The 10 Best Surf Sunscreens

Sunscreen, or sunblock, is an important tool for anyone that is involved in any outdoor activity.  It helps protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. 

It can go a long way in helping you avoid serious problems such as cancer, and it can also help you prevent blistering and the dreaded sunburn.  None of these things are fun to deal with, even without the specter of cancer. 

Sunscreen is vitally important for those of us that are surfers as well.  Surfers have a unique challenge in regards to sunscreen that many others will not face.  A surfer has to deal with the very real possibility of plunging into the water from time to time. 

Without the proper choice of sunscreen, the surfer will then be unprotected as it comes off in the water!

Sunscreen Buying Guide

Finding the right kind of sunscreen can be very challenging and difficult to do.  It can even be downright confusing at times because there are so many out there, and each makes claims that it’s the very best. 

This is why this buying guide is going to be so important.  This can seriously be a life and death type of thing, and it could also save you a great deal of money by just using a relatively low-priced item such as sunscreen. 

In this buying guide, we will break down all of the ins and outs that you need to know as you look to hit the surf!  We’ll then look at the top sunscreens that you can currently buy right now!

Some Facts About the Sun and Sunscreens

  • The sun can cause skin cancer.  This is a fact that has been proven time and time again.  In fact, simulated sun (i.e. tanning booths) have been shown to cause this as well.
  • Surfers don’t just have the sun to worry about in regards to sunburns.  They also have to worry about the sand and the water reflection as well.  This is overlooked by a lot of people, and especially beginners!
  • Springtime and summertime are very dangerous in regards to UV rays.  You must protect yourself very well during these times.
  • Any time of the year will be tough on your skin when it is between 10 AM and 4 PM.  This is a bad time, even in the coldest of weather, so you still need to protect yourself.
  • The sun can still damage you on a cloudy day!  Many people do not know this, but you can still get skin damage if you do not protect yourself on a cloudy day.
  • The EPA estimates that the number of cases of skin cancer caused by the sun is around 90%.  So 90% of the cases that are seen are caused by the sun.

With these facts, we now know just a little bit more about why we should protect ourselves from these dangerous rays.  It’s something that many laugh off or forget, but it is a very serious thing that needed to be driven home. 

Obviously, if you’re here you’ve cared enough to have a look and should be commended for at least trying.  But please emphasize this to anyone, and especially to any and all surfers that you may come into contact with. 

These facts are not hard to learn and recite to people on occasion, and they may end up saving someone’s life!

Who is It For?

This may be a very silly question to you, but there are people out there that ask this question all of the time.  We’ve probably all seen it before, and it’s important to answer it as seriously as possible. 

If someone is asking, then they need to know the answer to better protect themselves or their families.  The short answer is everyone needs to wear sunscreen.

The long answer is that there are certain groups of people that are more prone to burn.  Those with fair skin that live in areas where the equator is “hottest” are going to burn very easily. 

But this doesn’t mean that only people with fair skin need to use sunscreens.  It also means people with dark complexions also need to do so.  These people do have a harder time getting burnt, but they still also have a risk of developing cancer or even burns as well. 

Cancer develops over time because the sun essentially bakes the body’s ability to fight (immunize) itself against it.  This is a fact of life for all humans, not just those of us that are a pasty white skin tone!

How Surfers Should Apply It

Surfers need to not only know that they should wear it, but they also need to know how and when they should apply it. 

Almost all outlets of information suggest that you should apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to taking part in whatever activity you are going to be doing.  This is also the case in regards to surfing. 

Here will be an annoying part for some surfers, but it just needs to be said.  You’re going to need to reapply about every two hours as well, even with the very best of sunscreens. 

Now, if you’re a big surfer you’re not going to want to stop riding the waves long enough to do so.  But it’s very important to do so because you might not be able to ride very often after you’ve had cancer. 

So, it is highly recommended that you reapply every two hours just to ensure you stay safe.

Where to Apply It

This is seemingly obvious, but it needs to be spelled out.  Some people forget to put sunscreen on certain parts of their body.  We here have typically forgotten to apply sunscreen on our necks and our foreheads in the past. 

It’s tough to get sunburnt anywhere, but it’s especially bad when you don’t feel like laying down on your neck to go to sleep.  Surfers have a few options here, mostly based on their wetsuits.

If your wetsuit covers virtually your entire body, you’re probably not going to need very much.  You’ll just need to apply it to your face- your entire face- and your neck.  This is likely going to be covered a little, but you might want to make sure. 

Also, if you have short hair, you don’t need to forget the back and top of your head!  This is very easy to overlook, especially if you’ve just had a haircut or something.

For those that don’t wear a full-body suit, make sure to apply it to any body part that is open to the sun.  This is not limited to just the neck and head.  It’s your arms, legs, and even feet.  Your feet are very important as well. 

The tops of the foot can be sunburnt, as can the bottoms as well.  So make sure you get them really well before setting off on your surf!

Why You Need to Re-Apply Regularly

The best sunscreens for surfing will allow you to be out in the water for much longer than typical sunblocks that you might find at the store for general use. 

They are much better against water than most types, but they still are not 100% totally perfect against the sun’s rays.  So in order to combat this, you need to make sure and reapply frequently. 

This is due to the fact that water is going to erode that barrier that’s been built slowly over time.  Yes, this is the case for even the best of sunblocks.  So, don’t be fooled if a company or person tries to tell you otherwise. 

Even if it were true, is it worth taking the risk for you?  It certainly should not be!

SPF Protection

SPF is something we’ve probably all heard thrown around since we were kids.  Very little of us, though, would be able to name what it means.  It simply stands for “sun protective factor.” 

It is labeled on all types of sunblocks, ranging from sprays to lotions to all sorts of other methods.  What you want is really up to you once you get to that arena.

SPF is a measurement for the UVA AND UVB rays that it will block against.  This is fairly new as in the past, it just measured UVA rays.  Now, it must also measure against UVB.  UVB is measuring against ultraviolet rays. 

UVA measures against those rays that can damage the skin and cause wrinkles, which will make you much more likely to get cancer.  Both UVA AND UVB can contribute to cancer.

Most doctors recommend that SPF 30 is the right amount of protection for your body.  Many of them believe that if you go any higher, you are just adding more and more chemicals to your body. 

This is a theory, really, and many want as high an SPF rating as they can possibly get.


Surfing sunscreens need to be waterproof… in theory!  In our actual experience, not many are TRULY WATERPROOF.  What they are is “water-resistant” which means they kinda stay on for quite a while, but after a time, they wear off. 

After how much time?  Most are rated for around 80 minutes, which gives you more than enough time to hit the surf and make it back way before you’ll need to re-apply, so we’re good! 

If you don’t re-apply, then the sunscreens will end up doing you no good whatsoever once you splash the water, so you need to make sure and find something that is waterproof or water-resistant at least. 

This is the difference between just regular sunscreens and those that are best for surfing.  We want you to stay protected, and you’re not going to be doing that with something that will wash right off after only a few minutes!

Style of Application

As mentioned before, there are a number of ways to apply sunscreen in today’s world.  Gone are the days where you just had one choice.  Here is where we will go over the different methods for putting on sunscreen.  We will then get to our top ten list!


this is the old dog in the sunblock industry.  It is by far the most popular, even still today, because it’s just so readily available and has been around for so long.  The great part about using this type is that it’s very easy to spread all over the body. 

The only con really is that it can come off with it contact your clothes.  This shouldn’t be much of an issue with surfers.


this type has grown in popularity over the years as they are less messy and don’t have that weird, greasy feel to them. 

They are much easier to apply, especially if you are alone. Some believe, however, that the spraying method may cause negative environmental consequences.


this is almost like Elmer’s glue stick we had back in elementary school.  Remember those weird things?  Well, now they’ve got sunscreens that are applied like that!  The advantage of this is that they are very portable and they are not greasy or messy, either. 

They also don’t have fumes going into the environment or anything like that.  They do, however, take much longer to apply because the sticks are small.  Also as a result, they can run out much more quickly.

Depending on what you need, those are your three choices.  If you’re by yourself, the spray-on is probably going to be your best bet.  Unless you can talk a nice person into running some onto your neck or back, which could get really weird!

Best Surf Sunscreen Reviews


1.   Coola Organic Sunscreen SPF 30 Spray


COOLA Organic Sunscreen & Sunblock Spray, Skin Care for Daily Protection, Broad Spectrum SPF 50, Reef Safe, Fragrance Free, 6 Fl Oz

If you’re someone that is by yourself and wants something that smells great and you don’t find spending a little bit of money, the Coola is the answer for you. 

This spray is recommended for use in the water at 40 minutes, but that’s estimated for continuously being in it, so you can safely go a couple of hours surfing with it on.  It is encouraged that you reapply afterward as well with this type.


    • Smells great
    • Easy to apply
    • Will last a while


    • A little expensive
    • Not very much of it




2.   Banana Boat UltraMist Sport Sunscreen


Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen Spray, New Formula, SPF 100, 6 Ounces


Here is a spray that is affordable, comes with SPF 100, and is great for those that will be out in the sun sweating a lot.  This sunblock will not rub into your eyes, it’s clear as it goes on, it’s water-resistant, and it’s very easy to apply. 

It also has a decent smell, and it will not be greasy on you all day long as you are out on your surfboard!


    • Very good price
    • Great for sweaty people
    • Applies easily


    • Only good for a few uses
    • Leaves mark on clothing




3.   Zealios Sun Barrier Sunscreen


Zealios Sun Barrier 3 oz - SPF 45 Water-Resistant Zinc Sunscreen - Active & Sport Sunblock Lotion


Here is a great option for the surfer that wants something specifically on his or her face.  This Sun Barrier product from Zealios has an SPF of 45 and it applies well to the face for ease of use without worrying about it rubbing or dripping like you would with others. 

This is one of the best products for value on our list.   It is resistant to water and UVA and UVB rays as well.  Its rating on Amazon is exceptional, so that holds some weight when it comes to any purchasing decision.

Sensitive skin will appreciate this product, and even though it’s friendly to skin, it will still last up to 80 minutes in the water.  It’s basically a zinc oxide product that will dry quickly and cleanly with no running in your eyes.


    • Specifically made for the face
    • No rubbing or dripping
    • Easy to carry


    • Not much of it
    • Can cake on if you aren’t careful




4.   Waxhead Tinted Zinc Sunscreen Stick


Waxhead Tinted Zinc Sunscreen Stick - 4 Ingredients. Sport Sunscreen Stick, Non-nano Zinc Oxide, Sweat + Water Resistant 80 mins. Reef Safe, Biodegradable, Eco Friendly Sunscreen Stick Kids, Face + Surf Safe (SPF 30, 3.7oz, Tinted)


This is one heck of a great deal and arguably the best quality sunscreen on our list.  Waxhead has gone to great lengths to be able to call this sunscreen “uncommonly safe”.  There’s nothing in this product that you wouldn’t want on your skin. 

It’s baby-safe and contains no oxybenzone and no octinoxate.  There are no petrochemicals or other junk!  It contains 25% n0n-nano zinc oxide.  The main content of this sunscreen is organic cocoa powder, coconut oil, zinc powder and beeswax.  WOW!

This won’t sting your eyes and won’t infect your body with junk that penetrates your body’s largest organ (your skin) and causes long-term damage inside your body.  With well over 400 ratings, this sunscreen gets a respectable 4.4 out of 5.0 rating.


    • Organic
    • Non-toxic
    • Lotion lasts a little longer
    • Great against sweating


    • Harder to reach problem spots
    • Pricier than other options




5.   Surface Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion

Surface Clear Zinc SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion (3oz) & Surface Mineral SPF 45 Tinted Face Sunscreen Stick Bundle - Reef Safe, Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection, Ultra Water Resistant - 1 Count of Each

Here’s a sunscreen from Surface Sun Systems is a solid choice (though not an inexpensive one) for anyone wanting long-lasting sun protection while surfing or swimming.  It uses natural ingredients and minerals while offering a full-spectrum of UVA/UVB protection.

It’s made of non-Nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide and it offers a light tropic fragrance of coconut, mango and guava.  This product (and all Surface products) is proudly made in the USA! 

This whole package includes 2 bottles of reef-safe, Non-Nano Zinc Oxide with broadspectrum UVA/UVB protection.  It contains no Oxyvenzone or Octinoxate.  It’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes!


    • Good Value
    • For fair-skinned people
    • Goes on clear
    • Natural ingredients


    • Could be even more water-resistant or even “waterproof”




6.   Sun Bum Signature Sunscreen

Signature Lotion / Clear SPF 50 | Premium Zinc Formula. 3 FL Oz/88 ml

Sun Bum comes in at a low to moderate price with its small 3 oz broad-spectrum sunscreen.  This one is effective for surfing because it is not greasy, won’t make your hands and fingers slip, and is also great at resisting sweat. 

It has no parabens or negative environmental elements to worry about, and it is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as well.


    • Doesn’t get greasy
    • No environmental concerns
    • Skin Cancer Foundation approves


    • Not much of it
    • Won’t last you many uses




7.   La Roche-Posay Anthelios Cooling Water Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 30


La Roche-Posay Anthelios Cooling Water Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, Body & Face Sunscreen, Fast Absorbing, Water Resistant, 5.0 Fl. Oz


This La Roche-Posay Anthelios lotion did not make #1 on our list because it’s priced 2 or 3 times as high as other comparable brands.  So why did it make it here at all?  Here’s why;

You wouldn’t believe the features this goop has!  For example, it’s actually recommended by name by countless doctors (90,000 dermatologists to be exact) worldwide. 

This company has been a pioneer in UV protection (specifically skin-related UV protection) for over 15 years, and this lotion feels like no other on our list.

It has something called Cell-OX Shield Technology with UVA/UVB filters plus antioxidants.  It absorbs very quickly and it feels much more “water-like” than “oily”.  This seems to defy logic since it’s water-resistant for 80 minutes.   

After that, the resistance wears off and you need to re-apply.  It’s rated SPF 60 (you don’t need more than that since the potential to skin damage from the chemicals in the lotion is higher, and may even rival the danger posed by letting your skin burn!).

It’s paraben-free, fragrance-free the cost is – totally FREE!  ….NOT.  It just sounded good when I was writing!  Actually, it is non-comedogenic (which is a fancy way of saying it likely won’t cause any clogging in the pores of your skin).

Finally, and most importantly (tongue and cheek!) it even won the 2018 GQ Grooming Award for Best Skin Product!  Yaaaayyy!


    • No concerns about the environment
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Great against sweat and water
    • Is actually good for your skin


    • Beyond Crazy Expensive




8.   Badger SPF 35 Sport


Badger - SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Cream - Unscented - Broad Spectrum Water Resistant Reef Safe Sunscreen, Natural Mineral Sunscreen with Organic Ingredients 2.9 fl oz


the W.S. Badger sunblock is great for anyone that is looking for a higher-priced option that contains only natural ingredients as well as protecting you from both the sun and the wind. 

It has no added scent to it and it doesn’t run easily, either, which are big pluses for it.  It is very water-resistant and good for sweat as well.


    • Uses natural ingredients
    • Protects against winds
    • No added scent


    • Very pricey
    • Very small amount of product




9.   Zinka Clear Sunscreen Stick


Zinka - Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50, Water Resistant for 80 Minutes - .49oz Stick

coming in at a low price is this stick of sunscreen from Zinka. This sunblock doesn’t make a mess while applied, is resistant to water, and it is also not greasy, either. 

It’s very easy to apply as it’s a stick, but it will not last very long.  It has an SPF of 50, so it’s up there in that regard as well and it does have some zinc oxide in it, which may deter you.


    • Good price
    • Not messy
    • Good in the water


    • Not much of it
    • Not all natural




10.   Panama Jack Sport Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 100


Panama Jack Sport Sunscreen Lotion - SPF 100, Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection, Non-Greasy, Reef-Friendly, PABA, Paraben, Gluten & Cruelty Free, Water Resistant (80 Minutes), 3 FL OZ (Pack of 1)


The last item on our list is a Panama Jack lotion that is one of the MOST PROTECTIVE lotions we’ve found.  It has an SPF of 100 and it is also water and sweat resistant for around 80 minutes (which is knd of the “standard” for “water-resistant” sunblocks). 

Panama Jack’s claim to fame (as it relates to sunblocks) is that all their lotions contain CoQ10 antioxidants to fight the signs of aging (which ironically are often traced directly to the sun!)  Oh what irony!


    • Excellent for the face
    • Decent price
    • Doesn’t show


    • Won’t last long if used elsewhere
    • A little greasy



Final Thoughts & Recommendations


Sunscreen is a very important factor for any surfer to make sure that they have.  They must look for something to help protect them from the sun, the sand, and the water as well. 

They must be waterproof, and you must also remember to reapply periodically to better protect yourself from potential danger. 

No matter what kind you choose, and why you choose it, it’s an important decision that can have a drastic influence on your daily life.  Don’t skimp out on the money you will have to spend. 

It is well worth your health and safety to invest in good sunscreen so you can surf for a very, very long time to come!



My name's Pete Stec and I'm one of the owners here at and Sport Consumer Family (YouTube). My family and I invite you to travel our journey of wellness for your kids and family through nutrition and exercise while we continue to provide the very best reviews on the sports gear you need for serious competition or for your leisure activity!

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