Sunscreen. The white gold of summertime. When I was single, I never worried about the cost of sunscreen, but now that I have six fair bodies that need to be slathered in sunscreen as we swim at least a few times every week this summer, it’s a different story.
With my (and my kids’) fair complexion, sunscreen is a must. Twice I’ve had bad second degree burns. As a child I remember the painful blisters covering my shoulders and the way my shirt stuck to them as the blisters eventually broke.
Then again in college, I spent a day on the beach in San Diego with friends (and without sunscreen). Seeing me in pain and blistered the next morning, my friends insisted on taking me to the ER. I told my friends there was nothing the hospital could do for me, but they thought I was just being too cheap to take care of myself. As expected, there was nothing they could do for me (and yes, the getting the out-of-network provider bill straightened out was a major headache for my dad).
So the long and short of it is that sunscreen is important. But it is also expensive. Here are my best tips to save money on sunscreen!
Stock Up at the End-of-Season
Along with other summer-specific merchandise, sunscreen goes on sale near the end of the summer. I’ve found great deals at drugstores, Target, Walmart, and other stores. Be sure to check the expiration date though. The ingredients in sunscreen do break down over time and become ineffective. You definitely don’t want to waste your money stocking up on sunscreen that won’t do the job. I’ve found that buying a season ahead works perfectly though.
You can find coupons for both name brand and store brand sunscreens. Just keep your eyes peeled for sunscreen coupons. In fact, if you watch the coupon expiration dates carefully, you can often combine them with end-of-season sales to save even more! Oh, and if you’re using a cashback app (Ibotta is my fav), you can get a cashback rebate on top of the coupon (and possible sale price). If you’re savvy, you can get great deals this way!
Do Your Research
A great way to waste money is to spend it on products that don’t do what you want them to or that you don’t know how to use properly. I love the convenience of spray sunscreens, but’s I’ve been skeptical about their effectiveness. As I researched, I found that spray sunscreen can be effective, but only if applied properly (which most people don’t do). Each area needs to be sprayed for 6 seconds in order to be as effective as the SPF says it will be. You should see white on your skin when you spray. In my people-watching experience, most folks don’t do it properly. Most people just do a 1-2 second mist over their body, which isn’t very effective.
If you’re the kind of person that likes to lay out and bake in the sun, you’re not going to like this tip, but honestly it’s my favorite one! Obviously, the more skin exposed, the more sunscreen required to protect your skin. Reducing the amount of exposed skin can go a long way to saving in sunscreen costs, not to mention all the effects of sun exposure.
Three years ago, I found a great after-season clearance at LandsEnd on swimsuits with matching rash guard tops which had built-in SPF. I gave them to my kids for Christmas . I know, what kind of crazy mom gives her kids swimsuits in December? Honestly, it was a gift to myself! I get so tired of lathering everyone up with sunscreen every time we swim. Everyone wants to jump in the water when we get to the pool or the beach or the river, not wait in line for mom to carefully cover every inch of skin with sunscreen.
What’s worse than applying sunscreen to the anxious swimmers, is putting it on myself. I inevitably miss a spot and end up getting a weird burn in some hard-to-reach place. Even when I get help, I don’t always get a complete cover. Since we’re spending lots of time swimming this year, I even got myself a new swim top this year! Buying rash guards with SPF was a great investment!
However you manage to stay protected from the sun, make sure you do it! Take care of your body– you’ve only got one! Dealing with the immediate consequences (burns) and long-term consequences (cancer) of sun exposure aren’t worth going without sunscreen just because it’s expensive. You can protect yourself from the sun without spending a fortune!
How about you?
- What’s your take on sunscreen?
- What tips can you share about staying protected from the sun or saving money on sunscreen?
On other thing… If you have an FSA you can buy suncreen with that money. At my company your current years allotment is good until March 15 of the next year. I invariably have a little left over and use that to buy suncreen. It keeps the FSA money from going to waste and I get the full years supply of sunscreen.
That’s a great idea Jenny! Thanks for sharing!
Food for thought – if you buy sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, it is usually possible to reimburse yourself for the cost of the sunscreen with Flex Spending Account or Health Savings Account dollars. So, you might potentially be able to pay for the cost of the sunscreen with pre-tax dollars.
Rash guards, can’t say enough good about them. Board shorts are super popular for girls now too with the increased popularity of water sports. LLBean and Lands End both offer half price sales on swimwear during Labor Day weekend if you aren’t able to pick any up at the end of the previous season. We were able to purchase suits then for cheaper than previous seasons clearance at our local stores.
We love sunscreen, but we’re always very bad at remembering to reapply it. So, our sun protection arsenal consists of quite a few weapons – sunscreen; sun shelters (beach umbrellas and portable sun shelters are lightweight and easy to carry and easy to use); rashies; and often, just avoiding outdoors during the hottest part of the day. If we’re going to the beach – and a lot of our holidays are centred around a beach – we plan it so that we go in the morning, and again in the evening, but do indoor activities between 1 and 4. Sunscreen is wonderful and very effective at preventing caner; but only if you use it properly, and we know from experience that we get so caught up in the fun, we often don’t. So, using a multi-pronged approach to being sunsmart (which also includes sunscreen!) works for our family.
I’m bad at remembering to reapply too! I like the multi-pronged approach to being sunsmart! 🙂
Kara White Schilling says
Sunscreen is my “thing.”
*A few things…Spray sunscreens…the FDA has not banned them, but I feel like we are getting so close. Anyway, spray sunscreens have butane in them…stay away from a grill(or any fire, for that matter) when applying or even right after application…you know how grills have that aura around them? This, mixed with spray sunscreen equates to terrible burns. If you have to use it, spray it into your hands and then apply.
*The all natural sunscreens(sunscreens made with zinc, for example)- when you apply, your skin should have a white sheen…do not rub in so well, you rub it out. With these sunscreens, it’s very important you follow the directions, e.g. apply thirty mins prior, reapply after sweat or wet, etc. They have PHYSICAL blockers, not chemical, so application is everything.
*Anything over 30 SPF is a waste of money, so save your money. There is a negligible difference between spf 30 vs spf 50, if you stay around 30, you will be fine. And remember, spf or sun protection factor just means the length of TIME you can be outside with protection and not burn versus with no protection.
*Use about a shot glass of sunscreen for application
*Make sure you look at the ingredients on your sunscreen.
*And wear your rashguards/hats, use your umbrellas.
*it’s okay to tan(in reference to skin cancer etc., I’m not talking about aging/wrinkles), just don’t burn
Wife to someone who has skin cancer
Mother to a ginger
Thanks for all of your insights Kara! 🙂
Heather H says
Last year we found sunscreen at our Dollar Tree, and it worked great, so this year I bought a ton when it came out to slather the kiddos in.
That’s great Heather! Thanks for sharing!
I never worried about sunscreen until I got married, my poor husband and his alabaster skin burns so easily! Because he is so susceptible to burning and has a higher risk for melanoma (he is a redhead with the mc4r allele), we spend a good amount on sunscreen! We usually buy this at Costco since we are outside all of the time for hiking and mountain biking, we make sure to get sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to deflect the sunlight it’s really cut down on any burns. Good luck this summer! I hope everyone stays burn free!
Yes! Red-heads have really fair skin! Costco-sized sunscreen sounds like a great idea! 🙂
I’m probably being really stupid here ( but I’m English so not heard the term before) What is “rash guard,” please?
No worries! I should have explained. My husband told me he had to google it the first time he heard it. I think it’s a funny term anyway. It basically is just a swim shirt! Here are some examples
Thanks. Yes, just a different term in UK. I have a very sweet photo of my grandson, aged 6 months, wearing his, complete with “Foreign Legion” hat— piece of special fabric attached to the back of a peaked sun hat.
33C forecast here today on England’s south coast so I’m hiding indoors with the fans on.
In Australia we call them “Rashies” (because of course we have to shorten them down 😉 ) I think they’re so named because they help prevent jellyfish stings (and thus the following rash 😉 )
Rosie Smith says
We like to swim in the evenings, one pool has twighlight swim everyday after 5:00 I don’t have to worry too much about sunscreen and its a dollar less each person to get in. Another pool near us that we really like for the cool slides and nice kiddy pool has a family night from 6-8 once a week for our family its $10 to get in during family swim and it would be $40 during regular admission. Again it is late enough I don’t worry about sunscreen when we go that late.
An evening swim is a great alternative and that’s a double win that it’s so much cheaper too!
I got blisters on my shoulder once as a kid, it sucked so now I cover upage most of the time. I wear long sleeves in the summer and capris. We generally avoid being outside between 9 am and 5 pm for more than a few minutes at a time in the summer. I have a huge hat I wear when I go outside and this year decided to buy a parasol.
I dislike buying sunscreen because it’s expensive and I worry about the safety of the ingredients. I do buy a few bottles a year after consulting the EWG list that year. This year we went with the Honest Company’s spray on and have been satisfied. My kids hate the 15 minute wait after being sprayed down before sun exposure but they get over it. It’s non-negotiable in our househol.
Sorry that you had blisters too! They are terrible! Yes, there’s also the concern with what’s in the sunscreen. It would be silly to put cancer-causing ingredients all over your body in hope of preventing another cancer!
Has the Honest Company improved their brand? It was widely reported earlier this year that their sunscreen did not work. LOTS of pictures of people who had used their sunscreen and ended up with very bad burns.
Becca there were issues last year when it was formulated to last 40 minutes. It’s been reformulated to last 80 minutes. We make sure to put a lot of sunscreen on dry skin and wait 15 minutes before sun exposure. We only swim for one hour at a time and then go in. We haven’t had any issues with sunburns while using it but we generally avoid long periods of exposure to the sun in the summer months.
Love rash guard for my 18mo!! Also handy is finding a sunscreen that absorbs quickly. I have found that the No Ad brand baby sunscreen (I purchased at Walmart because it was cheap!) absorbs really fast which is important when running after a toddler.
One thing I think most people do not understand is to be careful not to over sunscreen our kids. My husband is an orthopedic surgeon and their is concern that children today have vitamin D deficiency because we are not allowing them to get enough sun exposure! This is causing issues with their bones. His advice is to lather up during extended periods of time, but in day to day activities (walking from parking lot to store to car) or during morning time allow for short periods of sun exposure. (Vitamin supplements cannot totally replace the sun)
That’s a good thought on over-sunscreening. I hadn’t thought of that being a problem, but I think your husband is right. You have to find the balance. My kids spend lots of time outdoors, but I only lather them up at the pool or if we’re going to be out all day. They have intense farmer tans!