The 8 Best Clean Sunscreens
We’re always looking for clean and non-toxic sunscreens—with the complicating factor that they can’t be impossible to apply. Like most products in the personal care industry, it’s difficult to tell what’s what. In our world, we’re focused exclusively on mineral, rather than chemical, options. The former (using zinc or titanium dioxide) physically block UVA and UVB by sitting on top of the skin, while chemical sunscreens actually absorb the sun’s rays—which is about as terrifying as it sounds. In keeping with our devotion to clean beauty, we’ve filled the goop shop with sunscreens that both meet our standard of safety, and apply well (some mineral sunscreens can be gloppy and leave a white residue behind). As you can see, they all earn low ratings (the lower the better on a scale of 1-10) from the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. While 100s of mineral sunscreens score well on safety from the EWG, we winnowed it down to the eight that feel the most luxurious and also go on the best. Below, some more details on what made the cut and why.
WHY CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS AREN’T GREAT
Chemical sunscreens employ a potent combination of chemicals like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate), Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Avobenzone, many of which are hormone and endocrine disruptors. Hormone and endocrine disruptors are scary because they’re most harmful in small doses, as they mimic the hormones that our bodies create daily and can interfere with everything from our reproductive systems to our metabolism. They’re particularly bad for young ones whose systems are rapidly developing. Oxybenzone is pernicious (it earns an 8 from the EWG).
IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER
Active Ingredients: Mineral sunscreens will list zinc and/or titanium dioxide ONLY. Be wary of the term “mineral-based” which often means zinc and/or titanium dioxide have been mixed with chemical sunscreens. The sunscreens in the goop shop are mineral-only.
Water Resistant: A sunscreen can only claim to be water resistant if it has undergone a 40 or 80 minute test. If it’s not stated clearly on the label, most likely it will wash or sweat off. Not all of the sunscreens in the goop shop are water resistant.
Broad Spectrum: Important, as it means that the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. All of the sunscreens in the goop shop are broad spectrum.
Inactive Ingredients: Even if the active ingredients are non-toxic (i.e. mineral), make sure that it’s not otherwise loaded with toxins. Red flags include anything ending in -paraben, pthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, and fragrance. Our picks in the goop shop are free from other toxins. (For a more comprehensive list of chemicals to look for, check out our stories, The Dirty on Getting Clean, and Clean Beauty.)
For FACE and KIDS.
Babo Botanicals has a lot of hits in their sunscreen line—the Daily Sheer Sunscreen Extra-Sensitive for Face (SPF 40) is lightweight and sheer and really great for those of us with extra-sensitive skin. Meanwhile, Babo’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen (SPF 30) is perfect for kids: It’s gluten-free, vegan, and hypo-allergenic and is really easy to rub in, meaning you can beg enough patience from your toddler.
For FACE and BODY.
Coola’s Matte Tint SPF 30 has the freakiest (and coolest) feel ever: It goes on like foam dust, leaving nary a trace behind. It has a very sheer universal tint and matte finish that hides imperfections and evens skin tone, too, meaning it’s kind of magic in a bottle. We also love Coola’s Sport SPF 30 for the body, which is equally sheer and easy to apply (and water resistant, too).
For FACE or BODY.
Drunk Elephant gets huge points for their packaging (the whole line is pretty awesome, and in the goop shop), and also for going beyond the basic promise of SPF 30: They load their products with antioxidants and anti-aging warhorses.
EWG Rating: Not yet rated.
For KIDS and BODY.
This sunscreen is an incredible accomplishment. 99% of the time, spray sunscreens are bad news bears, as you’re sending nano-particles of toxins into the air which can then be inhaled. (And even the minerals are bad—while Titanium Dioxide is safe for a traditional application, it’s toxic when airborne.) Honest has managed to create a mineral, non-aerosol, non-nano spray with Zinc Oxide that applies quickly and evenly. It’s water resistant up to 80 minutes.
Packed with organic and natural ingredients like aloe vera leaf juice, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, cucumber fruit extract, green tea oil, and pomegranate juice, this nicely priced ($15), SPF 30 lotions for little ones is water resistant for 80 minutes, which means you don’t have to stress if they won’t get out of the pool