Sun protection is an everyday necessity. Being in the sun too long can lead to sunburns, skin cancer and premature signs of aging. Despite what you might have heard, sunscreen should not be your primary defense against the sun. Staying out of direct sunlight for a prolonged period is ideal, but not always possible during an outdoor adventure.
Try to plan around the sun when going outside. You don’t want to be hiking an exposed mountaintop or paddling in the middle of a lake at the hottest hours of the day. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Find shade when you can, and wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat in the sun. Cover up with light-coloured, lightweight, loose-fitting, UPF-rated clothing. Although it seems counterintuitive, you will actually feel cooler wearing something than having the sun hit your bare skin.
Your last defense is sunscreen. Here’s what you need to know about choosing and applying sunscreen for your next outdoor adventure:
Is a Higher SPF Better?
Rather than referring to strength of the sunscreen or the time you can be in the sun, the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) refers to the amount of solar exposure it will take to burn.
Use at least SPF 30. Although it sounds logically better to have a higher SPF, just because the sunscreen you’re applying is 50+ doesn’t mean you don’t need to reapply. Skin type, amount and frequency applied can impact the effectiveness of your sunscreen.
One important thing to look for is “water-resistant” or “sport” sunscreen. These are formulated to stay on better when you are hiking, swimming or being active outdoors.
How to Apply Sunscreen
Follow the instructions on your sunscreen’s label. Most of us probably assume that we know how to apply sunscreen, but according to Wirecutter, many people apply it wrong.
When to apply sunscreen: Around 15 minutes before you head outside. Apply another layer every one to two hours afterwards.
How much sunscreen to use: You’ll want to use about one teaspoon of sunscreen to cover each arm and leg. Add another teaspoon for your face. If you’re not wearing a shirt, add another for your back and one for your front. When in doubt, use more. Ask someone to help apply sunscreen on hard-to-reach places like your midback. Don’t forget about your ears and scalp!
Quick tips for smart sun safety:
- Before using a new sunscreen, spot-test it to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
- Rub sunscreen in vigorously.
- When using insect repellent, apply sunscreen first.
- Check the expiration date of old sunscreen bottles.
Best Mineral Sunscreens
Mineral sunscreen is often said to be better for yourself and the environment because of the active ingredients used to block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Unlike chemical sunscreen, eco-friendly mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a mixture of both.
Chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays, while mineral sunscreens create a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Unfortunately, they can also leave an obvious white cast.
Chemical sunscreen has been linked to bleaching coral reefs and harming marine life. Even if you’re not jumping in the ocean, the shower water that rinses the sunscreen off your body and washes down the drain will eventually end up in our waterways.
To protect the environment we love to explore, mineral sunscreen is your best choice. However, the best sunscreen is the one you will actually use.
Here are six mineral sunscreen options:
For Sensitive Skin
AVEENO® Protect + Soothe Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Although this is the thickest, least blendable sunscreen on this list, it offers effective sun protection for sensitive skin. The fragrance-free, dermatologist-recommended sunscreen combines soothing oat with 100 per cent mineral active ingredients. Slather it on your arms and legs for day hikes, bike rides, boat rides and camping trips. This sunscreen uses a blend of 6.5 per cent titanium dioxide and 18.7 per cent zinc oxide to protect your skin.
Buy it here: aveeno.ca
Thinksport Kids Sunscreen 50+
This award-winning sunscreen is great for active young ones. The company prides itself on making non-toxic, functional and sustainable body care. In Thinksport’s lineup of sunscreens, the Kids’ version uses 20 per cent zinc oxide to protect young skin from the sun. It is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and protects from harmful UVA/UVB rays so kids can stay outside and explore safely.
Buy it here: chapters.indigo.ca
For the Face
AVEENO® Protect + Soothe Face Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
This face sunscreen comes out light, goes on non-greasy and offers fabulous coverage for sensitive skin. Although it does leave a white cast, it can be rubbed in and dries sheer. It doesn’t irritate my acne-prone skin, and it also doesn’t pill beneath makeup. Formulated with soothing oat and naturally sourced mineral active ingredients, it uses 6.6 per cent titanium dioxide and 18 per cent zinc oxide to block the sun and keep your face from burning.
Buy it here: londondrugs.com
For Dark Skin Tones
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral One SPF 50+ Tinted Face Sunscreen
This lightweight mineral sunscreen is tinted with a satin finish for light coverage while you’re working up a sweat on the trail or relaxing in the sun at the campsite. It is available in five shades, ranging from fair to dark brown. Formulated with hyaluronic acid and antioxidant vitamin E, it’s not just good at blocking the sun—it’s also good for your skin. This sunscreen uses 13.6 per cent titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Buy it here: laroche-posay.ca
For On-the-Go Application
AVEENO® Protect + Soothe Mineral Sunscreen Stick Sensitive Skin SPF 50+
This stick formula can be difficult to spread, but once you get the hang of using the deodorant-like dispenser, you’ll want to keep it on hand (or in the backpack) at all times. It won’t get melty or hot like fluid sunscreen, and it doesn’t count towards your liquid limit on international adventures. Designed for daily use on sensitive skin for sun protection on the go, it has an effective formula containing pure oat essence and 21.6 per cent zinc oxide which provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
Buy it here: aveeno.ca
Australian Gold Botanical Mineral Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50
I did my research, and the reviews don’t lie—this sunscreen is incredible. I tested this sunscreen over three consecutive beach volleyball games on a sunny summer evening, and I can confirm: it blends well (albeit not perfectly, but better than any other mineral sunscreen I’ve tried), smells delightful and moisturizes my parched skin. Even after sweating in the sun for hours, I didn’t burn. It uses eight per cent titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Buy it here: londondrugs.com