So, you’re on the hunt for the best surf sunscreen? Good! It’s about time us salt-washed water babies started taking skin health seriously. Some studies have it that surfers are up to three times as likely to develop melanoma. You don’t have to be a doc to know that ain’t good. What’s more, who wants to have that on their mind as they paddle out into the crystal-clear reefs of Sri Lanka or gaze down the sunsets of the Baja California? Nope. Us neither.
Thankfully, help is at hand. Yep, there are lots of ways boardies can cut the chance of skin damage and make their riding all the safer. They include wearing decent SPF rash vests and getting up for the dawnie instead of hitting the waves midday (five coffees for me, please!). On top of that, choosing the right sun protection is absolute key.
There are some corkers on the market today. This guide runs through some of the very best surf sunscreen products out there. It’s got ones that champion their eco credentials, some that are great if you’re the sort that smudge your sunscreen, and options with that all-important zinc infusion. Let’s get started…
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What surf sunscreens are here?
- SurfDurt Original Sunblock – Our top all-rounder
- Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 – Best for frequent surf travelers
- Salt & Stone SPF 30 Facestick – Best for surfers with dry skin
- Zinka Facestick SPF 50 – Best clear-look surf sunscreen
- Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer – Best eco-friendly option
- Sun Bum Signature Mineral-Based Moisturizing Sunscreen – Best non-sweat for hot surf destinations
SurfDurt Original Sunblock *our all-round top surf sunscreen for 2021!
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: $24.99 for 2 Oz.
There are loads of reasons why SurfDurt is right up here close to the top of our list of the very best surf sunscreen products for 2021. It’s riding high with thousands of happy customers, and pretty much everyone we’ve spoken to is now a converted loyalist. We think the highlights are in keeping it simple; keeping it healthy.
SurfDurt has just 11 active ingredients. 100% of em’ is food-grade, which means they are non-toxic by definition. There are two great pluses to that. First, it’s better for your skin. You won’t have to worry about causing even more damage with harmful parabens and whatnot. Second, it’s a gift for the ocean. There’s no danger to corals or those lovely sea turtles that might be joining you on the evening sesh – we can all hope, ay?
SurfDurt’s anti-sun tech is powered by 23% non-nano zinc oxide. That really is gold dust in the world of eco-friendly protection products, and some competitors only manage around 5% or so. It means you get the bonus of the anti-UV but without zinc particles that can absorb into the skin. in addition, we love the packaging and the general vibe of the company!
- Non-nano zinc oxide protection – the best out there!
- 100$ food-grade ingredients
- Water resistant to 80 minutes
- Needs to be reapplied for longer surf sessions
- There are three colors. Decisions, decisions.
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Stick
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: $11.99 per stick (that’s $26.66 an ounce)
Here’s an easy-to-pack sunscreen from a family company that we’ve really enjoyed using on our trips to the beach in the past. With 50 SPF rating, it’s strong enough for the sunnier surf destinations that might be on your bucket list – Mexico, Sri Lanka. We also like that it comes from a firm that knows their surf. One office is located in Cocoa Beach, FL (the home of one Kelly Slater – heard of him?) and the other is in the wave-washed reaches of Encinitas, SoCal.
That all generally puts this one in good stead. Then we’ve got the details: (1) It’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen, so it protects from both UVA and UVB light. (2) It’s infused with 5% zinc oxide, which works to physically block the rays from getting to the skin. (3) It’s hypoallergenic and has good ratings from surfers with sensitive skin. On top of all that, it’s totally vegan and reef friendly!
It’s also worth pointing out just how convenient this stick is. The folk at Sun Bum say ‘trust the bum’. We think what they’re trying to tell you is that it’s super annoying when sand gets in your sunscreen. That’s why they’ve gone for a simple, roll-on device that’s a cinch to chuck in the beach bag.
- Easy to pack and doesn’t get sandy on the beach
- Zinc oxide infusion
- 100% vegan
- Needs to be applied 30 mins before going in the sun
- >20% zinc oxide
Salt & Stone SPF 30 Facestick
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: $17.95
The Salt & Stone range has become something of a favourite among surf travelers who really keep an eye on the quality of the products they whack on the skin. It’s formulated with all-natural ingredients. That means Jojoba, sunflower oil, Shea oil, and infusions of Vitamin E to create a combo of natural fatty acids that are all thought to help moisturise dry or damaged skin. The upshot? It’s a great option if you’re skin’s already feeling the sun and you want something to help repair while you keep on surfing.
When it comes to the key features on the UVA/UVB protection front, the Salt & Stone SPF 30 Facestick doesn’t disappoint. It offers an impressive 22.5% non-nano zinc component (the holy grail of surf sunscreen protectors if you ask us) along with water resistance up to 80 minutes. It’s also super easy to apply. Simply push up the stick with the gauge at the bottom and drag it across your face. It’s low on residue and doesn’t leave a mark.
(There’s also a 50 SPF version for hardcore sun protection if needed).
- Strong moisturising components
- 22.5% Zinc
- Proper reef safe (no oxybenzone or octinoxate)
- Not designed specifically for surfers
- Some users say it can sometimes leave white marks
Zinka Facestick SPF 50
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: $17.98 for two sticks ($36.69/Oz.)
The Zinka Facestick is a long-time fav with surfers. We can see why. It’s light, easy to store, and got a strong 50 SPF going for it. The upshot? It’s ticks pretty much all the boxes for long surf trips. On top of that, it comes from a company that has over 30 years in the sports sunscreen industry. They even have their own Zinka Surf Team, with prolific riders like Maddie Franz on board.
Okay, so Zinka clearly know the demands of surfing. But what’s in it? Well there’s that all-important 20% zinc oxide. You also get a huge chunk of aloe barbadensis leaf extract, which is proven to soothe damages skin and naturally repel around 30% of UV rays. On top of that, the product is broad spectrum, which means it takes care of both UVA and UVB, along with other natural infusions like Jojoba seed oil.
Zinka also happens to be one of the few zinc oxide sunscreens out there that rolls on clear. This is the one for you if you don’t like messy white marks across the face. (Hang on, we thought they were cool?). What’s more, there has been some talk of the octinoxate not being okay for reefs, so that’s one worth checking.
- Infused with ingredients that soothe the skin
- Easy to roll on
- Clear on touch
- Not certain if it’s reef safe
- Very expensive per Oz.
Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer *The best surf sunscreen for ethical thinkers
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: $16.49 ($9.16/Oz)
Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer does much the same job as the other natural options on this list. However, it aims high to be the best surf sunscreen of all by adding in a few nice ethical features. It’s completely GMO free and rated to be cruelty-free. That means it’s not been tested on animals. In fact, it’s got the fully fledged Leaping Bunny accreditation, so you know it’s all legit.
We also really love the branding and the look of the product. It’s just a hands-down premium feel. Even better than that, the whole thing comes in a re-usable plastic container and the rest of the packaging is totally biodegradable. It’s essentially the top product for eco-conscious surfers.
That said, there’s not much skimping on the tech. The Raw Elements comes with UVA-UVB broad-spectrum protection. It’s packed with a whopping 23% non-nano zinc oxide (the holy grail, remember?), and it puts a cherry on top with some lovely extras that leave the skin feeling as smooth as that elusive flat day in Batu Bolong – think sunflower oil, coffee bean and hemp seed.
- Really eco-friendly
- Officially rated as cruelty free
- 23% zinc content
- Cheap per Oz!
- Flat containers don’t make it easy to apply
- Only 30 SPF rating
Sun Bum Signature Mineral-Based Moisturizing Sunscreen
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED: $20.37 (that’s $45.27 an ounce)
The second of the Sun Bum brand on this list comes in the form of their signature stick. There’s no denying it’s a cool piece of kit – just check out that slick, unpretentious black packaging. We like the look but it’s a little shame that it’s all plastic. Still, it’s a breeze to apply. Just roll out the little clicker and off you go. It’s the sort of thing you won’t regret dropping in the wetty bag if they A-frames are rolling in buy the forecast is saying they won’t stick around too long. Feel me?
Sun Bum have also covered all the features that most surfers will look for in the best surf sunscreen going. There’s zinc oxide in there (but maybe a tad too little at just 7%). You’ve got beeswax (great if the nose has already picked up a bit of a burn). Oh, and the whole thing is PABA Free and paraben free. The only thing we’re not certain of is the octinoxate on the ingrediet list – some say that’s not the best for reefs! If you’re surfing em’ you might want to choose something else.
The stand-out feature of this one though is its consistency. The folk at Sun Bum call it ‘Non-Migrating’. In normal talk that means it’s pretty hard to rub off and you won’t go spreading up your arms and wetsuit when applying. It also helps with the water resistance, and also means you won’t sweat it into your eyes on the hardest of surf sessions. All good things.
- Hard to smudge
- Doesn’t come off with sweat
- Stylish, compact packaging
- Perhaps not 100% reef safe
- Only 30 SPF
If you have used any other products like this and think we’ve missed something from our selection of the best surf sunscreen products on the market today, please get in touch! We always love to add more impressive UV blockers to our pieces to help keep surfers healthy.