Not sure which sunscreen to pick up for your hiking adventures? Then you’re certainly in the right place because this detailed guide will help you find the best sunscreen for you!
Skin cancer is no joke and sun exposure without adequate protection is one of the leading causes of it. That’s why sunscreen is so important, especially when you’re going to be spending hours upon hours on the trail, under the hot summer sun.
At A Glance: Best Sunscreen For Hiking
From lightweight chemical spray sunscreen to heavy-duty mineral sunscreens – we’ve got them all and everything in between, so come see our favorite sunscreen for hiking!
Best Chemical Sunscreen
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Best Spray Sunscreen
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Best Mineral Sunscreen
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Best Mineral Sunscreen For Face
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Best Sunscreen In A Stick
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La Roche Posay Anthelios is the sunscreen I’ve been using daily for about two years and I only have nice things to say about it. It’s my favorite chemical sunscreen, and it’s great for hiking, swimming, and just daily use.
It’s worth noting that there are many different versions of this sunscreen. You can choose between different sun protection factors, consistencies, sizes, and even formulations. The Anthelios range includes specific formulations for sensitive skin and for allergy-prone skin. The formulation for allergy-prone skin works pretty well, but only if you’re expecting it to minimize the symptoms and not prevent an allergic reaction entirely.
This sunscreen spreads evenly and easily, and your skin should absorb it very quickly. It’s also a moisturizing sunscreen, so the skin feels soft and hydrated for hours after the first application. Anthelios sunscreen is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, so it’s a good option for swimming. However, it’s not made with natural ingredients, so you shouldn’t wear it if you’re going to be swimming close to coral reefs.
The only downside is the price point – this is one of the priciest sunscreen options out of the bunch, but it’s worth every single penny.
The Sun Bum Sunscreen Spray is a great option if you want something that applies and absorbs quickly and easily. Just spray this on your skin, rub it for a minute or two, and let it absorb for a few minutes. It’s much easier to use than a thick mineral sunscreen, but the downside is that it contains fragrance and other chemicals.
I wouldn’t recommend this for very sensitive skin, but people who normally use cosmetic products with fragrance shouldn’t experience any irritation. Even though this is a chemical sunscreen it doesn’t contain any oxybenzone, parabens, gluten, or octinoxate.
It’s also hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, so safe to use on most skin types. The sunscreen offers broad spectrum UV protection and it has an SPF 50 rating. It’s worth noting that you can get this in an SPF 70 version, but that’s only going to be 0.5% more effective at blocking UVB rays.
The Sun Bum sunscreen is water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes, so safe to use when both swimming and hiking. It’s even reef friendly, which isn’t often the case with chemical sunscreens.
The Blue Lizard Sunscreen is a great option for hiking and swimming. It’s a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide, so it offers broad spectrum SPF protection. The SPF rating on this sunscreen is 50, which is plenty even for hiking in the middle of the day.
This mineral sunscreen is specifically formulated for sensitive skin, which is one of the milder formulas in this entire collection. It’s worth noting that you can get it in a stronger version if you want, but it’s not going to be as gentle on the skin.
This sunscreen is also water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and it’s made from environmentally friendly ingredients that aren’t harmful to aquatic life. It also comes in a smart bottle, which is one of my favorite features. The bottle will turn blue when the UV index is high, which is an immediate reminder that you need to apply sunscreen if you already haven’t.
The Blue Lizard sunscreen comes in a 5-ounce packaging, and it’s priced at around $15. That’s great value for money, especially for an environmentally friendly mineral sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection! It’s also fragrance-free, so a great option for people with sensitive skin.
CeraVe is an extremely popular drugstore cosmetics brand known for high-quality products. Their mineral sunscreen is no exception – it’s a great facial sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The two ingredients ensure broad spectrum SPF 50 protection, guaranteeing that your skin remains protected from harmful UV rays.
This is also a hydrating sunscreen, so you can use it instead of a moisturizer in the morning. It contains niacinamide and hyaluronic acid – two active ingredients that are great for all skin types. Hyaluronic acid keeps your skin hydrated, while niacinamide minimizes redness, calms the skin, and helps deal with acne and clogged pores.
The sunscreen also contains natural ceramides, which are also great for keeping your skin hydrated. Overall, it’s a great choice if you want mineral sunscreen for your face, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this if you’re looking for a full-body sunscreen.
The small packaging is the main reason. This sunscreen comes in a 2.5-ounce tube, and you’ll burn through that in about a week if you’re applying it to your entire legs and arms every day, multiple times a day.
The Sun Bum Face Stick is a great option if you don’t want a traditional liquid sunscreen. It’s sunscreen in a stick, which is a great alternative to creams and milk sunscreens. This applies a bit more easily, it lasts longer, and it’s not as greasy as creamy sunscreen can be.
It’s oil-free, non-greasy, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic. The sunscreen stick doesn’t clog pores and it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes which is really good. It’s only SPF 30 though, so I wouldn’t recommend this to people with extremely fair skin. Gingers and porcelain-skin folks should definitely pick up a higher SPF rating of this sunscreen stick.
It’s worth noting that this is broad spectrum SPF, so it offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Overall, if you’re looking for good sunscreen but you want to try something out of the ordinary, the Sun Bum stick is an excellent option. The only thing I don’t like about this sunscreen is the small packaging – 0.5 ounce is very little, but the stick does last a lot longer than milk or cream, plus it’s a good size for a face stick.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen is one of the most popular drugstore sunscreens on the planet. It’s available in several different formulations, you can choose between a wide variety of SPF ratings, and it’s available in a broad spectrum version. It’s also very affordable, starting at less than $10 for a 3-ounce tube of sunscreen.
The Ultra Sheer broad spectrum SPF 55 sunscreen is a great option. It provides enough protection even when the UV rating is very high, it absorbs quickly, and it’s extremely lightweight. This sunscreen doesn’t sit on top of your skin and you’ll easily forget you’re wearing it.
The Neutrogena sunscreen is PABA-free and non-comedogenic, so it’s suitable for acne-prone skin. The main downside of this sunscreen is that it contains fragrance, so it’s not recommended for people with sensitive skin.
Also, this sunscreen is ideal for use on your face. It’s only 3 ounces, so you’ll go through it much quicker if you use it on your entire body. But if you cover up for the hike and only use it on the parts of your skin that remain exposed to the sun, you should be able to get a lot of use out of one tube.
If you’re looking for a body sunscreen, check out the Neutrogena Sheer Body Mist. It’s a spray sunscreen in a bigger packaging, and it’s just as effective at protecting you from UV rays.
Badger SPF 40 is a good option if you want mineral sunscreen. This is particularly a good sunscreen to wear if you’re going to be swimming in the ocean because of its reef-friendly composition. The Badger sunscreen is also water resistant for up to 80 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying it as soon as you come out of the water.
The sunscreen contains zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E. It’s made from 98% organic ingredients, it’s packaged in a 50% PCR tube, and it’s produced with the use of solar power so it’s good for the environment in multiple different ways.
Zinc oxide offers broad spectrum protection from the sun’s rays, while the water resistance ensures you remain protected even underwater. The sunscreen is also unscented, so it shouldn’t attract bugs too much.
The only downside of this sunscreen is the small packaging. It comes in a 3-ounce tube, which can last you a while if you don’t wear sunscreen every day (even though you should), and you only apply it to certain parts of the body. But if you need something for hiking and daily use, plus you use it on most of your body, you’ll go through this 3-ounce tube rather quickly.
Jason Mineral Sunscreen is another good option if you’ve got sensitive skin and you prefer mineral sunscreen that’s free of any harmful chemicals. It doesn’t contain parabens, fragrance, or oxybenzone, and it’s entirely made from natural ingredients.
The Jason sunscreen is reef-friendly and water resistant for up to 80 minutes, so it’s a good option for swimming. It’s a great option for hiking as well because the water resistance also applies to sweat.
It’s worth noting that this sunscreen is formulated with safer and gentler ingredients, making it a better option for very sensitive skin. It contains marigold and chamomile extracts that soothe the skin, so it’s great for people who find chemical and other mineral sunscreens to be just a bit too harsh.
The SPF rating on this sunscreen is 30, and it’s worth noting that it offers broad spectrum protection. It might not be the ideal choice for hiking when the UV index is Very High or Extreme, but it certainly does a good enough job for the average summer’s day.
The Thinksport Mineral Sunscreen is one of the better options if you’re looking for a body mineral sunscreen. This comes in a 6-ounce tube, which should be enough to last you for a while even when you’re regularly applying it to your body.
The sunscreen contains 20% Zinc Oxide for maximum protection even in extreme conditions. It’s also water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it an excellent option for both swimming and hiking. The Thinksport sunscreen is also reef-friendly, thanks to the non-toxic and highly biodegradable formula.
This sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection, so it’s great for use when the UV index is extremely high. It offers both UVA and UVB protection, but the downside is that it leaves a white cast on your skin.
You can get somewhat rid of this – when you first apply it let it absorb for at least 15 minutes, and then rub the leftover residue even further. It will mostly go away, but a thin layer should still remain on top of your skin for protection.
Raw Elements Sunscreen is a natural mineral sunscreen with broad spectrum SPF 30 protection. It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, it’s reef-friendly, and it’s safe for humans of all ages. The sunscreen is entirely environmentally friendly, down to the reusable tin packaging, so it’s a great choice if you’re trying to make all your purchases more sustainable.
This sunscreen contains non-nano zinc oxide, which means that the particles of zinc oxide are larger than in most other products. The sunscreen sits on top of your skin and reflects harmful rays, for maximum protection even during a high UV index.
It’s only SPF 30 though, so it’s not recommended for people with extremely fair skin. Also, it’s worth noting that Raw Elements offers a wide variety of different sunscreen formulations and consistencies, so it should be easy for most people to find at least one suitable option within their product range.
One thing you need to figure out is if you prefer mineral or chemical sunscreens. In case you haven’t used a mineral sunscreen before, you should know that they usually have a much thicker consistency than chemical sunscreens.
Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum UV protection. They usually contain just natural ingredients, but some mineral sunscreens have chemicals added for better performance.
Also, it’s worth noting that not all mineral sunscreens offer broad spectrum protection – a lot of them contain just zinc oxide, which protects from UVB rays. Titanium dioxide protects from UVA rays, so be sure to look for that ingredients if you’re worried about premature aging.
Mineral sunscreens are not quite as easy to spread and they don’t absorb into the skin entirely. A thin layer of sunscreen remains on top of your skin, which is great if you’re only worried about sun protection. But if you don’t want your skin to be noticeably covered with sunscreen and if you’re worried about it transferring to clothes or other gear, it’s a downside.
The main advantage of mineral sunscreens is that they’re supposed to be better for your skin and a bit healthier. But they’re not always water resistant, they’re more expensive than most chemical sunscreens, and they might have a weird smell.
In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference. It’s not like one will protect you from burning better than the other – both mineral and chemical sunscreens do a great job at protecting your skin from UV radiation, as long as you use them properly. That means you have to reapply sunscreen every two hours, and still wear sun protective clothing when the UV index is extremely high.
Go for the highest sun protection factor you can find and you’ll be fine. SPF 50 is generally the best option for most people, but it’s worth noting that there are sunscreens with a higher SPF rating than that. Neutrogena even has some products with SPF 100+, which is certainly a good idea if you want to be 100% sure your skin won’t burn.
Just don’t go for anything under SPF 30, and you should be fine. If you have very fair and sensitive skin, you can benefit from the additional protection of higher SPF ratings. On the other hand, if you have olive skin that doesn’t burn and tans easily, lower ratings will be perfectly fine for you. You can probably get away with using SPF 20 or something lower, just don’t do it when the UV index is at its highest.
Stick with higher SPF ratings when the sun is the strongest, but go for lower SPF ratings in the early morning and late afternoon, especially if you want to get a bit of a tan as well.
In addition to that, look at broad-spectrum sunscreen. They will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, whereas basic sunscreen protects you from UVB rays only. UVB rays cause burning while UVA rays are associated with premature aging – depending on what you’re most concerned about, be sure to choose an appropriate sunscreen.
The scent of sunscreen isn’t something many people think about, but it’s just as important as the SPF rating, especially for hiking. Most sunscreens are somewhat scented, and that smell usually attracts insects. Depending on where exactly you’re going hiking, you’ll want to pay special attention to the scent of sunscreen.
Always look for fragrance-free sunscreen because it’s much better for your skin than sunscreen that contains perfume. It’s not even because of the scent, but because the alcohol in perfume is very harsh on the skin, and it won’t feel quite as comfortable, especially on sensitive skin.
Most sunscreens are made from natural ingredients, so even though they are fragrance-free, they still have a pleasant smell. You should avoid any sunscreen that has a floral scent because that’s bound to make you the hottest attraction to all the insects on the trail.
Still not sure which sunscreen to pick up for your next hiking sessions? Then go with one of our top three picks, depending on what kind of sunscreen you’re looking for!
If you prefer mineral sunscreen, go with the Blue Lizard Sunscreen. It’s one of the most popular mineral sunscreens in the world and for great reasons. It offers excellent broad spectrum protection, it’s not as oily as most other sunscreens, and it’s got a bottle that turns blue when the UV index is high.
If you’re okay using a chemical sunscreen, I have to recommend La Roche Posay Anthelios. It’s the best sunscreen I’ve ever used, it’s widely available, and it’s great value for money. It spreads quickly and your skin will absorb it in a couple of minutes, so applying it and reapplying it is effortless. The Anthelios sunscreen is also water resistant, making it a great option for swimming.
In case you just want a sunscreen that applies and absorbs quickly, consider the Sun Bum Spray Sunscreen. It’s a chemical option, but it’s free of parabens and oxybenzone, plus it’s reef-friendly. This sunscreen is also water and sweat-resistant, making it an excellent option for both hiking and swimming!
Head over to Amazon to see the prices of all the sunscreens featured in this review. Check out our related posts for ideas on other items that will protect you from harmful UV rays on the trail!