With spring in the air—at least that’s what they keep telling us!—the hunt for the perfect sunscreen commences. Of course, sunscreens can be used year round.
The discussion about safe sun runs the gamut all over the internet. At the end of this post, I share some helpful links so that you can decide what’s best for you. Only you know how comfortable you feel with the information.
Personally, I hold that the sun isn’t just beneficial—it’s vital to our health and well-being. I try to steer clear of fear-mongering and get a broader perspective. The sun is our friend as long as we learn how to enjoy it wisely. So I protect my skin with a natural sunscreen, stay out of direct sunlight especially during the heat of the day (generally between 10 am to 4 pm), wear baseball caps and protective clothing, and otherwise relish being outdoors.
My mom looks half her age, at least, because she never gets a tan and always wore a hat outdoors. No age spots on her face either! The long term effects of indirect exposure are worth it.
How I chose my top ten sunscreens
For one, they had to go on easily and leave minimal to no white cast (I’ll tell you the ones to watch out for when applying.)
For this post, I went with untinted options. So if I’m leaving out some goodies like Marie Veronique Organics* or Suntegrity’s 5-in-1 tinted sunscreen, that’s why.
Also, my focus is on sunscreens for the face, though some can be used all over.
Ingredients are clean and balanced, often including important ones with anti-aging benefits and dark spot prevention.
They protect the skin with varying degrees of sun coverage without smothering the skin.
They’re enjoyable to use. I find myself reaching for these repeatedly.
Many of these earn accolades from estheticians and beauty bloggers alike.
Top 10 Sunscreen Picks
Cindy of the blog Hello Dollface introduced me to this product, and I’m glad she did. It’s a keeper and one that I’ll be confidently reaching for a lot more in the summer for face and body protection. It’s the one that I’d be taking with me to the beach or pool to apply on everyone. It offers broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and contains a few lovely oils and butters to give it slip and hydrate the skin. I highly recommend that you order through Cindy because she knows the full list of ingredients (hard to find on the website—a real pet peeve of mine as far as ingredient transparency!). She will fully disclose which products she recommends and which ones she doesn’t. Luckily, this one made the cut!
The cream is rather thick and comes out a bit clumpy (I’m assuming due to the body butters in it), but it immediately melts on contact with the skin. Go lightly on the face as it starts out with a slight white cast that eventually fades. I just put some on my arm about 10 minutes ago and I can’t even tell that it’s there now—not even a waxy sheen or a hint of oil—just a nice matte finish.
Active ingredients: zinc oxide (21%, non-nanoparticle). Inactive: beeswax (organic), theobroma cacao seed butter (organic cocoa butter), butyrospermum parkii (organic shea butter), olea europaea oil (organic olive oil), simmondsia chinensis (organic jojoba oil)
You’re going to love this sunscreen! It goes on like a lotion and doesn’t feel heavy on the skin. It’s a perfect layer before applying makeup. I am happy to report no breakouts at all after using this gentle formula. Neem is a heavy-hitter with antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-viral properties. The combination with other Ayurvedic herbs makes this a therapeutic blend that also tones, strengthens, and fights inflammation. The Pratima website offers a glossary of herbs for your reference which is extremely helpful.
The delicate rose fragrance and instant absorption into the skin make this a breakthrough daily product.
The website offers a separate Neem Vetiver sunscreen for the body that I have not tried…yet.
Ingredients: Ionized water, non-nano micronized zinc oxide 18.6%, organic extracts of neem, brahmi, shatavari, licorice, vitamin E, lecithin, organic essential oil of rose, xantham gum.
This is probably one of my favorite day creams hands down. This lightweight moisturizer immediately cools the skin on contact thanks to its first ingredient— healing aloe vera gel. It absorbs instantly and gives a nice amount of sun protection without any questionable ingredients. This isn’t a sunscreen, per se, so this would be my pick for daily wear under makeup—not a trip to the beach. But who knows? It feels so good on the skin that it might find its way into my tote.
Ingredients: Aloe Vera Gel, Shea Butter, Rosehip Oil, Pink Grapefruit, Himalayan Cedarwood and Neroli Essential Oils with Natural SPF 20+ from Shea
Get ready to experience Living Libations, developed by Ron Obadia and Nadine Artemis. These two are not your typical skin gurus but rather teachers of a whole life philosophy that gets translated into their product creations. As far as sun goes, they encourage playing in it and using practical protection, like organic cotton clothing and hats. What’s unique about ELS with zinc is the uncoated zinc oxide.
As Nadine explains on the website:
“Our Sun-shade product is made without synthetic ingredients like oxybenzne, or Retinyl Palmitate. We use an uncoated Zinc oxide as this is more pure than titanium dioxide and coated zinc oxide is made with Triethoxycaprylylsilane, a synthetic silicone coating. The uncoated zinc has also proven to be anti-bacterial and antimicrobial and can reduce redness, rosacea, age spots and melasma. Made with our ultra nourishing ingredients to carry the zinc oxide which provides blocking of UVA, UVB and UVC radiation. Zinc oxide reflects the sun’s rays rather than absorb them they way most commercial sunscreens do.”
The ingredients read like a supplement for the skin—chock full of decadent oils like sea buckthorn berry, tamanu, jojoba, carrot, and red raspberry seed, known for their ability to shield skin from the elements, plus other powerhouse antioxidants to nourish and support the skin like rose otto, frankincense, turmeric, and more. That’s probably why this product has a liquid, oily consistency that I shake before use. The herbal scent is quite prominent too, but if you enjoy helichrysum, lavender, chamomile and other powerful essential oils, you’ll enjoy the fragrance.
Go lightly on the face as it does have a slight white hue on application. It actually evens out my skin tone so I don’t mind it and, frankly, find it to be a great primer before makeup.
Meanwhile, check out the Living Libations site for loads of interesting info that’s a refreshing departure from the mainstream.
For all day Sun play: Made with 20% uncoated zinc oxide and organic ingredients of: nourishing oils of the desert jojoba plant, virgin coconut crème, red raspberry seed, sea buckthorn berry, tamanu and regenerating essences of helichrysum, lavender, cape chamomile, ginger, geranium, palmarosa, rose otto, carrot, ginger, frankincense, turmeric, calendula, sandalwood, and thyme linalool to restore and adore sun-soaking and sun soaked skin. Fear not the sun, for it graces all things green!
Annmarie Gianni Sun Love (no SPF number, here’s why), $40
This brand spanking new product launched recently and is receiving loads of great feedback. I have a small sample-sized jar that’s rapidly diminishing—it’s really that good! Though you can’t tell from the photo, it has a skin-color tint that works seamlessly into the skin and vanishes instantly. No kidding. You can’t tell that you just put it on. This product is simply AMAZING!
If you haven’t discovered Annmarie Gianni’s products, Kris Carr of Crazy, Sexy, Cancer fame endorses the line—and I’m sure she has her pick of the best skincare lines out there!
Ingredients: *Aloe vera juice infused with herbs (*sencha green tea, *life everlasting flowers, *rosemary leaves, *olive leaves, *lavender flowers), zinc oxide (18%), *sunflower oil, gum blend (water, *chondrus crispus, plant sugars, non-GMO xanthan gum), *fractionated coconut oil, herb infused oil (*rice bran oil, *urucum seed), *glycerin, *green tea extract, *avocado oil, vegetable wax, non-GMO citric acid, aspen bark extract, iron oxide, *buriti fruit oil, *seabuckthorn berry oil, non-GMO vitamin E tocopherols, cocoa absolute, *lavender oil, non-GMO xanthan gum, hyaluronic acid. *Organic or wildcrafted
When the lovely ladies at Ayla Beauty raved about this recently reformulated sunscreen, I knew that I had to nab a free sample with my order. I’m super happy that I did. Your sense of smell will immediately engage with this lotion, as you get a whiff of luscious fruit sorbet that smells just as yummy on your skin. That’s about the only trace of this product that you’ll detect because your skin soaks it in—no surface shine, no white cast, no nothin’ but good sun protection. It’s a winner!
It’s fully loaded with ingredients that fight aging and prevent sun spots like vitamin C, licorice, green tea, plus an arsenal of antioxidants. Even sensitive skins tolerate this sunscreen well, according to the Ayla Beauty team.
Active ingredient: Zinc Oxide 17.5%.
Inactive Ingredients: Algae Extract*†, Buddleja Davidii Extract**†, C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside*†, C14-22 Alcohols*†, Caprylhydroxamic Acid*†, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract**†, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride*†, Carbomer†, Cetyl Alcohol*†, Citric Acid*†, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Oil**†, Cyclomethicone†, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate†, Ethylhexylglycerin*†, Glycerin**†, Glyceryl Caprylate*†, Glyceryl Undecylenate*†, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract**†, Hexyldecanol*†, Isostearyl Palmitate*†, L-Arginine*†, Leontopdoium Alpinum (Edelweiss) Extract**†, Methylcellulose*†, Methylpropanediol†, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate†, Panthenol*†, Propanediol*†, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate*†, Sodium Hyaluronate*†, Sodium PCA*†, Steareth-2, Steareth-21, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate*†, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Extract**†, Tocophersolan†, Tocopheryl Acetate*†, Water (Aqua)*†, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract**†.
* NATURAL-DERIVED and/or ECOCERT ** CERTIFIED ORGANIC † ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP (EWG) Low Hazard Rating of “Green 0 – 2”
Cecilia Wong knows skincare. So when she introduced me to this sunscreen after doing considerable research to find the right one, I knew that it had to be good. I bought the Cucumber Matte Finish, and I’m grateful to her for the recommendation. After trying it, I knew that I found THE ONE (ok, with a few side fantasies mentioned here. Let’s get real, People!) First of all, it feels like velvet on the skin. I’m not joking. It goes on smoothly, massages in instantly, and mattifies the skin, leaving a soft, line-blurring finish. Oily skin gals rejoice because this is it! Look no further.
If that’s not enough, it’s infused with all sorts of goodies like: organic Rose Hip Oil, rich in free radical fighting Vitamin C; organic calming Evening Primrose and Flax Seed Oils, delivering abundant Omega-3 and Gamma-Linolenic Acid to improve elasticity and help skin retain moisture; and organic Shea Butter to smooth and hydrate.
Just to let you know, some of the other versions score lower on EWG (Environmental Working Group’s rating of toxic levels in beauty products). Since this one earns a three, it’s ok in my book. You also might wanna check out expert blogger Neiman’s Idealist for her rave review of the COOLA Sport Citrus Mimosa sunscreen. (FYI, she’s not one to throw around praise either!)
Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (Sunscreen) 3.2% Zinc Oxide (Sunscreen) 1.8%
Inactive Ingredients: Aluminum Hydroxide, Butyrospermum Parkii (ORGANIC Shea Butter), Cucumis Sativus (ORGANIC Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Glycerin (ORGANIC), Hydrogen Dimethicone, Isopropyl Myristate, Linum Usitatissimum (ORGANIC Linseed) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (ORGANIC Evening Primrose) Oil, Plankton Extract, Polyamide-5, Polysilicone-11, Propylene Carbonate, Rosa Canina (ORGANIC Rose Hip) Fruit Oil, Silica Silylate, Stearalkonium Hectorite.
Have you used this award-winner yet? And if not, what are you waiting for? An invitation? Well, here it is! Douse yourself in this one and your family too. But don’t overdo it on your face or you’ll scare everyone with your pasty complexion (think ghoulish). Half a pump will do nicely. You can always add from there. It’s meant to replace your primer, moisturizer, and sunscreen—and I’d say it does the job nicely!
Take the sunscreen for body everywhere: trips, beach, pool, backyard. All but the unscented versions smell pretty—kinda like Fruity Pebbles with no artificial stuff. And the company just launched a yummy-smelling self-tanner too. (Haven’t tried it but good reviews are already streaming in!)
Active Ingredient: Zinc-Oxide 20%
Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Capric Caprylic Triglycerides (Coconut Oil Extract), Water (Aqua), Sorbitan Stearate (Plant Derived), Glyceryl Stearate (Plant Derived), Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate (Plant Derived), Hexyl Laurate (Plant Derived), Simmondsia Chinensis (Organic Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cetyl Dimethicone (Mineral Derived), Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt), Helianthus Annuus (Organic Sunflower) Seed Oil, Cucumis Sativus (Organic Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Astaxanthin (Algae Source), Hyaluronic Acid (Plant Derived), Chlorella Emersonii (Red Algae) Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Organic Green Tea) Extract, Punica Granatum (Organic Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Essential Oil, Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Essential Oil, Citrus Reticulata Blanco (Tangerine) Essential Oil, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide*, Ethylhexylglycerin*
I know, I know. It says body moisturizer, but the company says you can use it all over—so I do! When my skin is acting up, which is pretty often, this is my go-to product. The naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acids in the bilberry, maple and cane sugars, as well as citrus oils gently exfoliate the skin and clear me up without clogging pores. The smell intoxicates me! I’m a total citrus gal, so this one blows me away. Mmm, mmm… The addition of orchid oil intrigues me too. This lovely antioxidant derived from the flower fortifies the skin with minerals like zinc, magnesium, and calcium, boosts skin immunity, reduces fine lines, and hydrates and soothes the skin.
I love the entire Nonie AHA! range and don’t know what I’d do without these skin-saving products!
Ingredients: Distilled Water, Coconut Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Zinc Oxide, Citrus Mix of Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Bergamot & Neroli Oils; Titanium Dioxide, Alpha Hydroxy Acids from extracts of Bilberry, Sugar Cane, Maple Cane, Orange & Lemon Oils; Coconut Emulsifier, Orchid Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract & Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.
C’mon! How could I not include a product handcrafted by indie brand Edible Goddess? Love it! The broad spectrum sun protection comes from the absorption characteristics of red raspberry seed oil that inherently has high SPF (usually between 28-50). This product is an oil, not a lotion. Personally, I wouldn’t go out in any direct sunlight without a hat and other light garments. This oil would make the ideal companion to offer pure, organic coverage.
Kukui Nut Oil, a native of Hawaii, contains high levels of the essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linolenic. When combined with the other outstanding oils, the blend absorbs easily while preventing damage to the skin. One drop on the face and neck seems to do it for me, but feel free to use generously on the body.
Ingredients: Organic Red Raspberry Seed Oil, Organic Morocco Argan Seed Oil, Organic Kukui Nut Oil, Organic Golden Jojoba Oil, non-gmo Vitamin E
One more sunscreen brand that begs to be mentioned here is the entire range of Badger sunscreens. This budget-friendly option (about $16 a tube) wins on so many levels that I can’t believe I almost forgot it! It offers broad-spectrum coverage from non-nano zinc (if that’s important to you). Plus it carries several certifications distinguishing this company. The brand really went the distance to create a biodegradable, animal-friendly, soil-friendly, mainly organic product—that’s user-friendly too.
Helpful links for further research
- The FDA’s approach (Short Video)
- The EWG’s position on safe sunscreen (2013)
- Chris Wark of Chris Beat Cancer
- Nadine Artemis of Living Libations
- Marie Veronique Organics: How sun exposure ages your skin
- Green Med Info: 5 Amazing Properties of Sunlight You’ve Never Heard About
- Sally B’s The Sun: How to balance all that you know about it
What do you use as sun protection? Am I missing out on any other good ones? If so, attach links of any posts that you’ve written about others—or even reviews of the ones here!
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