The Sunscreen Showdown

This weekend’s battle featured four different contestants from two different brands. Jess and I tried out two sprays and two gels in SPF 30 or 40 from Aloe Gator  and SmartShield. 
The sunscreens were applied in different places so we could differentiate. I used the Aloe Gator Gel on the back of my neck and ears and the SmartShield for my face. Jesse tried the sprays in the same manner. I retested the sprays myself on Sunday to see just because I was curious. Here are the pros and cons of each and then my overall pick.

Aloe Gator Sport Spray

This spray goes on in a pump style, is PABA free and works pretty well. It left me a little greasy for approximately ten minutes in the sun before it dried and was a bit tacky to the touch. The smell was pleasant and not overly reminiscent of rubbing alcohol. The Aloe Gator kept my skin cool for almost three hours before I could feel the heat of the sun. This is a very good product and with multiple applications could be very effective for water sports and is very water resistant. 

The manufacturer lists it as:

This quick drying pump spray offers added UVA/UVB protection with Parsol 1789 and is fast drying. Plus it is oil free, PABA free and very water-resistant. With its convenient application it is great for sports and water activities. Add bonus, it is made with the gentle Lil’ Gator formulation so it can be perfect for kids.”

Aloe Gator Gel

This gel was the most frustrating of the group. Even on a 60 degree day I had to be The Incredible Hulk to get the gel started out of the tube. As I pushed more out it eventually got a little easier but I couldn’t imagine my wife fighting with this product. It doesn’t spread well either. It is very thick. It holds its shape after forcing it out of the tube and rubbing it in is a chore. I never felt like I was covered well enough and used copious amounts of it. This is marketed towards super active folks but you need an active gym membership to get it out of the tube. I felt greasy the whole time I had it on and wanted a shower as soon as I put it on. I’m not a fan and would not recommend this product. 
The manufacturer lists it as:

“Aloe Gator Gel has SPF 40 and is a total sunblock protection in a super waterproof gel formulation. It’s the premier sports sunblock used by paddlers, climbers and outdoor enthusiasts!Waterproof up to 8-hours. The products are gentle to the skin, with no PABA or PABA Esters. Four sunscreens combine to ensure product absorbs both UVA and UVB rays.”

SmartShield Gel

This gel was a little less than gel or at least what I think of as gel. It was the consistency of a melted Jell-O shot. It spread very easily and dried very quickly in less than two minutes. I could tell where I had applied it because it has a wet feeling going on which went away as soon as it dried. One of the ingredients seemed to have drawn some of the salt out of my skin as I brushed away what felt like sand and I wasn’t on a beach. I did get some of it in my eye which stung just a touch and then evaporated or diluted which made it subside in less than 10 seconds. I would not recommend this for faces. It covers well but the chances of it ending up in your nose or mouth are greatly increased by its liquidity. This is a very good solution for hands, arms, backs, legs etc. I started to feel the heat of the sun after a couple of hours and did not reapply it so I could test something else. All in all, good except for faces and longevity. 

This is what the manufacturer says:

This High-Tech SPF 30 sunscreen gel has a Cooling Alcohol base; great for people who have oily skin or acne. Aloe Vera gel is moisturizing and healing to the skin. This fragrance-free formula won’t clog pores, never feels greasy and is waterproof for up to eighty minutes.”

SmartShield Spray

I reapplied after a couple of hours with this product. I continued on another four hours with this applied and had no heat sensation at all. This pump, non-aerosol went on very easy, was light on the skin and had no odor I could detect. I could feel the coverage as it was applied and then it dried very rapidly in under a minute. It was a little shiny on the skin, as most are but lacked that tacky, sticky feeling most other sunscreens give, especially aerosol spray-ons. I used this again on Sunday and the same results were found. 
This is what the manufacturer says:
Protect your skin from UV rays with a light, oil-free formula that absorbs and dries quickly- without leaving behind any greasy residue. This light, waterproof sunscreen will keep you protected with SPF 30. PABA-free. Contains aloe to soothe your skin.”

Of all of these sunscreens that were tried, Jesse and I both agreed that the spray on products were superior. A hybrid between the two gels would be a nice sunscreen but neither are great for all application areas. The fast drying, non-sticky feel of the SmartShield really won me over and for the purposes of this test, was the winner. I wish they made it in an SPF60 or higher. 

Both of these brands were tested by request of Mariner-Sails of Dallas. They are available in their store or check them out on the web at or

As a side note, a nice gentleman I met from Colorado at the kayak launch allowed me to try a sunscreen lotion he really loves. It is called Rocky Mountain and he has been using it for years. I tested some on my left hand and it repelled water nicely as well as keeping the sun at bay. I may look into it further. It was an SPF50 and went on better than most lotions I’ve tried. 

Back to top
HTML Snippets Powered By :