To find the best snorkeling sunscreen we have tested a lot of products over the years. Our most recent sunscreen tests happened in Curacao, but we have tested many sunscreens in many places over the years. We only test sunscreens that are reef safe, that do not use active ingredients like oxybenzone, that are known to kill reefs and fish. Below we recommend our top pick, along with a few other good options.
Every snorkel day we each apply one brand to one leg and another brand to the other leg. We make sure they are applied correctly (read our application tips here) and that they have the correct drying time before entering the water. We now wear long sleeved rash guards with hoods, so we don't test on other parts of our bodies.
Next we test for reapplication after we have snorkeled one spot, which often means there is some moisture on our legs dripping from our suits (a very common scenario for a snorkeler).
Finally, we notice what it is like to remove the sunscreen in the shower.
During a trip we will end up testing each product for many days, unless it clearly fails and we get burned.
To find the best snorkeling sunscreen, we only use and test reef friendly, biodegradable, physical sunscreens (i.e. titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, or a combination), since chemical sunscreens are known to harm reefs (and we feel sick when we use them). Read more about reef friendly sunscreens here.
We are happy to report that we have a favorite best snorkeling sunscreen that we use on every trip, and several others as good options. They all work but have slight differences that we will explain.
Please note that companies change their ingredients fairly often. So we suggest you compare the ingredients listed below to make sure what you are buying is what we tested. We have learned the hard way that small changes can completely change how effective they are for snorkeling.
This Stream2Sea sunscreen review comes from testing Stream2Sea SPF 20 Sport Sunscreen, their SPF 30, and their tinted SPF 20 and tinted SPF 30, over several years and many many snorkel trips. It works so well that it is our go-to choice for best snorkeling sunscreen. It performs in both very high temperature conditions and cooler ones, and the company is highly eco-conscious. They are the only sunscreen company that invests in testing on corals and fish to make sure their product is not toxic to marine life. It is our #1 pick for best snorkeling sunscreen. Plus they give our site visitors 10% off your first order by using the coupon code TropicalSnorkeling10 on Stream2Sea's website at the links above.
Check out our full page review of Stream2Sea's sunscreens for more about why we recommend it.
They all are very easy to apply, and a little bit of product goes a long way. The SPF 20 versions have a nice thin consistency that goes on fairly white, but after rubbing it in it dries much less white. The SPF 30 versions are slightly thicker in consistency, and are slightly whiter on the skin. We find we like the white color because we can see when it needs reapplication.
The tinted versions are identical in ingredients, application, and sun protection, they just have some iron based coloring, which matches nearly every skin tone, for those of you who don't like the white hue. The downside is the iron may stain light colored clothing, although we have found it comes out with soap and a little scrubbing from our light colored rash guards. For this reason we prefer the regular SPF 20.
They use a non-greasy formula that is very water resistant, but comes off easily in the shower with a washcloth and some soap.
We found that they all have very good reapplication over slightly wet skin, maybe even better than when applying to dry skin.
We found that both the SPF 20 and 30 protect from sunburn very well over the time of a normal length snorkel, though you will get a little more color to your skin using the SPF 20 compared to the 30.
It has a very faint scent (but is unscented).
Ingredients: 6.6% (SPF 20) 8.8% (SPF 30) Titanium Dioxide (Non-Nano), Deionized Water, Aqueous Extracts of Camellia Sinenis (Green Tea) Leaf*, Ocimum Tenuiflorum (Tulsi) Leaf*, Alaria Esculenta (Wakame Seaweed)* and Olea Europa (Olive) Leaf*, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice*, Cocoglycerides, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Palmitate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Sorbitan Olivate, Cetearyl Olivate, Methylcellulose, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Stearic Acid, Acrylates Copolymer, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Sorbitan Palmitate, Tocopherol, Xanthan Gum, Alumina, Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Sorbic Acid (Tinted versions only - Iron Oxides (C.I. 77492, C.I. 77491, C.I. 77499) and Jojoba Esters). *Certified Organic
We tested the All Good Sport Sunscreen SPF30 on numerous snorkeling sessions and we like it.
Its main sun blocking ingredient is a non-nano Zinc Oxide at 16%.
This sun block applies very nicely with a non-greasy formula is not too thick or thin, and goes a long ways. And it dries nearly clear, with just a hint of white on your skin, which we like, to be able to see if we missed any skin areas, and to see if it has rubbed off.
Most importantly, it did a good job of protecting us from getting sunburns while snorkeling. It is rated for 80 minutes of water resistance, and we found it to have very good water resistance, staying on while we were snorkeling for over an hour in the water.
It also reapplies well over wet skin.
Overall we really like it. It is clearly labeled Reef Friendly on the label, although we are not aware of them doing any testing to make sure of this. We assume this claim is based on the sunscreen being oxybenzone-free. For that reason Stream2Sea above is still our preferred reef safe sunscreen.
All Good Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 Results
Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 16% (Non-nanoparticle), Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice*, Arachidyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Behenyl Alcohol, Bisabolol*, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)*, Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Flower*, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Citric Acid, Coco-Glucoside, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Diheptyl Succinate, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Mauritia Flexuosa (Buriti) Fruit Oil*, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Rosa Canina (Rose Hip) Seed Extract*, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil*, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter*, Tocopherol, Water.
We tested thinksport SPF 50 sunscreen a number of times snorkeling, and it did a good job.
Normally we don't enjoy using an SPF 50 sunscreen that uses Zinc Oxide because they tend to be very thick, and also tend to leave your skin very white. But that was not the case with this product.
It goes on easily, is non-greasy, and dries clear. And yet it does this with non-nano Zinc Oxide. Galen found it slightly thicker than some of the other brands on this page, but very usable.
It has an 80 minute water resistance rating, and we found that it held up very well for long snorkeling sessions. So we give it high ratings for water resistance. And most importantly, we did not get any burns, or even a tan.
The product is not labeled as reef safe, but the active ingredient is Zinc Oxide, and it does not contain any sunscreen chemicals that are known to be harmful to reefs, like oxybenzone. But it is not a product that has been tested to see if it is harmful to reefs.
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50 Results
Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20% (Non-nano), purified water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, capric caprylic triglycerides, sorbitan stearate (coconut based), pine wood resin, vegetable glycerin, cetyl dimethicone, hydrogenated castor oil, magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), sunflower oil, jojoba oil, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), tocopherols (vitamin e), olive oil, raspberry seed oil, cranberry seed oil, hyaluronic acid (made from vegetable), glucose & glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase, currant, citrus paradisi.
We have tested Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF30 on many different snorkel sessions. We choose the Fragrance Free version. They also sell a scented version with "Summer Scent", whatever that is. Besides that fragrance, the ingredients appear identical.
This sunscreen uses Zinc Oxide at 19% for its active sun blocking ingredient. And even though it is advertised as Clear Zinc, it is a non-nano sized Zinc. On their website, the product is labeled as reef friendly, but not on the bottle. And although it does not use chemicals like oxybenzone, it does not appear to have been tested to make sure it does not harm reefs.
We have mixed feelings about this product, mostly because it is a bit watery, making applying it more difficult than others. It tends to drip quickly from your hands before you can get it onto your body. This happens even if you shake it a lot before using it.
Other than the above issue, it spreads easily, and dries clear, to very slightly white. It has a non-oily texture when dry.
And it is rated for 80 minutes of water resistance, and we found that it was very water resistant for long snorkeling sessions. And it reapplied OK, with the same issues because of how thin and watery it is.
Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30 Results
Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 19.0% (Non-Nano), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera Gel) Juice*, Aqua (Deionized Water), Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Calendula Officinalis Extract,* Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Caprylyl Glycol, Caryodendron Orinocense (Kahai) Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Extract*, Glycerin*, Glyceryl Stearate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Hexylene Glycol, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Oil), Hydroxyethylcellulose, Nasturtium Officinalis (Watercress) Extract*, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Pueraria Lobata (Kudzu) Extract*, Rosa Canina (Rose Hips) Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract*, Sodium Bicarbonate, Spiraea Ulmairia (Meadowsweet) Extract*, Stearic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Zemea (Corn) Propanediol. *CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENTS
For this Goddess Garden sunscreen review we tested their Sport Natural SPF 30 product.
It is a bit thin in consistency, almost watery, which makes it spread easily and it goes a long way, although some reviewers dislike how thin it is. If you apply the sunscreen quickly, it seems to go on well. Nicole found that if you don't apply it fast, sections dried so quickly that it did not blend well.
It is not oily and goes on fairly transparent for an SPF 30. It is clear enough that it is hard to see where it has been applied, and it is hard to see if any has rubbed off.
Once you allow it to dry the required 15 minutes it is a very water resistant sunscreen and protected us as well as Stream2Sea when snorkeling for over an hour at a time. We found no problems reapplying the sunscreen when our legs were slightly damp, except for the consistency mentioned above, although it is very clear so it is hard to see where you need more. This sunscreen is a little whiter in appearance on reapplication.
Goddess Garden Sport Natural SPF 30 Results
Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (6.4%), Zinc Oxide (6.0%), Aloe
Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Aluminum Hydroxide, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea
Butter)*, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Coconut
Oil), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil*, Glycerin, Glyceryl
Caprylate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed
Oil*, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Sorbitan Oleate, Stearic Acid,
Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Water, Xanthan Gum *CERTIFIED ORGANIC
We also tested RAW Elements Face + Body SPF 30 for best snorkeling sunscreen. It is very water resistant.
It is a bit oily, but it goes on easy and spreads well. It dries slightly white.
It has the scent of sunflower oil.
We have found that sunscreens that use an oil as their primary water resistance method will tend to rub off more easily, leading to more burns. Something to keep in mind.
RAW Elements Results
Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 23%, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Green Tea, Organic Black Tea, Organic Coffee, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, All Natural Mango Butter, Organic Beeswax, All Natural Rosemary Oil Extract, All Natural Vitamin E.
In the past this product performed well in our best snorkeling sunscreen tests, and this new Badger Sport SPF 35 formula is better.
It is very water resistant and water beads off because of its slightly oily consistency. This texture also means it can rub off more easily and possibly cause burns. It is quite white in appearance, probably because it is an SPF 35 vs. SPF 30.
It has a light sunflower oil scent.
It is a little hard to wash off.
It only has five ingredients, which is refreshing.
Ingredients: Non-Nano Uncoated Zinc Oxide 22.5%, Helianthus Annuus (Organic Sunflower) Oil, Cera Alba (Organic Beeswax), Simmondsia Chinensis (Organic Jojoba) Oil, Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E).
We have tested these products for the best snorkeling sunscreen but cannot recommend them:
Coral Safe SPF 30 (by Mexitan)
Unfortunately we can no longer recommend Mexitan's Coral Safe sunscreen for snorkeling. It was our #1 pick from our 2010 best snorkeling sunscreen test and what we used for years. But they have changed the formulation so it is no longer water resistant and has an unpleasant application texture and appearance.
Mexitan Tropical Sands SPF 30
This new formulation has poor application, and is no longer water resistant, leading to burns.
Mexitan Tropical Sands SPF 30 Coconut Scented Zinc Formula
The poor application and low water resistance of this product was identical to the Tropical Sands above.
Rubber Ducky SPF 30 Body (Untinted)
We thoroughly tested Rubber Ducky SPF 30 on several trips. We found that it rubs off too easily, particularly in very warm locations, which leads to burns. So we no longer recommend it for snorkeling.
Very Bare Belly Organics Supersensitive SPF 30 Sunscreen
This product was nice to apply, and has good ingredients, but it was noticeably less effective when used for snorkeling compared to our winners. We both got burned.
Aubrey Organics Natural SUN SPF 26 Unscented
This product applied nicely, but was not very water resistant and washed off easily when snorkeling.
Caribbean Solutions/Hawaiian Sol
It was not very water resistant, had poor reapplication, and we got burned. Nicole also had an allergic reaction to it. This product has two different labels, but the ingredients are identical.
Soleo Organics 30
This product was fairly water resistant, but was very thick and needed to be massaged to get the oils in the bottle to homogenize. It was also very expensive.
There are many other products that we have considered for the best snorkeling sunscreen. Some of them are marketed as natural and reef safe, but their ingredient lists still include things we don't want on our skin.
Tropical Seas - Reef Safe (by Beach Buff)
Instead of getting rid of the chemicals, this sunscreen focuses on making the sunscreen very water resistant, so that the ingredients don't wash off into the water. We ended up not testing this because we no longer want those chemicals on our skin or the reefs.
This sunscreen won Sport Diver Magazine Editor's Pick, but we have skipped testing it because of the ingredients. We ordered it for the 2015 test, but it was rancid, so we returned it and decided not to test it again.
Beyond Coastal Natural Sunscreen SPF 30
We have skipped testing this because of the complexity of ingredients.
Another product that comes up as an option, but again the complexity of ingredients has prevented us from testing it.