The best sunscreen lotion

Allen Foster

An SPF of 100 only offers 2% better protection than an SPF of 30. The higher SPF isn’t bad, but most people mistakenly think the protection is much greater than it actually is.

Getting outside is important -- it can reduce your risk for disease, boost your immunity, and elevate your mood. However, exposure to the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays has its downside. Fortunately, a good sunscreen lotion provides adequate protection, so you can enjoy all your favorite outdoor activities and remain worry-free.

The best sunscreen lotion offers broad spectrum protection and has an SPF of 30 or more. Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen is our top choice because it provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 100+. To learn more about this and other essential elements you need to consider when purchasing a quality sunscreen lotion, keep reading.

Considerations when choosing sunscreen lotions


The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that for adequate protection, you should purchase a sunscreen lotion with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.

Range of protection

SPF only protects you from UVB rays. To get protection from UVA rays -- the ones that penetrate skin and can damage deep tissue -- look for a sunscreen lotion that offers broad spectrum protection.

Water resistance

All sunscreen lotions wash off in water or are sweated off during vigorous activity. In order to provide the maximum amount of protection, opt for a sunscreen lotion that remains effective for 80 minutes while swimming.



Companies may tweak their formulas to make sunscreen lotions more appealing to a particular consumer. They can do this by making the lotion less oily and fast-absorbing, or ensuring that it's hypoallergenic and vitamin-fortified. If you want something extra from your sunscreen lotion, look for these special formulas.


Many sunscreen lotions contain ingredients that may damage fragile marine ecosystems. If you want to help protect the earth, look for a sunscreen lotion that's designated "reef friendly."


A little fragrance can go a long way. If smell is important to you, look for a sunscreen lotion with an appealing fragrance, such as coconut or tropical flowers, that's not too overwhelming.


Most sunscreen lotions are available for about $8 to $12 per container. You can find tubes that contain additives, are specially formulated, or boast exceptionally high SPF for $15 to $20 or more, but it's up to you to decide if those extras warrant the higher price. Note that it can be difficult to tell how large a container is from just a photo. To find the best value, be sure to read the product's description to determine the actual size of the container.


Q. Does sunscreen lotion have an expiration date?

A. Yes. The expiration date should be printed directly on the container. If you can't find an expiration date, the maximum shelf life of sunscreen lotion is three years.

Q. If it's a cold or cloudy day, do I still need to apply sunscreen?

A. Yes. The sun can damage your skin in any temperature and in nearly any kind of weather. The reason why people don't tend to get sunburned in the winter is because they're bundled up, so they're already protected by clothing.

Q. How often do I have to reapply sunscreen?

A. Sunscreen lotion should be reapplied every two hours. If you go swimming or engage in an activity that makes you sweat, reapply immediately after that activity.

Sunscreen lotions we recommend

Best of the best: Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum SPF 100+

Our take: A broad spectrum sunscreen lotion that features an SPF of 100+ and can be used on all types of skin.

What we like: This fast-absorbing lotion protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. The matte finish lotion doesn't clog pores and it remains water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

What we dislike: This lotion must be rubbed in very well to avoid streaking, and some users still feel it's a little greasy.

Best bang for your buck: Neutrogena's Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion, Broad Spectrum SPF 70

Our take: A fast-absorbing, broad spectrum sunscreen lotion that features an SPF of 70.

What we like: This 6.7-ounce bottle protects against both UVA and UVB rays and it's PABA-free. The oil-free formula is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

What we dislike: This sunscreen lotion is scented, which can either be a pro or a con, depending if you like the scent.

Choice 3: Sun Bum's Original Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

Our take: A reef-friendly, broad spectrum sunscreen lotion with SPF 30.

What we like: This sunscreen lotion is formulated for daily use and can protect against both UVA and UVB rays. It's water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and contains vitamin E for added protection.

What we dislike: Be careful when placing it around your eyes as it may run and sting when wet.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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