When it comes to sunscreen, pilots have different requirements to your everyday vacationer.
While UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays are both linked to skin cancer, pilots specifically need sunscreen that delivers excellent protection against UVA rays.
This is because as you are soaring above the skies, you are much closer to the ozone layer and more exposed to the sun’s rays. Unfortunately, the windshield and windows inside a plane do a very poor job of blocking harmful UVA rays.
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3 of the Best Sunscreens for Pilots
Best for Face: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen
Ideal for facial use due to its lightweight, non-greasy, and gentle formula .New: $41.00 ($24.12 / Ounce)
The EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen is recommended by dermatologists and is particularly beneficial for pilots with sensitive skin.
I found it to be lightweight and gentle upon application, leaving my skin with a non-greasy finish.
It is fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben-free, and has a non-comedogenic formula. Protection stands at UVA 50.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen for its broad-spectrum protection, which means that it safely protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Best for Face & Body: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk
A lightweight, fast-absorbing, non-greasy sunscreen that is suitable for both the face and body .New: $37.99 ($7.60 / Fl Oz)
If you need a sunscreen that is suitable for both your face and body, the La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen is your best bet.
It doesn’t offer quite as high protection (UVA 46) but is still sufficient to protect you from harmful UVA rays as you fly.
The formula was lightweight, fast-absorbing, and left a non-greasy finish when I applied it, and I found it to be suitable for my sensitive skin.
Easiest to Use: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Stick
Neutrogena's sunscreen in stick form makes it very easy to apply.Check Amazon for Pricing
Sunscreen application doesn’t get much more simple than the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Stick.
Offering broad-spectrum protection, and suitable for both the face and body, the Neutrogena Sunscreen Stick glided onto my skin easily, leaving it with a non-greasy finish.
Minimal rubbing was required too, which was definitely a plus.
Things to Consider When Buying Sunscreen as a Pilot
- UVA Protection
One study found that pilots flying at 30,000 feet for 56.6 minutes get the same amount of radiation as a person who uses a tanning bed for 20 minutes.
So, as mentioned at the beginning, sunscreen should always be worn with the focus on UVA protection, as UVA rays aren’t sufficiently blocked by the windshield and windows inside of a plane.
UVA rays also cause premature aging.
- Face vs. Body
Sunscreens that provide the highest UVA protection are designed for facial use. If you need to protect more than just your face, you have to be willing to sacrifice a bit of protection.
Having said that, facial sunscreens can also be used on the body, but this will work out more expensive and not be particularly cost-efficient.
Today, with more focus than ever on skincare, it usually isn’t too hard to find a non-greasy, fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben-free, and non-comedogenic sunscreen – but this usually only applies to the face.
So if you’re hoping to use a sunscreen that is only designed for body use on your face, you may come to regret it.
See Also: Can You Take Sunscreen on a Plane?
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.