After just returning from the beach, I wanted to share my safer sunscreen recommendations with you. As someone with very fair skin, I begrudgingly have a tight relationship with sunscreen. I actually hate sunscreen and prefer to avoid the sun, wear protective clothing and stick to the shade. Several years ago, I switched from chemical to mineral-based products, because they are safer for me and for the environment. The FDA has been playing fast and loose with chemicals, which puts us all in danger. In other countries, they decide what’s safe and go from there. Here, we do it backwards, waiting for something to be proven harmful and then maybe we ban it. So, yea, you are the test subject. No, thank you!
The FDA is finally getting ready to make some changes, but nothing that will affect products on the shelves right now. The other reason to make the switch is to protect our oceans — both the corals and sea critters. You might notice that some sunscreens claim that they are reef-safe, which should mean that they do not contain certain chemicals like oxybenzone, nor nanoparticles under 100mm. Think about it — you put on sunscreen once or twice per day, but a reef or a turtle could encounter scads of people per day leaching harmful chemicals. 🙁
Five years ago in Mexico, we signed up for a tour to swim with whale sharks and I was quite impressed that they absolutely banned most sunscreens and inspected our bags prior to boarding the boat. If you didn’t have a reef-safe sunscreen, then they had some available for purchase.
I do my best to read labels, but I rely on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to help me determine the safety of particular products. They rate the safety and efficacy of products from one to ten, with one being the best. I do not claim to be an expert, but I firmly believe in more informed and better choices to make small steps in the right direction. Here are my favorites:
We’ve been using thinkbaby for years now and it’s a great all-around product. It’s not just for babies! It scores 1 on EWG’s scale and isn’t too expensive at $12.99. We use it for us and the kids. I have one of these stashed everywhere. We use this one when we plan to swim or be outside for extended periods of time. I put it on at home if possible to get every square inch of skin and then am able to wash my hands afterwards. I detest having sticky sunscreen hands. We also use this one if we plan to swim in the ocean since it’s reef-safe. This one goes on fine for me since I’m super fair, but is really white and harder to rub in on my husband’s darker skin.
This one is new to me, and I love it. It goes on easy, is not sticky and costs about $14. While it says sheer, I think it goes on white, but then it rubs in easily enough. This scores a 3 with EWG, not because of the ingredients, but because generally there are safety concerns with sprays in terms of their ability to be inhaled due to nano-particles. This company says that theirs is a non-nano zinc oxide meaning that the particle size is 100mm or larger, eliminating that concern. Admittedly, this all gets a little complicated and tricky. In terms of any sprays, this one is probably the best option or one of the best out there. In a perfect world, I would use a lotion, but sometimes I’m in a hurry or my kids won’t sit still that long. I’ll take the safe bet of the spray vs. no sunscreen and guaranteed skin damage. This is great to throw in your bag and when you end up taking an unexpected walk or will be outside, spray it on. Also, don’t forget to rub it in! It’s not completely hands-off (aka mess free), but easier and quicker than lotion.
I love this little stick! How did I manage without it before? My favorite use for this one is to use for small bits in the sun or when you don’t want to lather up and get sticky, like for evening use when you’re wearing nicer clothes. I tend to try to stick to the shade as much as possible, but if I’m out and then realize I will be in the sun for longer than a few minutes, I will get out my stick and roll my arms and shoulders. You don’t get your hands messy, which I hate and it works great. This one goes on very sheer in my opinion. The other thing I use this stick for is my kids’ faces and/or arms and shoulders. This product scores a 2 with EWG. If you’re looking for a budget option, the thinkbaby stick is also great, but the drawback is that it does go on much whiter.
This one is also new to me, but I think I finally found the holy grail of protection + good ingredients + non-sticky. I have used other acceptable products in the past, but this one truly is way better than anything I have ever used. I think I would describe the things I used in the past as not-as-sticky as sunscreens used to be, but not the same as going without. My face would feel heavy and I couldn’t wait to wash my face as soon as possible. However, with the Suntegrity, I can’t tell that I’m not wearing regular moisturizer only! It’s tinted, so it rubs in easy for folks that are less pasty than me. It’s pricey at $45, but so worth it to protect your face. Suntegrity scores a 1 with EWG and has ingredients that you can actually pronounce and know what they are, like aloe, jojoba, sunflower seed oil and algae. (FYI: The $45 bottle is much larger than what is in my picture above! I have the travel size pictured.)