Best Waterproof Sunscreen: Saving Your Skin From Sunburn & Discomfort

Suncream camera
Written by Bradley Page

We all think that sunscreen should be used only when going to the beach, and most of us don’t put on sunscreen when we’re backpacking or hiking. The result is very familiar to most of us: red, itchy and tender skin at the end of the day. Don’t you think getting sunburn can be rather painful and uncomfortable? When you’re miles away from medical help, the last thing you need is burnt skin especially if it can be avoided by spending a few minutes applying the best waterproof sunscreen.

See also: Homemade First Aid Kit: a Step-by-Step Guide For Keeping Yourself Safe on the Trail

Applying sunscreen before going outside can be very beneficial to your skin. Sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 can block up to 97% of harmful UV and cancer causing UVB rays. Some backpackers and hikers think that just because they are trekking on areas with lots of tree cover, they won’t get sunburned. Also, don’t forget to check out our article on how to choose the best hiking hat to keep you protected from the sun.

This is not true because the sun’s rays can penetrate foliage and even the heat of the day can cause the air to get hot and cause burns. Choosing the right waterproof sunscreen can be confusing due to the number of products available in the market. Don’t worry, we are here to help!

In this article, we will introduce you to the most important features that you need to consider when you’re choosing the bottle of sunscreen that suits your needs. After that, we will also tackle user reviews of popular sunscreen brands in the market. Let’s get started!

Our Top Picks

ProductSPF RatingBroad Spectrum (Y/N)TypePrice
AsaVea Essy Beauty60YChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch100YChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Banana Boat Sport Performance30YChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Neutrogena Beach Defense70YChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Badger SPF 35 Sport35YPhysicalCheck price on Amazon
Coppertone Sport30YChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Aveeno Hydrosport Wet Skin Spray30YChemicalCheck price on Amazon
A'pieu Pure Block50YChemicalCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

When you go to the drugstore, there are shelves full of sunscreen so you have many options available. However, the sunscreen you buy might not be the best one for you. Before you buy the first bottle you see, you need a bit of knowledge so that you will be able to buy the right sunscreen that is best suited to your lifestyle. Also, check out our basic tips on what to wear when camping to further protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.


SPF or sun protection factor is the measure of how well a sunscreen can protect your skin against UV radiation. For example, it takes your unprotected skin 20 minutes to start getting red when exposed to the sun. Using sunscreen with SPF 15 means that your skin will get 15 times sun protection so your skin is protected from sunburn for around 5 hours.

Another way to look at SPF is by percentage. SPF 15 filters out 93% UV rays, while 30 protects against 97% and SPF 50 98%. The percentage might not matter to some people but light sensitive people (and skin cancer survivors) need all the SPF they need and extra SPF points can make a big difference. However, it should also be noted that there is no SPF that can block 100% of the sun’s rays.

Broad Spectrum

You should also consider the application of the sunscreen. There are 2 types of UV rays that are harmful to the skin: UVA and UVB. UVA rays can cause your skin to age prematurely; causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays on the other hand are the rays that burn your skin.

When buying sunscreen always check if it is labeled as broad spectrum or full spectrum to ensure that you are protected from both UVA and UVB. Too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays causes skin cancer.

Sensitive Skin

Some people especially those who have skin disease like eczema or acne are sensitive towards certain kinds of products. Application of sunscreen that contains harsh ingredients can cause more redness or breakouts. This is why people with sensitive skin should opt for sunscreen that is water based.


Avoid sunscreen with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) in their list of ingredients. While PABA is generally safe to use, people with sensitive skin sometimes react negatively to this ingredient.

Water and Sweat Resistant

“Water resistant” sunscreen refers to the ability of the product to stay despite the presence of sweat or water. There is no sunscreen that will last indefinitely. In fact, you need to apply sunscreen periodically to ensure continued protection. For example, you need to apply every 4 hours or 2 hours if you are sweaty.

The FDA bans sunscreens that are labeled as “sweat proof”; because of this, waterproof or water resistant sunscreen is classified as water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes. This means that the product will stay on your skin despite sweating or swimming.

However, it should be noted that while sunscreens are classified as waterproof, they are not towel-proof. Wiping your face with a towel or cloth when you’re sweating also erases the sunscreen so you need to reapply.

Chemical VS Physical

There are 2 types of sunscreens: chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens work by creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. This type is naturally broad spectrum with active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Physical sunscreens are ideal for sensitive skin particularly children. However, people with acne need to remove this type of product thoroughly as it can cause skin problems.

Chemical sunscreens use ingredients that absorb UV radiation and preventing them from penetrating the skin. Over time, the chemical filters break down and release heat slowly. Make sure that your chemical sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays. Some ingredients in chemical sunscreens include PABA, avobenzone, oxybenzone and homosalate.


Moderate sun exposure is great but too much can make your trip miserable. Sunburns can be very painful, not to mention the harmful effects of excessive amounts of UVA and UVB rays penetrating the skin. Putting on a generous amount of sunscreen can help prevent sunburns, premature skin aging and skin cancer.

Best Products on Today’s Market

One of the best ways of knowing which is the best waterproof sunscreen is by reading reviews. This is a good source of information because it gives you feedback from users without buying the product. Sunscreens are varied so reading reviews is a good way of getting firsthand information. Check out some of the best products that you can buy.

AsaVea Essy Beauty Facial Sunscreen

AsaVea Essy Beauty Facial Sunscreen

Price: Approx. $59

SPF rating: 60

Type: Chemical

Specific features: With Vitamin C and E, lightweight, sheer, whitening, water resistant

Best use: Backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

The AsaVea Essy Beauty Facial Sunscreen is a broad spectrum sunscreen enriched with vitamins C and E. It has SPF rating of 60, meaning that it will block almost 98% of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. The product is waterproof and will continue to protect your skin even while your sweating or during outdoor activities like swimming. It feels sheer and lightweight so you hardly know that you’re wearing sunscreen. The added vitamins contribute to healthy skin.

Overall, this is a good sunscreen with good SPF protection. However, it is also marketed as a whitening product. According to the manufacturer continuous use of the product will not only protect against the sun but also whiten the skin. This type of information can be confusing to customers who are looking for sun protection but are not looking to whiten their skin. The whitening component could also be the reason why this product is expensive.

If you’re alright with this kind of sunscreen and whitening combination, this product is a good choice. It stays on the skin well but sweaty people or those planning on doing water activities need to know that the manufacturer did not include water resistant or sweat resistant rating; as such you should reapply after 40 minutes in the water.


  • Good SPF
  • Sheer and lightweight

  • Also marketed as whitening
  • Very expensive

Related: Don’t just depend on your sunscreen for sun protection. Double up with the Columbia Sportswear Bora Bora Booney II Sun Hat. It has moisture wicking technology so you feel cooler and SPF 50 sun protection so that you don’t have to worry about skin cancer or sunburn.

Check the price on Amazon

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen

Price: Approx. $7

SPF rating: 100

Type: Chemical

Specific features: Fast absorbing, water resistant, lightweight and clean feeling

Best use: Backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

The Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen has an SPF rating of 100; which means that it can block 99% of the suns UVA and UVB radiation. It features lightweight formula that is dry to the touch so you have a shine-free finish. This product contains Neutrogena’s Helioplex formulation that protects against broad spectrum UV rays. The product is fast absorbing and is rated for 80 minutes water resistance.

Neutrogena is a very well-known skin care brand that offers quality products with good price points. This sunscreen is a good and affordable choice for people who need affordable and maximum sun protection. The product is also a good choice for people who are looking for a reliable sunscreen when performing water sports like parasailing or swimming since the product has good water resistance rating.

The product has a good scent and is fast-absorbing. It has serious sun protection that feels very light and comfortable on the skin. The product is long lasting and powerful and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Neutrogena does not label the product as tinted although it can stain some fabrics.


  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and fast absorbing
  • Good SPF

  • Product can stain some fabrics

Related: Now that your skin is protected from the sun, you need to protect it from insect bites too. Use the Repel 100 Insect Repellent that repels mosquitoes that transmit the chikungunya, zika, dengue and West Nile viruses. It has for up to 10 hours of protection and the 4 oz. size is perfect for storing in your pocket or backpack.

Check the price on Amazon

Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion Sunscreen

Banana Boat Sport

Price: Approx. $5

SPF rating: 30

Type: Chemical

Specific features: Heavy duty, fast absorbing, water resistant (80 mins.)

Best use: Backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

The Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion Sunscreen is specifically designed for sports enthusiasts and sun lovers who don’t want to be restricted when they’re outdoors. This product is heavy duty, absorbs quickly, won’t run into your eyes and is rated for 80 minutes water resistance. Banana Boat’s technology provides sweat and water resistant protection that prevents sunburn and skin damage so you don’t have to worry about these things when you’re enjoying the outdoors.

This product also features the active dry protect formula so that you can enjoy protection on-the-go without having that greasy or sticky feeling. The bright orange packaging makes it easy to spot inside your bag and the upside down packaging makes it easier to enjoy every last drop.

Banana Boat sun care products are generally reliable and affordable. They also undergo real life testing in sun, pool and ocean water; wind, sweat, sand and extreme heat to provide broad spectrum protection that has you covered. The product is a good choice for affordable and dependable sun protection.


  • Affordable and reliable
  • Bright and easy to use packaging
  • 80 minutes water resistance rating

  • The product is not very fluid and spreadable

Related: Your lips need protection from the sun too. Apply some ChapStick Sun Defense with SPF 25. This product protect from the sun and seals in moisture for softer and healthier lips.

Check the price on Amazon

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen

Neutrogena Beach Defense

Price: Approx. $8

SPF rating: 70

Type: Chemical

Specific features: Water and sun protection, lightweight, fast absorbing, non-greasy

Best use: Backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

Apply Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen to protect against sunburn and skin cancer. The Beach Defense is clinically proven to help defend against sun damage by providing superior sun protection. With an SPF rating of 70, it can block 98.5% of UVA and UVB rays for maximum broad spectrum protection. When applied, the product is lightweight, fast absorbing and non-greasy so you don’t get that shiny or greasy feeling.

It also features Neutrogena’s proprietary Helioplex Technology that is engineered to deliver superior photostable UVA and UVB protection. Aside from the beach, this product is also ideal for everyday use. Reapply often if you’re engaging in outdoor activities like swimming, hiking or water sports. While Beach Defense is rated water resistant for 80 minutes, it can get erased if you’re wiping your face with a towel.

This product is ideal for families and individuals with active lifestyles. This beach-strength sunscreen is very versatile and can be used for other activities like hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting and other outdoor activities. Beach Defense also comes in a smaller size so you can conveniently carry it inside your pocket or backpack for easy access.


  • Good SPF
  • 80 minutes water resistance rating
  • Affordable

  • Has a bit of an oily/sticky feel

Related: Aside from sunscreen during hiking, you can elevate your sun protection by using KOVISS Sports Cooling Arm Sleeves. It can cool down your skin temp by 2 degrees, has 99.8% UV protection and helps protect against bug bites. Slather on sunscreen and then put it on for activities like backpacking, hiking, boating, hunting, basketball, tennis and so on.

Check the price on Amazon

Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream

Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen

Price: $13 – $40

SPF rating: 35

Type: Physical

Specific features: Water resistant, non GMO, 98% organic ingredients, bio degradable

Best use: Surfing and other performance sports, backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

The Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream uses non-nano uncoated zinc oxide to protect against sunburn and premature aging. Badger’s Sport Sunscreen is unscented and is made with 98% organic materials, making it a good choice for people with sensitive skin. Badger uses just 5 ingredients for this product including anti-oxidant sunflower oil. Since it is marketed for sports use, particularly surfing; it is rated SPF 35 with 80 minutes water resistance.

The active ingredient for this product is all natural zinc oxide. It does not contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, or other chemical active sun screening agents, making it perfect for young children. These ingredients are also biodegradable and reef-safe to prevent damage to coral reefs. Even the packaging is from 50% recycled material to help decrease plastic waste that goes to the ocean.

Badger’s Sport is a bit expensive. However, if you care about the environment and prefer using natural ingredients, this is a good choice for you. It should also be noted that since this is a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, users should expect the sunscreen to feel thick and chalky but not sticky. It also stays on for a long time but frequent applications are still needed to ensure total sun protection.


  • Natural ingredients
  • 80 minutes water resistance
  • Ideal for surfing and other water sports

  • Expensive
  • Thick chalky feeling

Related: You need to be prepared outdoors. Aside from a personal bottle of sunscreen, keep the Liteflex Trekking Umbrella inside your backpack for protection against the sun and rain. This umbrella is built for the rough outdoors with its fiberglass ribs, light coated fiberglass stick, highly flexible and nearly unbreakable.

Check the price on Amazon

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen

Price: Approx. $4

SPF rating: 30

Type: Chemical

Specific features: Light breathable feeling, Vitamin E, high performance

Best use: Backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

The Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion offers unbeatable high performance protection. It has a durable formula that feels light and breathable. It stays on your skin even if you sweat, making it a good choice for outdoor activities like backpacking, cycling and other sports. It has UVA/UVB protection with 80 minutes water resistance rating and SPF 30. It also anti-oxidant enriched with Vitamin E.

Coppertone is a very well-known and popular sun protection manufacturer with good reputation. Their products including this sport sunscreen is reliable and very affordable. This product in particular is designed to support you when you’re active in the sun and is designed to stay on even if you’re sweating buckets.

This product is in the 3 ounce bottle, making it perfect for your backpacking or camping needs. However, there are also other sizes so you can buy the perfect size for your trip.

This is a good choice if you’re looking for a good sun protection brand that is very affordable. The price is reasonable considering its protection and size. Like most Coppertone product it does the job and smells great too.


  • Affordable
  • Stays on even if you’re very sweaty
  • Reliable

  • Not very water resistant

Related: Aside from your skin, your eyes need UV protection too. The Torege Polarized Sports Sunglasses has 100% UV protection to block UVA & UVB rays. It is ergonomically designed so it fits comfortably on your face for maximum eye protection when you’re outdoors.

Check the price on Amazon

Aveeno Hydrosport Wet Skin Spray Sunscreen

Aveeno Hydrosport Wet Skin Spray

Price: Approx. $8

SPF rating: 30

Type: Chemical

Specific features: spray-on, sweat and water resistant, can be applied to wet skin

Best use: backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

Spritz on some Aveeno Hydrosport Wet Skin Spray Sunscreen for sun protection outdoors. The formula repels water so you can apply it directly to wet skin. The product is also sweat and water resistant (80 mins.) so you can confidently stay out in the sun without worries. This product also has a SPF 30 rating that provides UVA and UVB sun protection.

The product is very convenient and easy to use. Aveeno is a well-known manufacturer of quality skin care products and the Hydrosport Wet Skin Spray Sunscreen is no exception. Considering the manufacturer and the product itself, it is relatively affordable. The sunscreen comes in a pressured aerosol bottle, making it very easy to use and apply.

This price features the 5 ounce bottle which might not be enough for frequent applications or extended backpacking trips. However, the bottle is good enough for personal use a weekend trip long especially if you only apply on your face and neck.

Due to its delivery, the product comes in an aerosol can which can be a problem if you’re outdoors since you can’t leave it in direct sunlight. The product also contains a good amount of alcohol which might cause issues for people with sensitive skin.


  • Easy to use and spread on skin
  • Lightweight

  • Aerosol can
  • Contains alcohol

Related: It’s important to rehydrate skin after sun exposure. Use Hempz Original Herbal Body Moisturizer to calm and soothe skin. The 2.25 ounce bottle is small enough to store inside your backpack so you can nourish your skin after a long day backpacking or hiking.

Check the price on Amazon

A’pieu Pure Block Sun Cream

A'pieu Pure Block Sun Cream (Waterproof Sun Cream)

Price: Approx. $8

SPF rating: 50

Type: Chemical

Specific features: Waterproof, soft lotion feel, long lasting

Best use: Backpacking, sports, water sports and other outdoor activities

The A’pieu Pure Block Sun Cream is made in Korea and has a creamy lotion consistency that is very comfortable on the skin. It has a light scent and is easy to spread on the face and body. The formula absorbs quickly so you don’t have to worry about white streaks on your face. The sunscreen does not feel sticky while the aloe vera extract will help to moisturize your face.

Most of the instructions and directions of the product is written in Korean so it is hard to understand or know what it contains. We’re pretty sure it’s a chemical type of sunscreen despite the “natural sun cream” labeling. It also waterproof in English in the front. However, the only way to be sure of its waterproof rating is by going in the water, so you need to be cautious if this is your first time using the product.

While this product is a good overall sunscreen with good SPF protection, it’s not really marketed for the beach or outdoor activities type of sunscreen. Many user reviews of the product are positive because it does its job but it is more marketed towards ladies and make-up users as a sunscreen base.


  • Good SPF rating
  • Nice smell
  • Moisturizes face

  • Marketed towards make-up users rather than backpackers / outdoorsmen
  • Korean instructions/ingredients at the back
  • No clear water resistance rating

Related: Many people forget to apply sunscreen on their neck which can result in nasty sunburns. Protect your neck not only with sunscreen but with the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat. It features 71/2 inch back veil neck flap with lift-up tab to hide your neck from the sun with the option of putting it up when the temperature cools down.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

You’ve come to the end of the reviews. With that said, don’t let sunburns get in the way of having a good time when you’re outdoors. Selecting a waterproof sunscreen can heighten your enjoyment of your activities while protecting your skin against sun damage. Be sure to reapply sunscreen every 2-4 hours and select the right type of sunscreen for different activities to ensure total sun protection.

Best Sunscreen

Nobody is safe from skin cancer. Sunscreens help protect against melanoma and to prevent signs of premature aging like wrinkles and dark spots. Remember, sunscreen is not only for beach use. You need to apply sunscreen everyday if you’re going outside even if it’s just to run errands or to do some gardening. Protect your skin and save your life by spending a few minutes a day applying sunscreen. For other tips, check out these cool camping ideas for more options.

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Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!