Best Sunscreen for Surfing: Catching Sun-Proof Waves!

Surfing is one heck of a sport. It’s an activity that requires both skill and endurance to be successful, while allowing you to explore beautiful beaches and spend time with mother ocean. However, there are …

surfing-sunscreen

Surfing is one heck of a sport.

It’s an activity that requires both skill and endurance to be successful, while allowing you to explore beautiful beaches and spend time with mother ocean.

However, there are some downsides to surfing as well.

One of those downsides is sunburns!

The ocean is a beautiful place, but it can be unforgiving for surfers who aren’t adequately prepared, so it’s important that you wear sunscreen when you’re out in the water. This will keep your skin from getting burned and protect you from UV rays when being out in the sun all day long.

But what kind of sunscreen should you choose? There are so many different brands with varying levels of protection… we’ll talk about our favorite types of sunscreens for surfers here!

Why Do Surfers Need Sunscreen?

UV sun exposure is dangerous and increases your risks of skin cancer. While anyone who spends long stretches of time outdoors underneath the sun is at risk for being exposed to UV damage, surfers are especially at risk, due to:

  • Being out in the sun. Surfers are often in direct sunlight for long spans of time without breaks. Since surfing is often done when it’s sunny out, you’re getting a lot of sun exposure. Don’t forget that even if it’s overcast or foggy, you’ll still be exposed to UV rays!
  • Spending long stretches on the water. Surfing requires spending your time on top of the water, which is a reflective surface and bounces UV light back up towards your body. This results in even more, stronger UV exposure – yikes!
  • Not wearing much covering. Because some surfers like to wear minimal clothing or surf topless, they end up with more UV exposure than someone who is wearing a wetsuit or board shorts.

Since surfers are at an increased risk for sun exposure, we suggest wearing full-body wetsuits or at least a UPP-rated rash guard. However, even then you’ll want a surfer sunscreen to protect your face, neck and any other exposed areas.

What To Look for in a Good Sunscreen for Surfing

There are a few key things you should look for in a good sunscreen for surfing.

  • Waterproof/sweat-resistant. Surfers will want to look for a sunscreen that is both waterproof or sweat-resistant. You’ll want a product that doesn’t wash off easily with the waves and keeps you protected.
  • Good UVA/UVB Protection. Most sunscreens on the market now offer some level of protection against harmful UV rays, but since you’ll be out in the sun for hours, you want to make sure that your sunscreen has both good UVA and UVB coverage to protect you from all types of UV rays. Look for an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Zinc-Oxide Based (Usually). Most sunscreens on the market use chemical filters, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals can be harmful to reefs and fish, so we suggest you look for a product that has zinc-oxide instead of these ingredients. Zinc-oxide based formulas that make up physical sunscreens provide fantastic broad spectrum protection and tend to be easier on the skin than chemical sunscreens.
  • Reef-Friendly. Unfortunately, some sunscreens have ingredients that can be harmful to coral reefs (oxybenzone and octinoxate are common culprits). Since surfers love beaches even more than the average beach-goer, it stands to reason that finding a reef-safe sunscreen is a must for most surfers. We don’t want to damage our oceans and the marine life that lives in it!
  • Easy to Apply. Lastly, you’ll want a sunscreen that is easy to apply and dries down clear. Many surfers opt for sun sticks for this very purpose – they glide right onto the skin and are super quick and easy to apply all over!

Best Sunscreen for Surfing: Our Top Picks!

It’s time to jump into our round up of the very best sunscreens for surfing that will protect your skin while you hang 10 on those waves.

1. Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion | Vegan and Reef Friendly (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free)...

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen

$15.99

The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen is a dermatologist approved, non-comedogenic sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection. With its high SPF rating and “reef friendly” designation, the Sun Bum Original offers a generous amount of sun protection without sacrificing clarity or water resistance.

It’s also vegan, gluten free and cruelty-free! No matter whether you go surfing or just enjoy being outdoors — this sunscreen will allow you to play freely in the sun safely while still looking after your skin.

2. Headhunter Heavy Duty Reef Safe Sunscreen 

Headhunter Heavy Duty Reef Safe Sunscreen SPF 50 for Surfing - Natural Mineral Sunscreen Face Cream...

Headhunter Heavy Duty Reef Safe Sunscreen 

$16.99

Headhunter Heavy Duty Reef Safe Sunscreen is a surfer-focused sunscreen made with natural minerals with no chemical actives, making it safe for reefs so you can protect the seas you love while riding those waves.

The Headhunter sunscreen is water-resistant and boasts heavy duty SPF 50 skin defense. It is a non-migrating formula that doesn’t wear off, hypoallergenic so it won’t cause breakouts or rashes, and is even tinted light brown for a subtle bronzed look.

Although it’s designed for surfers, the Headhunter sunscreen works well for swimmers and anyone who enjoys spending time in the sun.

The unique recyclable tube packaging shows Headhunter’s commitment to sustainable practices by minimizing their packaging footprint.

3. Waxhead Zinc Stick

Waxhead HUGE Zinc Stick - Sunscreen Reef Safe, Sunscreen Tattoo, Surfer Sunscreen Hawaii, Zinc Oxide...

Waxhead Zinc Stick

$29.99

The Waxhead Zinc Stick was made with you and your children in mind – it’s safe for everyone from infants all the way to adults!. This sun stick is made with 25% non-nano zinc oxide, providing you with the best protection against the suns harmful UV rays.

Made with no oxybenzone, octinoxate, or petrochemicals, this non-toxic sunscreen is reef-friendly while boasting a 30 SPF rating. The sunscreen is also hypoallergenic and cruelty free as well as gluten free. Best of all, it’s from four edible-grade ingredients – coconut oil, beeswax, vanilla extract, and non-nano zinc oxide.

Say goodbye to greasy liquid sunscreen with awful smells to deal with, Waxhead is easy to apply and doesn’t leave your skin feeling itchy or irritated.

3. Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Lotion

Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Lotion, Lightweight, Broad Spectrum SPF 50, 8 Fl Oz

Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen

$9.86

Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Lotion is a must-have for all your outdoor activities that require you to be in the sun, including an inpromtu surfing trip!

The SPF 50 lotion will protect against ultraviolet rays for UVA and UVB coverage. This water and sweat resistant formula secures protection so you don’t have to worry about it rubbing off if you’re active outdoors, and it provides coverage in the water for up to 80 minutes. It’s sturdy sweat and water-proof capabilities make it a favorite sunscreen for golfing too, as well as any other outdoor sport enthusiasts!

Perfect for anyone who likes coconut scents, this product has been infused with coconut and smells amazing! It’s fast absorbing while staying breathable and lightweight, keeping your pores and skin clear.

This sunscreen contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate, and doesn’t test on animals. It’s even made with 30% recycled packaging!

4. MANDA Organic Sun Paste 

MANDA Organic Sun Paste - Natural, Reef & Ocean Safe - SPF 50 Sunscreen - Thanaka & Organic...

MANDA Organic Sun Paste 

$28.00

This MANDA Organic Sun Paste is an innovative, safe sunscreen made specifically for surfers, climbers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts and offering SPF50 protection against UV rays while using only high-end ingredients.

All ingredients in this sun paste are organic and made without oxybenzone or octinoxate, including no nasty chemicals that might harm our reefs, making this sun paste friendly to the environment.

This formula consists of food-grade organic ingredients, with non-nano zinc oxide, coconut oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, thanaka, cacao powder, sheat butter, and cinnaamon ioil. This provides the sun-proof paste with anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-acne, and anti-aging properties.

This suncare company also has amazing social consciousness; their packaging is recycled content (bamboo and tin), cruelty free (not tested on animals) is reef safe!

5. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen, 1.7 oz - SPF 40 PA+++ Reef-Safe, Broad Spectrum Face Sunscreen & Makeup...

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

$34.00

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen’s invisible, weightless formula leaves you feeling fresh all day, even while out on the waves. And since it is also SPF 40 and oil-free, you’ll have plenty of sun protection while feeling great.

In addition to providing UVA and UVB protection, this sunscreen also protects against blue light, which is skin damaging light emitted from phones, computer screens, etc.

The antioxidant-rich formula offers a soft, velvety finish that’s great for wearing under makeup while providing plenty of shine control.

Oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free, this reef friendly sunscreen won’t harm the oceans or your skin either! It’s even beard-friendly, making it a great pick for dudes.

6. Zinka Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

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

Zinka Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

$9.23

Zinka Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen is a non-greasy, lightweight zinc oxide face sunscreen stick that’s perfect for surfers. It’s water resistant and provides 80 minutes of coverage from harmful UV rays when out on the water.

With a handy stick applicator, applying sun protectiojn to your face is quick, easy, and clean so you can get back into the waves with fewer worries.

The Zinka Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen includes 5% zinc oxide, an ingredient that blocks out both UVA and UVB rays to protect your skin from burning. The non-greasy formula means that the sunscreen won’t get in the way of your surfing while the lightweight formula provides a clean finish on your skin without leaving any residue – hurrah!

Surfing Sunscreens FAQ

Do I need a different type of sunscreen when surfing?

Surfers don’t need any uniquely “special” type of sunscreen for surfing, but there are some features they’ll want to look for. For the best protection overall, look for a water-resistant broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, ideally one marketed at a “sport” sunscreen. Keep in mind that you may need to reapply your sunscreen more frequently when surfing or sweating a lot.

No matter your skin type, you should apply sunscreen every day (and especially while surfing) to protect your body from premature aging, wrinkles and certain types of cancer that can be attributed to sun exposure including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Surfers also tend to prefer reef-safe sunscreens, so opt for environmentally-friendly sunscreens that don’t contain nano-particles and don’t use oxybenzone, octinoxate, or other reef-harming ingredients. Usually a zinc-oxide sunscreen will be your best bet!

Are oxybenzone and octinoxate harmful ingredients in sunscreens?

Some are wary of oxybenzone and octinoxate in chemical sunscreens due to the potential harm they can cause to the skin and to the environment. For example, oxybenzone has been linked in some studies to allergies and skin irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are also bad for reefs since they break down in the water and contribute to coral bleaching.

What are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide?

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are ingredients in physical sunscreens (as opposed to chemical sunscreens) that protect the skin from UVA/UVB rays by deflecting light. They also provides antimicrobial protection against bacteria, viruses, and fungi while soothing irritated skin. Zinc oxide sunscreens are the safest, most effective sunscreens for people with sensitive skin.


As a surfer, you know the importance of wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburns. However, it can be difficult finding an effective product that will work well in water and is free of harmful, reef-damaging ingredients like oxybenzone or octinoxate.

Which brands of sunscreens have you tried? What did you think about them? And if any are missing any must-haves from this list, please share them in the comments below!

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