Head-to-toe sunscreen coverage is essential year-round, and it's especially important in the warmer months when more of your skin is exposed or covered in lighter fabrics. But full-body sunscreen application poses a couple of challenges—namely, sunscreen stains on your clothes.

Why is sunscreen so hard to remove from clothes, and how can you prevent it from happening? Read on to learn how to remove sunscreen from clothes quickly and easily so you don't have to sacrifice your new favorite outfit to protect your skin.

Does Sunscreen Stain Clothes?

Unfortunately, both chemical and physical sunscreens can stain clothes due to the ingredients in their formulas. One of the main offenders is an ingredient called avobenzone, which leaves a brown residue behind when it mixes with minerals in water.

You may also find that clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton and linen are more prone to staining. Likewise, very light or very dark fabrics are at higher risk of showing sunscreen stains. Sunscreen is usually easier to remove from synthetic fabrics like spandex or nylon, which most swimsuits are made from.

How to Prevent Sunscreen Stains

The American Academy of Dermatology advises that you apply sunscreen 15 minutes before stepping outdoors. This allows your sunscreen enough time to fully absorb and provide your skin with the protection it needs. When you're in a rush, the oils in sunscreen can transfer onto your clothes, leaving stains behind in the process. The best thing you can do for your clothes and skin health is to give your sunscreen the time it needs to absorb properly.

How to Remove Sunscreen from Clothes

Life happens, and nobody's perfect. If you notice a sunscreen stain on your clothes, follow this step-by-step guide to remove it so you can move on with your day stain-free.

Step 1: As soon as you notice a sunscreen stain on your clothes, blot out any remaining residue with a dry cloth.

Step 2: After blotting, absorb any excess oils by sprinkling baking soda or cornstarch onto the affected area. Leave this to soak in for 15 minutes.

Step 3: Treat the area with a stain remover to further break down the oils from the sunscreen.

Step 4: For stubborn or large stains, scrub the stain remover with a soft-bristled brush and allow it to sit for another 15 minutes.

Step 5: Throw your item of clothing in with your usual laundry detergent and wash as normal.

The sunscreen stain should be totally gone after the cycle has finished—but if not, the heat from the dryer will lock it in. Let the item air dry instead to be certain you're in the clear. If you still see a stain after it dries, repeat the above steps.

Staying Stain-Free in the Future

Try applying sunscreen as soon as you come out of the shower in the morning (or right after you get out of your pajamas if you shower at night). Slip on a robe while you dry your hair or drink your morning coffee. Then, get dressed knowing your sunscreen is fully absorbed into your skin. Remember to take special care with your favorite linen and cotton clothing, and if stains do occur, don't panic. You can remove them in a few simple steps. Knowing you're living your best life under the sun is well worth it!


  • Catherine Hufton

    Catherine Hufton is a UK-based freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion's most iconic companies and written for the world's best known magazines and newspapers. Beginning her career at Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion over 12 years ago, she has created content for L'Oréal, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, The Telegraph and more.