You want to keep your skin safe from sun damage, but how do you choose the best sunscreens that meet your needs and provide sun protection without the use of potentially toxic ingredients?
Many conventional sunscreens contain potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals, and even ingredients that may accelerate the growth of skin cancer. Luckily, there are plenty of nontoxic, natural and organic sunscreen formulas to choose from.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the two types of sunscreens available in the U.S. are mineral sunscreens, which use zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide to physically block the sun's rays, and sunscreens that use chemicals for UVA and UVB protection.
While there is some concern over the safety of nanoparticles in mineral sunscreens, the EWG believes that they're safer than chemicals like oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), 4-Methylbenzlidene camphor (4-MCB) and padimate O.
The EWG reviewed 500 sunscreens to test the products' safety, effectiveness and the veracity of their marketing claims. The following 10 brands are among the highest-rated safe mineral sunscreens on the market. See all 39 highly rated brands, as well as recommended SPF lip balms, moisturizers and makeup at the EWG 2010 Sunscreen Guide.
Alba Botanica Mineral Sunscreen Fragrance Free, SPF 30 – Rated high for UVB and UVA sun protection, Alba Botanica's Mineral Sunscreen in both Fragrance Free and Kids formulas contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to protect against sun damage as well as aloe vera, chamomile and calendula to soothe and repair the skin. Both versions are water-resistant and fast-absorbing.
All Terrain Performance Sunscreen, SPF 30 – The 'Performance' series of sunscreens by All Terrain, including KidSport, AquaSport and TerraSport are all recommended for nontoxic sun protection that is also highly effective. KidSport won't sting the eyes, AquaSport is water-resistant and TerraSport is sweat-resistant. All three formulations are available in both lotion and spray-on applications for convenience and versatility.
Badger SPF 30+ - Badger's Unscented and Lightly Scented sunscreens get high marks from the Environmental Working Group. Particularly recommended are the Unscented Sunscreen Face Stick in SPF 30, Unscented Sunscreen for Face and Body in SPF 30 and Lightly Scented Sunscreen for Face and Body in both SPF 15 and SPF 30. EWG rates these sunscreens among the most effective on the market, and the ingredients are pure and simple with skin-soothing olive oil, beeswax, shea butter and vitamin E.
Beyond Coastal Lip and Face Screen, SPF 30 – Sold in a lip balm-sized tin, this beeswax-based sunscreen protects against sunburn with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and moisturizes with aloe vera and coconut oil. This sunscreen is rated 'Good' for UVB protection and 'Moderate' for UVA protection.
BurnOut Kids SPF 30 and EcoSensitive SPF 32 – Relying exclusively on zinc oxide for sun protection, these two formulas by BurnOut get good protection ratings and are considered a low health hazard for their natural, safe ingredients. Both are lightweight and water-resistant, and the 'EcoSensitive' formula (also called Clean and Clear) is also biodegradable and ocean-safe.
California Baby SPF 30+ Sunscreen – California Baby is one of the most highly rated brands, with six formulas recommended by the Environmental Working Group including Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance SPF 30+, Sunblock Stick No Fragrance SPF 30+, Moisturizing Sunscreen No Fragrance SPF 18, Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year-Round SPF 30+, Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30+ with Citronella and Sunblock Stick Everyday/Year-Round SPF 30+. All of these sunscreens use titanium dioxide exclusively as the active ingredient, which is rated safer than zinc oxide.
Heiko SPF 40 Kids – For a slightly higher SPF, try Heiko Kids, the Environmental Working Group's #1 most highly rated sunscreen. This formula uses 25 percent zinc oxide for strong sun protection; the only drawback is that such a high mineral content means a more opaque, visible layer of sunscreen on the skin.
Kabana Skin Care Green Screen Organic Sunscreen – The two formulas recommended from Kabana Skin Care are the Green Screen Organic Fragrance-Free SPF 20 and Green Screen Organic SPF 22 in Skin-Tone Tint. Both offer excellent sun protection in a lower SPF, and the tinted version gets around that whole 'visible layer of sunscreen' issue by adding tinted pigment for a natural look.
Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30 – Made from 22.3 percent zinc oxide, Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen in SPF 30 is water-resistant and neutrally scented with a low skin irritation factor and safe, organic ingredients like chamomile oil, cucumber and green tea.
UVNatural Sunscreen – UVNatural offers Sunscreen, Baby Sunscreen and Sunscreen Sport, all in SPF 30+. All formulas are water-resistant. The baby formula is extra gentle and fragrance-free, the regular unscented sunscreen has a lightweight silky feel and the 'Sport' formula is very water-resistant and sweat-resistant with natural lavendar, patchouli and sandalwood scent.
Have other ideas about the best sunscreens? Leave us a note in the comments below.