Sunny days are ahead and we’re all gearing up for high temps. As much as we’re welcoming summer, we also want to avoid overexposure to the sun which can lead to increased chances of wrinkles, premature aging, and skin cancer. But not all sunscreens were created equal, so we’ve been on a quest to find the best clean sunscreen.
When we’re in doubt, we turn to Michelle Wong, chemistry PhD and science educator and founder Lab Muffin. She wrote a really informed article about the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens. Turns out, there are a lot of myths surrounding the topic of chemical and physical sunscreen—this article goes in-depth on the topic too.
Some recent studies found some ingredients in chemical sunscreens to be hormonal disruptors but as Wong goes onto explain, you can’t make any blanket statements. She writes: “Out of the sunscreens, the one with the strongest hormonal effect is oxybenzone, according to in vitro studies on cells and animal studies (there haven’t been any human studies that have found a hormonal effect at the time of writing). One dermatology paper calculated that in humans, you’d need to use oxybenzone sunscreen continuously for 277 years to get the equivalent amount to cause a noticeable hormonal effect, so it’s considered safe.”
And she also notes: “Other sunscreens that have had hormonal effects in studies are enzacamene, padimate O, octinoxate, and homosalate, although their effects are several orders of magnitude lower than oxybenzone, so the amounts you’d need would be even bigger.”
All in all, new studies are coming out all the time, the key is to do your research and be an informed consumer when it comes to purchasing your sunscreen. The main takeaway though is that the sun is the biggest carcinogen of them all, so wearing sunscreen is more important than not. And when you learn that about 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the US (occurring in about 3.3 million Americans, as some people have more than one), it becomes pretty clear.
Please be smart about your sun exposure. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a prolonged period of time, wear a hat, sunglasses, UPF clothing, and don’t forget to apply and reapply throughout the day.
If you’d prefer to avoid those ingredients either way, then keep reading for some of our clean sunscreen favorites that score a three or lower on EWG (which rates ingredient toxicity on a scale of 1-10) and come in a variety of price points. While the ones on our list are more than a $6 tube of Banana Boat, the investment in your long-term health is worth it. Also, they won’t leave you with that ghostly zinc oxide glow—promise!
Read on for the best clean sunscreens to get your through the summer—and beyond!
BEST CLEAN SUNSCREEN FOR THE FACE
Love everything Laguna Herbals! Perfect for on-the-go application, this little stick goes on clear and is great for the face, ears, and lips. It’s healing, protective, and moisturizing for your skin and stays where you put it, which means it won’t run into your eyes.
This transparent and silky formula is boosted by Micah to not just block against UV rays, but also clinically proven to reduce the negative effects of shorter high energy blue wavelengths (aka protects against all that screen time you clock in). The serum-y feel makes it fun to apply and is my new favorite step in my morning skincare routine.
One of my favorites in my makeup bag, this facial sunscreen is glowy with just the sheerest bit of coverage. Perfect for a no-makeup makeup look and some major hydration.
This one is no exception and your pennies will go to good use. The Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream with SPF 30 is a dual-action day cream, which acts as a sunscreen, moisturizer and provides light coverage. It’s luxurious, lightweight, and finishes matte sans white cast acting as the perfect primer for your daytime look. Great for sensitive skin, it offers soothing ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and a host of fatty acids and phytonutrients.
BEST CLEAN SUNSCREEN FOR BODY
This sunscreen is a dream for a few reasons: it’s gentle on sensitive skin, lightweight, and goes on super sheer. It’s technically for the face but works for the whole body. I love using it for my babe!
This stuff is so fascinating to me. This balm was created specifically to provide a product that does not contain highly oxidative polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s technically not a sunscreen, but protects the skin in case of overexposure to the sun, nourishing the skin deeply with oils like jojoba, shea butter, and helichrysum essential oil.
If you just need a touch of SPF, Meow Meow Tweets sunscreen won’t clog pores and has the nicest subtle rose geranium scent. It goes on a bit thicker, so I love using it on my shoulders and arms that tend to get a bit more sun.
Suntegrity is my go-to. The smell is summery and fresh, and it sinks in easily without leaving a white film. The lightweight formula is super clean and boosted with soothing green tea, cucumber, and pomegranate seed oils and I’ve never burned once when using this one!
BEST FOR ACTIVE
Juice Beauty’s Sport sunscreen is water-resistant, up to 80 minutes, has a light fresh scent and the price isn’t too bad either! Most sport sunscreens are chemical-based, so it definitely can be tricky to find a non-chemical one that resists sweat and water without seeping into your eyes at the first sign of perspiration. It blends rich organic jojoba and soothing aloe with antioxidants and vitamins for the ultimate daily protection.
One of my family’s favorites, this sunscreen is also on the more affordable side, is non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, and 98% organic, AND has amazing staying power. Pro tip: you can often find Badger Sunscreen products at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls for a heavily discounted price.
This post was originally published on June 9, 2020, and has since been updated.