Looking for the best sunscreens? We cover the top sunblocks and tell you which ones to avoid.
Summer is here, and we are feeling it here in Vegas! I’ve only recently been putting on sunscreen religiously ever since my doctor spotted an irregular mole on my arm. I should have been more careful especially since we’re out in the sun quite a bit. Fingers crossed that it won’t be a big deal, but I’m pretty scared to go in and get a skin biopsy!
This week as we were doing some of our own research, we wanted to share about the best and worst sunscreens out there. Generally, we pay more attention to cost and efficacy over whether it’s organic or non-toxic. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I guess we won’t know until it’s too late.
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Last Updated: January 21, 2023
5 Guidelines to Help You Pick SunScreens
I do think it’s good to stay informed of what exactly you are putting on your body regardless of your opinion on going organic.
- Don’t trust sky-high SPF claims. EWG (Environmental Working Group) recommends that you avoid anything higher than SPF 50 and that you should reapply sunscreen often.
- Avoid oxybenzone. It messes with your hormones and could trigger allergic reactions.
- Don’t try killing two birds with one stone (or lotion). Avoid combined sunscreen and bug repellant products. You don’t need to reapply bug repellant as often so this helps you avoid unsafe levels of chemicals.
- Use creams, not sprays, powders, or wipes. Sprays and powders pose an inhalation risk, while wipes don’t necessarily transfer to your skin. Also, it’s hard to tell if you have full coverage.
- Your makeup is NOT an effective sunscreen. Although more products are adding sunscreen ingredients, they are not effective. This is also true with moisturizers and body lotions.
10 Safe / Least Toxic Sunscreen Picks (From EWG Sunscreen Guide)
- All Terrain AquaSport Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30 (discontinued)
- Badger Chamomile & Calendula Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30 (updated version)
- Badger Unscented Sport Sunscreen Cream, SPF 35 (updated version)
- Babo Botanicals Fragrance-Free Clear Zinc Sunscreen, SPF 30
- COOLA Unscented Suncare Sport Moisturizer Classic Sunscreen, SPF 45 (updated version)
- Climb On! Mineral Sunblock, SPF 30 (discontinued)
- Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
- The Honest Company Sunscreen, SPF 30 (updated version)
- Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Sunscreen for Body, SPF 30
- Yes to Carrots Fragrance-Free Nourishing Daily Moisturizer, SPF 15 (updated version)
Some of the Most Toxic Sunscreens
- Well at Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30, 50, and 90
- up & up Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 and 50
- Trader Joe’s Nourish Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50+
- Rite Aid Renewal Sport Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30 and 50
- Rite Aid Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55, 70, 85
- L’Oreal Invisible Protect Dry Oil Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50+
- Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Clear Mist Spray Sunscreen, SPF 15 and 30
- Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
- CVS Age Renewal Firming & Hydrating Moisturizer, SPF 30
I’m sure you recognize most of these brands. Two-thirds of sunscreens analyzed by EWG researches didn’t work well or contained potentially hazardous ingredients.
All of this is based on the EWG Sunscreen Guide where you can find a well-sourced comprehensive list of all the latest sunscreens tested (7-9s are toxic and the lower the number rating the better). Here’s EWG’s entire list of safe beach and sport sunscreen and sunscreen with moisturizer.
I’m a little sad because I used to be a fan of the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen and have even recommended it in previous blog posts (will be changing that once we find a new favorite!). I just liked the fact that didn’t make you feel as gross as many other sunscreens. We will probably still use up what we have left, but now that we’re more aware, we will consider this for our future purchases. We will let you know what we find as a good replacement.
Best Natural Sunscreens
We tested and reviewed the most popular safe sunscreens according to EWG to see how they fared for us. There are a ton of guides out there already telling you about the ingredients and why each one is good for you, so we focused on our own pros and cons for each sunscreen.
1. Honest COmpany Honest Sunscreen lotion, SPF 30 (updated version) →
Pros: Unscented and absorbs well.
Cons: Feels more oily and leaves you shinier than the others. It’s fine on your body, but I would never put it on my face.
2. Badger Sport Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Cream, SPF 35 (updated version) →
Pros: Feels dry and is very water-resistant. We like the thick, creamy consistency.
Cons: Leaves you looking the most pasty out of all the sunscreens we tried. Zinc sunscreens are great, because they’re natural, but they never absorb into the skin and leave a visible layer.
3. Badger Damascus Rose Anti-Aging Face Sunscreen, SPF 20 (Updated Version) →
Pros: This one has a nice, light scent. It absorbs well, feels dry, and I don’t notice it on.
Cons: I prefer my sunscreens less watery and slightly thicker in consistency.
4. Climb On! Mineral Sunblock, SPF 30 (discontinued)
Pros: They have nice packaging and all their ingredients are coral reef safe.
Cons: This one feels grainy like it has exfoliants inside. It’s unscented, but still has that sunblock smell. It feels a bit oily and it does lighten your skin, so it might not be the best if you’re tan.
5. Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen for Body, SPF 30 (Jacob’s Top Pick) →
Pros: This sunscreen has a thicker consistency with a citrus smell. It rubs on dry and absorbs well.
Con: Esther doesn’t like the scent as much.
6. Juice Beauty Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30 (Esther’s Top Pick) →
Pros: Has a light herbal / citrusy aroma, this sunscreen rubs in well and doesn’t feel oily or greasy.
Con: It’s not as waterproof as the others.
7. Raw Elements Water Resistant Sunscreen, SPF 30 – Most Waterproof →
Pros: Has a creamier consistency that we like. It is the most effective at being waterproof and was hard to wash off.
Cons: Leaves you a little pasty. There’s a strong aroma that is kind of mix between tea and weed (it has hemp oil), but it goes away after a while. It does not leave you feeling dry.
8. All Terrain AquaSport Water Resistant Sunscreen, SPF 30 (Discontinued)
Pro: It’s unscented and is very waterproof.
Con: We had issues with the consistency of this one. The ingredients seemed to separate in the bottle, and it was hard to mix together again. It was a pasty consistency and feels like glue from a gluestick when applied.
9. All Terrain AquaSport Face Stick, SPF 28 (Discontinued)
Pros: It’s waterproof and very effective.
Cons: Similar to the sunscreen, this one feels sticky and has issues with its consistency.
10. Babo Sport Stick for Face, Lips, Nose, Ears, SPF 30 (Updated Version) →
Pros: This smells like fruity lip balm, applies on in a thin layer, and doesn’t leave you feeling oily.
Cons: The sticks feel stickier and more uncomfortable than the lotions.
11. Babo Sport Stick for Face, Lips, Nose, Ears, Sensitive Skin, SPF 30 (Updated Version) →
Pros: This doesn’t leave you pasty and applies thinly. Good for ears, face, and other sensitive areas.
Cons: Smells like cheap lipstick.
12. Raw Elements Eco Tint SPF 30 →
Pros: This one absorbs well and feels dry.
Cons: Smells a little like weed, and the tint has too much of a reddish tone that doesn’t work with our Asian skin tones.
Tips for Choosing Sunscreens
- When it comes down to it, some protection is better than no protection so use what you have.
- Search EWG for your sunscreen if you’re curious on how it performs.
- Clothes are still great for protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays.
- Plan activities in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid high sun.
- If you can find shade, that’s always a good way to protect your skin.
- Sunglasses are important to protect your eyes too!
- Check UV indexes when you’re planning your outdoor activities.
- More lists: best recreational sunscreens, best baby and kids sunscreens, best daily use SPF, best lip balms with SPF
What sunscreen are you currently using? Which other ones do we need to check out?
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Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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