Commercial sunscreens are filled with parabens, other chemicals, and artificial fragrance. DIY sunscreens can be hard to make and risky, which is a risk I can’t take with two very fair little ones.
Natural sunscreens can have some debated ingredients like minerals, zinc oxide, and essential oils. However, I know I needed to find something that would work for my babies.
Below you’ll find some of the research I’ve done and which sunscreens I recommend. While this post does contain affiliate links, all opinions are my own.
Why choose a natural sunscreen?
Look at the back of any commercial sunscreen and you’ll find harmful ingredients like: avobenzone, oxybenzone, paraben, phthalate, paba and 1,4 dioxane as well as UV chemical absorbers.
While parabens and chemicals are dangerous, even more dangerous are chemicals that allow the skin to absorb UVA/UVB rays.
Below is a list of some of the common UV chemical absorbers. These chemicals allow UVA and/or UVB rays into the body where they are linked to issues like infertility and allergies. (For more information see DermNet New Zealand)
Common UV Chemical Absorbers:
- Benzophenones: Dioxybenzone, Oxybenzone, Solisonbenzone
- Cinnamates: Octocrylene, Octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), Ethoxyethyl p-methoxycinnamate (cinoxate)
- Salicylates: Homomenthyl salicylate (homosalate), Ethylhexyl salicylate (octyl salicylate/octisalate), Inorganic metal oxides, Titanium dioxide, Zinc dioxide
- Others: Avobenzone (butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane), Ecamsule (terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid, Ensulizole (phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid), Bemotrizinol (Tinosorb S), Bisoctrizole (Tinosorb M)
Natural sunscreens favor ingredients that block or reflect UVA/UVB rays. They also favor natural oils instead of petroleum or petroleum by-products. Petroleum actually can trap heat on skin, making you feel warmer.
What’s the fuss about Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide?
As I was researching natural sunscreens, I noticed a lot of people were critical of Zinc Oxide. The Environmental Working Group has a great article explaining the pros/cons of both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (see it here). Basically the debate surrounds substances called “nano-particles” which can possibly be absorbed into the skin and possibly cause harm to the body (both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are considered to be nanoparticles). Badger Skincare has a great explanation of nano-particles and non-nanoparticles as they relate to titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (see it here). Many companies claim to have non-nano zinc oxide, but there are still chances that those sunscreens may contain nano-particles.
Basically, there needs to be more research into these chemicals and how they effect our bodies. Zinc Oxide appears to to be the best and safest choice for sun protection for a few reasons:
- Zinc Oxide doesn’t break down in the sun
- Zinc Oxide sunscreens don’t have a chemical reaction on the skin like chemical sunscreens do
- Zinc Oxide and titanium dioxide are more sensitive on skin
- Zinc Oxide and titanium dioxide are immediately effective against the sun’s rays (no need to wait 20 minutes)
- Zinc Oxide and titanium dioxide are safe for the planet (and for coral reefs!)
Are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide chemicals? Yes. Truly, almost all organic and inorganic substances are chemicals or are made up of them. However, zinc oxide works differently than chemicals on the skin. Basically zinc oxide sits on top of the skin – literally blocking UV rays from doing harm. Other chemical based skin creams cause a chemical reaction on skin to help rays be “safely” absorbed by skin (which can end up doing more damage).
Zinc oxide sunscreens are much safer than the alternative chemicals. If you want to avoid chemicals altogether, you’ll have to stay out of the sun. There are lots of great ways to practice sun protection (I’ll be sharing more about them in my next post!)
With that being said, here are some of the best sunscreens on the market at the time of this post. If you have a favorite natural sunscreen, please share it with us in the comments below!
Recommended Natural Sunscreens
- EWG Rating; 1
- Ingredients list: Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 6.4%, Zinc Oxide 6.0% Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Vera, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Coconut Oil), Glycerin, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Oil, Iron Oxide, Lavendula Augustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Stearic Acid, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Xanthan Gum Certified Organic
- Pros: Non-nano. Water-resistant up to 40 minutes. No synthetic fragrance. Certified organic. Reef safe.
- Cons: Some users state that this is hard to rub in (though they do make a facial sunscreen that is easier to rub in) and that it leaves a lot of white residue on top of skin (though I think this might be zinc oxide which would be protecting skin!). This also includes titanium dioxide as an active ingredient, which is debatable.
- EWG Rating: 1
- Ingredients list: Active ingredient: Non-nano uncoated zinc oxide 18.75%) ) Other ingredients: Olea europaea (extra virgin olive) oil, *cera alba (beeswax), *simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) oil, *theobroma cacao (cocoa) butter, *butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, essential oil of *anthemis nobilis (roman chamomille), tocopherol (natural vitamin E), Co2 extracts of *calendula officianlis (calendula) and *hippophae rhamnoides (seabuckthom). *= Certified Organic.
- Pros: Non-nano. Water-resistant up to 40 minutes. No titanium dioxide. No unnatural preservatives. Lots of positive Amazon reviews.
- Cons: Some reviews state that it needs to be re-applied more than every 40 minutes. Also, this does have essential oils and extracts that aren’t necessary to the sunscreen properties (they just add a nice calming scent). Badger also sells a natural, unscented sunscreen which you can find here.
- EWG Rating: 1
- Ingredients list: Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide 20% (non-nano) (Sunscreen). Inactive Ingredients: Purified water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice extract capric/caprylic triglycerides, sorbitan stearate (coconut based) , methylyabietate (pine wood resin), vegetable glycerin, cetyl dimethicone, hydrogenated castor oil, magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), sunflower oil, jojoba oil, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), olive oil raspberry seed oil, cranberry seed oil, hyaluronic acid (made from vegetable), glucose oxidase & lactoperoxidase, papaya
- Pros: Non-nano. Water resistant up to 80 minutes. SPF 50!, spreads well
- Cons: Not organic, contains some unnatural preservatives, includes extra ingredients like papaya to mask scent of zinc oxide
- EWG Rating: 1
- Ingredients list: Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 6%, Zinc Oxide 6% Other Ingredients: Cera Alba (Beeswax)*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Lycium Barbarum (Goji Berry) Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame Oil)*
- Pros: Water resistant up to 80 minutes. No extra preservatives, few ingredients.
- Cons: Some state that it is difficult to spread and has an unpleasant aroma. Contains titanium dioxide which is debatable.
- EWG Rating: 2
- Ingredients list: Active Ingredients: Octisalate – (5.0%), Titanium Dioxide – (3.0%), Zinc Oxide – (6.0%) Inactive ingredients: Water, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Neopentyl Glycol Diethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Stearyl/Octyldodecyl Citrate Crosspolymer, Polyglyceryl-2 Stearate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Hydrogenated Dimer Dilinoleyl/Dimethylcarbonate Copolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Glycerin*, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil*, Rubus Idaeus (Red Raspberry) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Jojoba Esters, Stearyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Behenyl Alcohol, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Silica, Alumina, Ethylhexylglycerin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol *certified organic ingredient
- Pros: SPF 50, water resistant up to 80 minutes, Neonourish seed oil blend, Easily rubs into skin (especially on children), great reviews
- Cons: Not a solely mineral based sunscreen as it contains octisalate (a common UV chemical absorber – see above). It also contains the preservative phenoxyethanol. Includes ditanium dioxide which is debatable
While each sunscreen listed would be a better choice than a non-mineral based sunscreen, I think I’ll go with one of the titanium dioxide free choices. I’m most leaning toward the Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream. What about you? Do you have a favorite sunscreen that I haven’t talked about? Have any experiences with the brands mentioned above? Let me know in the comments!