There’s something freeing about breezing through the airport without stopping to check a bag or worrying about waiting around the baggage claim at the other end of your flight. But it’s especially nice when you’re heading off for a quick weekend trip.
Traveling with a carry-on bag does require some forethought and planning to ensure all of your essential items make it across the security checkpoint. Ensuring you have a travel-sized sunscreen is one of the non-negotiables that your future self will thank you for when you come back with a great tan rather than a beet-red burn.
“When you are choosing a sunscreen for your travels, look for benefits and features that will match your level of activity,” suggests Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist. “If you are playing sports, look for sweat-proof. If you are going swimming, look for water resistance. Beyond this, avoid an SPF that has a lot of fragrance in it as this is often a cause for allergic reactions or flare-ups.”
Aside from ensuring the sunscreen you select is suitable for your skin type, the safest sunscreen for your skin is the one that you can commit to using on a daily basis while you are traveling.
“If you don’t love the idea of applying SPF regularly, I suggest that you purchase a few different formulas to see which you will like the best in terms of how it spreads and feels on your skin,” adds Ciraldo. “Sunscreen will only keep our skin safe if we apply it, so spend some time vetting different formulas until you find one you like to apply.”
The best travel-sized sunscreen for you is a very personal decision and depends largely on your specific skin type and the vacation you’re embarking on. That being said, there are a handful of stand-out options that will work well for most skin types and activity levels. Here are some of our favorite travel-sized sunscreens that are TSA-approved and made with skin-friendly ingredients.
$4.99 $3.97 at Amazon
The Coppertone Pure & Simple sunscreen lotion garnered a top spot in our list of the best sunscreens for 2022 as the best mineral-based option. This 2-ounce container is an excellent travel-sized alternative to the full-sized bottle if you’re looking for SPF 50 protection for your face that rubs in nicely. The water-resistant sunscreen delivers the broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection you’re looking for, and it’s free from fragrances, dyes, parabens, PABA, alcohol, octinoxate and oxybenzone.
$34 at Amazon
This powdered sunscreen option is ideal for travelers, as it’s not subject to the TSA’s liquid rules. Not only is it a good travel option, but it’s also one of the best facial sunscreens out there, according to dermatologists. The mineral sunscreen absorbs excess oil and offers SPF 30 mineral protection. It’s also vegan-friendly, reef-friendly, free of parabens and safe for sensitive skin.
$9.99 at Amazon
Alba Botanica offers this SPF 45 facial sunscreen in a travel-friendly 2-ounce tube. The ultra-light texture makes it incredibly easy to apply and it rubs right into the skin without leaving streaks or white marks. The 100% vegetarian formula is free from harsh ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and synthetic fragrances and is also certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny. Alba Botanica’s Sport Sunscreen earned one of the top spots in our best sunscreens of 2022 list, but it’s over the TSA 3.4-ounce size limit for carry-on bags.
$36 at Amazon and Supergoop
The Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen was made for folks who hate the thought of dousing themselves in chalky white lotion before heading into the sun. The invisible sunscreen is ultra-lightweight and sheer, meaning it won’t leave behind traces of lotion. But it still offers ample SPF 40 protection for all skin types while maintaining water-resistant and sweat-resistant qualities. This 1.7-ounce container is perfect for fitting in a travel backpack and taking through the security checkpoint, and it’s also reef-friendly, free from oxybenzone and octinoxate.
$10 at Amazon
It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a trip filled with sun-drenched beach volleyball sessions or hours of walking through city streets. If your itinerary involves sweating in the sun, you’ll want to look into a sweat-resistant sunscreen. Coola Organic Sunscreen & Sunblock Spray is both water- and sweat-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about constantly re-applying. The ultra-sheer SPF 50 spray is also packed with antioxidants and skin-nourishing ingredients that help keep the skin moisturized all day. Perfect for travel, the spray in this 2-ounce can is also paraben-free, cruelty-free and reef-friendly
$11.99 $10.61 at Amazon
The cult-favorite Sun Bum sunscreen is another one of our top travel picks for its light texture, 3-ounce bottle and creamy banana scent. In fact, we loved the scent so much during our testing that it had us reaching for more over the other options. The vegan and reef-friendly formula is packed with Vitamin E and other skin-nourishing ingredients that will leave you feeling moisturized and comfortable rather than dried out from a day in the sun. The water-resistant SPF 70 sunscreen is suitable for all skin types, but it’s best to reapply this one every 80 minutes or so if you plan to spend time in the water or working up a sweat.
$9.99 $8.99 at Amazon
Those with sensitive skin should look no further than the CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Stick. CeraVe products are dermatologist-recommended for their fragrance-free and gentle formulas, and this SPF 50 sunscreen stick is no exception. The 100% mineral-based sunscreen is suitable for the most sensitive areas including on the lips, around the eyes and on the nose while the microfine zinc oxide spreads super easily and leaves the skin with a clear, moisturized finish. In our testing, we loved this stick for its smell and feel. For travelers, this is a great option to pack along in your carry-on bag thanks to its travel-friendly 0.47-ounce size.
$12.89 at Amazon
The Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion is another stand-out option for those who have dry or sensitive skin and require a sunscreen that won’t cause unwanted irritation. The sheer mineral sunscreen provides chemical-free sun protection while moisturizing and protecting the skin’s delicate microbiome from the sun and other environmental stressors. The formula is also non-greasy and lightweight so you won’t have to worry about a chalky white cast or greasy residue after applying. This option is also great for travelers, as it comes in a handy 3-ounce tube; however, you’ll want to choose a different option if you’re planning on swimming — the Cetaphil lotion is not reef-friendly.
$15 at Amazon
Conceptualized and crafted in Korea, this water-based cream formula was made for all skin types and designed to be worn on a daily basis — whether you’re spending hours in the sun or not. The broad-spectrum SPF 36 sunscreen is ultra-hydrating and leaves the skin with a pleasantly dewy finish that helps to lock in moisture without leaving a greasy or white cast finish. The formula also includes green tea extract, which helps smooth fine lines and discoloration that can occur around the eyes. At 1.69 ounces, this makes for a solid travel option provided you’re not swimming, as it’s not reef-friendly.
$42 at Sephora
Looking for something that you can easily work into your existing skincare routine? The 1.7-ounce Instant Radiance Sun Defense Sunscreen by Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare will help streamline your vacation makeup routine by playing double duty and cutting down on the number of products you’ll need to pack in your cosmetic bag. The color-correcting and skin-blending tinted moisturizer includes broad-spectrum SPF 40 protection so you won’t have to worry about applying sunscreen on top of other products. It’s not reef-friendly, however, so you’ll want to grab a different option if you’re planning on swimming.
$37 at Sephora
Featuring skin-nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and licorice, this moisturizing sunscreen was made to leave the skin feeling and looking healthy and dewy. The pocket-sized, 1.35-ounce sunscreen is easy to apply on the go and is cruelty-free, reef-safe and comes in 100% recyclable packaging. We also love how easily this mineral-based SPF 35 blends into the skin thanks to the pleasant buttery formula.
$5.70 at Amazon
This 3-ounce tube of SPF 55 sunscreen from Amazon brand Solimo is a great option for travelers. Not only does its compact size fit in the TSA’s requirements for hand luggage, but it’s also reef-friendly and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. If you’re looking for a facial sunscreen with a light and clean feel, this reasonably priced option is worth considering.
$12.29 $9.97 at Amazon
This SPF 50 sunscreen comes in a compact 3-ounce bottle, perfect for bringing on board your next flight. It’s formulated from an oat extract that helps to nourish your skin. Plus, it’s both sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, protecting you against UVA and UVB rays.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.