We’ve been told, time and again, to slather on sunscreen every time we go outside, even on overcast days. What is much less publicized is the dizzying array of chemical ingredients found in most sunscreen brands and their impact on human health. Fortunately you can have sun protection without coating your largest organ in gobs of dubious compounds…
Mineral Sunblock vs. Chemical Sunscreens
In addition to averting sunburns, wearing sunscreen is considered key to preventing skin cancer and stalling the aging effects of sun damage on the skin. That’s a pretty compelling call to action. But as consumer awareness on chemicals found in everyday products grows, so too do concerns over this coconut-fragranced lotion that promises to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV and UVA rays.
Of the two types of sunscreens on the market today, the chemical ones are the most common. Chemical sunscreens are formulated to adhere to and permeate the skin to absorb UV light. They often contain penetration enhancers to assist in the skin’s absorption, and because of this, the chemical ingredients are frequently found in blood, urine, and breast milk.
Though we’ve thoroughly covered the dangers of chemical sunscreens in a previous article, the ingredients in sunscreen to watch out for are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate – all of which have been found to disrupt and / or mimic hormones. Oxybenzone – also called benzophenone-3 – is the most prevalent and the most disturbing: this chemical has been detected in more than 97% of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Mineral sunblock, on the other hand, reflects sunlight away from the skin. Made with the nanoparticles zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, mineral sunblock (also called physical sunscreen) works very differently than chemical sunscreens since it actually blocks and scatters UV light, rather than absorbing it.
Providing strong sun protection, mineral sunblock is the best option for sunscreen to date, since it won’t degrade under sunlight and doesn’t permeate the skin. While there’s no evidence of adverse health effects in conjunction to using mineral sunblock, there has been concern over the inhalation and ingestion of mineral nanoparticles, which can damage the lungs and gastrointestinal tract when consumed in large doses. It is recommended to use creams and lotions and to avoid sprays and powders when using products that contain these minerals.
The 5 Best Natural & Organic Sunscreens
The cure really should not be worse than the disease, and so you won’t find any chemical sunscreens on this list. These mineral sunscreens were selected because of their natural and organic formulations, their effectiveness at sun protection, and their use of minimal (and easily recognizable) ingredients:
With an SPF of 30, Badger utilizes the power of zinc oxide to deflect the sun’s harmful UV and UVA rays. Formulated with a total of eight ingredients, Badger also contains extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and the extracts of rosemary and seabuckthorn berry, all of which are certified organic. It is an earth-friendly sunscreen, too, that is biodegradable and safe for use in and around aquatic ecosystems like coral reefs. While most mineral sunscreens aren’t waterproof, Badger is water-resistant for at least 40 minutes of swimming or sweating before you need to reapply. The Badger line-up also includes plenty of choice by way of body, facial, and children’s sun protection.
Buy It Here: Badger All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30, Unscented
Great for fair-skinned people who are more prone to sunburns, this is Tropical Sands’ most protective formula with an SPF of 50. It goes on thick (and will be visible) so it’s ideal for long days in the sun to prevent severe sunburn. It is made with both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as well as shea butter, green tea extract, coconut oil, eucalyptus oil, sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, vitamin E, xanthan gum, gluconolactone, glycerin, and lecithin. For those looking for a less visible sunscreen, Tropical Sands also carries a thinner version with an SPF of 30.
A non-greasy sunscreen for the face, Beauty By Earth is an everyday moisturizer that also protects against wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. With an SPF of 20, Beauty By Earth is made with zinc oxide, aloe vera juice, coconut oil, vegetable glycerin, sorbitan sesquioleate, sunflower oil, jojoba seed oil, castor seed oil, glyceryl stearate, rosemary leaf extract, vitamin C, Epsom salts, xanthan gum, argan oil, cucumber fruit extract, and ginkgo biloba extract. Beauty By Earth also offer a full body mineral sunscreen with an SPF 25.
Buy It Here: Beauty By Earth Facial Cream with SPF
4. Kiss My Face
A kid-friendly sunblock, Kiss My Face is great for sporty types too. With an SPF of 30 and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, this mineral sunscreen allows for lots of play in the sunshine. Formulated with both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the rest of the ingredients in Kiss My Face are natural and organic: beeswax, sesame oil, and sunflower oil. It’s also fortified with the antioxidants goji berry and pomegranate extracts for an additional layer of defense against the aging effects of the sun.
Lightly tinted in natural flesh tones (available in light, fair, golden light, and medium), Suntegrity Skincare is a facial sunscreen that easily blends into your skin without leaving white spots or streaks. Suntegrity offers a bit more bang for your buck, too, with their 5-in-1 formula that acts as a makeup primer, moisturizer, SPF 30 sunscreen, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory cream that helps soothe skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Highly ranked by the EWG, the ingredients list spans zinc oxide, aloe vera juice, coconut oil, jojoba seed oil, Epsom salts, sunflower seed oil, cucumber fruit extract, red algae, green tea extract, and pomegranate oil.
How to Use Mineral Sunblock
If you have been using chemical sunscreens all your life, you’ll need to adjust your expectations when making the switch to mineral sunblock. With typical sunscreens, you can slather it on and rub it into the skin until it is absorbed. But because mineral sunblock forms a protective barrier on the skin, it won’t completely soak in. When applied incorrectly, these natural sunscreens can leave telltale streaks or a white sheen on the skin.
To avoid these issues, follow these steps:
- Apply it in small amounts – a little goes a long way.
- Like other types of sunscreen, it’s recommended to apply 15 to 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Only apply it to clean, dry skin.
- Rub it into the skin in a small, circular motion to help reduce the whiteness of the lotion. Rub it too much, however, and it will begin to ball up and flake.
- Although many mineral sunscreens are water-resistant, it is always best to reapply after swimming.