How to Choose a Sweat-Resistant Sunscreen

Sunscreen is essential for outdoor summer workouts, but there are few grosser feelings in life than when your sweat turns your forehead into a slip’n’slide and a layer of goopy sunscreen comes sliding down. Read more...

How to Choose a Sweat-Resistant Sunscreen

woman running with sweaty face

Photo: Jacob Lund (Shutterstock)

Sunscreen is essential for outdoor summer workouts, but there are few grosser feelings in life than when your sweat turns your forehead into a slip’n’slide and a layer of goopy sunscreen comes sliding down.

Fortunately, some sunscreens are more up to the task than others. Technically, none of them are “sweatproof” since anything will wear off eventually. (In the same vein, the FDA does not allow sunscreens to advertise themselves as “waterproof” or to call themselves “sunblock.”) But water-resistant and thus sweat-resistant sunscreens do exist, and a glance at the label can help you tell the difference.

Look for “40 minutes” or “80 minutes” on the label

Sunscreens that can stand up to sweating or swimming will be labeled “water resistant,” and you’ll see those words on the front of the package. Most sunscreens with “sport” in the name are water resistant, but make sure to look for the fine print.

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According to the FDA’s labeling guidelines, a sunscreen that calls itself water resistant must also indicate whether it has passed a 40-minute or 80-minute test. For the sunscreens that stand up best to sweat, look for the words “water resistant (80 minutes).”

Even sweat-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied

If you’re about to head out for a few hours, you can’t just slather on sunscreen and then forget about it. Add up the amount of time you expect to be out, and then compare it to what your sunscreen says it can do.

All sunscreens should be reapplied after two hours, even if you haven’t been sweating. During that time you’ve probably touched your face, your sleeves have rubbed against your arms, and so on. There’s no guarantee you have enough sunscreen left to protect yourself, so go ahead and reapply to be safe; and if you towel off at any point, make sure to reapply afterward.

If you’re sweating (or swimming, or otherwise exposed to water), pay attention to that water resistance rating. If you’re heading out for a 90-minute run, wearing 80-minute sunscreen won’t quite get you to the finish line. Chances are, you’ll be stopping for water or snacks at some point, so pack sunscreen and reapply when you get a minute.

Balance all the factors

As with any skin product, you’ll need to experiment to find which ones feel best to you. (After all, the best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually wear.) You’ll also want to check out the rest of the stats on the label. Look for an SPF of at least 30, and the words “broad spectrum” to indicate that it blocks UVA rays in addition to UVB.

So even though I’d prefer an 80-minute sunscreen, the one I wear when I run is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Mist. It’s SPF 55, broad spectrum, and most importantly it doesn’t feel sticky or slimy unlike others I’ve tried. It’s water-resistant for 40 minutes, so I reapply or I choose a different sunscreen if I know I’ll be working out longer than that. (I will use an 80-minute sunscreen on my arms in those cases, but still prefer my favorite for my face.) And if you’ve found your own favorite sweat-resistant sunscreen, let us know.