Not all natural sunscreens are created equally: some will leave you looking like a ghost while others sink into the skin and provide a mega dose of free-radical fighting antioxidants!
After trying oh so many different options over the years, here are the absolute best natural sunscreens I’ve tried…
Originally Published on June 9, 2020 | Updated on June 17, 2021
Looking for the safest, best natural sunscreen that won’t leave you looking like a ghost?
In other words: very very white.
Around this time of year, I start instinctively humming the DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince (you know, Will Smith when he was still rocking that 90s flat top) classic “Summertime”.
It’s my internal clock saying “beach days ahead!”
It’s also my cue to talk to you about safe sun protection — the products I personally use and recommend and WHY.
Non-nano zinc oxide is the holy grail of natural sun protection. Here’s why…
Zinc oxide provides immediate sun protection
Because the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens need time to absorb into your skin, you need to wait for a period of time (usually 15-20 minutes) before going into the sun.
But zinc oxide acts like a mirror reflecting the suns rays, and starts working as soon as it’s applied.
Zinc oxide sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays
While all chemical sunscreens protect your skin from the skin-burning UVB rays, some don’t offer protection from deeper-penetrating UVA rays. UVA rays are associated with premature aging, something I’m sure we’d all like to avoid!
Zinc oxide protects from both UVB and UVA rays.
Zinc oxide is less irritating to sensitive skin
Some of the active ingredients used chemical sunscreens trigger allergies and skin reactions (since they’re not natural and the skin is like “What!?“).
But zinc oxide is actually used in natural diaper rash creams to soothe irritated little bottoms!
Zinc oxide sunscreen is better for the environment
One of the most commonly used active ingredients in chemical sunscreens oxybenzone is known to kill coral reefs, which are home to 25% of all ocean life. For this reason, reefs are disappearing twice as fast as rain forests!
According to TIME:
“Currently, somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters coral reef areas around the world each year, according to the U.S. National Park Service. That’s a lot of sunscreen considering how little it takes to cause toxic effects. According to the new research, toxicity occurs at a concentration of 62 parts per trillion. That’s the equivalent of a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool.”
In May of 2018, Hawaii actually passed a bill to ban the sale of all sunscreens with this ingredient in order to protect the reefs! (source)
If we can do our part to prevent this just by switching to a natural mineral sunscreen, why wouldn’t we?
And zinc oxide in its non-nano form is safest since it’s unable to be absorbed into the bloodstream
Micronization of zinc oxide prevents it from appearing white on the skin, but there is some concern that the nanoparticles can be absorbed into the skin and potentially cause harm.
So I personally choose and recommend non-nano zinc oxide specifically.
Here’s the only problem: sunscreens made with non-nano zinc oxide can leave us looking very white.
Like you’ve just rubbed spackle all over your body.
Like a ghost.
Like a lifeguard straight from the 70s.
No, it’s not a good look! And it can feel really icky too.
Over the years, I’ve tried A LOT of natural, non-toxic sunscreens. And honestly, for a very long time, I sacrificed aesthetics for health.
I didn’t mind having oh-so-obvious white sunscreen all over my body if it meant non-toxic sun protection. (OK so I minded, but I didn’t know of a better option.)
Luckily, totally safe, mineral-based, natural sunscreens have come a long way in recent years!
In other words, we no longer have to sacrifice beauty in the name of safety, or vice versa.
The following are the absolute best natural sunscreens I’ve tried for body and face.
Each provides natural, mineral-based protection and rubs in clear.
The list is short because in my opinion, they really are the best of the best.
Why weigh the list down with other options that just don’t stand up?
I’ve personally spent way too much time and money on products that don’t perform and I don’t want to put you through that!
The Best Natural Sunscreens: Body
I mean, I could really just stop the list right here — this is the absolute best natural sunscreen I’ve ever tried. And as a mist, it’s incredibly easy to apply (especially convenient to apply to kids!).
It sprays on white which helps ensure you’re not missing any spots, but with a little rub quickly sinks into skin without leaving any whiteness. None. At all. AND it’s made with non-nano zinc oxide. Yes: perfection!
In case you’re concerned about the spray mechanism: it uses a non-aerosol, bag-on-valve actuator system. So it’s actually air-powered. So there are no potentially harmful — for you or the environment — propellant chemicals used at all!
The formula also contains a good dose of antioxidants to help further protect the skin from UV damage since antioxidants neutralize free-radicals, and UV exposure creates free-radicals in the skin.
The Countersun collection is definitely a little bit of a splurge but absolutely, 100% worth it for the protection and performance provided.
If you prefer a classic lotion over a spray, the Countersun mineral lotion is the way to go. Like its mist counterpart, the formula is made with non-nano zinc oxide yet quickly disappears into the skin — leaving no white whatsoever! It also includes antioxidants to further protect skin and leaves skin feeling hydrated and dewy, but not sticky or heavy. Again, all around perfection!
An especially great option for those who are sensitive to scent, this sunscreen protects with zinc oxide in a base of other skin soothing goodies like aloe and green tea extract.
It doesn’t feel greasy and rubs in clear (though is a thicker formula than the other body sunscreen option on this list, and so does require a bit more effort to rub in).
No wonder its picked up some accolades along the way! It was the Dermascope 2020 Aestheticians’ Choice Award Winner for Body Sunscreen, made EWG’s 2020 “Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens” list, and received a #1 Rating in the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
This is the most budget-friendly option on the list and has been a go-to of mine in recent years.
Again, this formula is made with non-nano zinc, doesn’t contain any other unhealthy ingredients, and it rubs into skin very easily without leaving a white residue. I also think it also smells delicious!
If comparing it to Countersun, it’s much more utilitarian: doesn’t come with any of the added skin-loving goodies like antioxidants but it gets the job done and well, too. It also doesn’t sink into the skin quite as much and can get a little gooey feeling if you’re working up a sweat while wearing it.
One of my newest favorites for body AND face! It’s made with zinc oxide — but not non-nano but if you’re OK with the compromise — and rubs in very clear very quickly.
My husband and I have been using this while hiking and definitely appreciate that it’s water-resistant since it doesn’t rub off as we work up a sweat or run into our eyes (never any fun!).
The Best Natural Sunscreens: Face
The only option on the list made with micronized zinc oxide (as opposed to non-nano), but I really just love it too much to not include it. It’s the best non-tinted option I’ve found that offers great protection without leaving you white.
My husband uses this face lotion on a daily basis, and it’s my go-to when I don’t want a tint (such as when I’m going to be working up a sweat and so don’t want the tint running down my face or rubbing off on my hat or shirt!).
It also provides a bunch of other skin-loving, anti-aging goodies like red algae extract, kukui oil, and macadamia nut oil.
This is my go-to daily moisturizer these days. Like its ThinkBaby Safe Sunscreen counterpart discussed above, it’s pretty utilitarian. But it gets the job done and does it well: provides great protection, has a super clean ingredient list, and doesn’t leave skin looking white thanks to a slight tint. In fact, I actually love how it makes my skin look and feel: really dewy, moisturized, and glowy.
I don’t mind that it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles because I apply it on top of a vitamin C serum, which gives my skin those other goodies. But if you’re a 1-step kind of gal/guy, I’d go with the Beautycounter Dew Skin (next up below!).
Also unlike the Beautycounter Dew Skin, this comes in just 1 shade only and so may not work for all skin shades.
Not only does it provide great color coverage and protect skin from UV rays with non-nano zinc oxide, but it also contains a bunch of other goodies — free-radical fighting and anti-aging antioxidants thanks to vitamin C and firming hyaluronate.
This definitely provides greater coverage than ThinkSport Everyday Face AND comes in a variety of shades!
Since it’s actually a primer, this is a fantastic option if you’re going to be wearing makeup over your sunscreen.
It’s not tinted and provides a nice matte finish though a good dose of moisture.
It protects skin with non-nano zinc oxide and contains other skin-loving goodies like plumping hyaluronic acid and the powerhouse antioxidant astaxanthin.
Do you have a go-to natural sunscreen we should try and add to the list!?
Please share in the comments below!