Next time when out at the store that sells a variety of skincare items take a quick stroll down the sun protection aisle. It can be quite the overwhelming experience.

There are SPF numbers, sunscreens, sun blockers, tanning lotions and moisturizers for men to name a few of the options. Some lotions are specific to the face while some work well on the body.

Some lotions moisturize while some resist water. It makes many yearn for the day of three options, maximum. While the options seem to be excessive, one must remember the more options and adaptations, the better the current products tend to be.

This, somewhat recent, flood that hit the sun care market has come as a knee jerk reaction to repeated studies showing the, often, life altering negative consequences of sun overexposure.

Many skin diseases and much of the aging of skin is directly linked to the effects the sun has on unprotected skin.

As the average consumer comes to this realization, many are buying skin care different and more specific sun protection products for the first time. If one finds themselves entering a new sun care lane or looking for more education on products, let this article serve as a guide to understand the difference between the various products.

One should start with identifying the different categories in the marketplace


Sunscreen is defined as a preparation, usually in cream or lotion form, that screens the sun by filtering the sun’s rays as they contact the skin.

Sunscreen is only given this label if the lotion holds an SPF number higher than 15.

SPF has a specific number attached with it is it serves as the amount of time one could stay in the sun without being burned.

For example, an SPF of 30 will allow a person to stay in the sun 30 times longer than one could stay in the sun without. If one burns at 5 minutes, theoretically, they could remain outside for 150 minutes before being burned. SPF, which many people think should be capped at 30, doubles as a number that dictates the percentage of protection from UVB rays. SPF 30 protects against 97% of UVB rays compared to SPF protecting 93%. Any number above 30 offers minimal differences to the 97% protection (SPF 50 protects from just under 98% of rays) as it is impossible to, healthily, block all the UVB rays.

Most of the best sunscreens for men on the market contain, at least, two of six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Several of the common ingredients in sunscreen have recently garnered negative attention.

How does sunscreen work on your skin and what does it do

Image courtesy: nito/


This is referred to as a penetration enhancer or chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin. A chemical reaction takes place when oxybenzone is exposed to UV rays that begins this process. After it penetrates the skin, it has triggered an eczema-like allergic reaction that can spread beyond the exposed area and lingers after contact with the sun is ended.

Some, also, believe oxybenzone disrupts hormones through mimicking, blocking, and altering hormone levels. This disruption throws off the endocrine system.

A study from the CDC showed that 97% of Americans have some measure of this chemical circulating in their bodies because it accumulates more frequently than the body can expel it.

In another study, opened up to the public in 2015, Oxybenzone, was given more negative publicity. It was found to be a major contributor to widespread coral bleaching. Just small amounts of this chemical are shown to cause damage to the undersea environment.


This is another commonly found ingredient in sunscreen. Octinoxate is easily absorbed by the skin and promotes the absorption of other ingredients as well.

It is rare for one to have an allergic reaction to octinoxate but it is still believed to cause hormone disruption. This chemical, as some believe, impacts estrogen in humans and wildlife, when they interact with the chemical when it enters the water.

While SPF products are specifically designed to protect the skin from premature aging, octinoxate may actually be a source of this aging. It have been found, in some cases, to produce harmful free radicals that damage skin and cells.


This functions like oxybenzone and octinoxate by helping sunscreen penetrate the skin. After the ingredient has been absorbed by the body, homosalate begins to quickly accumulate as the body can’t rid it at an equal rate. It can become toxic and disrupt hormone levels.


As this is exposed to the sun, it absorbs the rays and produces some oxygen radicals that mutate and damage cells. It, like it predecessors, accumulates in the body and becomes toxic.

While Avobenzone is not given any negative attention, currently, it must have additional additives to stabilize so that it remains effective. The most common stabilizers are octocrylene and octisalate.


Sunblock is a preparation (lotion or cream) applied to the skin that prevents sunburn my physically blocking out UV radiation.

Since sunblock does not penetrate the skin, but lays on top, it is often thought to be a safer, often, more natural product. Most mineral, natural, organic lotions for sun care are defined as sunblocks. Zinc Oxide and titanium dioxide are common blocker active ingredients in these lotions.

It is important to know that, regardless of sunscreen or sunblock as a choice, ALWAYS make sure it provides broad-spectrum coverage. Most lotions have evolved into this but one should still confirm.

Broad-spectrum means that the product fends off both UVB (which burns the skin and can cause cancer) and UVA (which causes many of the aging problems and cancer) rays.


A moisturizer, also called emollients, is a lotion or cream used to prevent dryness and restore moisture in the skin. Just like a hand cream does for your dry hands.

Moisturizers contain complex mixtures of chemical agents specially designed to make the epidermis or outer layer of skin softer and more pliable. They hydrate the skin by reducing evaporation and consuming moisture in the air.

Men’s moisturizers often contain natural skin lipids and sterols and artificial and natural oils to enhance this purpose. It is preferred to buy a moisturizer containing SPF. Ingredients to look for in an effective moisturizer include:

  • has an almost vacuum like effect on the moisture in the atmosphere into the skin. For this reason, glycerin containing moisturizers should be usually used shortly after a shower when the air in the bathroom is damp and humid. It is pretty inexpensive to add into a men’s body lotion and feels silky on the skin.
  • ..this is a must for bouts with dry and itchy skin. They are, technically, fats that naturally exist in the skin and they function to seal water in the skin so the cells lose the ability to dry out. They serve to enhance the natural barricade and quickly enter the skin.
  • helps to melt away dead cells and contributes to the other moisturizing ingredients penetration of the skin.
  • Hyaluronic acid…This molecule functions by swelling after absorbing water. This plumps fine lines and deeper wrinkles. This ingredient can be expensive.
  • Lactic acid…yes this is the same lactic acid that makes the muscles feel fatigued. When lactate levels are elevated during an intense workout, they accumulate and make muscles tired. In skin care, it exfoliates. It hydrates. It is believed to be the best product for dry legs during colder months of the year. This, like glycerin, should be applied shortly after a shower.

The questions many ask about moisturizers are:

Should a moisturizer and sunscreen be applied separately and in what order?

If a person is wearing a good quality sunscreen, generally, moisturizer does not need to be applied.

Patients with extremely dry skin can use a moisturizer for additional moisture infusion but those with oily skin should always skip moisturizer.

Sunscreen does, almost always, have a moisturizing base which provides the skin with all the moisture it needs.

Some people prefer a daily moisturizer because of feel and scent with SPF. Make sure that the SPF is at least 30 for true protection.

If the choice is made to wear both sunscreen and moisturizer, apply the moisturizer first, then the sunscreen. This is done largely in part because when moisturizer is applied on top of sunscreen, it can change the chemical properties of the sunscreen and alter the way UV rays meet the skin.

Tanning Lotions

There are two major categories of tanning lotions, sunless (self-tanners) and normal indoor tanning lotion. This purchase brings a choice often called, “to bake or to fake.”

Many people are deciding to “fake” because of the skin damage and cancer rising rates caused by the sun exposure it takes to get a good tan. Dr. Darrell Rigel, a prestigious dermatology professor best said it, “in order to get a natural tan from UV light, your skin has to be injured.”

Sunless Tanning Lotion

These products contain ingredients that work to temporarily stain the epidermis. Most commonly, this main ingredient is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When placed on the skin it reacts to existing amino acids and causes a browning reaction. It is often paralleled to the reaction that occurs when toast is made.

While that sounds scary, it only effects the topmost layer of dead cells on the skin. The body naturally makes DHA by itself, too. Due to this, it is consider safe on the skin.

Concerns have been raised for sunless tanning sprays. Inhaling DHA and other self-tanning ingredients has been linked to rising asthma risks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or cancer. For this reason, it is recommended to you sunless tanning lotion or self-tanner that are spread directly on the skin only.

There was a study that suggested small amounts of DHA seep into the bloodstream when topically applied but this turns out to be a false claim. DHA does not penetrate the skin’s protective barriers.

After understanding the dangers of unprotected skin exposure on the skin, it is not suggest to wear tanning lotion outside. Always wear a minimum of SPF 15 when making direct contact with the sun.

How to use a body lotion for men

Image courtesy: kuchina/

Indoor Tanning Lotion

This is a product only to be used for a tanning bed. Many people don’t use any lotion for indoor tanning. While this may provide one with a nice brown color, it often leaves the skin dry, flaking, and just overall unhealthy. It is important to understand the differences between indoor tanning lotion and sunscreen.

Indoor tanning lotion:

  • Possibly doesn’t have any SPF. This is because it is believed indoor tanning lotion have more helpful ingredients found in them for indoor tanning purposes. The tan time in a tanning bed limits exposure to UV rays, in opposition to outdoor tanning which limits UV rays only by a proper SPF.
  • Enhance UV rays, rather than block them. These lotions are formulated to enhance the effect a UV ray has on the skin (usually 95% UVA and 5% UVB). The SPF found in outdoor sunscreen seeks to block both rays which works to counteract what indoor tanning desires.
  • Works best for small tanning times. Sunscreen is designed for prolonged protection for times spent outside in UV rays. Indoor tanning lotions are designed for shorter, intense tans which cause the skin to tan more quickly.
  • Does not damage tanning beds. Regular sunscreens have caused many costly repairs for tanning beds as they damage the acrylic material that tanning beds contain (the hoods are acrylic and expand as the bed heats up and become brittle). On top of that, sunscreen creates a film over the bed that ends up restricting the tanning process and hinders the desired tan.

Most tanning bed locations will not sell tanning lotion containing SPF because of the damage done to the beds.

Indoor tanning lotions most often contain vitamins, natural oils, minerals, anti-oxidants, natural botanical extracts, and aloe vera. These moisturize the skin preventing the drying out associated with tanning.

No matter the precautions taking for indoor tanning, it should be known that there is dangers associated with them.

Tans are caused by UV rays from the sun or tanning lamps. As stated before, if a tan is achieved, skin cell damage has taken place. No matter how one tries to convince otherwise, cumulative damage caused by UV radiation (tanning beds notwithstanding) lead to premature aging and skin cancer. In fact, tanning beds are 15 times more risky than sun exposure when it comes to tanning. This is true because tanning beds emit 15 times more UV (UVA and UVB) radiation than the sun.

Wrinkles, skin with lost elasticity, brown spots and more can be linked to tanning bed use. If that was not enough to scare away from tanning bed use, people who first tan in a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%. To reiterate this fact, skin cancer among frequent tanning bed users has become more common than lung cancers to smokers.

Other reasons to discontinue tanning bed use include: blinding eye diseases (even cancer of the eye), immunity suppression, and it does not give health benefits of sun exposure in low doses (Vitamin D isn’t produce near the same as most tanning beds emit UVA rays and UVB rays cause the skin to produce Vitamin D).

Since sunscreens and indoor tanning lotions serve very different functions on the skin. They are never to be worn together.

Here are some recommended products to try:

Recommended products


High Quality and Fairly Affordable: Maple Holistics Natural Sunscreen SPF 30

This product is very sweat and water resistant (80 minutes of protection upon contact with water). It is safe for the most sensitive of skin. It has a special formula for antioxidant purposes. It contains aloe and cocoa butter for smooth application and a smooth, non-greasy feel. It prevents aging, wrinkles, and brown spots. It is all natural and has a light floral scent.

Affordable Option: Honeydew Sunscreen lotion SPF 30

This has a natural formula that is not greasy. It is oxybenzone free. It is contained within a BPA free package. It protest against aging and wrinkles. It contains Aloe and Cocoa Butter for a nice scent and smooth application. It is great for sensitive skin and has no low reviews on Amazon.


High Quality Option: EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 Oil Free

This product contains purely natural active ingredients. It is gentle on the skin, with light scent and considered very water resistant (80 minutes of protection upon contact with water).

Another Great Option: Jack Black Sun Guard Sunscreen SPF 45

This product is very water resistant (stays effective for 80 minutes while in water. It does not streak like most lotions. It works well on sensitive skin. It is oil-free and paragen-free. It is vitamin enriched and loved by dermatologist world wide.


High Quality Option: MD Solar Sciences: Daily Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30

This product contains a 24 hour time release formulation for moisture infusement all day. It fights wrinkles through 9 powerful wrinkle fighting antioxidants and comes loaded with helpful vitamins and moisture enhancers. The smell is not overbearing and it feels comfortable on the skin.

Affordable Option: Dove Men + Care Hydrate Face Lotion SPF 15

While this product is lower than the recommended SPF 30 at SPF 15, it does a great job to lock in moisture. It feels light and non-greasy on the skin. It prevents skin damage and is gentle on sensitive skin.

It is recommended that either sunscreen, sunblock, or moisturizer is worn on the face and high sun exposure areas daily for true sun protection. Don’t forget commonly forgot areas such as scalp, ears and neck when applying. It is, also, a good rule of thumb to apply lotion to hands daily as well.

Sunless Tanning Lotion

Good Quality and A Good Price Option: Fake Bake Self-Tanning Lotion

This formula is made for men with an active lifestyle. It naturally derived tyrosine and hyaluronic acid works to keep the skin hydrated, toned, and moisturized. It is lightweight and non greasy. It does not clog the pores.

Indoor Tanning Lotion

As stated above, it is not recommended to use a tanning bed for tanning purposes.

Regardless, to make this list a guide for all sun care products, an indoor tanning lotion recommendation will be made.

Please use the necessary caution when using this product and, it bears repeating, never use this product outside regardless of amount of time in the sun. The risks are not worth it and health is more important than being “golden brown” from sun overexposure.

Good Quality and A Reasonable Price Option: Ed Hardy Coconut Kisses Golden Tanning Lotion

A lotion that has a lot of coconut oil and milk for extreme hydration and softening of the skin. The strong coconut fragrance is enjoyed by most. It contains tanning intensifiers to deliver results without bronzing agents. It reduces cellulite and promotes firmness. It will not fade tattoos and leaves skin feeling nicely refreshed.

Closing thoughts

Allow this to be the day that skin care and sun protection is taken to a new level. As the dangers of UV rays continue to pile up, equip the skin with some of the best and affordable products on the market. These products are all easily obtained, either, in a store or on the internet.

Today could be the first step to healthier, cancer free skin that allows you to enjoy the benefits of the sun while avoiding all the horrible detriments As you looking in the mirror in the near future, rest assured, you will be glad you took this next step. If you believe it doesn’t matter to you, do it for your spouse/future spouse or kids.

It probably goes without asking that they want you looking and feeling good for years to come.