I loooove sun. I love warm weather, beaches, getting tan, rainforests, and fruity drinks. So it’s no surprise that my travels often take me to warm climates and I soak up every second.
But things I *don’t* love:
- Being greasy or shiny in pictures
- Getting sunburned
- Having my face break out because my sunscreen clogged my pores
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I absolutely hate wearing sunscreen, but it’s often a non-negotiable for many reasons. My skin—usually easygoing, smooth, clear, low-maintenance—pulls a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I feel like a greasy, red mess. And that’s before the combo of sunscreen and sweat makes me break out.
So knowing I had my epic Israel and Jordan desert trip coming up earlier this year, I spent a ton of time gathering recommendations and testing out a bunch of new sunscreens against ones I already used so that I could didn’t have to dread slathering it on. These are the seven best sunscreens for travel that I’ve found—non-greasy sunscreen for face, great body lotions, and lip sunscreen. I’ll talk about what I love (and anything I don’t like) about each of my faves below.
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Just to give you a little background on my skin: my face would be classified as combination, but I am a SWEAT MONSTER and prone to super greasiness, and sunscreen usually makes my face break out (and I have great skin normally, my face never breaks out otherwise). Sunscreen makes me super shiny and gross in pictures too, so I hate that for travel pics in addition to the breaking out. I don’t burn easily, I tan really well, but my skin is really sensitive and it doesn’t take much to irritate it.
Just a note before we dive in—I don’t work directly with any of these brands, but I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you). All opinions are, as always, completely my own!
So without further ado, the sunscreens I swear by for travel…
For your face:
For non-greasy (matte, in fact) more intense protection
It should feel greasy. It should smell funny. IT DOESN’T. This sunscreen is matte but provides a much higher SPF than most moisturizers (which typically start feeling sunscreen-y after SPF 30). Also a little goes a long way, which is a packing godsend.
The matte finish makes this a win for any scenario—from the beach to hiking to walking around all day. I used it on my face the whole time I was in Mexico and was super happy with it. Do watch out, I don’t think it’s waterproof, so make sure you re-apply if you’re splashing around in the pool.
For walking around a city all day:
This sunscreen treads the line nicely between moisturizer and sunscreen. I haven’t tested it for intense pool/beach sun, but for walking around a city all day it does a great job. It isn’t greasy—it’s light and feels like regular moisturizer but with an amped-up SPF. You could definitely make this your only facial moisturizer/sunscreen for a trip and be covered under most circumstances. Doesn’t clog pores, feels more like a true face lotion.
For normal wear (including city touring):
@farewhispers recommended this, she said her dermatologist had given her a sample. I’ve frequently brought this as my face moisturizer on a normal city trip (like my weekend in Istanbul), to save on toiletries space. I’m actually using it as my regular day moisturizer right now because I ran out of my regular one…because #adulting is hard sometimes.
For your body:
For solo travelers, reaching your back, and easy reapplies:
All my solo travelers feel me—trying to make sure you’re truly sunscreened on your back when you’re alone is HARD. (Side note, also hard to put after-sun lotion or aloe on your own back when you’re burned…my Aruba trip taught me that.) This makes it easy to re-apply constantly, and I like that SunBum is made with good ingredients. My one caution is that the bottle doesn’t last as long as some other spray sunscreens I’ve had.
Similarly, I discovered this spray sunscreen in time for my most recent Aruba trip, because I was looking for ocean-safe and biodegradable sunscreens I could use on a snorkeling trip without harming the coral reef. I ended up using it not only for my back but also for re-applying all over my body in Aruba due to how much sand I was coated in—rubbing lotion in wouldn’t really work very well!
For all-day sun:
I’m a big fan of this one and the SPF 15 for any kind of trip where you’re going to go through a boatload…beach vacation, sitting by a pool all day, cruise.
My bestie and I used to do an annual trip to (outside) Vegas in June and just lay by the pool for two straight days in the desert heat, and she’d bring this for us to slather ourselves with every two hours. We’d literally go through almost two full bottles in two days, but we never burned once. This is also my favorite in terms of how it makes my skin feel, not greasy at all but actually moisturizing.
I picked this up in addition to the Alba one above because it’s supposed to be biodegradable and ocean-safe, so it doesn’t destroy the coral reefs. I used it for snorkeling but also just for laying out at the beach, and in Aruba’s close-to-the-equator sun, it did a great job.
For anytime you don’t need gobs of SPF coverage:
Take the best of the two previous entries, and you’ve got this one. You have the convenience of a spray suncreen but super affordable and does a good job. Doesn’t feel greasy, doesn’t make my skin feel awful. This and the SPF 30 are solid gold.
For your lips:
This is literally the only thing I’ve found that works for my lips. My lips are super sensitive to
everything sun and I swear by this stuff. I’ve used anytime I’m out in the sun for more than a couple minutes ever since I was a teenager and my lips went all weird. I buy it in 6-packs because I go through so much of it.
Runners up…fine, just not my favorite personally:
I’ve used this for years, but I’m not a fan of it for my face. Just makes it too greasy, and eventually makes my face break out. But it does a good job protecting my skin and so I’ll still use it for my body from time to time when I need something more intensive—case in point, used it on days 2 and 3 of my Mexico vacay to protect some skin that got a little crispy on day 1.
Love the idea, but the execution just didn’t work for me for some reason.
On the “pro” side, I loved that it’s solid, so it’s easier to travel with. I like that SunBum’s ingredients are quality and not weird. But the stick is too thick, because of the shape it didn’t spread well, not sure it really protected. But tons of people swear by it, so wanted to mention.
So there you have it, the best sunscreens for travel, no matter what you’re looking for! I’m always on the lookout for new and better sunscreens, so let me know what your favorite is in the comments!!
Looking for tropical inspiration to use your sunscreen??
- How To Have a Super Chill Vacay in Caye Caulker
- Sailing & Snorkeling on Aruba’s Black Pearl
- Monkeyin’ Around in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park
- A Perfect Day Sailing Belize’s Barrier Reef
- 9 Tips For a Perfect DIY Aruba Vacay
- How To Have a Great Chill Long Weekend in Cancun
Images sourced from Amazon and Google Images