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The Best Sport Sunscreens for Summer

The weather is heating up, and the layers are coming off, which means that it’s time to start slathering on sunscreen during your outdoor pursuits. To help you pick out the very best sunscreen that can handle all the outdoor activities you do, we tapped a handful of experts to hear what hype to believe in the sunscreen world, and what to look for in each small bottle of protection. After all, sunscreen is your first defense against aging, and who really wants wrinkles right now?

The Experts

To get a better idea of what ingredients to look for and what products to avoid, we talked with Tammy Lisi, Beyond Coastal’s formulation chemist and Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, the Senior Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

“For a sport sunscreen, one should look for ingredients like Avobenzone and Octocrylene,” Dr. Hale says. When you think of waterproof ingredients, zinc oxide likely comes to mind thanks to all of those lifeguards in the 80s with their white sunblock-covered noses — but you need more than just that. “You should look for at least one mineral active, [like] zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. To achieve water resistance and higher SPF, these actives cannot be used alone. [When] used with actives like octocrylene and homosalate we begin to achieve coverage desired for an active lifestyle,” Lisi says.

As for ingredients to avoid, Lisi recommends that people “steer clear of PABA and oxybenzone for various reasons. Avobenzone can react with iron and turn your whites orange, and is forbidden to use with zinc oxide.” It’s also worth noting that new research has shown that oxybenzone has adverse effects on coral reefs, so it’s best to avoid sunscreens that contain it if possible.

Stick, Lotion or Spray?

“Stick products often achieve lower SPF levels with more water resistance easily,” Lisi says. And you have to be careful with the ingredients in sticks if you have sensitive skin. “The big downside of sticks is that people prone to acne can struggle with the high levels of occlusive ingredients in these products,” Lisi says. Whereas lotions contain more water and oil-soluble ingredients, “by taking advantage of the oil and water portions of the formulation, we can get closer and closer to completely blocking potential damage from the sun’s rays. Overall, it is fairly easy to achieve good coverage on face and body when using a lotion-type sunscreen,” Lisi says. As for sprays? “In a no-wind environment, spray shows the best skin coverage and ease of use,” Lisi says. But Lisi cautions that in a windy environment, “sprays are too lightweight for proper application.” Depending on where y