What is Non-Toxic Sunscreen?
There are two types of sunscreen: chemical-based sunscreen and mineral-based sunscreen. Truly non-toxic sunscreens are mineral-based with zinc and/or titanium dioxide listed as the active ingredients (nothing else!). Non-toxic sunscreens must also contain non-toxic inactive ingredients to be considered clean.
Chemical-based sunscreens include chemicals like avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate – the most concerning – oxybenzone. They are far more popular because they’re (usually) cheaper and rub in more easily than mineral-based sunscreens. Chemical-based sunscreens work by scattering and deflecting the sun’s harmful rays and by converting UV rays into heat thereby deactivating them.
Mineral-based sunscreens, on the other hand, use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to block sun rays that cause burns and skin damage. You’ll find fewer mineral-based options at conventional grocery stores or drugstores and they’re usually a bit more expensive. While mineral-based sunscreen is getting better (and more popular!) every year, many people still don’t like it because it’s more difficult to rub in. Mineral-based sunscreen works by absorbing into the surface layers of skin and deflecting or scattering the sun’s harmful rays.
What’s Oxybenzone and Why Should I Be Concerned?
Let’s talk about the worst chemical offender in common chemical-based sunscreens. Oxybenzone is one of the most commonly used sunscreen active ingredients and is found in more than 60 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens (source). Test results from recent investigations by the FDA into oxybenzone’s safety showed that the chemical:
- Is allergenic.
- Is absorbed through the skin in large amounts (it’s been detected in human breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and blood).
- Is a potential endocrine disruptor (hormones!).
- Can more easily harm children because it likely bioaccumulates after being absorbed.
Because of these test results, the FDA is requesting studies of oxybenzone to measure the potential impacts on hormone levels, reproduction, and development (source).
These chemicals are also bad for the environment, especially the health of coral reefs. The sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate is even banned in both Hawaii and Key West, Florida.
The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreen
The Environmental Working Group provides an AMAZING resource for finding safe sunscreen. Instead of worrying about digging into a sunscreen’s ingredient list, you can simply search a specific brand in their sunscreen database and 💥 you’ll know instantly if the product is safe or not.
According to the EWG, the sunscreens in their database are rated on five factors that rate overall ingredient toxicity and sunscreen efficacy in providing sun protection:
- Health hazards associated with listed ingredients, based on a review of nearly 60 standard industry, academic, government regulatory and toxicity databases.
- UVB protection – using SPF rating as the indicator of effectiveness.
- UVA protection – using a standard industry absorbance model.
- Balance of UVA/UVB protection – using the ratio of UVA absorbance to SPF.
- Sunscreen stability – how quickly an ingredient breaks down in the sun.
Loveleaf Co.’s Guide to the Best Non-Toxic Sunscreen
I wrote this little guide because I personally couldn’t find a non-toxic body sunscreen that I loved (for non-toxic face sunscreen, this is my go-to). After polling the Loveleaf Co. community via email and on Instagram, I got SO many great recommendations.
From there, I cross-referenced the community recommendations with the EWG sunscreen database and only bought the brands that were rated a “1” (the safest) on EWG. And then the fun part: I tested them out myself.
Every sunscreen listed below is:
- Rated 1 on EWG (the highest, safest rating)
- Doesn’t Stay Super White or Oily
- Not A Spray (there is far more risk of ingestion, plus much of it goes to waste ✖️)
So without further ado, here are my top non-toxic sunscreen picks. While I honestly liked every single one of the sunscreens listed below, I had my favorites (of course). My favorites are at the top.
PRICE | $15 for 5 oz
Blue Lizard was a clear winner for me for best overall non-toxic sunscreen. It rubs in easily, stays clear, and has a very faint but pleasant scent. Compared to other mineral-based sunscreens on the market, Blue Lizard is also one of the more affordable options.
PRICE | $15 for 2.9 oz
This Badger Clear Zinc Daily was my second favorite non-toxic sunscreen. It is very light and super easy to apply, making it great for everyday use. If you’re spending all day in the sun, as some Amazon reviewers noted, it will require reapplication. For long or active days, try this sport version instead.
PRICE | $36 for 5 oz
Coola is a luxury mineral sunscreen brand. It’s super lightweight and sheer and has a matte finish, which I loved. It also contains antioxidant-rich ingredients like raspberry seed oil. The only thing I didn’t like about this sunscreen is the price. I would recommend Coola if you’re in the sun for an outdoor event, like a wedding, but not for a long day at the beach.
PRICE | $26 for 6 oz
I was so excited to try this sunscreen because I’m obsessed with this MyChelle Face Sunscreen. I liked this body sunscreen too, but not as much as I hoped I would. Unlike their face sunscreen, this one is a little sticky at first, thought it blends in well after about a minute. It also has a faint cocoa scent which I wasn’t crazy about.
PRICE | $15 for 6 oz
Not just for kids, this Goddess Garden sunscreen is a great, gentle option. It has a nice lavender scent and rubs in relatively easily. It stayed a little whiter and greasier than the above brands, but not by much.
PRICE | $14 for 3 oz
Baby Bum is easier to find than the others listed here because it’s sold at Target. While I liked this sunscreen, it’s important to note that not all Sun Bum brand sunscreens are rated “1” by the EWG (this one is).
PRICE | $22 for 6 oz
ThinkSport and ThinkBaby are the OG mineral sunscreens (identical formulas, just slightly different scents). The word I’d use to describe this sunscreen is “rugged.” 😂 It’s definitely thicker and stays a little whiter than the sunscreens above, but offers better protection for an active day of sun exposure.
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