Sport-formula sunscreens are designed to resist sweat during physical activity. Many of the most popular formulas are spray-on sunscreens, which are convenient because they don't need to be rubbed in. However, a fair amount of product is lost in the air during application (which can lead to inadequate coverage), and users can't spray these sunscreens directly on their faces. Furthermore, the FDA is investigating potential risks involved with spray-on sunscreens -- namely with the possible inhalation of chemicals during application. Until further information is known, experts say it's best not to use spray sunscreens on children.
Despite the downsides, convenience wins out in this category -- especially for those who otherwise wouldn't wear sunscreen at all. There are two sunscreens that get top marks: Coppertone Sport Accuspray (Est. $8 for 6 oz.) and Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 70 (Est. $11 for 6.5 oz.) . There are also some natural cream alternatives, which are discussed in more detail in our section on natural sunscreens.
There's a lot of similarity with these products -- both positive and negative. Both have high concentrations of alcohol, which Paula Beguon says can be drying to skin. However, these aerosol sprays both dry very quickly, far faster than traditional sunscreen lotions. They're quick to apply, but overspray means that application can be streaky and less than perfect, and can lead to a lot of wasted sunscreen, owners say.
Though Neutrogena Beach Defense Barrier Spray may sound like it offers more reliable protection than Coppertone Sport, reviewers say that's not necessarily true. Both are rated water-resistant up to 80 minutes. Editors of InStyle magazine say Coppertone Sport Accuspray really stays put even while sweating and swimming. They selected it as a favorite sunscreen five years in a row.
There are some differences, though. Owners say that, when applied in a well-ventilated area, Coppertone's initial chemical smell wears off after it dries, leaving an inoffensive scent. Neutrogena, on the other hand, uses a fragrance that can be overpowering, according to reviewers. Both receive high hazard ratings from Environmental Working Group (for the presence of fragrance, as well as various other ingredients), though GoodGuide.com gives Coppertone a safety rating of 6 out of 10, or Good. Neutrogena Beach Defense isn't reviewed by Good Guide.
These advantages as well as the weight of professional support for Coppertone Sport Accuspray lead us to give it our Best Reviewed nod in this category.