Sunscreen. Something so important should not be so confusing.
The Osmia team has blogged about sunscreen before, but there has been a new wave of questions about it ever since this study was released in May. In case you missed it, the Journal of the American Medical Association presented preliminary findings that the chemicals commonly used in conventional sunscreens - avobenzone, ecamsule, octocrylene, and oxybenzone - were found in subjects’ bloodstreams within a few hours. The AMA recommends that these chemicals be reviewed by the FDA for clinical significance of this discovery. (I highly recommend the EWG’s summary of what we know and what’s been studied about sunscreen ingredients and their potential toxicity, hormone disruption, and other side effects.)
The good news is that if you’re already using a natural, “green beauty,” or otherwise mineral sunscreen, you shouldn’t be exposed to the chemicals above at all. Mineral sunscreens do not use avobenzone, ecamsule, octocrylene, and oxybenzone, but rather employ zinc oxide and sometimes titanium dioxide to block harmful rays that cause sunburns and skin damage. (Remember that only zinc oxide blocks both UVA and UVB effectively - titanium only protects against UVB rays.)
Okay, so which sunscreen should I use?
Still, the question remains: Which of the many mineral sunscreens out there should you use? More importantly, which one won’t smell weird or go on lumpy or leave a white cast? Since the Osmia Team knows I’ve tried every sunscreen under the sun, they asked me to put together this roundup of my absolute favorites. After one too many chalky applications, it’s easy to get discouraged and switch back to a product that’s less healthy - I get it. Here, I’ve done the chalky work for you, and curated only the products that smell amazing, condition your skin by offering benefits beyond simple sun protection, and don’t leave a white, dusty coating all over you!
I wish I could recommend one perfect product, but like most things, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to sunscreen. There are so many things to consider, so I’ve broken it down into a few categories to help you determine which ones you might sample to see if they’re the sunscreen(s) of your dreams! I have olive-toned skin - since these results are my own, the experiences might vary for different skin tones! The major categories are these:
- Makeup/tinted moisturizer
- Luxury skincare
- Kids/babies/sensitive skin
Of course, don’t feel limited by these categories - you’re your own best judge, and just because something is labeled “face” or “baby” doesn’t mean you can’t slather it all over your grown-up body. Do your research, know what ingredients work, and go forth to enjoy the great outdoors!
Full Body & Sport Sunscreens
One of my new favorites this summer is Love Sun Body’s Cosmos certified lotion. It has a light, lovely scent, and is very easy to spread!
Also new is cult-favorite brand Meow Meow Tweet’s first sunscreen. The company known for their awesome deodorants has come out with this light-weight gem, packaged in an aluminum bottle, with completely clean ingredients. And, like Love Sun Body above, it’s also super easy to put on, with no white residue!
Erbaviva Sunscreen is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, family-friendly, and, like the ones above, very smooth. It could easily go in the kids category or in the sensitive skin category. So many people can use and benefit from this one!
This Babo Botanicals spray is often marketed for kids, but I love it so much and use it on my entire family, so I had to put it in the every-body category! It sprays on white, rubs in clear, has no scent, and is so easy to use! Some people have mentioned worries about using spray sunscreens for either environmental or health reasons, but please know that this spray is not aerosol, and it’s made of non-nano zinc particles so inhalation isn’t something to worry about with this one. Use with abandon, and don’t forget to rub it in!
Simple Face Sunscreens
A lot of the sunscreens on this list are great choices for your face for daily use, but here are a few we particularly like for that, especially if you’re looking for more budget-friendly options. MyChelle Sun Shield (the current choice of Osmia founder, Dr. Sarah Villafranco) is unscented and remarkably affordable at $22. It’s an excellent choice for those with super-sensitive or dermatitis-prone skin. Ursa Major makes a great unisex sunscreen - SPF 18 with simple, neutral packaging. Kari Gran’s SPF serum can be mixed with her mineral makeup for a customized tinted moisturizer, and Honua’s Malu Protecting Day Cream is made with lush, Hawaiian ingredients. So many amazing choices!
Makeup and Tinted Moisturizers with SPF
W3LL People’s Bio-Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer is one of my favorites. It’s affordable, effective, and uses broccoli oil instead of dimethicone for that smooth feeling we all love! It contains a few more lab ingredients than some, but it’s still a good, safe option. It’s perfect for everyday use if you’re someone who likes to wear makeup daily. It’s a one-step combo of sun protection and makeup-- enough coverage to replace foundation, with new shades coming in 2020.
If you’re concerned about the shiny finish of some sun products, you’ll love Suntegrity’s new matte finish cream, Impeccable Skin, which comes in five shades. Like the above, it also has some lab ingredients, but is still safe and effective. The newest launch from this hip line, it dries more matte than other versions, but offers the same blurring effect to cover imperfections and possibly replace your foundation.
Another remedy for sunscreen-induced shine on your face is this incredible finishing powder from makeup powerhouse Ilia. You can use it like any regular setting powder, but you’re getting that extra bonus SPF 20. Great for midday touchups, it comes in a portable container with its own retractable brush, with two settings - one for regular use and a buff setting for extra control.
I especially like it for use over Hynt’s Sun Prep primer, which is wonderfully light and invisible on all skin tones. The primer only contains titanium dioxide, not zinc, so it protects well against UVB rays but not as well against UVA rays. Pair it with Ilia’s powder, which contains zinc oxide, and you’ve got excellent, complete coverage.
Luxury skincare with Sun Protection
I would put Josh Rosebrook’s Nutrient Day Cream in absolutely every category if I could - it’s the best sunscreen I’ve found. No other has as many skin-nutrient, soothing, moisturizing herbal actives. It’s packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients, and I’d still put it on my skin even on a day when I know I’d be inside in a windowless room, with no chance of sun exposure! It’s that good of a moisturizer, and the complete, broad spectrum sun protection is the icing on the cake.
I also really enjoy de Mamiel’s Exhale Daily Hydrating Nectar. It’s a serum moisturizer that has SPF, and it’s designed to protect against all sorts of environmental pollutants. People have different reactions to the unique scent of this lotion - I happen to really love it! Be aware, because it’s made in the EU, it isn’t labeled with SPF in the United States, but you’ll see the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the ingredient lists all the same. In the UK it’s considered SPF 30. You can buy it from many US retailers, even though it won’t specifically list the SPF.
Kids, Babies, & Sensitive Skin
This is the ultimate in busy-mom convenience: Babo Botanicals sunscreen sticks! They come in a few formulas and I love this baby version because it’s great for even the most sensitive skin. It fits in my tiniest purse and I’m never without sun protection. If my kids want an impromptu trip to the playground, I’ve got sunscreen. If we forget to bring the Babo spray to the beach, we’ve got this stick for touch ups! I truly never leave home without it.
Raw Elements’ tin pot and sticks offer the same convenience, and they just released a new baby/sensitive formula. Extra special bonus points to RE for this awesome zero-waste tin.
Thinkbaby is another reliably wonderful brand for kids and sensitive people. They’re cost-effective and widely available, and I like the gentle scent of their original formula.
SPF Lip Balms
Once again, we turn to Babo Botanicals for amazing SPF protection and high-quality ingredients! Their Lip Tints, available in 5 summery shades, are packed with lip-conditioning ingredients like shea butter and calendula extract, plus a mix of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for complete coverage.
As a parting gift, I’ll leave you with one last bit of food for thought: This article, “Is Sunscreen The New Margarine?,” came out in early 2019 and left me completely transfixed. I shared it with Sarah, and she agreed that there were some important questions to consider here, and thought the data behind the author’s theory was solid. I’d never thought about sun exposure this way, and it has my wheels turning. Read it and let us know what you think! Does it change anything for you? We’re still mulling over the issue, but we’re always here for questions and discussion about finding the right, return-to-your-senses approach to your skin health and general wellness!
Have a great rest of summer, and enjoy your Vitamin D!!
ABOUT OUR WRITER, EMILY BARTH ISLER
She's a writer, Young Adult Fiction author, and natural beauty editor. A former child actress, she performed all over the world in theatre, film, and TV. She spent several years in New York writing episodic television for the web with Emmy-award winning PhoebeTV, and a lifetime writing YA short stories and plays.
She holds a B.A. in Film Studies from Wesleyan University, where she took all the creative writing classes she could find, including one which was taught by none other than Lemony Snicket himself! Her work as a Beauty Editor/Writer can be seen online in many publications. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.