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When it comes to sun protection, you really can never have enough. If you prefer to hop out of the shower, apply a body lotion with SPF, then add on more sunscreen once you’re under the sun, look no further!
What’s the difference between sunscreens and body lotions with SPF?
A body lotion with SPF is not the same as a bottle of sunscreen you’d normally apply before stepping outside. “The main difference between a body sunscreen and a body lotion with SPF is the concentration of active sunscreen ingredients and the level of sun protection contained therein,” explains Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. “A body lotion is expected to have a consistency that spreads easily and feels good on the skin with minimal work to rub it into the skin. The more mineral and chemical sunscreen ingredients that are included in the product, the less elegant the product becomes.”
According to Dr. Hartman, body sunscreen needs to be water- and sweat-resistant, form a protective film on the skin and meet strict criteria for broad-spectrum protection from ultraviolet and visible light. “The more checkboxes that a product crosses off for being a good sunscreen, the less enjoyable it is to apply [compared to] a body lotion.”
Is one type more effective than the other at preventing sunburn and skin cancer?
The minimal amount of SPF in body lotions, which fall between SPF 15 and 29, is not nearly enough protection from harmful UVA/UVB rays. “These lotions tend to have a thinner consistency and don’t have the same tacky, thicker composition of body sunscreens,” says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in NYC, author of "The Pro-Aging Playbook" and creator of The Pro-Aging Podcast. “While the formulation might be more appealing, it is highly recommended to use a body sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30.”
However, according to Dr. Frank, body lotions with SPF are useful if layering with a body sunscreen to create a better consistency on the skin. “Just remember to apply the sunscreen last,” he says. “[Body lotions with SPF] are okay for short sun exposure times (10 to 15 minutes max).”
The best body lotions with SPF, according to dermatologists
“I love that this is lightweight, broad-spectrum, not greasy and absorbs nicely into the skin for hydration,” says Dr. Frank. Plus, if you tend to have more sensitive skin, this option is a solid pick — it’s fragrance-, dye- and paraben-free and formulated for sensitive skin types.
“This contains aloe vera, chamomile extract and antioxidants, which can help with irritated, inflamed or sensitive skin,” says Dr. Frank. It contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate, is hypo-allergenic and is an overall clean body lotion.
“This pick provides broad-spectrum sun protection against UVA and UVB while fortifying the skin barrier in a way that even the most sensitive-skinned among us can appreciate,” says Dr. Hartman. Formulated with soothing oat and rich emollients, this body lotion won't leave skin feeling greasy and has no added fragrance.
“This is a luscious body butter that is ideal for all skin types and leaves the skin moisturized with a nice glow,” explains Dr. Hartman. The best part about this body butter is that it has an SPF of 45, which is even higher than the recommended SPF 30.
This pick from Glytone contains glycolic acid to help exfoliate the skin while providing moisture. “For those prone to body acne, this is a great product to consider,” explains Dr. Frank. “However, whenever using acids, it’s important to use an SPF of at least 30, so this product definitely needs to be layered with a body sunscreen on top.”
“Cerave Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Body Lotion is a 100% mineral sunscreen that has a lightweight, non-greasy feel and spreads easily over large body surface areas,” explains Dr. Hartman. “It contains CeraVe’s signature ceramides to add to the skin barrier as well.”
“This Lubriderm Lotion is SPF 15, glides on well and leaves the skin hydrated with no sticky, oily residue,” says Dr. Hartman. It’s enriched with vitamin B5 and essential moisturizers to bring hydration back to your skin and has been clinically shown to moisturize for 24 hours.
“Unsun Cosmetics Everyday Body Lotion SPF 15 boasts a reef-safe formulation containing both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in an elegant vehicle that looks great on all skin tones,” says Dr. Hartman. This is a great mineral-based choice if you prefer mineral sunscreens.
For more stories like this, check out:
- How to choose the best sunscreen for your face, according to a dermatologist
- These derm-approved sunscreens are perfect for darker skin tones
- 7 sun protection essentials you need, according to Real Simple
- Yes, you need to put sunscreen on your scalp — a dermatologist explains why