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 across the incoming sets during the golden hour on 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 on the pop up, and options with that all-important zinc infusion. Let’s get started…
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What surf sunscreens are here?
- Salt & Stone SPF 50 Mineral Face Stick – Our best surf sunscreen for 2023
- Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 – Best for frequent surf travelers
- Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer – An ethical sunscreen for conscious surfers
- Palm & Pine 50 SPF – The best independent-brand surf sunscreen
- SurfDurt Original Sunblock – A solid all-rounder
- MANDA Organic Sun Paste – For those who like to put it on THICK!
- Suntribe All Natural Zinc Sunscreen 30 SPF – We use this almost every surf trip
- Zinka Nosecoat – Easy to travel with
- Fuka Eri – Another great eco choice for UK surfers
Salt & Stone SPF 50 Mineral Face Stick
Our all-round top surf sunscreen for 2023
The Salt & Stone range keeps it simple, keeps it stylish, and does just about everything right in the world of surf sunscreens.
It’s risen to become a real favorite of surf travelers who keep an eye on the quality of the products they whack on the skin. It’s formulated with all-natural ingredients. That means you get hits of sunflower oil, Shea, and infusions of Vitamin E to create a combo of natural fatty acids that are all thought to help moisturize dry or damaged skin, even while you’re out in the water.
This stick comes with a rating of 50 SPF, which makes it suited to the tropics just as much as the height of the summertime in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s also one of the few products on this list that dispenses with that gleaming white color, opting instead for a nice matt finish that sinks quickly into the skin to start offering protection right away.
More than anything, the Salt & Stone matt sticks simply ooze quality. The design is a feat of engineering. Now, if that sounds like heavy talk for a sunscreen stick, it’s not! This slips neatly into pockets of board shorts, board bags, beach bags, and travel packs, is sturdy enough to withstand long-haul travel, and can be applied at the flick of a finger.
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Stick
Great for frequent surf travelers
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 took one to the island in early 22′ and it was a tool we’re so glad we had!).
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. So, it’s tried-and-tested, sunny surf territory, you feel me?
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.
Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer
The best surf sunscreen for ethical thinkers
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.
Palm & Pine 50 SPF
The best independent-brand surf sunscreen
Palm & Pine bill their products as “vegan surf protection and so much more.” We agree. They’ve got a range of really sleek sunscreens and sun lotions coming out of their home in Portugal’s Ericeira – where better to test out what works and what doesn’t than a World Surfing Reserve bathed in 300 days of sunshine?
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. All products from P&P are vegan through and through. They’re packaged without an iota of plastic or polyethylene to be seen – it’s all aesthetic metal tins that screw tight and slip nicely into the luggage. And there are key ingredients to mitigate all the harsh tos and fros of the elements: Shea butter to moisturize, Calendula for natural defense, Echinacea as an antioxidant.
Now, the anecdotal stuff…We put the Palm & Pine through the paces in the later winter rays of 2022/23. It was a revelation – a downright revelation! – using the SPF 50 face protector mainly because it went on super-duper easy. We didn’t waste any precious surf time dragging our finger over a solid mass of frozen zinc. It just wiped on and stayed there; smooth as a minimal on Malibu Point.
We can see these guys doing super well in the years to come. They’ve nailed all the key points and have a laser focus on keeping it green to the T. It would probably be our pick of the bunch if you wanted to dodge the big brands and buy local. (Be sure to check out their face-body combo package for a great deal!).
SurfDurt Original Sunblock
A good all-rounder
Here’s a tried-and-tested option that rides high with thousands of happy customers. 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 live in 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!
MANDA Organic Sun Paste
For those who like to put it on thick
Long sessions, sensitive skin, blazing sun – there are loads of reasons why you might want to lather the sunscreen on thick before paddling out. There are few products better suited to letting you do just that than MANDA. It’s blazed a trail in the last year or so to become one of the most popular surf blocks on Amazon and we can see why. It’s not really like the options that have come before it. MANDA is thick like a watercolor paint. That makes it super easy to apply to all the nooks and crannies of the face, and apply in layers if you’re planning to be out for a while.
The thickness isn’t the only USP here. You’ve also get a curious inclusion of Thanaka, an Asian root that’s supposedly been used by the Burmese since ancient times for beautification. Look, it’s not going to turn you into Angelina Jolie, but we can say it feels downright lovely on the skin. Expect all ingredients to be food-grade organic. And there’s zero oxybenzone or octinoxate to keep it reef safe from tip to toe.
Suntribe All Natural Zinc Sunscreen 30 SPF
The Suntribe All Natural Sun Stick is a solid protector that covers all the bases and then some. Plus, it’s really been tested in the field.
The best component is in the name: Zinc. That’s in the ingredient list of virtually all the best surf sun blockers out there. It’s great at fending of UV. It’s also all-mineral based and natural. Better yet, the one here is non-nano zinc. That means the individual particles of zinc are simply too small to absorb into your skin so you shouldn’t have to worry about extra irritation and whatnot.
Suntribe clearly had surfers on their mind when they designed this product. They’ve enlisted WSL pedigree Tim Latte from Sweden to be part of their team, along with pro kiteboarders and sailors. But we don’t need no A-listers to tell us that it works.
We’ve had this bad boy on a month-long trip to the Canaries last year and it was fantastico. It lasted two of us for 28 days of surfing straight! That’s like two months per person! We also loved that it’s not just about stopping the burn. Suntribe comes with coconut oil and beeswax to moisturise as you surf. Our skin felt da bomb after sessions. Which is a change.
Easy to travel with
The Zinka Nosecoat is a long-time fav with surfers. We can see why. It’s light, easy to store, and is loaded with that all-important zinc component for keeping the rays at bay. Mhmm…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 20% zinc oxide. You also get a huge chunk of beeswax in there, which helps to soothe damaged skin and moisturize on application. 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 offer loads of different colors in the offing, from tan brown to zingy greens and blues. Our only downside is that there’s some alcohol in it and there has been some talk of the octinoxate not being okay for reefs, so that’s one worth checking.
Okay, so there’s a hefty price tag with the Fuka Eri. But by golly are them some enticing features. Before we get into why it’s unquestionably one of the best surf sunscreens out there, let’s talk eco credentials. There are more reef-safe, non-paraben products cramming this market than you can shake a coralstone at. We’re yet to find one that’s quite as environmentally clued in as Fuka Eri…
The whole thing is void of chemical ingredients. There’s not a single hydrocarbon chain or whatnot in the mix, just jojoba seeds, parkii butter, and cocoa to name just three of the all-natural additions. On top of that, the formula is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. It’s reef safe and fine to use in any water environment. Green-conscious surfers eat your heart’s out.
Fuka Eri is developed by surfers who lived in the wave mecca that is Bali. That means you can rest assured it’s got the toughness for long sessions – we know there can be lots of smudging on the Bingin reefs, ay. They’ve gone for a non-nano zinc active core, which gives an enviable 50 SPF. It’s fast becoming our go-to choice.