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.
Because as you know, the skin is the body’s largest organ and what we put on it matters. And a few of the active ingredients commonly used in sunscreen have been linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and/or developmental/ reproductive toxicity. One is even known to kill coral reefs!
When it comes to choosing a safe sunscreen, there are just a few things to look for.
You want to choose a sunscreen with:
Zinc oxide as the active ingredient.
Zinc oxide is a mineral that provides broad spectrum protection from the sun rays (that is, it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) and is soothing to the skin — it’s also the active ingredient in many natural diaper creams! As a physical sunscreen, it sits on top of the skin rather than being absorbed into the skin as with chemical sunscreens.
Zinc oxide in non-nano form (ideally but not the most essential).
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.
You want to avoid sunscreen with:
Oxybenzone as the active ingredient.
This chemical has been linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and/or developmental/reproductive toxicity and is toxic to coral reefs.
Titanium dioxide as the active ingredient.
This mineral doesn’t provide the same UVA protection as zinc oxide and there is evidence that it begins to degrade once it is exposed to sunlight.
Other unhealthy ingredients such as parabens and fragrance.
6 Safe Sunscreens Options
Each of the following recommendations are made with non-toxic ingredients and have a “1” ranking in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. I’ve also personally tried them all with great results!
Best for: Head-to-toe coverage
One of my favorite products from one of my favorite companies (because you know I love a company with a conscience, and Beautycounter is one of the best)! Lightweight and water-resistant, this sunscreen uses non-nano zinc oxide BUT blends into the skin so easily (in other words, no white streaks!).
Best for: Head-to-toe coverage in convenient stick form
This is basically just a convenient solid version of the Protect All Over Sunscreen. I always keep one in my car and purse! Plus, it’s said that zinc oxide can separate from the liquid part of lotions, and that sunscreen sticks are a better option for reliable coverage.
Best for: Budget-friendly head-to-toe coverage
A great high-level of protection made with zinc oxide and really simple, natural ingredients. It’s also pretty easy to rub in and waterproof. This company also sells a sports and kids sunscreen, but they all have very similar ingredients (as far as I can tell, the only difference is in the scent).
Best for: A great safer spray option
I will say that I don’t 100% love this option since the zinc oxide is micronized. BUT I know a lot of people out there will want an aerosol or spray option and this is a great safer option. I’ve used it myself and it works very well.
Best for: Face coverage with a slight tint + lots of added goodies to benefit skin
I stumbled upon this awesome product while looking for a natural tinted moisturizer with non-nano zinc oxide — hard to find! And those rave reviews are hard to ignore. If you want a little color coverage, this is a really great everyday SPF option for your face. Plus, it has a ton of skin-loving goodies like hyaluronic acid, astaxanthin, red algae. I’m pretty excited about it!
Best for: Face coverage without any tint
I’m very particular about what I put on my face, and really like this formula! As with Beautycounter’s other sunscreens, it’s made with non-nano zinc oxide yet blends in clear. No chalky white face + safe ingredients = win win.