By Neil Taylor,

A local company, with contracts with the US Military, I became aware of this company when I met a Sawyer executive around my home town of Safety Harbor, FL.  The company has been in existence for almost 30 years and has earned an excellent international standing.    They address a wide variety of needs:  The sun, bugs, water filtration and even clothing/netting.   The bug repellent and sunscreens are my items for use but when I went to do some research before writing up a review: I got to see that this company has worked directly with the World Health Organization.

Soon after meeting the rep, Darry Jackson at Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure asked me if I had ever used their product.    A few days later I had their sunscreen to try out, something I do with any product before I endorse it.   The more I started talking about the product, the more I found out how many people already know about this company.   It is my pleasure to introduce the Sawyer sunscreen to you.

Sun protection is more important than people realize.    Good choices in clothing, including shirts, pants and hats are going to help minimize some damage but nothing replaces a great sunscreen.  As fishing folks, our fun extends the amount of exposure we get to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun than others with more sedentary hobbies get.    Three consecutive questions to address:   Why not have the best of both worlds?   Can’t I enjoy time in the sun but not get completely scorched in the process?

Most importantly: Does Sawyer have an advantage?  Being as this is a commonly used item, I am just going to tell you:   Go get it and try it.   I believe that it will replace your previously preferred sunscreen.   (To locate the product click HERE)

In my extensive use of the Sawyer sunscreen this year, I noticed that it was doing the job extremely well with fewer applications than others I had used in the past.    So many other lotions I had used, I was getting burned anyway but I definitely did not experience this with the Sawyer Product sunscreen.  The product packaging is great.   As a kayak fishing guide, other sunscreens that sit in puddles of water become worthless.   The seal on the Sawyer containers seems to be less permeable.    It goes on easy, rubs in well and then washes off without major difficulties.   Quite simply:  I do not want to use anything else.

From their website information on the sunscreen:

Sun Protection  (  )

Our experience as the primary supplier of sunscreen to the troops in the Gulf War taught us just how important it was to hold a sunscreen in place even in extreme conditions. In our research, we were able to identify how the skin accepts, rejects, or processes sunscreens. With that knowledge we have developed revolutionary techniques for keeping our sunscreen formulas in place.

All of our sunscreens are:

– Rated for UVA & UVB protection – Waterproof – PABA and fragrance free – Moisturizing

My own testimony pales in comparison to the other account they have.    Used by the military personnel in the deserts of the Middle East, this product has to work that well.

*************************** From the Sawyer web site on their sunscreen “technology”

Sawyer’s Bonding Base Technology The Sawyer Stay-put sunscreens bond to the skin in a unique way that give you the best and most comfortable protection you have ever experienced. Think of it as a “breathable matrix”. While most sunscreen hold the lotions in the top two layers of skin, Sawyer’s Stay-put sunscreen also “bond” the sunray absorbing agents deeper into the skin. By spreading the same volume of lotion over a larger cubic area of skin, the result is less sunscreen lotion per area of skin, thus a more comfortable feel. You will hardly even know you have sunscreen on and the deeper the lotion is, the less likely to wash off and rub off than surface sunscreens. You skin has many layers of cells from the base (basal level) to the top. Theses cells are constructed sort of like the Grand Canyon on a micro scale. That is how sweat can be generated at the lowest levels and pass to the top. Sawyer’s Stay-put sunscreens use a special technology to bond the ray absorbing agents to the sidewalls of the canyon. Thus, sweat and water pass over the compounds without flushing them away. This makes the formulas highly resistant to deterioration due to sweating or swimming, and it is still very comfortable to wear.

How SPFs works The chart below demonstrates how SPF’s are calculated. In reality you very seldom need more than an SPF30 which blocks out or absorbs 97% of the sunrays. To achieve an SPF of 45 or 50 manufacturers have to add 25% to 50% more absorbing agents while achieving very little in the way of skin protection, absorbing only an extra 1 or 2%. Your body can naturally handle around 17% of the rays without burning so you are thus packing your skin with lots of extra absorbing agents yielding essentially no additional protection.

This is why we highly recommend that you start with our SPF 30 formula and only move to a higher SPF in the case of intense situations (as described below) if needed. If you go strictly by the math you see that you only need an SPF of 6 or 8 to get enough protection to supplement the body’s natural protection. But since 90% of the population under applies sunscreen relative to the FDA “dosage” we recommend using our SPF30 because an under applied dosage of SPF30 will give you enough absorbents to protect you.

SPF Level

% of UVB Sunrays Absorbed

% of Formula that is Heavy Oil   (Absorbers)



50 to 60%



40 to 50%



30 to 40%



20 to 30%



15 to 25%

UVA rays are often referred to as the “wrinkling rays”. This is really only true of the shorter UVA rays (see chart below) and any good SPF 30 formula will get those rays even if they do not absorb the longer and non harmful UVA rays.

New FDA Regulations In response to industry pressure the FDA issued new label guidelines for sunscreens (the use of the word sunblock is no longer allowed) requires protection against the entire spectrum of UVA rays in order to use the term “Broad Spectrum” sunscreen. Unfortunately the only way to achieve absorption of the longest UVA rays is to use a chemical called Avobenzone. You will see this feature highly touted beginning this year.

Sawyer WILL NOT add Avobenzone to its formulas for two reasons. First is that the longer UVA rays are not harmful to your skin as shown in the chart and therefore do not need to be absorbed, and Secondly Avobenzone is not stable in natural light and as it dissipates it removes with it some of the other sunscreen absorbents. Therefore not only will the labels for the products containing Avobenzone recommend reapplications every two hours, you will need to do so or risk getting burned. Sawyer’s bonding base formulas have a great reputation for how long they last and even though we will also have to change our labels to recommend frequent reapplications we think the people who have used our tried and true formulas in the past will appreciate how well they will continue to work while other brands may not be as good as they were before the new regulations.

Our Recommendations The higher SPF formulas (above SPF30) will hold in your body heat which can be helpful in cold weather, but please be careful in warmer weather to make sure you can adequate cool yourself.

Intense sun conditions include:

  1. Low latitudes (near the equator)
  2. Higher altitudes
  3. Peak sun season: May, June and July in      the Northern Hemisphere
  4. Intense time of the day 10am to 2pm
  5. Sun exposure after long periods with      little sun exposure

On hot and humid days it is important to consider the need for your body to sweat and cool itself. Higher SPF formulas (and non breathable Matrix formulas) may inhibit heat transfer. It is important to remember this with younger children as they have not fully developed their ability to sweat. In such cases the lower SPF formula should actually provide better protection.

In special situations where you cannot apply the initial application of the sunscreen to cool and dry skin you may choose Sawyer’s SPF 50 which is formulated to stick to moist skin (which is why it feels greasy) but you should take care and try to keep yourself as cool as possible. Areas of thin skin may need reapplications of the SPF 30 or even the special SPF 50 later in the day or after heaving rubbing or moisture exposure.


It is very worthwhile to visit their web site:

In the future I will feature their bug repellents which I am also utilizing in my time both on and off the water.   Navigating their web site, you may find other items that you would like to have.   Their water filtration systems are a great item to have around “just in case.”    Their sunscreen, as I stated above:  I will not use anything else.    Tell your local outdoor stores to put it on the shelves!   They will not be sorry for stocking a superior product.

Neil Taylor is a full time kayak fishing guide in the Tampa Bay area with, 727-692-6345.

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