The Best Mineral Based Natural Sunscreens
We are full swing into summer, so that means we’re slathering our kids overtime with sunscreen. Over the last couple years I’ve become more cognoscente of what I’m putting on the boys and have switched to a mineral based sunscreen to avoid all the yucky stuff that’s in the sunscreen you see lining the store shelves and on end caps.
While this isn’t a post to make you feel bad about the sunscreen you’re using — I truly just want to be a source of education and awareness. It wasn’t until a couple years ago when I stumbled upon an article someone shared that truly opened my eyes to how much crap is in the sunscreen I had been using for YEARS.
Ultimately, we’re all trying to do our best as parents and make the best choices! And as far as sunscreen goes, you’re likely buying it anyway, so I wanted to share some knowledge with you on some things you may or may not know about it. And whether or not it changes your opinion on what sunscreen to use, I’m a believer that knowledge is power. And at least knowing what’s in the products we’re using is half the battle.
The DL On Those Nasties In Sunscreen
Most mainstream sunscreens you see like Banana Boat, Neutrogena, Coppertone, etc. are chemical based sunscreens which means they must be absorbed into the skin to be effective. The chemicals in those sunscreens work to create a chemical reaction with the UV rays from the sun, therefore you get sun protection. The ingredients in these sunscreens vary as does their safety for your skin.
The primary difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens is that mineral active ingredients are inorganic and sit on the surface of your skin opposed to being absorbed like chemical based sunscreens do.
What To Look For
It really comes down to the active ingredients. If you look at a bottle of sunscreen they always list first the “active ingredients”. If zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is not listed in that group, you should probably skip it. However, just because it IS listed, also doesn’t mean it’s safe either. Which may or may not be very helpful!
Zinc oxide is often seen as the only safe sun protector. It will protect from the full spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. It’s incredibly effective as a stand alone and it’s honestly the best natural sunscreen ingredient available.
So here’s the deal. You’re buying sunscreen (more than likely) for one or both of these two reasons:
- To prevent sunburn
- To prevent skin cancer
Here’s something I’ve learned about mainstream, popular sunscreens: Most of them aren’t preventing EITHER ONE OF THOSE!
Is your mind blown yet?!
Okay, so here is how most sunscreen works: the active ingredients create that chemical reaction working with the sun that I talked about above — in the process of absorbing the sun’s rays that this sunscreen is supposed to be protecting your skin from, they’re actually becoming more and more ineffective.
Which is why the labels direct you to reapply every 80-90 minutes because the sun has literally broken down the ingredients and is no longer working.
Where as in a mineral based sunscreen, the zinc oxide is not going to break down or become ineffective — EVER.
Is Your Sunscreen Protecting You From Skin Cancer?
In short — No.
So if it’s not bad enough that the chemicals in your chemical based sunscreen are actually breaking down as you wear it, the byproducts of the chemical reaction occurring between your sunscreen and the sun are called free radicals. A quick google search will tell you that those free radicals are proven to be cancer causing.
***these free radicals also appear in mineral based sunscreens, but because your skin isn’t absorbing them they’re not nearly as harmful to you.
Are you seeing how this seems extremely counter productive?
And here’s this quote from an article I found on Google:
“The sunscreen has also been absorbed into your skin, and the research hasn’t proven it yet, but it’s possible that free radicals bouncing around beneath the skin are even more harmful than those generated by sun exposure and certainly more dangerous than the byproduct of zinc oxide + sun, which is heat.”
In one short sentence: chemical sunscreens are not proven to protect against skin cancer and may actually be cancer causing in and of themselves. After just a few hours in the sun, they lose their effectiveness after being soaked into the skin.
But what about spray on sunscreen?
Glad you asked. Again, there’s a pretty simple answer — just don’t use them. I know, I know. They’re easier. Faster. Quicker to apply and get on with your day at the pool or out in the yard. But hear me out. They are truly SO AWFUL for you. I’ll be honest. I have a spray on sunscreen leftover from a couple summers ago that I keep for a back up to the back up just in case kind of deal. But I really try to avoid it at all costs. Here’s why:
Spray on sunscreens are
- Dangerous to inhale
- Extremely Flammable
- Filled with harmful chemical ingredients.
There are a couple mineral based spray sunscreens out there (so I’ve heard….) but I’ve yet to actually find one or use one. It’s just simply hard to make a safe, reliable spray on sunscreen.
You may have some additional questions about SPF (how much do I need?), spray on sunscreens and other interest in learning more about mainstream sunscreen. I won’t go into that here (because I’m not an expert!) but this post here is sound and has excellent sources of information if you’re curious about the sunscreen you use.
You’re probably like okay, okay. I get it. Those are bad for you. So now what? WHAT DO I BUY THEN?!
The good news is there are quite a few really great mineral sunscreens out there and some second notch ones that you can find if you’re in a pinch.
So let’s get to it!
The Best Mineral Based Non Toxic Sunscreens
thinkBaby // SPF 50 // $20
thinkBaby is my first choice — 100% my hands down FAVORITE. I get thinkBaby from Amazon and it’s moderately priced at $19.99 for a 6oz tube. It has a great scent (turns out it’s papaya), rubs in exceptionally well and has been my favorite for the last year. The only active ingredient is zinc oxide which makes me feel pretty good as I slather my kids in it almost daily. I have strayed away from the thinkSport version simply because it contains several mystery ingredients. This is the tricky part about finding a safe sunscreen — the ingredients can vary even just from product to product within the same brand!
Badger // SPF 30-35 // $10-13
Badger makes a few different versions, all of which are great. They have variations of unscented, baby, children and more. Again, these can be found on Amazon too! I like Badger because it comes in a stick form as well, which can be a bit more convenient when you’re on the go or at the pool and need to quickly reapply. The stick also has a yummy orange / vanilla scent to it too. Prices vary from $10-13 depending on which one you get.
Raw Elements // SPF 30 // $17-20
I’ve only had this once (just to try it and test it out). I really, really like it. However, the price tag is a bit on the high end pulling in at just under $18 for 3 ounces. However, you’re really getting what you pay for here. It’s definitely one of the higher end in quality, but you really get what you pay for. After a couple hours water was still beading up on my son’s arms after just one application. This is probably the best of them all, but again the price tag is a little bouche for me, so it’s more of a splurge when I can get my hands on it. They also make a baby / kids version that is equally as great.
In-Store Last Resort Options
Lastly, here are a few popular brands I see (and have used) that are better than the mainstream, but aren’t necessarily as “natural” as they claim. However, if in a pinch, they’re still superior to the fully chemical based ones.
Babyganics // SPF 50
While this does have zinc oxide in it, it also has a ton of other unnecessary ingredients in it too. However, this is one you can find typically in-store and while it’s by far not the best, it’s also not the worst. If you are in a pinch and can’t wait for Amazon Prime, I’d recommend this as an option when there are no other options. It does take some work to rub it in otherwise it’ll leave streaks of white looking clay.
Sun Bum // SPF 50
This one doesn’t state that it’s natural or mineral based, but it’s generally in the same section as “natural” products are. Again, this isn’t the worst, but it’s also not the best. If you’re going to spend the money on this kind of product, you’re better off just spending your money on a quality mineral sunscreen like the others I’ve listed above.
“Natural” Products To Avoid
Here’s a couple you’ll likely see in store that tout themselves as mineral based or natural, but are far from either. Stay away from these!
Pacifica // SPF 30+
I’m kind of appalled by this product. It actually touts itself as “natural” and “mineral based” and while it sure does have zinc oxide as an active ingredient, a lot like Babyganics, it also has a ton of questionable crap in it. Similar to the others, if you’re going to spend this kind of money on a sunscreen you’re truly better off steering completely clear of this one and buying one of my other recommended brands.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc // SPF 50
Horrible, awful product. This is thick and white. A horrible disservice to a “zinc” sunscreen. And unfortunately, many people probably unbeknownst will purchase this as they’re looking for a more natural option simply because it’s available in-store. I don’t recommend this product at all.