The 8 Best Clean Sunscreens
We’re always looking for clean and nontoxic 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 to 10) from the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. While hundreds 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-Resistance: A sunscreen can only claim to be water-resistant if it has undergone a forty- or eighty-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: This is 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 nontoxic (i.e., mineral), make sure that it’s not otherwise loaded with toxic ingredients. Red flags include anything ending in -paraben, pthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, and fragrance. Our picks in the goop shop are free from other toxic ingredients. (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 its 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 hypoallergenic and is really easy to rub in, meaning you can beg enough patience from your toddler.
For FACE and BODY
A hydrating, lightweight zinc oxide formula that works for everyone, from babies and sensitive-skin-sufferers to outdoor-sports enthusiasts. The broad-spectrum water-resistant formula protects against UVA, UVB, and blue light, and it’s infused with antioxidants and aloe vera. It sinks beautifully into skin and smells faintly of tangerine and lemon.
EWG Rating: 1
For KIDS and BODY
Organic coconut oil makes this easier to apply than most nontoxic formulas—only one of the reasons we’re obsessed with this broad-spectrum, hypoallergenic, gluten- and GMO-free, vegan, biodegradable formula. Serious, totally safe sun protection for kids that feels amazing going on—a total breakthrough.
This glowy, translucent, instantly perfecting SPF 20 has to be the ultimate no-makeup makeup of all time. It’s less about masking flaws, and more about looking and feeling like you—but better. The delicate, deeply hydrating formula smoothes in like a dream; zinc oxide soothes all day; black currant, peony-root extract, and vitamin C enhance brightness, and powerful moisturizers leave you with smoother-looking skin.
This mineral SPF blocks UVA and UVB rays, and it’s perfect for hikes or days at the beach. Nourishing and soothing green tea extract and cucumber and pomegranate-seed oils soothe and hydrate skin. The light scent is so summery, and the lotion sinks in like a dream.
EWG Rating: 1
Water-resistant for up to eighty minutes, this butter is brilliant for beach, exercise, and any other sort of serious sun exposure. The six ingredients that make up the formula are certified-organic (including calendula from the brand’s farm) and provide serious UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection in even the most extreme environments. Coral-reef-safe, this is extra-strength, all-weather protection that’s beautifully gentle on any skin type.