The 12 Best Travel-Sized Sunscreens of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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These bitty sunscreens still offer all the SPF you need without getting snatched by TSA.

<p>InStyle / Alli Waataja</p>

InStyle / Alli Waataja

There’s nothing more frustrating (not to mention embarrassing) than having TSA rummage through your personal belongings as a long line of annoyed travelers form behind you at the security checkpoint. And it’s even worse when they confiscate your expensive, skin-appropriate sunscreen.

While you can bring any sized liquid into your checked luggage, carry-on products need to meet the 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less size requirement. Luckily, there are many brands that create travel-sized sunscreens you can take with you on your vacances. And no, you can’t take a vacation from wearing sunscreen — you need to wear it daily, whether you’re headed to a tropical paradise or Arctic tundra.

There’s a wide variety of sunscreen options — reef-safe, fragrance-free, or pigmented, just to name a few — and we wanted to find the best of the best. We hand-picked 20 of the most popular sunscreens out there and asked our team of testers to try them out over a two-week span. We asked our testers to judge each one based on feel — how comfortable it felt on skin and how easily it blended or whether it required rubbing — as well as the degree to which the sunscreen transferred from skin to clothing and water resistance. The highest-rated travel-sunscreens made this list.

Related:We Tested 52 Sunscreens, These 12 Are the Absolute Best

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60

Best Overall

What We Love: The oil-free lotion feels extremely lightweight and breathable, but still provides strong coverage at 60 SPF.

What We Don’t Love: It claims to have no fragrance but we found it to have a slight scent.

There's a lot to love about this TSA-approved sunscreen from the dermatologist beloved brand, La Roche-Posay. It earned high marks as our best overall pick for its silky feel, quick absorption, and versatility.

At three ounces, this bottle nears the maximum size allowed on your carry-on. That also means it’s big enough to last you an entire week on a tropical vacation where daily, head-to-toe coverage is required (bonus points for being a product that you can use on the face as well as the body).

La Roche-Posay describes this sunscreen as a “milk lotion,” which we agreed with wholeheartedly. The lightweight cream spreads easily and absorbs quickly. It also didn’t transfer onto our clothes. Without the typical sticky or thick feeling that comes with traditional sunscreens, we found this to be pleasantly breathable. Even after a sweaty workout, it didn’t make us feel greasy or like there was a film on our skin, thanks to the oil-free formula. At 60 SPF, it’s also one of the strongest sunscreens on this list.

However, despite being labeled as a fragrance-free sunscreen, we definitely noticed a scent that we were not too keen on. While it won’t irritate your skin, your nose might require some getting used to it.

Price at time of publish: $25

SPF Level: 60 | Size: 3 oz | Type: Chemical | Scented: Officially no, tested yes

Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion

Best Budget

What We Love: You get two 3 oz bottles of no-frills strong sunscreen.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not reef-safe and can’t be used in Hawaii.

Getting two bottles of this classic sunscreen in one pack equals plenty sun protection for your skin and value for your wallet. For $7, you get not one, but two three-ounce bottles and you can pack both into your carry-on without a worry. This is your traditional, run-of-the-mill sunscreen that costs, feels, and smells like the sunscreen your mother would lather all over you.

Banana Boat is a classic staple we’ve relied on for years to effectively protect us from the sun’s rays. It’s not the sunscreen you’d need to pack for an urban destination, but if you’re headed for an active, outdoor beach vacation, trips to the pool or days spent out in the scorching sun, this could be your go-to. That being said, it’s not reef safe and therefore can’t be worn in certain places, like Hawaii or the Great Barrier Reef.

The creamy consistency, while not overly goopy or thick, does take a bit of rubbing to fully integrate into the skin, but once it’s in, doesn’t leave any greasy residue and won’t transfer onto your clothing (or swimwear). Throughout the day, you’ll feel that it works double duty in moisturizing your skin as well.

Price at time of publish: $7

SPF Level: 30 | Size: 2 x 3 oz | Type: Mineral | Scented: Yes

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+

Best Splurge

What We Love: This sunscreen is so lightweight, it’s nearly undetectable on skin.

What We Don’t Love: It’s on the smaller side, so reserve it for the face or smaller areas.

If you're the type to go all-out on a vacation, start by packing this luxurious sunscreen from Shiseido. It’s a longtime favorite of makeup artist Samira Manss, who uses it as a base layer under makeup. She says that “it soaks in fast and feels perfectly light on the skin.”

So it was no surprise to us during our test that we adored the ultra-light texture. While it felt a little more liquidy at first than most sunscreens, the finish was heavenly and leaves a dewy glow that looks gorgeous in the sunlight. From the way it blended right into the skin to the transparent finish (no white cast or clothing transfers here!), we loved the entire experience of wearing this sunscreen.

Although the watery consistency goes a long way when spreading across the skin, we should note that the bottle is small, so it may not last you longer than a few weeks with daily application.

Price at time of publish: $25

SPF Level: 50 | Size: 1.6 oz  | Type: Mineral | Scented: Yes

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

Best for Face

What We Love: It doesn’t leave behind a pasty white look on your face.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not ideal for oily skin.

We all know and dread that pasty-white look that certain sunscreens leave on our faces. And while this formula is indeed white and creamy, it felt super light and smooth on our skin, and blended in seamlessly across a range of deeper skin tones. Even better, it works well with sensitive skin, too. In fact, one editor with acneic skin in the form of regular cystic acne, tested this sunscreen daily for two weeks and noted how it layered perfectly over her medicated topical creams. Whether your facial skin is sensitive, reactive, or in the middle of a flare-up, you still need to wear sunscreen, and this pick works best when your skin is in dire straits.

Despite being labeled as fragrance-free, we did notice a scent. However, we found the fragrance to be pleasant and gentle, not overpowering, but it’s something to consider if you suffer from allergies.

Price at time of publish: $16

SPF Level: 30 | Size: 3 oz | Type: Chemical | Scented: Officially no, tested yes

Vacation Classic Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

Best for Body

What We Love: It helps moisturize the skin while protecting it.

What We Don’t Love: If you are sensitive to fragrance, this is not for you.

At 3.4 ounces, this sunscreen is the maximum size you can bring onto your carry-on, making it a great option for large body areas. It has a middle of the road consistency — not too thick, not too watery — that is not dissimilar to a hand cream, making it easy to squeeze out of the tube. This texture also means the sunscreen stays put on your fingertips, rather than a watery option that can slide down your hands and make a mess. If you’re in a rush to get to your next vacation activity, you’ll be pleased to know that this product sinks in almost instantly without imparting a sticky feeling.

As the name suggests, this sunscreen was developed specifically for beach vacations. The scent alone is reminiscent of coconuts, bananas, and pool water, and while some might love the tropical association that comes with it, it’s not for everyone.

Price at time of publish: $18

SPF Level: 30 (50 is also available) | Size: 3.4 oz | Type: Chemical | Scented: Yes

Coola Organic Classic Body Sunscreen in Guava Mango

Best Water-Resistant

What We Love: This organic sunscreen is light enough for everyday protection.

What We Don’t Love: The strong, sweet scent can attract mosquitos.

This sunscreen was specifically formulated for long days spent under the sun and where swimming and sweating are expected. We found the 80-minute water-resistant protection to be truly effective; once the sunscreen set on our skin, the water ran off quickly.

The reef-safe formula is all-natural, vegan and gluten-free. Plus, it was tested for safety by dermatologists. After applying, our skin felt moisturized, but never goopy or sticky. It didn’t feel like we were wearing sunscreen, but rather a high-quality body lotion.

While we loved the sweet, fruity scent, not everyone will.

Price at time of publish: $20

SPF Level: 50 | Size: 3.4 oz  | Type: Mineral | Scented: Yes

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 55

Best for Acne-Prone Skin

What We Love: This sunscreen completely disappears into your skin, and stays put for a long time, even if you sweat.

What We Don’t Love: It takes a little longer to absorb into the skin than others.

This non-comedogenic formula from the dermatologist favorite, Neutrogena, was developed to use specifically on the face, as it won’t clog your pores (a common complaint with sunscreen) or exacerbate a flare-up.

The soft, creamy texture feels light to the touch and rubbing it onto our face felt as natural as applying a gentle moisturizer. The application feels a bit like you’re putting a regular body lotion on, but it takes a minute or two longer to fully absorb. We found that it’s easier to apply on smooth skin (versus hairy arms), yet once it absorbs, it disappears into your skin, leaving a matte finish.

Whether you’re looking for an everyday sunscreen or a broad-spectrum, high SPF option for vacation, this sunscreen stays on your skin, even when sweating, without the classic, slippery feel of traditional sunscreens.

Price at time of publish: $8

SPF Level: 55 | Size: 3 oz | Type: Chemical | Scented: No

Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Best Mineral

What We Love: It’s great for sensitive skin.

What We Don’t Love: Like most mineral sunscreens, it has a distinct scent.

Unlike chemical sunscreens that sink into skin, mineral sunscreens sit on top of the dermis, acting as a physical barrier between the skin and UV rays. Mineral sunscreens tend to be better options for those with sensitive skin or children and we found this option from Babo to be the best mineral option, thanks to its fragrance-, sulfate-, and paraben-free formula.

The sunscreen comes out of the tube easily and we applied it just like a regular body lotion. We only needed a bit to cover our entire body. The reef-safe and water-resistant lotion allowed us to dive in the ocean immediately after application without any run-off.

Although there is a very light cast when you first swipe it across skin, it quickly fades after a moment of rubbing in and was no longer noticeable.

Price at time of publish: $16

SPF Level: 50 | Size: 3 oz | Type: Mineral | Scented: Officially no, tested yes

Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 36

Best for Sensitive Skin

What We Love: It leaves a dewy and shimmery radiance on the face.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not reef-safe and can’t be used in Hawaii.

In this velvety smooth lotion from popular skincare brand, Innisfree, natural ingredients like jeju green tea, sunflower seed oil, and cica come together to create a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s gentle enough for sensitive or reactive skin.

It's available in two different travel-sized options — 1.69 ounces and 3.38 ounces — and the larger option is the max amount you can have in your carry-on.

As a bonus, this product also leans on its skincare-rich formula to offer a radiant glow, so anyone who likes to go au-natural during a tropical vacation will adore the dewy finish. The sheer formula feels light and has a mildly floral scent to it, which is a departure from traditional sunscreens that tend to go the tropical route.

At 36 SPF, it offers a lighter level of protection, making it a better option for a city adventure than a beach trip.

Price at time of publish: $16

SPF Level: 36 | Size: 1.69 oz | Type: Chemical | Scented: Yes

MDSolarSciences SPF 50 Mineral Creme

Best Reef-Safe

What We Love: The formulation includes natural ingredients that are safe for sensitive and acne and rosacea prone skin.

What We Don’t Love: When mixed with a facial moisturizer, it may pill slightly.

This mineral sunscreen replaces many harsh chemicals found in regular sunscreens with natural and plant-derived ingredients, like vitamin C and green tea, cranberry fruit, and pomegranate extracts, which earned it a spot on this list as our selection for best reef-safe sunscreen.

Don’t let first impressions fool you: The thick cream gives way to a silky feel once you start to rub it in and leaves an almost invisible finish. We also love how versatile this sunscreen is. It can be used on the face, arms, legs, and chest, making it a dream for minimalists. If you’re the type to bring a product for each area of the body, you can streamline your routine and bring just this one tube along with you. We were also impressed by its water-resistant capabilities, as the cream stayed on our bodies without budging one bit after splashing around in water.

We recommend waiting a minute or two before applying this sunscreen over your facial moisturizer, as we noticed slight pilling when the two were blended together without letting the first layer dry first.

Price at time of publish: $26

SPF Level: 50 | Size: 1.7 oz | Type: Mineral | Scented: No

Coola Organic Classic Sunscreen & Sunblock Spray

Best Spray

What We Love: The spray is simple to apply and the mist comes out evenly.

What We Don’t Love: The coconut scent is strong and will last throughout the day.

This spray-on sunscreen left us elated with just how light and non-sticky it felt on our skin, which was enough to land a spot as our pick for best spray sunscreen. It mists on quite gently (versus the hurricane wind level you often get with spray sunscreens) and left our skin feeling supple, like we just moisturized with a hydrating lotion, before it settled into a dry finish. It was very easy to rub into the skin after misting and there was no trace of a white cast.

The only con here is that the bottle is really small, and if you hope to use it on your whole body you will quickly run out of product. Reserve this for a weekend getaway or just the face.

Price at time of publish: $10

SPF Level: 30 | Size: 2 oz | Type: Mineral | Scented: Yes

Shiseido UV Clear Stick Protector SPF 50

Best Stick

What We Love: No matter your skin tone, this won’t leave any white cast.

What We Don’t Love: A stick is not meant for full-body application.

The first thing that made us fall in love with this stick sunscreen was the clear formula. No matter your skin tone, it will glide on cleanly, easily and completely transparently. Another delightful surprise is that it doesn’t require any rubbing — you can swipe it on and leave it just as it is, especially if you prefer your skin to look hydrated. Of course, you can still rub it in if you’d like or if you prefer a more matte finish.

While the 0.7-ounce size is ideal for carrying around in your purse, it’s definitely intended more for the face, neck, and decolletage rather than the whole body. The fact that it can be worn under and over your makeup truly makes it a breeze to touch up throughout the day when you’re out and about.

Dermatologist Dr. Aegean Chan finds stick sunscreens to be “great for reapplication,” especially for sweat-inducing activities, like hiking or biking, which require reapplication.

For the sake of hygiene, you may not want to share the sunscreen stick with a friend, but that’s just about the only con we can think of.

Price at time of publish: $30

SPF Level: 50 | Size: 0.7 oz | Type: | Scented: No

What to Keep in Mind

SPF Level

Unprotected sun exposure will trigger premature and visible signs of aging, so prevention is key to maintaining a youthful visage. Most SPF levels range from 15 up to 100, although levels of 15, 30 and 50 are most common.

According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, a 15 SPF sunscreen will protect against 93 percent of UVB radiation, while 30 SPF keeps you safe from 97 percent, and 50 SPF from 98%. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that 50 SPF is significantly stronger than 30 — all sunscreens, no matter their SPF level, should be reapplied every 90 minutes.

Your Destination + Activities

“If you are going to a destination with a markedly different climate — cold and snowy to tropical and humid — you will want to account for that,” says Dr. Chan.

If your destination is a beachy paradise and your plans include sunbathing on the shoreline, scuba diving, surfing or snorkeling, you will want to opt for reef-safe options, like the MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50 Sunscreen, COOLA Organic Classic Body Sunscreen Guava Mango, and Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50.

Athletic activities — regardless of whether you’re playing beach volleyball or hiking Machu Picchu — will likely cause you to sweat, so you’ll want a water-resistant formulation. La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen, Melt In Milk Lotion Face and Body Sunscreen - SPF 60 or the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion are great options.

If you’re simply looking for a daily sunscreen to toss in your carry-on, you can’t go wrong with Shiseido Clear Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+ or Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen.

Mineral vs. Chemical

“Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin and block rays at the surface,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lauren Hoffman, who adds that they typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, making them ideal for sensitive skin, babies, and people with melasma.

Chemical sunscreens sink into the skin and work by absorbing rays of sun like a sponge. They tend to have a lighter formula than their mineral counterparts, with less risk of a white cast. However, the strong ingredients can be irritating to sensitive or acne-prone skin. Many destinations, like Hawaii and Australia, have banned chemical sunscreens for their harmful effect on the environment.

Your Questions, Answered

What size sunscreen can you take on a plane?

The maximum size sunscreen you can take on a plane is 3.4 ounces, or 100 ml. Anything below this number is approved for boarding. The Vacation Classic Lotion SPF 30 and the COOLA Organic Classic Body Sunscreen Guava Mango are the two largest options on this list.

Can you travel with spray sunscreen?

Yes, spray sunscreens are considered a liquid and must be 3.4 ounces or less to keep in your carry-on luggage.

Is stick sunscreen considered a liquid when flying?

No. TSA does not consider a stick sunscreen to be a liquid and therefore can exceed the 3.4-ounce limit.

What SPF should I use on vacation?

If you’re flying into a tropical destination, it’s best to opt for 30+ SPF sunscreens. Dr. Hoffman recommends using at least 30 SPF, but reapplication is the most important way to prevent sunburn.

Does sunscreen expire?

On average, sunscreens last for three years before their ingredients start to lose their potency. All sunscreens are required by law to list their expiration date, so it’s good practice to take a look before lathering up.

Why Shop With Us

Bianca Kratky is a commerce writer for InStyle with two years of experience covering fashion and lifestyle products. As an avid traveler herself, she’s experienced with smart packing tips and proudly hasn’t had anything confiscated by TSA in over a decade. In order to write this article, she consulted board-certified dermatologists Dr. Lauren Hoffman and Dr. Aegean Chan as well as makeup artist Samira Manss for their insights.

Related:These 12 Tinted Mineral Sunscreens Offer Goof-Proof Protection

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