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.
3 of the Best Sunscreens for Pilots
Best Protection: Mesoestetic Mesoprotech
The Mesoestetic Mesoprotech gives the most protection possible from harmful UVA rays.$66.70 ($39.47 / Fl Oz)
While the Mesoestetic Mesoprotech SPF 130 protection sounds like overkill (and perhaps it is), it is the sunscreen that offers the most protection against UVA rays (UVA 67).
The sunscreen is slightly tinted, but don’t let that worry you. It will match virtually all skin tones, and will even give you a nice, even natural glow that softens imperfections.
Best for Face: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen
Ideal for facial use due to its lightweight, non-greasy, and gentle formula .$37.00 ($21.76 / Ounce)
The EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen is recommended by dermatologists and is particularly beneficial for pilots with sensitive skin.
Lightweight and gentle, and with a non-greasy, fragrance-free, oil-free, paraben-free, and 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 .$35.99
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 is lightweight, fast-absorbing, non-greasy, and suitable for sensitive skin.
Easiest to Use: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Stick
Neutrogena's sunscreen in stick form makes it very easy to apply.$8.24 ($5.49 / Ounce)
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 glides on easily, leaving your skin with a non-greasy finish.
Minimal rubbing is required too, which is 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.