Best (And Absolute Worst) Sunscreen For Fishermen

best 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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4 hours 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
Jim Hutt
8 hours 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
Mark Schreur
10 hours 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
Buz Bireline
10 hours 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
Nick Nemeth
11 hours 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.

11 hours ago

More SaltStrong info that makes you the best.

Last edited 11 hours ago by Anonymous
Gary Hartge
Gary Hartge
11 hours 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
Mike Connelly
12 hours 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
David Johnson
15 hours 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
Bill Godwin
14 hours 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
David Johnson
18 hours ago

Thank You Joe!

Steve Perry
Steve Perry
19 hours 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
Bill Godwin
20 hours 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
Bill Godwin
20 hours 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
Bill Godwin
20 hours ago
Reply to  Bill Godwin

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

Last edited 20 hours ago by Bill Godwin
21 hours 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
Mark Breiner
1 day 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.

Dan Inns
Dan Inns
2 days 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
Michael Grandonico
2 days ago

is sun bum good too?

Dave Otte
Dave Otte
2 days ago

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

Dave Otte
Dave Otte
2 days ago
Reply to  Dave Otte

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

Robin Russell
Robin Russell
2 days 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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