I think of all the attempts at getting a good tan I made when I was younger and wish that I knew better. I have light skin and I don't have any problem with that these days. I'm fine with being "pale" and sunscreen is a lot more affordable than skin cancer, and I'm not just talking about money.
If you're running during daylight hours, you need sunscreen on. This isn't just for summer, but it is more of an issue in the summer due to several factors. First of all, we're typically outside more in the summer. The sun is out for longer during the summer, if you usually run in the evenings, 5pm may be dark in the winter while it doesn't get dark until nearly 9pm in the summer. The sun is also closer in the summer, so the UV index (and your chances of getting burned) is higher. Please note that you don't have to get a sunburn to get skin cancer and even if you are lucky and escape cancer, the sun is still damaging your skin.
Sunscreen choices are also more complicated for running in the summer because of the heat. Some sunscreens just don't let you sweat well, and you need to sweat when it's hot. Then when you do sweat, you don't want a sunscreen that is going to run into your eyes and sting. So you have to find one with a good balance of breath-ability and water/sweat resistance.
Here is where I'm going to save you some trouble! Over the past few years of running in the sun, I have tried more than a couple of sunscreens and can share my knowledge with you.
Let's start with a couple of basics:
These are my everyday products. Olay Complete all day moisturizer with SPF 15 for sensitive skin is what I put on my face every morning. I actually use it on my face for running often because it does not sting my eyes (the Neutrogena face moisturizer I used before this would not only sting my eyes but my whole face when I would sweat). It does tend to sweat off though. The Neutrogena Ultra Sheer is what I use on my arms regularly if I know I'm going to be outside a lot. I like it because it doesn't feel like you're wearing sunscreen and has a light smell that's tolerable enough for daily use without feeling like you smell like sunscreen all the time. It's not as bad at sweating off, but it does sting the eyes and makes me feel hot.
Now for some more traditional sunscreens you would use for the beach or swimming:
These two products are pretty much the same. I bought the one of the left one year and liked it, when I went to buy it again they didn't have it but they had the one on the right. The ingredients are near identical. Kids sunscreens like these are good for sensitive skin and for parents because you might as well use the same sunscreen you use for your kids. These work pretty good for running but make sure the bottle hasn't expired. We faced that issue at the beach over the weekend and everybody got at least a little sunburn even though we applied thoroughly and reapplied according to the instructions. Right now I can't remember if these sting my eyes but I know I don't use them on my face when I run so that must be either because they sting or give my face that skin can't breathe, hot feeling. I tend to use these on my body and the Olay moisturizer above on my face.
Bull Frog Moisquito Coast might be a good option if you're running trails or anywhere else where there might be bugs (like my yard). I like this for the kids when we play outside because I don't have to worry about putting two products on them, however, it's not that great of a bug repellent. It does protect against the sun but it's a bit greasy feeling and don't even think about using it on your face if you're going to be sweating a lot. Avon makes a similar product, I find this one to be slightly more effective as a repellent.
Sunsect is another combo product I've tried, but it's a lotion. I haven't used it enough to give much opinion.
Now for "Sport" specific sunscreens:
I feel like this Neutrogena CoolDry Sport is the only sport specific sunscreen worth mentioning because it's actually different. If you look at the ingredients of most "sport" sunscreens you will find they are nearly the same as the kids sunscreens.
I will admit that I was pulled in by the advertising of this product, the allure of the "micromesh" that lets your skin breathe naturally got me. I bought the lotion first and I love how it doesn't give my skin that hot feeling. I've seen some reviews where users complained about it being hard to wash off, they must not be using soap or a washcloth because it's a non-issue for me. The only downside to this sunscreen is that it still stings my eyes. The spray was part of a race swag bag, I like the convenience and quickness of spray but it's a little greasy and I'm always afraid I'm going to miss a spot when I use it.
When I run or ride my bike during the summer (or any sunny day) I use either the Neutragena Sport or the Banana Boat kids lotion (whichever I find first) on my body and the Olay on my face. I'd like to use a higher SPF on my face but so far most products are irritating in some way.
There are still some other sunscreens I would like to try, like a few mentioned in a recent Runner's World article. Those include No-Ad, Coppertone Faces, and Promise Organic. If you've tried any of those let me know what you thought.