7 Natural Sunscreens That Really Work, According to Dermatologists
Sunscreen is a must year-round, but it's especially important during the summer when outdoor adventures expose us to more UV rays than we'd face indoors. If you're conscious of the ingredient labels on your skincare products, you may find yourself in search of an all-natural option that keeps your skin protected from the sun. But believe it or not, 'all natural' is not an FDA-regulated term, so the reality of what it means can vary from product to product, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. In her eyes, 'natural'-in terms of sunscreen-implies that the product uses mostly physical blockers (read: mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) and contains less additives, she explains.
Some brands define natural as free of chemical ultraviolet blockers, says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. Others contain chemical blockers, but use only natural, sustainable ingredients, he adds. The takeaway? Buyers need to be aware that when it comes to natural sunscreens, not all products are created equal. These are the best ones available now, according to dermatologists:
- Best Overall: Badger SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream
- Best Matte: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
- Best Anti-Redness: Coola Organic Mineral Sun Silk Creme Sunscreen
- Best Spray: Alba Botanica Sensitive Spray Sunscreen
- Best Tinted: EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44
- Best Full-Body: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection SPF 50 Body Shield
- Best for the Whole Family: Supergoop! Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Lotion
Assuming the term is referring to mineral sunscreens, those with skin conditions-such as eczema or rosacea-or with sensitive skin, would benefit from using a natural sunscreen rather than risking irritation with a chemical sunscreen, Dr. Nazarian points out. Mineral sunscreens made with zinc oxide are great options that protect you by reflecting and scattering ultraviolet radiation (so that it doesn't penetrate the skin).
When choosing the best natural sunscreen for your needs, you'll need to decide what is most important to you. If you want a natural sunscreen that contains only mineral blockers, make sure to turn the bottle over and confirm that there are no chemical ultraviolet blocking ingredients, Dr. Zeichner suggests. You can also look for sunscreens that have more benefits than just sun protection, thanks to ingredients like shea butter, vitamin E, or antioxidants (including niacinamide), which are more hydrating and calming to skin when out in the sun.
The formula of your sunscreen is also important to take into consideration. "While SPF is important, there is a misconception that a greater SPF equals more protection and this isn't always the case," dermatologist and skin cancer specialist Orit Markowitz, MD, adds. "It's better to wear SPF 30 with a good long-lasting vehicle than to wear SPF 50." By vehicle, she's referring to the form of the sunscreen: cream, lotion, gel, or spray. Aerosols, Dr. Markowitz explains, are less protective because they're thin and easy to sweat off. Her best recommendation is a mineral sunscreen lotion that's water-resistant, has UVA and UVB protection, and comes with an SPF between 30 and 70.
Not sure where to start? We asked dermatologists to share their picks for the best natural sunscreens.
Best Overall: Badger SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream
"I love this brand because they make safe and natural mineral sunscreens using ingredients like zinc, vitamin E, and beeswax," says Dr. Markowitz. This option in particular is unscented, water-resistant for 40 minutes, and made with zinc oxide, which is unlikely to leave a white cast-making it suitable for all skin tones. The formula is also reef-safe, which makes it a great option for an active day at the beach. Simply put, it's a versatile mineral cream that works for just about anybody.
Best Matte: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
Supergoop is a company that relies on natural ingredients to provide high-quality, trusted products, Dr. Zeichner says. He's a fan of this sunscreen, in particular, because the texture is a mix of a gel and a serum-offering weightless protection for the face in a matte finish-and contains hydrating meadowfoam seed oil and ingredients that absorb perspiration and calm skin when you're under the sun.
Best Anti-Redness: Coola Organic Mineral Sun Silk Creme Sunscreen
This pick from Dr. Nazarian includes zinc oxide to defend against UVA and UVB rays, along with niacinamide-a hard-working antioxidant that minimizes redness and irritation-and a blend of potent antioxidants to lessen skin damage from light and pollution exposure. Plus, the oil-free formula is ideal for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
Best Spray: Alba Botanica Sensitive Spray Sunscreen
Designed for sensitive skin, this broad spectrum sunscreen spray with SPF 50 is made of natural, environmentally-friendly ingredients and offers high-quality sun protection, Dr. Zeichner previously told Health. Also great? It's paraben-free, has zero fragrance (read: won't irritate skin), and uses 100% vegetarian-based ingredients.
Best Tinted: EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44
If you're looking for a tinted natural sunscreen that offers slightly more coverage, this oil-free formula won't clog pores, is ideal for sensitive skin because it doesn't contain any chemicals, and features mega-hydrating hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate skin, Debra Jaliman, MD, a NYC-based dermatologist told Health previously.
Best Full-Body: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection SPF 50 Body Shield
Perfect for full body application, this sunscreen has an ultra high SPF to give you full protection outdoors, provides invisible coverage, and rubs in easily-meaning there's no chance of awkward, visible streaking, says Dr. Nazarian. It protects against both UVA and UVB rays, contains hydrating antioxidants, and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes-so you can go swimming without worrying about constant re-application.
Best for the Whole Family: Supergoop! Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Lotion
Great for babies and kids, this natural sunscreen protects little ones with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead of harsh chemicals, and moisturizes skin at the same time, Dr. Jaliman said previously. It's fragrance-free and water-resistant-so it won't irritate delicate baby skin-and will stay put in the pool or ocean for up to 80 minutes.
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