Every year millions of tourists flock to Mexico to enjoy the colonial towns and marvelous beaches. Many of them learn the hard way that the sun in Mexico needs to be taken seriously. When it comes to choosing the best sunscreen for Mexico you should consider that sunscreens impact on the environment.
There are different types of sunscreen to be worn in the water and other ones to be worn outside of the water. It is also important to realize that sunscreen is just one factor in the sun protection plan. You should also consider:
Sunscreen is just one layer of protection and it needs to be reapplied every 85 minutes. Reapplying sunscreen that frequently can be difficult when the average surf session is two hours and much longer when the point breaks are firing.
If you are going to be spending more than an hour in the sun it is important to plan ahead. That includes sunscreen, SPF-rated clothing, a good hat, sunglasses, and shade. If you want to spend long hours enjoying all of the amazing outdoor activities that Mexico has to offer, you need to protect yourself from the sun.
The best-looking tans come from repetitive short exposures anyway. Long exposure to the sun, even with a good application of sunscreen, is going to damage your skin.
I am a lifelong surfer who spends a lot of time in the sun. I learned at an early age that skincare is an important part of surfing until old age. I have seen plenty of beachgoers with a bandage on the nose where the skin cancer was recently removed. The people who don’t take sun-related precautions will not get to spend as much time playing outdoors as the people who do. You are going to need some sunscreen for Mexico.
There are two main categories when it comes to the best sunscreens for Mexico: are you going in the water or staying out of the water. The biodegradable sunscreens are incredibly important if you plan on visiting the ocean or freshwater lakes. It is not as much of a concern if you will be touring the San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, or Pyramids of Teotihuacan. There are different sunscreen considerations for each type of travel destination type of travel activities.
The best reef-safe sunscreens for Mexico
More and more beaches are requiring reef-safe sunscreens which can be hard to find and expensive in small towns. Even if reef-safe sunscreen isn’t required you should keep it in mind because we want to preserve as much marine life as possible.
If you think about the number of tourists that flock to Mexico’s most popular beach destinations like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, the quantity of sunscreen washed into the ocean is measured in tons not bottles.
I don’t know if you have ever tried putting on sunscreen when you are already sweating in the sun. A lot of it washes off. Now imagine those tons of sunscreen being toxic to marine life for multiple reasons.
The two main concerns of a reef-safe sunscreen are chemicals and nanoparticles. Oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene bleach coral and are toxic to corals, algae, mussels, urchins, fish, and dolphins. Mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide should NOT be nanosized, or less than 100 nanometers in diameter. If the particles are too small they can seep into the corals and suffocate them
Reef Safe Sunscreen for Mexico
These are the best reef-safe sunscreens you should consider for Mexico if you will be in the water. They are oxybenzone-free and do not contain nanoparticles. Most importantly, they work. I like to combine two different types of sunscreen: one liquid and one face stick. The liquid sunscreens are thick with a viscosity closer to honey than to water. They form the base coat. After the base coat, I apply a face stick to the forehead, nose, ears, and the back of the neck. It is best to apply these sunscreens before it gets hot and before you are in the sun. Once you start sweating, it is really hard to correctly apply sunscreen.
Reef Safe Sunscreens for Adults
These are the sunscreens that I have been using for the last several years and highly recommend.
This is a liquid sunscreen with a neutral aroma that makes an excellent base coat. It is easy to apply and not incredibly difficult to remove. thinksport comes in an SPF 50 and an SPF 30. I always buy the higher SPF rating because the sun is so strong at the beach in Mexico. This sunscreen is broad spectrum UVA & UVB protection and is suitable for daily use on sensitive skin, offering defense against the sun’s rays. It is vegan, gluten free, and never tested on animals. The active ingredient is zinc oxide.
Sun Bum has some of the coolest marketing in the beach sports industry and their sunscreen also works. There is a delicious tropical aroma that you will come to associate with the beach. We also buy their car air freshener that smells just like their sunscreen.
This sunscreen delivers UVA/UVB protection and is packed with Vitamin E. It is oil-free, water-resistant, reef friendly, and great for all skin types.
Sun Bum sunscreens are vegan, cruelty-free, hypoalergenic, and paraben free.
Other Great Reef Safe Sunscreens
Reef Safe Sunscreen For Kids
I have two fair-skinned kids who want to spend a lot of time in the sun. Our family has tested lots of different sunscreens in the process of finding our favorites. We conducted research in Mexico, Hawaii, and California to find the best kid’s reef-safe and biodegradable sunscreens.
The thinksport line of sunscreens is all neutral in its aroma. They are liquid and easy to apply but they are also easy to remove. It is harder to apply sunscreen to kids because their face is easily bothered and getting sunscreen in the eyes really hurts. The thinksport kid’s line goes where you put it without smudging too much. I have borrowed my son’s thinksport baby from time to time when I am out of mine and it works perfectly.
Reef-Safe Face Stick Sunscreen for Mexico
A face stick sunscreen has a thicker consistency than a traditional liquid sunscreen. It is more time-consuming to apply than a liquid sunscreen because it has to be rubbed in well. This type of sunscreen is meant to be applied to the areas of the face that are most susceptible to sunburns like the nose, forehead, ears, and cheeks. It also takes a little work to remove these types of sunscreens with a mild face soap. I like to wash my face twice after a long surf when I use a lot of sunscreen.
This has been my go-to sunscreen for years. As mentioned earlier, when I am in Mexico I use both liquid sunscreen and a face stick. When I surf in San Diego I usually use just the Vertra face stick. They come in a variety of skin tones so it looks more natural (too much white sunscreen looks funny).
Of the two face sticks that I use, Vertra is the easiest to get on and off. I really like the texture. It environmentally friendly, reef-safe, octinoxate-free, oxybenzone-free, Paraben-free and infused with non-nano & mineral UVA/UVB blockers. The is what the Hawaiian lifeguards and the Coast Guard uses to stay safe in the sun.
The Sum Bum face sticks are different from the Sun Bum liquid sunscreen in the nuetral aroma. This face stick is the hardest of the face sticks that I have used and takes a little more effort to get on and off. That also means that it lasts a really long time.
These resuable tins are my new favorite reef-safe sunscreen. They both work great and the difference is that one has a mild mint aroma and the other is a nuetral aroma. The consistency is somewhere in between a face stick and a liquid sunscreen. It is kind of like a paste.
Raw Love Mineral Sunscreen is made in Maui, Hawaii by some of the leaders of sunscreen technology. The Hawaiians take reef-safe sunscreen seriously. I recently had the opportunity to test out some Raw Love reef-safe sunscreen on the Big Island of Hawaii while surfing and playing in the tide pools all day. We spent ten days on the Big Island and nobody came home with a sunburn.
This sunscreen has a mild mint aroma that may bother some sunscreen users. You can feel the mint as it gets close to your eyes. It is mild yet perceviable.
Raw Elements is another excellent sunscreen that comes in a reusable tin container. I like the consistancy of the sunscreen because it is easy to apply and still get off. It has a nuetral aroma (I like the mint aroma of the Raw Love).
SPF 30+ It provides broad spectrum protection (UVA and UVB coverage) with an active ingredient of 23% Non-Nano Zinc Oxide.
The best traditional sunscreens for Mexico
- doTERRA Sun (Coming Soon)
- Aveeno SPF 50
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen
- Neutrogena Water Resistant Sunscreen SPF 100
- EltaMD Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
- COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50
After Sun Relief
After a long day at the beach it is nice to use a hydrating lotion. I have used a lot of these as well and I always come back to the scent of the Sun Bum products. We use both the aloe vera gel and the aloe vera lotion. They really help take the edge off of a mild sunburn.
Conclusion: The Best Sunscreen for Mexico
I can not emphasize the importance of good sunscreen enough. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 20% of the US population will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their life. It is something that is pretty easy to avoid with a little care. Make sure to plan for the sun with long sleves, sun glasses, a wide brimmed hat, and some shade. Sunscreen is just one element of a sun protection plan. It is an important element but just one piece of the puzzle.