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Is using a body lotion with SPF enough to keep you protected? Derms fill us in

You'll want to pair these with your favorite sunscreen.
Smiling tourist relaxing beside the pool putting on lotion
MesquitaFMS / Getty Images

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Sun protection products should be a staple in every beauty routine, regardless of skin type. Not only that, but it should be worn everyday. Yes, even if it's not summer or you're not on vacation or you're not spending time directly in the sun.

When it comes to protecting yourself from the sun's rays, you really can never have enough. With the emphasis on sun protection from dermatologists everywhere, you might be thinking about ways to incorporate other products with SPF into your skin care routines beyond sunscreen. Luckily, accessible skin care items like body lotions with SPF make it much easier to do so.

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,” explained Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “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 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,” said Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, 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 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

Eucerin Daily Hydration Lotion with SPF 15

“I love that this is lightweight, broad-spectrum, not greasy and absorbs nicely into the skin for hydration,” said 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 specifically for sensitive skin types.

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion

“This contains aloe vera, chamomile extract and antioxidants, which can help with irritated, inflamed or sensitive skin,” said Frank. It contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate, is hypo-allergenic and is an overall clean body lotion.

Unsun Cosmetics EVERYDAY Body Lotion Sunscreen SPF 15

“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,” said Hartman. This is a great mineral-based choice if you prefer mineral sunscreens.

Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil SPF 45 Body Butter

“This is a luscious body butter that is ideal for all skin types and leaves the skin moisturized with a nice glow,” explained 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.

Glytone Daily Body Lotion Broad-Spectrum SPF 15

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,” explained 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.”

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