Hiking is the supreme outdoor activity and while the sun might not always be shining from a clear blue sky, your face will nevertheless be exposed to its damaging UVA and UVB rays – even on a grey and cloudy day, at least 40-50% of the sun rays will penetrate through the cloud cover. Different surfaces such as snow, water, sand and even grass reflect the sun rays upwards and thus it is not enough to wear a wide-brimmed hat as protection for your face. The potency of the UV rays also increases with altitude; 4% for every 305 meters (1000 feet) which makes it crucial to wear a sun cream with high protection (at least SPF30), no matter your natural skin tone. As there is a great chance that you will be sweating during your hike, it is necessary to reapply sun cream every 90 min or so – even if it is water-resistant (note that there is no such thing as a “water-proof” sun cream).
1. Buying a Sun Cream for Hiking – What is important?
Most of us have childhood memories of being rubbed with a greasy white salve-like sun cream which left us sticky and white.
When buying a sun cream for hiking, you will want to get a cream which feels comfortable on your face without feeling greasy or leaving white stripes. The sun cream needs to provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays – which in the EU is a no-brainer, since legislation demands that sun cream must contain both, while some US products might only contain protection against UVB rays (unless they have UVA-filters such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX listed on the active ingredients list).
Below you will find reviews of the five best sun creams which are comfortable on the skin and contain adequate protection for both UVA and UVB rays. Four of them are water-resistant, while one is not – but nonetheless still suitable for less demanding hikes or people who tend not to sweat in the facial region.
2. The Best Sun Creams for Hiking Review
- La Roche Posay Anthelios Xl Spf50+ Comfort Cream
- Avene Emulsion Spf50+
- Eucerin Sun Mattifying Fluid Spf50
- PC4Men Daytime Protect SPF 30 Moisturizer with Antioxidants for Men
- Bioderma Photoderm Ski Cream + Stick SPF 50+
|Feature/Product||La Roche Posay Anthelios Xl Spf50+ Comfort Cream||Avene Emulsion Spf50+||Eucerin Sun Mattifying Fluid Spf50||PC4Men Daytime Protect SPF30 Moisturizer with Antioxidants||Bioderma Photoderm Ski Cream+ Stick SPF50+|
|Consistency||Melt-in cream||Emulsion||Emulsion||Light cream||Cream + stick|
|Amount||50ml||50ml||50ml||60ml||20ml + 2g|
|Skin Type||Dry to normal||Normal to combined||Combined to oily||All||All|
1. La Roche Posay Anthelios Xl Spf50+ Comfort Cream
Best for: normal to dry (sensitive) skin
The French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay has a wide range of excellent sun protection in various formulas, but this sun cream is our favourite. The cream might look like your average sun screen, but its melt-in formula sets it apart by providing a smooth and non-greasy feel to the skin – while still being water resistant. Its UVA protection is twice as strict as the European recommendation thanks to its patented and photostable filtering system Mexoplex®.
Also available with SPF 30.
2. Avene Emulsion Spf50+
Best for: normal to sensitive combination skin
As the name implies, this is more of an emulsion rather than a classic sun cream. It has an ultra-fluid and non-oily texture as well as sebum-reducing properties thanks to the ingredient Monolaurine. This means that you are less likely to experience unfortunate shine after application, even if you have more oily skin. Besides the high-end water-resistant UVA/UVB protection, the emulsion also contains Pre-tocopheryl, a photostable Vitamin E precursor, for additional cell protection. An extra advantage of this sun cream is its practical airless pump which allows easy dosage of just the right quantity of the product for application.
Also available with SPF 30
3. Eucerin Sun Mattifying Fluid Spf50
Best for: oily combination skin.
The super light-weight and non-greasy texture of this product makes it ideal for those with combination or oily skin types – even acne-prone. It also works well in warm and humid climates. Besides its high and water-resistant UVA/UVB protection, it contains the natural antioxidant Licochalcone A , which is proven to help protect the skin cells in the deeper epidermal skin layer as well as glycyrrhetinic acid, which supports the skin’s own repair mechanism. The compact packaging makes it extra easy to pack in your backpack.
Also available with SPF 30.
4. PC4Men Daytime Protect SPF 30 Moisturizer with Antioxidants for Men
Best for: most skin types, except the oiliest ones.
Behind the skin lines PC4MEN and Paulas Choice (the corresponding line for women) stands Paula Begoin – widely known in the US as the Cosmetic Cop as she for decades have been fighting to inform people about the cosmetic industry’s abundant use of crazy claims and dubious ingredients for their products. Her own lines are a response to this, being well-formulated and reasonably priced. This moisturizing sun cream is no exception. It is not water-resistant and should thus be applied more frequently to ensure full protection during a hike – unless you usually don’t sweat in the facial region.
Besides the name of this product, there is nothing which suggests that this weightless and shine-free cream cannot just as well be used by women.
5. Bioderma Photoderm Ski Cream + Stick SPF 50+
Best for: most skin types under extreme conditions (cold, high altitudes etc.)
This smart 2-in-1 product contains both a sun cream (20ml) and sunstick (2g), which makes it perfect for travellers or longer hikes, where you want to carry as little as possible. Photoderm SKI has a bit heavier texture than the products above as it is specially formulated to withstand extreme conditions, such as temperatures down to -10°C (where lighter sun creams with a higher content of water would attain ice crystals). It is, however, still very comfortable on the skin and furthermore contains trehalose, a naturally occurring sugar, which increases your skin’s resistance to very harsh weather conditions.
3. The best product in the review