Vacation sunscreen smells heavenly, and is reef-safe

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Yes, yes, we know; you should apply screen before stepping right in the sun’s path. We’re trying to be artistic, okay? (Photo: Ulta)

Don’t @ me, readers. As an editor, parent and functioning adult, I know that sunscreen is a non-negotiable part of any skincare regimen if you want to ward off fine lines, wrinkles and the biggest baddie of them all, skin cancer. SPF is to self-care what an open bar is to a wedding: A necessity. But most sunscreens (and I feel like I’ve tried them all) feel sticky or tacky, greasy or slimy, like I just rolled my entire body in mineral oil, followed by a romp through the sand. multiple times. You get the drift. And the smell? If you mixed a bunch of weird chemicals in a lab kitchen, you’d wind up with what marketing-speak euphemistically calls “a beachy scent.”

I’ve tried sprays and lotions, butters and oils. They’re fine, but not something that remotely heightens my time outdoors. And then I met Vacation’s Classic Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen. I’d heard about this cult-favorite sunscreen, hailed as the best-smelling one out there. Far be it for me to say that that’s a fact, because I certainly have not smelled every SPF product out there, but suffice to say, this one is delightful.

$18 at Ulta Beauty

Vacation Classic Lotion amidst an array of fruit.

Tropically scented, topically smooth: A deep, um, copper tone, is just a few uses away. (Credit: Ultra)

Let’s start with the texture (in this case, I’m referring to the classic lotion, not Vacation’s mineral variety; both work equally well so it’s whatever floats your proverbial boat). The only way to describe it is that your skin inhales it. You don’t find yourself trying to smear residual glops of white cream onto your skin. No pasty spots on your face, where you didn’t quite rub it in all the way. Think the world’s fanciest hand lotion, only with sunscreen. But less slick. That’s vacation.

Now, the scent. The brand states that it’s a blend of “coconut, banana, pool water, pool toy and swimsuit Lycra.” Whatever. To me, it’s a super subtle yet enticing concoction of banana and pineapple. Imagine sitting down at the beach, being served a frothy drink, with the prop umbrella, and taking your first heady smell of it, before drinking. That’s vacation. The smell is exquisitely delicate, without being chemically cloying. The brand collaborated with perfumers Carlos Huber and Rodrigo Flores-Roux (the nose behind Clinique’s Happy) to create the scent.

It works on all skin tones, per the brand, and it’s reef-safe. So: While it may sound shallow (fine, I’m shallow), but the packaging! Think roller skates, azure pools, cut-off jean shorts — it’s that type of cool, happy retro.

Classic Lotion only comes with an SPF of 30, which the American Cancer Society states is sufficient for the average person. (While higher numbers do mean you get more protection, the difference becomes negligible the higher you go.)

The active ingredients are avobenzone (2.5%), homosalate (10%), octisalate (5%) and octocrylene (8%). If you opt for the mineral option, the active ingredient is zinc oxide (20%).

$18 at Ulta Beauty

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