The post reviews the safest sunscreens for your health, and sunscreens that also work well. These sunscreens are also reef safe and safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Here you will learn that mineral sunscreens are the safest ones to use, and the most effective.
Wearing sunscreen when you are spending time outside is important. Too much sun exposure can damage the skin and cause sun burns, blisters, dark spots, wrinkles, premature aging of the skin, and can increase your risk of skin cancer. This is where sunscreens come in. Sunscreen can help protect your skin from the damaging effects of too much sun exposure, while still allowing you to enjoy time outside.
But not all sunscreens are created equal when it comes to our health and the environment. When it comes to active sunscreen ingredients – the ones that protect you from the sun’s UV rays – there are two different types of ingredients: mineral and chemical filters. Mineral and chemical filters use different mechanisms for protecting your skin from the sun. Classically, the most common sunscreens on the market have been made with chemical filters. But mineral sunscreens are becoming more and more popular as people are starting to realize the many health concerns and environmental concerns that the chemical sunscreen ingredients have.
In this post I will take you through the differences between chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens and help teach you which type of sunscreen is better. And which sunscreens are the safest to use for your health and the environment. You'll learn the healthiest sunscreens to buy and here you'll find the best non toxic sunscreens.
Note that this guide to sunscreens was originally published in 2016. It has been updated in March 2022.
The Safest Sunscreens
The Differences Between Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens
When it comes to sunblock or sun protection, you have a few options: chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreens, and physical blocks or barriers such as clothing and hats. Initially, sun "screens" only protected against UVA radiation. But they are now required to offer both UVA and UVB protection. This is where the term "broad-spectrum" originated.
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sunscreen's ingredients into your skin and then absorbing UV rays or UV radiation through the ingredients' chemical bonds. As these chemicals absorb the suns UV rays, the components of the sunscreen break down and then release heat from the body.
In contrast, mineral sunscreens work by providing a physical barrier to protect your skin from the sun. They protect the skin from the sun by sitting on the skin and blocking the sun’s rays.
Mineral sunscreen ingredients, including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide offer superior sun protection compared to chemical sunscreen ingredients. Because of this, in order to increase their effectiveness, you will see chemical sunscreen brands combining multiple chemical sunscreen ingredients in a single product to help increase their ability to protect you from the sun.
Mineral sunscreens not only work really well, but they are also safe and non toxic for our health.
They are also safe for the environment and the coral reefs. In contrast, many of the chemical sunscreen ingredients have significant health concerns. And can also be bad for the environment and the coral reefs.
When it comes to the chemical sunscreen ingredients, they have many known health risks including:
- Some of them are known endocrine disruptors or hormone disruptors (in particular oxybenzone).
- Can increase your bleeding risk (trolamine salicylate).
- Can cause allergic and photoallergic skin reactions (PABA).
- Oxybenzone is readily absorbed through the skin and ends up in breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and blood plasma.
There is also a significant lack of safety data in humans when it comes to the chemical sunscreen ingredients. Because of this, the most recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations are that ONLY zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be recommended as generally safe and effective (GRASE) when it comes to sunscreens.
In fact, the FDA says that ALL chemical sunscreen ingredients CANNOT be recommended as generally safe and effective.
They state that two chemical sunscreen ingredients, trolamine salicylate and aminobenzoic acid (PABA) should not be used as the risks associated with these ingredients in sunscreen products outweigh their benefits. When it comes to the other twelve chemical sunscreen ingredients (cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, and avobenzone) they say there is a lack of safety data to recommend their use.
The safest types of sunscreen you can find are mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which act as a physical barrier protecting the skin. However, not all mineral sunscreen products are created equally. I tried many mineral sunscreens that just didn't work that well. It took me a long to find brands that are not only safe and non toxic, but also work well. I hope that all my trial and error will save you money and grief. Below I've put together a list of the safest sunscreens that also work really well.
The Safest Sunscreens (That Actually Work)
These are the safest mineral sunscreens I have tried that also work really well.
The Beautycounter sunscreens are BY FAR my favorite mineral sunscreen products. They not only work really well, but they go on nice and clear compared to many other mineral sunscreens. Besides formulating with safe ingredients, Beautycounter also checks every batch of their products for contaminants so that harmful ingredients like benzene would never end up in their sunscreen. (If you missed this, be sure you read about all the recent sunscreen recalls from 2021.) Beautycounter makes a few different sunscreens depending on your preferences:
This is my personal favourite body sunscreen. This SPF 30 lotion blocks both UVA and UVB light and is formulated with California Poppy to block blue light. It offers water resistance for up to 40 minutes. It’s also safe for children 6 months and older. It goes on nice and clear, leaving no white cast, and blends really easily.
My friends with kids love this product! It’s easy for them to use. And is small enough to keep in a purse or diaper bag. Like the sunscreen lotion, this sunscreen also blocks UVA and UVB rays as well as blue light offering broad spectrum sun protection. It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes. And is also safe for children 6 months and older.
This sunscreen spray is formulated without aerosol chemicals and uses air pressure technology to propel the liquid out of the container. Like the other sunscreen formulas it blocks UVA, UVB and blue light and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
This is the best face sunscreen! It goes on nice and clear without any white cast. Also has moisturizing ingredients to keep your skin hydrated. It protects from UVA, UVB, and HEV blue light rays. So it offers broad spectrum sun protection. It even contains antioxidants such as vitamin E to help protect the skin from pollution. Plus chicory root extract and squalene to help lock in moisture and keep the skin hydrated.
This is one of my all-time favourite skincare products. It gives your skin the nicest dewy glow. I use it every single day, even in the winter. It is an SPF 20, blocking UVA and UVB rays. The formula also features a blend of black currant seed oil, peony root extract, and vitamin C, to help brighten the skin and even skin tone. The Dew Skin has also been clinically proven to increase skin firmness and elasticity.
If you are interested in Beautycounter sunscreen they have been kind enough to give me a 20% off code for all of you. Simply shop through this link and use the code CLEANFORALL20 to get 20% off your order!
Badger is another great, top rated, non toxic brand that makes a few different sunscreen products. Their products are safe and effective and they rank a 1 on the environmental working group (EWG) skin deep guide. Just be aware that they are pretty thick. And I find they do leave more of a white cast on your skin.
- Badger SPF 35 Face Stick
- Badger SPF 30 Active Mineral Sunscreen
- Badger SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen
- Badger SPF 35 Zinc Sport Sunscreen
Babo Botanicals Sunscreen
Babo Botanicals makes plant based skincare products and they make great mineral sunscreens that protect from UVA and UVB rays. They make sunscreens for adults and babies, and for bodies and faces. Their products are great for sensitive skin and their sunscreens are not only safe, but they work really well too!
- Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Stick
- Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
- Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
- Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
C'est Moi Sunscreen
C'est Moi makes clean skincare and cosmetic products and their sunscreen is no exception. Their mineral sunscreen is broad spectrum. And their sunscreen stick is extremely highly rated. Plus, look how pretty their packaging is!
- C'est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
- C'est Moi Sunshine Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50
- C'est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
The Pipette mineral sunscreen is a baby friendly formula that is lightweight, long-lasting and gentle. It offers broad spectrum sun protection and is made with moisturizing, non comedogenic ingredients. So it's great for the whole family.
Earth Mama Sunscreen
Earth Mama is another great non toxic brand. They make a few different sunscreen products depending on your needs. They make both body and face sunscreens. And products for both adults and babies.
- Earth Mama Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40
- Earth Mama Lady Face Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 40
- Earth Mama Lady Face Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 25
Well there you have it. My favourite safe sunscreens! If you have any other safe sunscreen brands that you like please let me know and I would be happy to add the to the post.
Other health information you will be interested in:
- Benzene in Sunscreen
- How to choose a safe sunscreen
- Is mineral or chemical sunscreen better?
- Is there mercury in your mascara?
- How to choose non-toxic laundry detergent
- How to choose non-toxic cookware
- FDA Proposed Rules for Sunscreens 2019
- The Trouble With Sunscreen Chemicals
- The Dangers of Vitamin A
- Reactive Oxygen Species Produced from Titanium Dioxide Sunscreen
- Update About the Effects of the Sunscreen Ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate on Humans and the Environment
- Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone‐3
- Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV-filters.
- Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active IngredientsA Randomized Clinical Trial