Best (And Absolute Worst) Sunscreen For Fishermen


What kind of sunscreen do you use?

Chances are, what you’re using is doing more harm than good…

Growing up, I was always very careful about using sunscreen.

Sure, I occasionally got sunburned like any other high school or college kid, but I was known as the guy who took sunscreen and the protection of my skin seriously.

But then, at 28 years old, I got diagnosed with melanoma.

How was that possible?

I took way better care of my skin than any of my other friends who were out fishing and hanging out in the sun with me, but they weren’t the ones with skin cancer!

Well, as it turns out, several doctors have told me that it could have been because of the sunscreen I was using.

Here’s what’s weird:

Sunscreen use is at an all-time high, yet people are also staying inside away from the sun more than they’ve ever been…

And you know what else is at an all-time high?

Skin cancer!

If you have sunscreen that’s taking the coating off of your boat or permanently staining it, there’s no way that that’s ok to put on your skin, yet the sunscreen industry is a multi-billion dollar industry…

So should you avoid sunscreen altogether?

Thankfully, no.

There are some good sunscreens out there that aren’t poisoning your body, and in this video I’m going to share with you what those are.

Plus, I’ll also share the 7 ingredients you want to avoid in sunscreen and the 2 ingredients you do want to look for.

Check it out below.

Best (And Worst) Sunscreens For Fishermen [VIDEO]

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Regardless of what brand you use, here are what most dermatologists all agree are the ONLY TWO active ingredients you want in your sunblock:

  • Zinc Oxide
  • Titanium Dioxide

Stick with these two active ingredients and you’ll know that you have a physical-based sunblock (vs a chemical-based sunscreen).

So what sunscreens do you want to avoid?

Anything with these active ingredients in them:

  • Oxybenzone (this is the worst one of them all)
  • Avobenzone
  • Benzophenone
  • 4 MBC
  • Homosalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Octinoxate

That includes Coppertone (contains oxybenzone), Banana Boat (contains oxybenzone), and even the Neutrogena sunscreen that was “recommended by dermatologists,” yet still had three of the above ingredients in there.

What sunscreen should you use?

Well, for starters, you want to look for these two active ingredients:

  • Zinc oxide
  • Titanium dioxide

These two active ingredients mean that the sunscreen is going to sit on top of your skin, and not be absorbed into your body like the other chemicals previously listed.

Yes, you may have a slight white film where you apply it, but it’s not that bad… and I’d much rather have a white film on me than put chemicals in my body and possibly end up with melanoma again.

What my family uses (my wife is a physician, and this is what she and all of her dermatologist friends recommend) is Elta MD Skincare.

Here are some more articles about the potential dangers of the sunscreens that most people are buying:


I hope you take the potential dangers of certain sunscreens and the health of your skin seriously.

Trust me, you do not want to get melanoma, undergo surgery, and then have conversations with doctors about undergoing chemotherapy and potentially even amputation.

So what can you do to stay healthy out in the sun?

I’d first recommend using 50+ UPF rating sun protection clothing. That’s why you almost always see me wearing a long-sleeve hoodie out on the water.

For areas that you can’t protect with clothing, use a physical-based sunscreen (like Elta MD Skincare) and go to the dermatologist and get yourself checked out!

Have any questions, thoughts, or recommendations?

Let me know in the comments below!

I’m obviously very passionate about it and since I have three young kids, this is super important to me.

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2 months ago

how about lip balms with sunscreen?
Like chap stick and others?

Carol Fregia
2 months ago

Thank you so much for this vital info! I too was diagnosed with melanoma cancer. The sad part was that it took a few years for my dr to listen to me about my mole that had changed til it looked like a purple molting eyeball! I have such fair skin, Irish and Scottish heritage! Love the outdoors. And yes I have seen some of the sunscreen literally remove surfaces from objects! I’m so glad you took the time to let folks be aware of the damage they can get from the sun and the prevention they can take. And you are so right! Melanoma is not always obvious! I highly approve this message !

2 months ago

Thanx for the info.

Sam Craparo
2 months ago

Could be lifesaving advice. After I saw podcast I ordered zink based sunscreen for myself and granddaughters. FDA need to move forward and ban that bad sunscreens.

Dwayne Drury
2 months ago

Thanks for the sunscreen video Joe. I love the fishing videos but I too had skin cancer ( Melanoma on my back ) so I am constantly looking for good brands of sunscreen that contain Zinc Oxide. I had never heard of EltaMD sunscreen. Just ordered a bottle to try. Thanks again !!

Gary Pennington
2 months ago

I am a plastic surgeon who focuses on skin cancer and I APPROVE THIS MESSAGE!

Josh Olmos
3 months ago

Hey Joe….Live Better by CVS has a really good sunblock ! It doesn’t contain any of that poison only Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide and it’s actually affordable as well !! In fact they are having a buy 1 get 40%off other bottle this week ! August 10-August 17th ! Can’t beat them sales lol !! Fish on 🎣

Gary Yoder
3 months ago

fantastic info..will trash all banana boat products..questions…how about burning eyes?? found product that does NOT burn if gets into your eyes?? thanks for any/all feedback…Salt Strong..great stuff!!

Brooke De La Cruz
3 months ago

Hey Joe,
What do you think about this sunscreen that I found on amazon.

SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen – Best Waterproof And Sweat Proof Performance Sunscreen – Non-Greasy Sunblock Moisturizer For Face & Body With Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide – 1 Quart

3 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Simonds

Thanks Joe
I appreciate your help

Mark McKinney
3 months ago

I just started using the spf shirts and neck tubes because I didn’t want the chemicals on me. Gloves are next, and I wear a really big hat.

Mark McKinney
3 months ago

Thank you…

Bryan Palle
3 months ago

Thinksport is another brand that doesn’t contain the ingredients above, however does list Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient. A little more expensive, but worth a look.

3 months ago

Blue Lizard also fits the parameters you listed and was recommended by my dermatologist. I have been using it for several years and really like it. Also not quite as expensive as the elta.
Don Myers

Last edited 3 months ago by Anonymous
Nick Nemeth
3 months ago

Just found a brand called TropicSport (SPF 30). It fits all of the parameters which Joe explained and they also tout themselves as being “reef friendly” using pics of fish and coral on the blue bottle. Looks to be made for the outdoors person and is much easier on the wallet at only $20 for a 6.5 oz. bottle. Has great ratings on Amazon. Just ordered some for myself.

Last edited 3 months ago by Nick Nemeth
3 months ago

Damn. Have recently been using the exact bottle of Banana Boat sport you displayed In the video. Had it all over my face yesterday. No more. In the trash today and I’ll find the Elta. I’ve had non-melanoma skin cancers surgically removed in the past. Doctors tell me it was probably from sun damage as a teenager (40 years ago for me), when no one had heard of “sunscreen.” Thanks for the important info.

Bruce Donaldson
3 months ago

How do you keep the sent off your bait and line? I wear SPF shirts and a wide brim hat, but have left my hands uncovered because I have a hard enough time catching fish. I don’t want to drive any more away.

Bill Clark
3 months ago

Get a pair of sun gloves , got some last year and my sun spots have diminished on my hands

Tina Roberts
3 months ago

Right on Joe, thank you. Great advice for such an important topic. Stay healthy.

3 months ago

Thanks for the info on sunscreens. I was using one that when I just checked it had several of the toxic ingredients in it. I will be switching brands and reading the labels from now on.

3 months ago

Why use ANY sunscreen when there are so many good SPF fishing shirts and masks available? I don’t want that stuff on my baits and if it’s on your hands it will get on your baits. You guys posted a video on how sensitive fish are to smells.

Jonathan Lizotte
3 months ago

Great post Joe!! As is so often you guys not only nail inshore fishing, but you nail life itself. Thanks for everything.

3 months ago

I never even considered Banana Boat because of the superstition of not bringing bananas on boats(nothing that even has banana in the title).

Jim Hutt
3 months ago

Joe, I have used the Elta MD for a number of years. I have very fair skin and have had numerous skin cancer concerns. So far no melanoma. Skin damage also occurs at a very young age, so protect those babies, please…. It disturbs me greatly to see babies in a stroller with no protection from the sun and especially the eyes. Therefore, moms please protect those babies.

Mark Schreur
3 months ago

Joe, great presentation and right on as far as info. Having done the melanoma dance myself last year I agree that it’s not something anybody wants to go through. Spent the day at Sloan Kettering in NYC having radioactive tracer and sentinel lymph node biopsy in addition to have the primary lesion filleted from my back. Fortunately all ended well but it gave me a new appreciation for sunscreen and caution with the sun. I spent 4 summers working as a lifeguard a little over 40 years ago with very little sunscreen. Is that relevant? Who knows. In fact, back then it was common to use baby oil or other products that I think acted more like a magnifying glass to attract more sun to the skin. Anyway, for anyone who’s interested in looking further, check out They have extensive info about sunscreens in general and in particular the ingredients you mention and what specific problems they might cause. Characterizing them as “poison” might be a bit of a stretch but most of them are absorbed and can be measured in the blood after only one application. No clear data is available at this time regarding the significance of that fact. Another point that’s worth emphasizing is the difference between UVa and UVb rays, how they differ in their effect on the skin, and how different ingredients protect against them.
One final note, from an environmental perspective, over the past few years it’s been recognized that certain sunscreen ingredients can have deleterious effects on coral reefs. Something else to consider as we spend a lot of time in/on/or around the water.

Buz Bireline
3 months ago

Good reminder about this important subject. I am an ecologist by trade and an avid fisherman. Keep in mind, studies have also shown that there are toxins (in the form of nanoparticles) in zinc and titanium oxides that kill sea life such as fish and corals. The good news is that there is a company that makes non-nano particle titanium oxide sunscreen (SPF 30) that better protects you AND sea life, which benefits us all around. It is also less expensive per ounce than the other you recommended. I do not work for this company and am not sponsored by them. Just seems like a great product with a win-win-win for the angler, the fish and the pocketbook.

Nick Nemeth
3 months ago

OMG! I had no idea. I work outside and have been poisoning myself for years. It is info like this that makes me a proud SaltStrong member (for life). SaltStrong truly look at an angler’s life from every angle. Thank you very much for this insight Joe.

3 months ago

More SaltStrong info that makes you the best.

Last edited 3 months ago by Anonymous
Gary Hartge
3 months ago

I am very dark complected. The more I am out in the sun the darker I get! That Dutch/German lowland/Moor ancestry I guess. I rarely, if ever sunburned. I was always outside growing up, surfed competitively for years, fished, raced semi-pro bicycles, and read electric meters. I never wore sunscreen. Like you Joe my wife got me to at least start seeing a skin doc. On one occasion, after an exam, he asked if I had any issues. I pointed out a small “mole” on my shoulder that he missed! I was in surgery that week. Scary stuff to say the least.
Now people may disagree with your assessment and recommendation, but there is an extraordinarily large amount of data regarding this and I understand some countries are banning its use. If anything, it ought to make you scratch your head when you can plunge your Nutragena sunscreen lathered arm into your live well and you kill all of your bait!
Anyway, how easy is the sunscreen you use to get off. Some I have used are extremely difficult to remove. Thanks!

Mike Connelly
3 months ago

THANK YOU for this information! Being a Salt Strong subscriber is the best money I have ever spent on my fishing addiction!

David Johnson
3 months ago

Neutrogena makes a product called “Sheer Zinc mineral”
According to them, the only active ingredient is zinc oxide.
The price is 3- 3oz bottles for $28 on Amazon.
The stuff you mentioned is 4oz for $25.
Its worth checking out.

Bill Godwin
3 months ago
Reply to  David Johnson

There are several brands that are quite expensive with zinc oxide and Ti dixoide and marketed towards women. These products seem to have the added benefit allowing women to apply makeup over the sunscreen.

David Johnson
3 months ago

Thank You Joe!

Steve Perry
3 months ago

Great info Joe! Was at dinner the other day with some friends and I mentioned that I grew up on the beach and spent 20+ years working in the mountains outdoors.
Now I’m on the boat quite a bit. Have used sunscreen sparingly over the years because so many friends, including my wife, have gotten skin cancer. They all used sunscreen. I’ve been very Leary of using any due to the apparent link between sunscreen and skin cancer. Your info has given me some good info on what can safely be used. Ordered a bottle of what your family uses as a start. Thanks much.

Bill Godwin
3 months ago

If you choose to purchase ELTA MD sunscreen, be very selective where you purchase the product. Counterfeit product from Asian sources are often sold at discount prices from unauthorized vendors.

Here is the link to unauthorized vendors.

Bill Godwin
3 months ago

Great video Joe!

Growing up on the lakes of central Florida, I never used sunscreen, but my dark complexion probably helped ward off harmful rays back in the 50s/60s.

Spent my teen years fishing and surfing along the SC/NC coast. Used zinc oxide on my nose, but, again, never got burned.

I was never one to use much sunscreen on exposed skin other than my face.

I started using several different Neutrogena sunscreen lotions when I was flying the Caribbean in mid 80s until a few years ago. UV radiation is very bad in the cockpit of airliners. After about 20 years of heavy use of this lotion, I came down with basal cell carcinoma on my nose at 61yo! My dermatologist told me to immediately stop using Neutrogena sunscreens because of the active ingredients; all on your “bad” list of stuff!

Did the Neutrogena facial sunscreen lotions contribute to my basal cell skin issues? I don’t know. But, I’m solidly back in the zinc oxide corner for facial/hand sun protection!

Bill Godwin
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Godwin

Interestingly, the Mayo Clinic web site provides no guidance on sunscreen ingredients to avoid.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bill Godwin
3 months ago

I use 50 weight in combination with covering up to include sun gloves. But I just pulled my sunscreens out of the boat to check ingredients. Bullfrog is out and of course anything with the Equate brand name.

Mark Breiner
3 months ago

thank you for caring enough about our community to make this video and educate us about sunscreen based on your real world experience. Just pitched my Neutrogena and ordered Elta.

Daniel Inns
3 months ago

Federal Drug Administration and American Association of Dermatologists dont agree with the Salt Strong recommendations about “what to avoid”.

Having said that – wearing clothes and using a mineral (Zinc and Titanium) based sunsreen is universally supported.


Do your own reading and draw your own conclusions.

The links in Joe’s article article dont work unless you register – you should go to a trustworthy source.

American Association of Dermatologists

Federal Drug Administration

Michael Grandonico
3 months ago

is sun bum good too?

Dave Otte
3 months ago

Thank you Joe. There’s nothing better than getting information from an expert that’s ‘been there’.

Dave Otte
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave Otte

p.s. would it be possible make this available in our tackle shop?

Robin Russell
3 months ago

I’ll have to order some of that, I like that it has such a high percentage of titanium dioxide. If you ever forget that at home or are in a bind, you can purchase the “Baby” version of Banana Boat or Nutragena and those are strictly titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. A little mom hack for ya.


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