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). An extremely high SPF number (>50) does not mean that you are protected longer.
Keep in mind that areas covered by clothing might also need sun protection, if your hiking garments are not UPF-rated – read more in our article about sun protective clothing. If you are looking for sun protection for your eyes, check out our reviews of hiking sunglasses for men and women respectively.
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. Most people will, however, sweat during fast-paced hikes or trips in the height of summer, so select your sunscreen accordingly.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Sun Creams for Hiking Review
The Best Sun Creams for Hiking – List
- La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk
- Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60 Soft Sheer Sunscreen Lotion
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sun Screen SPF45
- Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen SPF30
- EltaMd UV Clear SPF46
|Feature/Product||La Roche Posay Anthelios||Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60||Neutrogena Ultra Sheer||Jason Sun Mineral||EltaMd UV Clear SPF46|
|Consistency||Milky lotion||Lotion||Light cream||Cream||Cream|
|Amount||150 ml||150 ml||88ml||118 ml||48 g|
|Water-resistant||Yes (80 minutes)||Yes (40 minutes)||Yes (80 minutes)||Yes (80 minutes||No|
|Skin Type||Normal to oily||Normal to dry||Normal to oily||Sensitive (normal to dry)||Combination to oily|
1. La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk
Best for: Those with normal to oily skin – who want quantity as well as quality
The French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay has a wide range of excellent sun protection in various formulas, but with the La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk you get quite a lot of product for your money. This face and body sunscreen has a smooth and fluid formula which will satisfy even those who usually hate applying sun cream. Note that although the La Roche-Posay sunscreen has a SPF60, you still have to reapply it at least every two hours to remain protected from the sun. In terms of water-resistance it lasts for up to 80 minutes.
2. Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60 Soft Sheer Sunscreen Lotion
Best for: Those with normal to dry skin – who want quantity as well as quality
Vichy and La Roche Posay are both owned by European beauty giant L’Oreal and therefore it cannot surprise that the ingredient list of the two sunscreens listed here are quite similar. But the Vichy Capital Soleil SPF 60 Soft Sheer Sunscreen Lotion is slightly thicker in viscosity and also formulated with more rich ingredients which makes it better suited for normal to dry skin. It is also water-resistant for a shorter period (only 40 minutes), so if you have dry skin but sweat profusely while hiking, be sure to reapply the Vichy sunscreen more often.
3. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sun Screen SPF45
Best for: oily combination skin
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sun Screen SPF45 is without a doubt the cheapest product on this list of the best sun creams for hiking – which will hopefully mean that you won’t be hesitate to use plenty of it. Most people tend to apply too small amounts of sunscreen (when they finally do use it) which means they will not get the sun protection stated on the product. No matter how much you slather on of this Neutrogena sun cream, you should not get a greasy feeling as it is formulated with the special Dry Touch-technology to suit even the most oily skin types. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sun Screen SPF45 is water-resistant up to 80 minutes.
4. Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen SPF30
Best for: Very sensitive normal to dry skin
Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen SPF30 is the only sunscreen on this list which only utilizes physical sunfilters rather than organic/chemical ones, which is an advantage if you have very sensitive skin or suffer from an allergy towards one or more of the organic sunfilters. Physical sunfilters used on their own do, however, have a tendency to clog the skin’s pores which make a sunscreen like Jason’s Mineral Sunscreen SPF30 unsuitable for those who are prone to outbreaks and oily skin. If you have a darker skin hue, you might also find that this sun cream leaves a white cast on your skin due to the high content of zinc oxide.
5. EltaMd UV Clear SPF46
Best for: combination and oily skin, even acne-prone
EltaMd UV Clear SPF46 is formulated to suit people with more oily skin, which particularly young men can be prone to. It combines the physical sunfilter zinc oxide with the organic octinoxate as sunscreens with purely physical sunfilters have a tendency to feel too heavy and occlusive on oily skin. Although zinc oxide has a reputation for leaving a white hue, EltaMD UV Clear really does go on clear and non-shiny. This sun cream is not water-resistant, but in any case you should reapply sunscreen every 1½ to 2 hours – water-resistant or not – to stay protected.