Tis the season to really get serious about what sunscreen you are going to want to have on hand so you are prepared for a day spent in the sun. Of course, we all want only the best sunscreen products with natural ingredients. So, I thought what better time to share about natural sunscreens than at the start of the spring and summer season.
In the past I have used the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to do just that. However I will be branching out and sharing some sunscreens that aren’t rated by the EWG, but I have vetted myself:)
I’ll be honest, there is a lot to weed through when it comes to sun care products. But the good news is that I am going to help you do that. I have been testing out various sunscreens for years and I am bringing you only the best of the best and taking out all of the guesswork. Also, in case you are wondering, the sun care market isn’t going anywhere!
The U.S. sun care market size was estimated at USD 1.95 billion in 2016 (1).
Suzi(Gurl Gone Green) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
*Affiliate Disclosure: I do have affiliate links in this blog post. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This comes at no cost to you, but is paid by the company. I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly. If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product.
What is the Environmental Working Group (EWG)?
The EWG is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 1993. They specialize in research, and advocacy when it comes to toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants, corporate accountability, and agricultural subsidies.
It’s an organization that exists to help empower people with knowledge to make an informed decision when it comes to the food they’re consuming and the products they use in their homes and on themselves. I couldn’t love what they stand for anymore! They really are challenging the status quo and helping the consumer to think twice about conventional products and methods.
Every year the EWG sunscreen guide comes out where they vet and share safe sunscreen options. They list them in categories, ranging from beach and sport sunscreens, kid’s options, best-tinted moisturizers with SPF, and best lip balms with SPF. This is a great resource to help see what sunscreens are safe and which are not. The Sunscreen guide for this year has yet to be released.
After a 34-year process of reviewing sunscreen safety and efficacy, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet finalized rules on sunscreen ingredient safety and product effectiveness(2).
How does the EWG rate sunscreens?
If you’re not familiar with EWG, they have a category on their website called Skin Deep. It rates products on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the best and 10 being the worst.
You can enter in a product name and it will calculate if it’s safe or not based on certain criteria. They also list why it might get a higher score.
For example, you can type in a certain brand of sunscreen and get scoring on it, seeing why it might rank higher or lower depending upon ingredients. This is really helpful in learning more about which ingredients are harmful and which are safe.
I want to explain how the EWG rates its sunscreens and the criteria it goes off of. I get a lot of questions asking about their specific scoring, so I thought I would break it down for you. They first rate it on a scale of 1-10. Again, 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. It then rates each sunscreen based on 5 categories.
- Health Hazards
- UVB Protection
- UVA Protection
- The ratio of UVA absorbance to SPF
- How long lasting the sunscreen is
I applaud the EWG for all the work it’s done in creating a system of checks and balances that the consumer can use. I do think the EWG is a reliable source for vetting products. It helps to inform and educate consumers on what ingredients are and the common ones to avoid. It’s obviously not a fail-proof system, but overall I think it’s a great place to start when you are searching for the safety of a particular product.
Like I mentioned already, I’m going to share some EWG sunscreen picks that have been approved by them, including what they have been rated. However this year I am branching out and sharing some sunscreens that have clean ingredients that haven’t been rated yet by the EWG. I wanted my picks to be the best of the best and didn’t want to be limited if they hadn’t been rated yet.
Sunscreen Tip: Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin that clothing will not cover. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body (3).
Chemical versus Mineral Sunscreens
In order to share the benefits of clean sunscreen, we first have to dive into the harmful effects of conventional sunscreens. These are known as chemical sunscreens contain these big long words. They can have one or a combination of these six ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
Instead of blocking the suns rays, like mineral sunscreens do, they absorb the rays, and turn them into heat, which are then transferred from skin to the air. These chemicals are known hormone disruptors (4). The scary fact about these chemicals is the high absorption rate, compared to other ingredients(5).
Hormone disruptors with high absorption rates is not something you want coupled together. Chemical sunscreens can also produce free radicals, which cause skin damage, skin irritation and aging. Can you say NO THANK YOU! Plus, they damage the sea and all its creatures and plants(6).
Coral bleaching (i.e., the release of coral symbiotic zooxanthellae) has negative impacts on biodiversity and functioning of reef ecosystems and their production of goods and services (8).
So what’s the alternative?? Clean sunscreens! These sunscreens are also known as mineral or physical sunscreens. These sunscreens either use titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or a combination of both. They are natural minerals that are ground up.
The main benefits of clean sunscreens are that the minerals reflect the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them, and they offer broad-spectrum protection. Not only that, but they start working the moment you apply them to your skin, unlike chemical sunscreens where you have to wait 20 minutes. Who wants to wait anyways?! Plus, these aren’t going to irritate your skin compared to chemical sunscreens and they won’t hurt the ocean and are reef-safe sunscreens – unlike the chemical sunscreens discussed above
Here are a couple terms to look for when searching for natural mineral sunscreens and what they mean:
- UVB/UVA- There are many rays present in sunlight but the most harmful are UV rays- ultraviolet rays. The two rays that reach the earth’s surface are, UVB and UVA. UVB rays are the rays that cause sunburn and can cause skin cancer. UVA rays also can contribute to skin cancer and penetrate the skin even further causing skin aging. There are many more UVA rays in sunlight than UVB. It’s important to block both UVB and UVA rays. Chemical sunscreen typically only block UVB, while mineral sunscreen blocks UVB and UVA. When a sunscreen blocks both UVB and UVA it is called broad spectrum.
- Broad Spectrum- This indicates that a sunscreen blocks both UVB and UVA rays.
- Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide- These are what you want to look for when searching for a natural mineral based sunscreen, versus a chemical sunscreen. These both are naturally occurring minerals. When they are used in sunscreen, they block the sun’s rays from being absorbed into your skin. The UV rays bounce off of your skin when you have either mineral applied.
- Water Resistant- When you see the words water resistant on a label it means that the sunscreen is effective for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes depending on what the label states. That means you will need to reapply the sunscreen after the 40 or 80 minutes to make sure it is still effective. Look for this label if you’re going to be in the water or excessively sweating(9).
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF)- It is recommended to use an SPF of 30 at minimum. SPF 15 blocks 93% of rays studies show, while SPF 30 blocks 97% of rays. You can go up in SPF after 30 however and reach the maximum benefit of sun blocking. Studies have shown the higher SPF you use the greater overall skin protection you will have (6).
- Rubs in Clear- If you don’t see “rubs in clear” on a label of mineral SPFs, be mindful that the product will be a white hue on your skin. However, if you do want it to rub in clear, make sure and get a sunscreen that says rubs in clear.
- Non-nano- This term has been popping up all over on sunscreen labels. When a product is nano-sized it means that they have formulated it so small that it can easily be rubbed into the skin and not be seen. Since the issue often with mineral sunscreens is the white hue it casts on the skin more companies have been creating nano-sized particles so it absorbs clear. Some concern has risen that nano-sized particles can seep past the skin and into the bloodstream. Although research has not confirmed it. The biggest concern is the harm they’re causing to marine life(10).
Tips to Protect Your Skin Beyond Sunscreen
Sunscreen should be the last line of defense to protect your skin from the sun. So, here are a few tips to minimize sun damage to your skin by too much sun exposure:
- Plan your outdoor time around the sun. The sun’s UV rays are strongest in the middle of the day – typically 10am to 4pm. So, it’s a good idea to spend more time outdoors in the early morning and evening hours. You can even play it safe by checking the UV index in your area.
- Cover up. This can include protective clothing like hats, shirts, shorts, pants, swim shirts, etc to provide UV protection.
- Utilize shade. Whether it be in the shade of a tree or creating your own shade with an umbrella this will protect your skin from the sun’s rays and keep you cooler.
- Wear sunglasses. This will protect your eyes from those same UV rays that can be so damaging.
Now that you know all the details on what makes clean sunscreen better when compared to conventional brands, plus how to protect your skin beyond sunscreen, let’s dive into my top picks for healthiest sunscreen options.
Best Natural Sunscreen Picks
I am sharing all my top picks for sunscreens. When I first came out with my sunscreen guide I only chose sunscreens that were rated by the EWG. I am changing it up this year as there are many great sunscreens out there that aren’t on the EWG. But I have vetted the sunscreen ingredients myself. You can feel confident in choosing any of these knowing they won’t have any harmful chemicals in them and they are all effective sunscreen products.
Best Natural Body Sunscreens
Related Content: Babo Botanicals Sunscreen Review
Best Natural Face Sunscreens
Related Content: Le Prunier Review
Best Natural Sunscreens for Babies & Children
Related Content: Pipette Sunscreen Review
Best Natural Tinted Face Sunscreens
Related Content: Tower 28 Beauty Review
Related Content: Best Natural Tinted Moisturizers (With SPF)
Best Tinted Body Sunscreen
Best Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin
Best Natural Stick Sunscreen
I hoped this helps you when choosing a natural mineral sunscreen! What’s your favorite clean beauty sunscreen?
If you liked this post on the best natural mineral sunscreens, check out past posts below:
- 16 Pregnancy Safe Sunscreens
- Ilia Skin Tint (SPF 40) Review
- Native Sunscreen Review
- Cocokind Sunscreen Review
- 2018, Grand View Research. U.S. Sun Care Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report. 1. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/us-sun-care-market
- 2020, EWG. Sunscreen: How it works and what it means. 1. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/faqs-your-sunscreen-questions-our-answers/
- American Academy Of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. 1. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreenfaqs#:~:text=Apply%20enough%20sunscreen%20to%20cover%20all%20skin%20that,your%20ears%20and%20the%20top%20of%20your%20head.
- 2018 Feb 17, J Cosmet Dermatol. Pubmed.gov. Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone-3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29086472/
- 2020, Jan 21, Murali K. Matta, PhD, JAMA. Effect of Sunscreen Application on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active IngredientsA Randomized Clinical Trial. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2759002?guestAccessKey=81a4a1e1-66d2-4f85-8d80-8d4d1aa1c56e&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=012120
- 2020 June 11, Capritto Amanda. CNet.com. Mineral Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which is safer? https://www.cnet.com/health/mineral-vs-chemical-sunscreens-safety/
- 2008 Jan 3, R. Danovaro, Department of Marine Sciences, Faculty of Science, Polytechnic University of the Marche. Environmental Health Perspectives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/
- 2008 Jan 3, Department of Marine Sciences 2 Institute of Biochemistry and 3 Department of Chemical Sciences and Technologies, Faculty of Science, Polytechnic University of the Marche, Ancona, Italy. Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018
- 2011, June 9, Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. Best sunscreen: Understand sunscreen options. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/best-sunscreen/art-20045110
- 2019, Nov, Khan Ibrahim, Science Direct. Nanoparticles: Properties, applications, and toxicities https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535217300990