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Let’s state the obvious: sunscreen is essential for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skin colors. But when you’re three miles into your day hike or about to catch a big wave, you might forget that your initial layer of protection isn’t enough—sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, especially if you are getting wet or sweaty. Thankfully, a new generation of sunscreen sticks offers a portable solution. They’re small, spill-proof, and easy to use when you’re on the go, or just need to swipe an extra layer of cover on your nose.
These are our favorites to carry in our pockets and stash in the car for quick use throughout the day. All but one are mineral formulas that rely on titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to physically block UVA and UVB rays rather than oxybenzone and octinoxate, ingredients that are more likely to irritate sensitive skin and can be toxic to fragile environments like coral reefs.
Best for Applying All Over
All Good SPF 50+ Sport Mineral Sunscreen Butter Stick ($17 for 2.75 oz)
This larger-than-average circular stick makes it easy to cover your chest, arms, and legs with just a few swipes. Its 25 percent concentration of zinc oxide is on the high end, meaning a lot of work is needed to rub away the telltale white cast. (Many dermatologist-approved mineral sunscreens are formulated with between 10 to 20 percent Zinc, or mixed with titanium dioxide if they fall below 10 percent.) But this stick’s nourishing blend of coconut, calendula, and jojoba oils makes the effort worth it.
Best for Kids
Supergoop! Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Stick SPF 50 ($24 for 0.7 oz)
We were impressed with how easily this thin formula melted onto skin, making application quick on squirmy youngsters. Its 21 percent zinc oxide concentration provides very strong sun protection while the other ingredients, including shea butter, beeswax, and linseed oil, are all hypoallergenic and approved by pediatricians. Bonus: The faint coconut smell is inoffensive, unlike some sunscreens that smell chalky or like Pina Coladas.
Best for Water Sports
Stream2Sea EcoStick SPF35+ ($14.95 for 0.5 oz)
All the mineral formulas here are water-resistant, but Stream2Sea’s line of EcoSticks was the hardest to wash off during testing. Its unique application—skin takes on a blue or pink cast; once the color goes away, it’s time to reapply—makes it easy to visualize how protected your skin is even after several hours in the ocean. Stream2Sea also proves its reef-safe claims by testing the impact of its ingredients on aquatic ecosystems.
Supergoop! Glow Stick SPF 50 ($25 for 0.7 oz)
This shimmery, gel-like solid contains avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene—gold standard ingredients for chemical sunblock. The formula glides onto the skin so easily that you almost don’t feel it and leaves a subtle, hydrating glow once it dries. We especially liked using the Glow Stick for reapplying face sunscreen multiple times a day.
Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($7.99 for 0.5 oz)
Cetaphil is known for its sensitive skin-friendly products, and this new sunscreen stick is no different. It’s hypoallergenic, lightweight, and contains a mix of 6 percent titanium dioxide and 4.7 percent zinc oxide—just enough mineral protection to be effective but not so much that you need to spend several minutes rubbing it in.