We heard from a reader wondering what the best sunscreen was for their travels, and which SPF level was best. Their issue is trying to understand the packaging and labels … and they aren’t the only ones.

Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally passed guidelines for package labeling, it can be very confusing to know what is the best sunscreen for you.


Here are a few tips to help you choose the best sunscreen for you:

Just follow a few really simple rules:

  1. 30 Rocks – Don’t bother spending your money on SPFs higher than 50. Frankly, we don’t really bother with more than 30. The gains after even 30 aren’t that significant for the money you’ll dish out.
  2. Science 101 – All those chemical names are mind-boggling, for sure. To be really safe, try to stick with the products that physically block the sun’s rays and are total broad spectrum. That’s zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. There are a lot of new versions these days that won’t turn you white like Suzy Chapstick. These stay on the surface and do the best job. Others like avobenzone and oxybenzone, which chemically block, may be more irritating or just less affective due due degradation.
  3. Apply and repeat – I know, the sunscreen gurus say this over and over, but it’s no B.S. Do it.
  4. Take a dip – Without getting technical, the FDA’s methods to test water-resistance aren’t really what the public would consider water resistant, i.e. even the MOST water-resistant won’t keep sticking after about 80 minutes. And even that will depend on how much and how well you apply. Try for reapplication every 30-45 minutes if you’re getting wet.
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Therese Iknoian

Co-Conspirator at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian now focuses her writing and photography talents on travel. Fluent in German, Therese also runs a translation business (ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. She's a French speaker, and loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication. Therese is an award-winning member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.
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