
  • Relatively expensive
  • Chemical SPF (active ingredients) irritate some folks’ skin

2
Supergoop! Everyday SPF 50 Sunscreen

Honorable Mention
Check Latest Price

This sunscreen comes from my all-time favorite sunscreen company: Supergoop! Over 1,000 reviewers have given it a 4.5 average star rating. The lotion is made for face and body, and it’s non-comedogenic (that is, it shouldn’t clog your pores), reef-friendly, and water resistant up to 80 minutes.

Supergoop!’s Everyday formula includes rosemary leaf extract as an active ingredient alongside avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, and octisalate extract. It’s lightweight and is made to wear well under makeup or on its own.

Satisfied reviewers say it “smells so good” but isn’t at all like beachy-scented sunscreens. They also note that it dries clear and doesn’t leave any white residue, but some reviewers say it’s a bit greasy.

Unfortunately, there’s no consensus about whether this is a good sunscreen for folks who have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Some reviewers with rosacea note that it doesn’t irritate them at all, but at least one says while it worked for her, it caused her daughter to break out in a rash.

Unlike Sun Bum Original, Supergoop! Everyday doesn’t have any at-the-beach scent, but note that the ingredients result in a botanical smell.

Key Features

  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Made for face
  • Reef friendly

Specifications

  • Brand: Supergoop!
  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octinoxate, Octisalate Extract, Rosemary Leaf Extract

Pros

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Water resistant
  • No “sunscreen” smell

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • May irritate sensitive or acne-prone skin
  • Not entirely unscented; has a botanical smell

3
Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen

Also Consider
Check Latest Price

My husband and I have bought Banana Boat’s Sunscreen Sport Performance spray summer after summer. It’s readily available and relatively affordable, and it works. It seems to be our go-to when we realize a given bottle of sunscreen is expired. Others like this sunscreen a lot, too. Over 1,200 Amazon reviewers have given it a 4.6 average star rating, writing reviews with titles like “Best Overall Sport Sunscreen” and “Protects redheads in the Caribbean while allowing enough sun to get through for a tan.”

This spray-on Banana Boat formula is made to withstand seven conditions: sun, wind, extreme heat, sand, ocean water, pool water, and sweat. It lasts for two hours and should be applied immediately after swimming, sweating, or towel drying (even if your two hours hasn’t passed).

Happy reviewers note that it’s easy to apply, and that’s our experience, too. Unfortunately, at least one notes that it stained their white clothes yellow, though we haven’t experienced this.

Because of this sunscreen’s formula, you should expect a bit of a sheen or film. Some reviewers call it greasy. Also, it isn’t meant for use as a facial sunscreen.

Key Features

  • Spray-on sunscreen
  • Made to withstand seven sport conditions
  • Stands up to moisture better and longer than most sunscreens

Specifications

  • Brand: Banana Boat
  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octocrylene, Octocrylene

Pros

  • Affordable option
  • Trusted brand
  • Easy application

Cons

  • May stain white clothing
  • Not intended as a facial sunscreen
  • Not explicitly reef friendly or vegan

4
Trader Joe’s Nourish Spray Sunscreen

Check Latest Price

If you’re looking for a spray sunscreen, this is another option I personally recommend. My husband was reluctant to stray from name brand sunscreen territory (think Banana Boat and Neutrogena, which are our go-tos), but I grabbed a can of this on a whim last summer, and we got a lot of great use out of it. It’s an affordable option that we liked a lot better than some of Up & Up’s spray-on sunscreens, and it seems especially well suited to long days outside.

Reviewers give it a 4.6 average star rating and note that the valve pressure technology contributes to easy application. One reviewer says he spent days on the beach in the Bahamas without a hint of sunburn and another notes that her husband, who uses it when he plays golf, has had no problems with the formula, which is PABA-free, non-comedogenic, and never tested on animals.

Based on my experience, this sunscreen dries quickly and doesn’t have an overwhelming scent, but it can feel a bit sticky (a point other reviewers second). Some reviewers have had problems with the can’s spray nozzle, but ours is still going strong!

Unlike Banana Boat’s Sport Performance sunscreen, Trader Joe’s Spray Sunscreen is only water resistant up to 80 minutes, so this might not be your best bet if you’re planning to be in the water or sweating through an activity.

Key Features

  • Spray-on sunscreen
  • Never tested on animals
  • Valve pressure technology ensure smooth application

Specifications

  • Brand: Trader Joe’s
  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone

Pros

  • Affordable option
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Water resistant

Cons

  • May be a bit sticky
  • Not intended as a facial sunscreen
  • Not reef friendly or explicitly vegan

5
Neutrogena Beach Defense Water Resistant Sunscreen

Check Latest Price

If you prefer a lotion and want a higher SPF, trusted skincare brand Neutrogena’s Beach Defense oil-free, PABA-free, water-resistant body lotion is a solid choice. My husband and I managed to forget to pack sunscreen when we went to Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas -- a decision that will probably haunt me for years -- and we wound up buying a very overpriced bottle of Beach Defense lotion in one of the Cove’s gift shops.

Surprisingly, it was one of the best sunscreen experiences we’ve had. The smell isn’t overwhelming, it goes on smoothly, and it’s easy to feel where it’s been applied (without being greasy). We also bought a spray-on Neutrogena sunscreen but wound up getting burned when we used it, most likely because of, ahem, operator errors. We just weren’t as careful or thorough with the spray-on sunscreen, whereas the lotion required slowing down and applying attentively before we stepped out.

Nearly 900 Amazon reviewers give this sunscreen a 4.7 average star rating, so I know I’m not the only person on the block (or the island) who likes it. And the good news is, you can get it a lot cheaper on Amazon than you can at Atlantis.

This Water + Sun Protection option is water resistant for up to 80 minutes but isn’t intended for use as a facial sunscreen. Also, a couple buyers note that it isn’t reef friendly because, like a number of other sunscreens on our list, it contains oxybenzone. Some reviewers even say it has too many unhealthy chemicals in it for them to feel comfortable using it (it also has a tropical fragrance), so be sure to check the ingredient list and compare your options. Note that this another sunscreens that contain oxybenzone may not be allowed in certain protected areas/waters.

Key Features

  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Made to stand up to outdoor activity
  • PABA- and oil-free

Specifications

  • Brand: Neutrogena
  • SPF: 70
  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone

Pros

  • Trusted brand
  • High SPF
  • Non-greasy formula

Cons

  • Tropical fragrance might not appeal to everyone
  • Not intended as a facial sunscreen
  • Some reviewers say it contains too many chemicals

6
Supergoop! Super Power Sunscreen Mousse

Check Latest Price

If you want the creme de la creme of sunscreens, meet your mousse. Thanks to my sister, I got to use this sunscreen during a late summer 2019 kayaking trip in Jersey, and I promised myself a can of it for poolside 2020. I could not believe how luxuriously it went on, or that it felt so weightless on my skin. Also, it comes out in a luscious foam that encourages hands-on application (which is often safer and more thorough than spraying) but is far less messy than your typical sunscreen lotions.

Other reviewers agree, calling Supergoop!’s Super Power Mousse “a sunscreen splurge that measures up” and simply “the best!”

Like all of Supergoop!’s products, this sunscreen mousse is free of parabens, oxybenzone, and synthetic fragrances. Its formula includes blue sea kale, shea butter, olive and avocado oils, and essences of cucumber and citrus.

The easy-to-apply mousse is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, so if you’ll actually be swimming, you might want to opt for a sportier sunscreen, like our also consider pick from Banana Boat.

Key Features

  • Innovative sunscreen foam
  • Scented with essences of cucumber and citrus
  • Formulated with antioxidants

Specifications

  • Brand: Supergoop!
  • SPF: 50
  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Octisalate

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Luxurious; feels good on the skin
  • Doesn’t require a lot of rubbing in

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Not explicitly reef friendly or vegan
  • Scented; not everyone will like the smell
Related:

Choosing the best sunscreen for your needs has a lot to do with where you need to wear it (on your face or the rest of your body) and what you’ll be doing after you put it on. Of course, it also has to do with feel. If you don’t like the way a sunscreen feels on your skin, odds are you’ll avoid it, in which case it’s another wasted product as you move on to the next -- or you’re getting sunburned.

While we can’t tell you which sunscreens will feel best on your skin, we can call attention to the qualities of some of the best sunscreens on the market, which can help you narrow down your options and invest in a sunscreen that will keep you protected wherever you go.

Lotion, Spray, Or Something Else?

A helpful Minneapolis-area VA resource points out non­-alcohol based lotions and creams are the most soothing sunscreen options, and make it “easier to see the area that has been covered.” This is the reason my husband and I wound up better protected in the Bahamas when we wore Neutrogena’s Beach Defense Water Resistant Sunscreen lotion than when we tried an aerosol sunscreen.

Of course, spray-on sunscreens have their advantages. The same VA resource suggests that sprays are a good option for hairier parts of the body including scalps, which need protection, too.

Finally, there are options like Supergoop!’s Super Power Sunscreen Mousse, which are lighter than lotions and creams but still need to be applied by hand and rubbed in thoroughly. Note that even spray sunscreens should be rubbed into dry skin at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure and/or getting in the water. They should not just be sprayed on and thought of as good to go.

Water Resistance

The best sunscreens are typically water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Some options, like Banana Boat’s Sport Performance spray, are formulated to last longer (up to two hours). But read the application instructions carefully! All sunscreens should be reapplied each time you get out of the water or towel dry, no matter how long it’s been since you applied. This is easy to forget but essential to protecting your skin.

If you notice your sunscreen is pilling or dripping, your protection has been compromised. Reapply or try a different formula.

Reef Safe

Depending on where you’re going to be traveling, swimming, and exploring, you may be obligated to use a reef-friendly sunscreen. Or you might be committed to buying products that are better for the environment. Reef-friendly sunscreen definitely falls in this camp. According to the Kohala Center, an independent, community-based Hawaiian center for research, conservation, and education, “laboratory tests confirm that chemicals found in most sunscreens, such as oxybenzone, are contributing to coral decline. These chemicals affect coral growth and reproduction, and also harm fish and other marine life -- even if you don’t plan on swimming or snorkeling.”

The Kohala Center says that “by wearing as much protective clothing as possible, then applying limited amounts of reef-friendly, mineral-based sunscreens” we can help Hawaiian (and other) “coral and marine ecosystems flourish and remain healthy for generations to come.”

The center notes that it’s relatively easy to determine if the sunscreen you’re considering is reef safe. “Look at the active ingredients. If the sunscreen is mineral-based, containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as active ingredients, you’re good!” and goes on to share that “if the sunscreen lists oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, and/or nanoparticles as active ingredients, it’s best to avoid them -- even if you don’t plan on swimming or snorkeling.”

Why? “These ingredients will wash off in the shower, and are even absorbed into your skin and passed through your urine, so they could eventually end up in the ocean.” We’re not sure what this means for supposedly reef-friendly Sun Bum Original or Supergoop!’s Everyday Sunscreen, which have avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene as active ingredients, but I for one will be experimenting with more eco-conscious mineral (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) sunscreens this year.

Active Ingredients

According to a Piedmont Healthcare resource, the active ingredients in your sunscreen will be chemical (which absorb into the skin, absorb UV rays, turn them to heat, and release them from the body) or mineral/physical (these sunscreens, which contain mineral active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, actually sit on op of the skin and physically block the sun’s harmful rays).

Active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, and octocrylene. They’re typically not reef friendly, but they do absorb more easily and provide better protection when exposed to moisture, whether that’s water or sweat. Note that, unfortunately, chemical sunscreens can be irritating for folks with sensitive skin.

Mineral sunscreens are safer for the environment and sensitive skin, but can feel thicker, are harder to rub in, and don’t stand up to moisture as well.

For these reasons, I like a physical/mineral sunscreen for my face and reach for chemical sunscreens when I need longer-lasting protection outdoors.

Made For Face

If you’re committed to taking good care of the skin on your face, don’t undo the work of your facial-care regimen by spraying on or lathering up with a sunscreen that isn’t made for delicate facial skin. If you have the money to spend, consider trying a facial sunscreen from Supergoop! -- a brand that’s dedicated to SPF and makes the best sunscreens I’ve ever worn.

Categories
.