We all know that running comes with a lot of benefits. From strengthening muscles and bones in your legs to boosting your cardiovascular health, regular running is an excellent way to take care of your body.
However, it’s vital not to forget to look after your skin while you’re working on your fitness. Along with all its great health benefits, running also comes with an elevated risk of sunburn.
Being outside for extended periods can increase your likelihood of skin damage. While most runners will think of applying sunscreen on sunny days, harmful UV rays can be present even in overcast weather.
Therefore, any prolonged activity outdoors - running included - carries risks of sun damage.
But as long as running brings you joy and helps you to feel good, there’s no reason to cut down on your sessions! All you need to do is invest in a good, high-quality sunscreen.
We know that runners have unique needs when it comes to sunscreen. Contending with sweat, heat, and constant movement can make it challenging to find a formula that works.
Lucky for you, we’ve put some of the most popular sunscreens on the market through their paces and come up with a selection of the 7 best sunscreens for runners.
In a rush? Don’t run away just yet! Take a look at our top choice:
OUR TOP PICK
Alba Botanica is one of the most successful brands on the skincare market for naturally-derived, cruelty-free formulas.
It also happens that Alba Botanica’s Cool Sport formula is one of the best sunscreens on the market for runners.
With a high SPF of 50, the Alba Botanica Cool Sport sunscreen comes recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for its heavy-duty, effective protection against harmful, cancer-causing sun rays.
Because of how protective this sunscreen is, you’d be forgiven for assuming that its consistency must reflect that.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Alba Botanica’s Cool Sport sunscreen is one of the most lightweight formulas out there.
Alba Botanica Cool Sport comes in an aerosol can, meaning that it can be applied in a mist over the skin.
The mist application is refreshing on those long, sweaty runs, and it also makes it easier to achieve proper coverage on the go.
The 80-minute water-resistance of the Cool Sport formula helps it to stay on for longer through rain and sweat.
In addition to all the other benefits of this formula, you can feel good about using this sunscreen because it’s cruelty-free (leaping bunny certified). It’s even gluten-free!
The only criticism we, and most other customers, have about this sunscreen is that the scent leaves something to be desired.
It’s quite a strong, chemical scent that won’t be to everyone’s taste.
However, apart from that, this is an excellent, long-lasting sunscreen that will make your running sessions safer and easier.
- SPF 50
- Easy spray-on application
- Recommended by Skin Cancer Foundation
- Peculiar scent
Neutrogena’s CoolDry Sport sunscreen formula has been developed with the needs of athletes in mind. Runners everywhere are recommending this formula for active days, and we’d absolutely recommend it, too.
The first thing to mention is that this sunscreen comes in a high SPF of 70.
While there is some debate amongst scientists as to the added effectiveness of higher SPFs over those in the 30s and 50s, this high sun protection factor will provide complete protection and peace of mind.
Moreover, this is a sweat-resistant formula made with Micromesh technology. This technology essentially creates a barrier on top of the skin.
The barrier is breathable so that sweat can permeate it. In this way, the CoolDry Sport sunscreen keeps the skin cool while preventing sweat from wearing away your sunblock.
The CoolDry Sport formula is also PABA (Para-aminobenzoic acid) and oil-free, so when applied, it doesn’t feel oily or greasy, and it’s non-irritating!
The sunscreen comes in a slim bottle that fits easily in your hand, in pockets, or in running bags for top-ups as needed.
One thing we didn’t like about this formula, to be completely honest, was the scent. This is a criticism we’ve also seen repeated amongst customer reviews and testimonials.
For many, the artificial scent is a little overpowering and can make using this sunscreen less than pleasant.
Outside of the scent, though, this is a highly effective and practical sunscreen formula that all runners should consider.
- SPF 70
- Breathable formula
- PABA and oil-free
- Overly scented
People with sensitive skin typically have a much harder time finding a sunscreen that works for them. Runners with sensitive skin have an even more difficult time.
Not only do they need to find a non-irritating formula, but this formula also needs to be effective, wear-resistant, and long-lasting.
Blue Lizard’s sunscreen formula (while not perfect, as we’ll get into in a second) is one of the best sensitive formulae for providing long-lasting, non-irritating protection.
This SPF 30+ formula is water-resistant, which, while not the same as being sweat resistant, does indicate that this sunscreen will stay on despite external factors.
Instead of fully absorbing into the skin, the sunscreen acts as a barrier on the top layer of the skin to prevent UV ray absorption.
In conjunction with the lack of active chemical ingredients in this formula and the absence of fragrances, parabens, and reef-harming chemicals, the minimal absorption of Blue Lizard reduces the potential for skin irritation. Therefore, this formula is recommended by dermatologists.
One innovative feature of the Blue Lizard sunscreen that we loved is the smart bottle technology. The bottle turns blue in the presence of UV rays.
This is a convenient and fun way of working out when you need to apply sunscreen and helps to minimize misjudgments related to sun exposure.
However, where this sunscreen suffers slightly is in its application.
It does feel a little greasy on the skin, and it’s quite difficult to rub in effectively, which isn’t ideal when you’re on the go.
Moreover, some customers have reported pore-clogging.
With that being said, if you can tolerate a little inconvenience in the application and can commit to thoroughly cleansing your skin after a run, the other features of this formula could make Blue Lizard the sunscreen for you.
- SPF 30 +
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Smart bottle
- No parabens, oxybenzone, or octinoxate
- Tricky to apply
There’s nothing worse than a sunscreen that never seems to dry on your skin entirely. Many of us will be familiar with that uncomfortable, tacky feeling that lingers hours after applying sunscreen.
It seems that Neutrogena’s formula developers have experienced this too - or they’ve listened to customers who have because the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen is one of the best-drying formulas we’ve ever tried.
Because of this, it’s also easily one of the best sunscreens for runners.
The Neutrogena Dry-Touch formula has an SPF of 55, so you can trust it to block virtually all of those harmful UV rays.
However, it absorbs quickly into the skin without feeling heavy. Once it dries, it settles into a matte finish with 80 minutes of water-resistance.
This formula is PABA-free, reducing the likelihood of skin irritation occurring.
The sunscreen is packaged in a small, pocket-sized tube that’s easy to carry around with you and won’t weigh you down when you’re trying to hit that new PB.
The packaging is TSA-approved and travel-sized, so if you ever want to take your running international, you can bring this sunscreen along to help you.
The one drawback to Neutrogena’s fast-drying sunscreen is that it doesn’t work well when applied over most other facial products, including most moisturizers. So, this sunscreen is best for runners who go bare-faced.
- SPF 55
- Matte finish
- Not for application over other products
Coppertone’s Pure & Simple Sunscreen is formulated for the most sensitive skin types, and it’s one of the most natural, chemical-free sunscreen formulas out there.
This dermatological safety and other factors make the Pure & Simple sunscreen perfect for runners.
The use of harsh chemicals in sunscreen increases the risk of a skin reaction.
Combining harmful substances, clogged pores, and sweat creates the perfect conditions for heat rash and other skin problems.
As you can imagine, these conditions are easy to achieve when running or exercising.
Luckily, this isn’t something that wearers of Coppertone Pure & Simple will have to deal with.
This formula is free from PABA, fragrances, parabens, alcohol, dyes, sulfates, phthalates, and oxybenzone - basically, it hasn’t got any of the nasty ingredients sunscreen wearers normally try to avoid.
Despite the absence of all these chemicals, Coppertone still manages to provide high-level SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays.
It even stays on for a minimum of 80 minutes when exposed to water, so getting caught in a rain shower or even sweating excessively shouldn’t wear your coverage down too much.
Unfortunately, this sunscreen does leave something of a greasy film over the skin after applying, which can be quite difficult to get past.
If this doesn’t bother you too much, though, we’d definitely recommend checking out this sunscreen before your next run.
- SPF 50
- 100% botanical formula
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Free from PABA, parabens, and fragrances
- 80-minute water resistance
- Feels greasy
Rated at SPF 45, EltaMD’s UV Shield Face and Body Sunscreen will provide enough sun protection for all but perhaps the most burn-prone complexions.
Unlike many sunscreen formulas, this one is suitable for oily skin and won’t be washed away by facial oils or react with it to create irritation.
The EltaMD sunscreen is recommended by dermatologists and rated as suitable for acne-prone skin.
The reason this formula is great for runners is that it’s compatible with and resistant to the natural oils secreted by the skin.
That means that the coverage is less likely to be impacted by sweat.
Moreover, sweat-induced acne is a common skin condition reported by runners, so a sunscreen suitable for acne-prone skin is highly desirable.
EltaMD’s UV Shield sunscreen is fragrance-free and not at all greasy, so it’s easy and pleasant to apply as well as non-irritating.
While this sunscreen is excellent for oily or acne-prone complexions, it’s not the best choice for particularly dry skin. On dry skin, the formula tends to look and feel flaky.
- SPF 45
- Suitable for oily skin
- Suitable for acne-prone skin
- Not the best for dry skin
Zealios’ Sun Barrier sunscreen provides optimal sun protection during periods of activity. Therefore, it lands a spot on our list of the 7 best sunscreens for runners.
With a very respectable sun protection factor of 45, this formula is quick-drying and sweat-resistant, so once you’ve rubbed it in, you’ll be good to run for at least 80 minutes before you need to reapply.
This formula is unscented and free from oil and parabens. Therefore, it’s suitable for sensitive and oily skin types.
In terms of application, the Sun Barrier sunscreen is clear-drying so that you won’t end up with a cakey white layer of product on your face.
It rubs into the skin easily and quickly, perfect for those mid-run reapplications, and won’t feel sticky for hours like some competitor brands.
Additionally, the formula is suitable for vegans and completely cruelty-free!
The Zealios sunscreen is available for purchase in 3 oz and 32 oz containers. You can buy the smaller containers in sets of 2, 3, or 5, so you’ll always be stocked up on your sun protection.
We highly recommend making the most of these multipack deals because this sunscreen is, unfortunately, on the expensive side.
- SPF 45
- Quick and clear-drying
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Oil and paraben-free
- Multiple container sizes
Best Sunscreen for Runners Buying Guide
Trying to find a sunscreen that works for your skin and activity levels can certainly be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be!
With a few simple pointers from our buyer’s guide, you’ll be fully prepared to make the best purchase for your active sun protection.
Sun Protection Factor
The first thing you’ll probably be looking for, and the first thing advertised about most sunscreens, is the sun protection factor or SPF.
Checking out the SPF of a sunscreen is a quick, easy, and accurate way to determine how much protection it’s likely to provide.
It’s generally agreed upon by experts that SPF 30 is the minimum SPF that anyone over the age of 6 months, regardless of complexion, should be wearing. SPF 30 has a UV protection rate of 96.7%, so when applied correctly and in a timely manner, it should provide more than enough protection for most people.
However, runners with sensitive or very fair skin may wish to opt for SPF 50 for 98% UV protection.
Higher SPFs are also available, and although the need for higher factors is contested amongst experts, it can’t hurt to do everything you can to protect your skin if it puts your mind at ease.
After all, it’s thought that even a single sunburn can increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, so it’s wise to take all the protection you can get.
In our selection of best sunscreens for runners, you will find SPFs ranging from 30 to 70. So, no matter how sensitive your skin is, we’ve got you.
Speaking of sensitive skin, the next factor we need to turn our attention to is the sunscreen formula itself.
Although many sunscreens contain similar ingredients that are approved for skin protection, there’s still a lot of variety in terms of the chemicals that manufacturers do and don’t include in their products.
Ideally, a good sunscreen should be free from any harmful chemicals. This includes PABA, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, oxybenzone, octinoxate, alcohols, and dyes, amongst many others.
Depending on how sensitive your skin is, it might also be a good idea to avoid fragrances as well.
If possible, we’d recommend a formula like our top choice, Alba Botanica cool sport, which is made with many natural ingredients, including botanical extracts.
Minimizing harsh chemicals in favor of natural ingredients is key to a sensitive-skin-friendly sunscreen formula. We believe that this is especially important for runners because of the prevalence of sweat-induced acne as a result of regular running.
As well as being dermatologically safe, a good sunscreen for running should be as resistant as possible to factors like water, sweat, and facial oils.
These things can cause sunscreen to be worn away prematurely, leaving the skin exposed to UV rays soon after application.
An 80-minute water-resistance rating is generally a good indicator of a long-lasting, wear-resistant sunscreen.
Additionally, you can trust sunscreens that are suitable for oily skin because these won’t be as easily impacted by moisture and external substances.
Finally, you’ll want to consider how easy a sunscreen is to apply and how it will feel during and after application.
The messiness and sticky consistencies of many sunscreens often deter runners from using them before and during their sessions.
However, there are definitely fast-drying, non-greasy sunscreens out there that apply easily and won’t leave you ghostly white.
It’s just a matter of finding them. We’ve done our best to include as many oil-free, non-greasy, fast-drying formulas as possible in our list of recommendations to set you up for success.
Our personal recommendation would be a spray-on formula like the Alba Botanica sunscreen.
Spray-on formulas are usually quicker to apply, feel more lightweight and less sticky, and provide better, more even coverage because of the mist-like spray.