Waterproof sunscreen vs water-repellent sunscreen
  • Sun & travel

Waterproof sunscreen vs water-repellent sunscreen

Wondering whether to choose waterproof sunscreen or water-repellent sunscreen? Does it even matter?   These terms sound very similar so on the surface it is not really clear how they differ, and what that means for your skin. Read on to discover the difference between waterproof sunscreen and water-repellent sun cream so you can make an informed choice on how you protect your skin from the sun.

By Hannah Mepham

6 Minute read

Do you love being in the water but worry about sunburn? To protect your skin from sun damage, you’ll need a water- sunscreen.

Is water-repellent sunscreen the same as water-proof sunscreen? Which is better?

Read on to find out and to shop for water-repellent sunscreen that’s safe for the sea and for your skin.

Waterproof sunscreens and your skin

Waterproof sunscreens are popular with snorkelers, sea swimmers, and triathletes. Effective but not 100% waterproof, water-repellent sun creams rely on petrochemicals like mineral oils and silicones to form a seal around the skin.

Unfortunately, petrochemicals can also prevent you from sweating, and a build-up of sweat can lead to prickly heat.

If you experience heat rash after sun exposure or are prone to prickly heat, a better choice of sunscreen for you may be a water-repellent SPF without petrochemicals.

image showing how prickly heat is caused

Did you know that, in the USA, sunscreen brands cannot claim to be waterproof? That’s because authorities in the States were concerned that consumers were being misled by the idea that sunscreens could be 100% waterproof.

What is water-repellent sunscreen?

Water-repellent sunscreens, such as Green People sun creams, achieve water repellence without petrochemicals.

Instead, our dermatologically tested sunscreens repel water droplets with a blend of marine-friendly plant oils and natural, plant-based emulsifiers. These keep water out while allowing the skin to breathe and help to make Green People sunscreens a great choice for those prone to prickly heat.

Shop water-repellent sunscreen

As well as being suitable for those who may be prone to prickly heat, our natural and organic sunscreens are also clinically proven to be kind to sensitive skin.

Made with gentle ingredients that are also ocean safe (no Oxybenzone or Octinoxate), you can swim with confidence with Green People.

Looking for a 100% mineral sunscreen with water repellence? Popular with surfers and swimmers, our Mineral Sports+ SPF30 Sun Cream with Zinc Oxide will tick all your boxes!

View full range of natural and organic sunscreens.

How often to reapply water-repellent sunscreen

Are you planning a dip in the sea or heading to the lido to cool off? For many, a hot summer’s day is the perfect time for a swim. But while your skin might feel cool in the water, it can still be at risk of sun damage from sun-burning UVB rays.

To help you stay sun-safe while swimming, we’ve prepared some tips for getting the best protection from your water-repellent SPF.


While mineral SPF works almost instantly, chemical sun filters need a little time to work and should ideally be applied around 30 minutes before sun exposure.


Regardless of how long you intend to be in the water for, you should apply your SPF to any exposed skin. To achieve the level of sun protection advertised, apply a 50p-sized amount to each body part.


We know you’ll plan your sea swim safely and check the tide times, but as no sunscreen will offer 100% waterproof protection, it is also a good idea to check the weather forecast.

Avoid swimming in the sea when the sun is at its strongest (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Once back on shore, always reapply your sun protection.

Find your perfect water sports sunscreen

Our 100% mineral SPFs for sport have great staying power and are a great choice of water-repellent sunscreens for wet suit wearers, such as divers, surfers and triathletes.

Our 50ml spill-proof airless pumps fit seamlessly into your kit bag, allowing you to easily reapply once you come out of the water.

Do you prefer to swim in a swimsuit?

If you need to apply sun protection to a larger skin area, you may like our 200ml water-repellent Scent Free Sun Cream SPF30. Loved by wild swimmers for its marine-friendly ingredients, a 20p donation goes to the Marine Conservation Society each time a tube is sold.


“I’ve used this sun cream for several years. I’m so happy with it. I like that it doesn’t clog my skin or leave me with a sticky, greasy feeling. I like that it doesn’t pollute our water when I wash it off or go wild swimming. And I like that the natural ingredients are kind to my sensitive skin.” Louise.


We hope you have found this guide to water-repellent and waterproof sunscreen helpful. To find the best SPF for you, head to our SPF finder or drop a note to our friendly customer care team at @GreenPeopleUK.

Reviewed by:

This blog post has been reviewed by Charlotte Vøhtz, founder of Green People, who has 25+ years of experience in the natural and organic beauty industry. A recognised leader in the field of organic beauty, Charlotte helped inform the UK's first organic beauty standards and was voted the People’s Choice in the 2023 list of Who’s Who in Natural Beauty. A published author, she wrote the organic beauty bible ‘Naturally Gorgeous’. Previously, she qualified as a nurse and spent over 10 years working in pharmaceuticals.


The contents of this blog post should be treated as information only. Please consult a medical professional if you have any health-related concerns or symptoms.


If you wish to republish this content, please credit Green People as the original creator with a link to "Waterproof sunscreen vs water-repellent sunscreen". Please do not use an affiliate link.

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