Sunscreens - the good, the bad and the terrible

As someone who has 3 colours of skin that I cycle through regularly 1. white. 2. red and 3. (inevitably) peeling, I struggle to find good sun screen every season. I guess my key criteria are that it works well so I slow my annual three step skin loop, doesn’t run into my eyes and sting as well as not completely blocking up my skin causing overheating.

I know that there will be different options in every country but for those of us down under with Summer on the horizon, this is going to be important for us all soon.

My current favourite is Cetaphil Sun ultra-light lotion in SPF 50+. Not as common as many brands but covers pretty much all my criteria above.

[Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Ultra-light Lotion | Cetaphil Australia]

Anyone else come across something that works really well for them?


Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+, 400g works a treat for me (fair skin, Sydney, pro hours riding). I don’t put above my eyebrows (glasses and helmet take care of that) so can’t comment on running into eyes but ticks all your other boxes.


Badger Protect Land & Sea Sunscreen Cream Tin

This stuff is great. It’s tenacious as hell, lasts ages, did a great job of preventing burns for us this past summer, and is mineral-only so supposedly reef friendly. I found the tin to be easy to fit in a saddle bag or jersey pocket, which was a nice.

It does make you smell a bit like beeswax, which I wasn’t expecting, but ultimately found preferable to the usual ersatz coconut or whatever scents in sunscreen. The aforementioned tenacity made it great for anything active, but I still keep a lighter lotion type sunscreen on hand for other situations

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I think the key (I live in Houston…HOT) is to use a different sunscreen for your arms than you use for your face. Use the expensive stuff that doesn’t drip in your eyes for your face, and then just use a regular sports sunscreen for your arms. My favorite for faces is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch 55. It only takes a couple of pea sized dabs to do the whole face so it lasts a very long time.


I swear by P20.
Only one application needed for the day and it doesn’t make you sweat more than usual.

I do exactly the same thing. The expensive, niche sunscreen over my face and neck and the other, whatever, last year’s sunscreen over arms and legs.


I use Coppertone Sport, 50 or 70 SPF. No sunscreen doesn’t drip into my eyes, so I just apply to the nose, cheeks, and chin. The helmet shades the forehead well anyway.

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Which latitude do you live?
Here in Europe at around 45° North we are lucky enough to being able to use no sunscreen and don’t get sunburnt!
A friend of mine that is red haired and therefore very light color skin type, uses a liquid spray type on his arms, but not on his legs that generally he says get less sun exposure.
I think it’s about 12 or 16SPF
No sun screen on his face because of the sunglasses and the helmet, so I can’t suggest any product for the face.

I’ve connected with the Zealios brand here in the States. It is both a chemical and physical (ie zinc) based sun block that is rated at SPF 45. It really does the job of ‘staying put’ even on super hot days. I live in Georgia, USA where the heat and humidity mean lots of sweat but have found it to be effect. They also make very handy pocket size sachets so when I hit the store stop on a long 3-4 hours ride, I can reapply without having to lug a bottle in my jersey pocket. Created by swimmers and tri athletes, they have done a lot of research into creating something functional for active folks.


I live in a hot climate (Texas). I’m currently using Thinksport zinc-based sunblock on my face/ears/neck, and long-sleeved jerseys. I’ve pretty much given up on short-sleeved jerseys. Right now Stolen Goat jerseys are my favorite, although I haven’t experimented widely. I should be putting a swipe of sunblock on the stripe between the sleeve and glove.

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Plus 1 to Zealios

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Try one from a surf shop. Surfers need good sunscreen that can stand up for hours and I’ve found the sun bum and billabong to be very good. They also have invisible zinc’s which are great for the face.

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I’m in Australia as well and I use Ego Sun Sense. They have a moisturising face version that is non-greasy and great for the neck up. I use their sport version for arms, etc. Both are 50+ and come in small bottles that can be easily carried. As a bonus for me they aren’t tested on animals!

I’m also in Australia and I use Cancer Council Sport. It’s non greasy, doesn’t smell and I forget I’m wearing it moments after I put it on.

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I use Pearl Izumi Sunlegs and Sunsleeves.
I use Voler Bikelava, a short lightweight Buff.
I use a Goretex cycling cap

With these 3, I do not burn in the California sun even with long 12-14hr days on the saddle.

When I did use sun screen lotions, I found that using too much of the chemical-type sun screens made me more dehydrated and tired.
They also hurt when they get into my eyes.
The zinc oxide/titanium dioxide/mineral type are better since they are thicker but it seemed hotter with these on your exposed skin than with the above clothing which wicks away sweat quickly.

I have used the sun sleeves on a ride near Death Valley in 100F+ temperature. Luckily, it was an organized event with plenty of rest stops where I can dip my sleeves into water and use the water evaporation for cooling.

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Sunsense spf 50+ sport and Cancer Council spf 50+ sport both work well on my lily-white skin. (Available in Australia).
I also use arm sleeves with short sleeve jerseys. Less messy.

Can’t confirm getting no sunburn in Europe, 50°N. I’m red haired, so more risk, but I know plenty of dark haired getting burnt here.
FWIW: we in Germany have an association for testing products (“Stiftung Warentest”), which regularly tests sunscreens. Seems like we’re lucky that some cheap ones are amongst the best.

One caveat for sunscreens: especially the ones with chemical components can deteriorate after some time, so that they can promote cancer development in skin. I read an article calling out European brands like L’Oréal and Nivea among others for this. You can very much use these, but throw them away after a year and use a new one.

Baby Bum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Fragrance Free. I like the density of this physical block. I also wear sun sleeves.

Fellow Down Under rider with similar skin colour sequence to you.

I lather on whatever SPF50 I can find on arms and legs. I’ve found that quantity is the key and it doesn’t seem to matter whether I guy the expensive brands or the el cheapo Woolworths special.

On my face I use the Cancer Council SPF50 face lotion and it works a treat. No nasty taste in my mouth or stinging in my eyes from sunscreen-laced sweat. I also always wear a Buff bandana over my hair and forehead, which helps soak up the sweat and reduce the dripping.

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I will second the Zealios recommendation. It will still sting your eyes though, so I don’t put any on my forehead.