Growing up, I slathered on body oil and tanning oil and would lay in the sun, trying to get a deep tan. Then, in high school I started working at a tanning salon, mostly because it was a job that allowed for lots of time to do my homework. I was eventually required to go to a safety course of some sort about tanning salons, and what I learned there horrified me so much that I stopped tanning as often. (But, you know, of course I still did because it was free and TAN WAS IN.) My manager told me I needed to tan more often to represent the salon well and when I said I didn’t want to – because of what I learned – I got fired. True story.
That’s not to say that I’ve been perfect about wearing sunscreen ever since high school. I definitely still prefer a tan and am guilty of wanting a tan at the pool or beach or getting lazy in my everyday wear. Mostly because I hate the heavy feeling and smell of sunscreen. Thankfully there are great options now, both for my body and face, that I have no excuses to not wear sunscreen daily. And I do, 99% of the time. (I’ve also found a great tanning foam for my body and bronzing drops for my face and that helps scratch the tan itch too.)
And considering I’m nearly 40, aging is starting to show more on my skin these days – spots, fine lines, a bit of sagging. While I have a solid skincare routine to help keep my skin looking healthy, wearing sunscreen is the #1 must-have in my routine. (And a good retinol, and moisturizer, and eye cream. Okay, fine I’m a skincare snob and am loyal to my full skincare routine.)
When choosing a sunscreen, I look for options that absorb easily and don’t leave me feeling or looking greasy so my makeup goes on well. I also prefer ones that don’t leave much of a white cast. Thankfully, many zinc-based sunscreens have improved over the years so that’s not much of an issue as in the past. I do find that sweatproof and/or water-resistant sunscreens are more prone to leaving a white cast but I don’t care about those features for my face for daily wear. However, that is important (obviously) for sunscreens that are used at the beach or the pool.
I typically go for SPF 30 because I spend a lot of time outside in my day-to-day life between running and chasing a toddler, but if you’re mostly inside an SPF 15 should be enough sun protection. I also opt for mineral sunscreens instead of the potentially harmful synthetic formulas in many chemical sunscreens. Non-toxic, mineral sunscreens have become more popular over the years, and there are many great options to choose from now.
So today, what type of sunscreen is non toxic? In short, most mineral sunscreens and some chemical sunscreens but it can be hard to know without doing lots of research. I did the research for you and I’m sharing the ones I like best for my face, for my body, for daily wear, and for days where I’m spending lots of time outside, like hiking or at the pool. I also shared my top sunscreen picks to use during pregnancy and for kids.
First, let’s break down the difference between a mineral and chemical sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreen is what you likely grew up using. It goes on clear, sometimes has that distinct “sunscreen” smell, and dries quickly. However, it’s also typically made with potentially harmful ingredients that can negatively impact your health and the environment. These sunblocks protect you by absorbing into your skin so that the chemicals are able to block UV rays.
Chemical sunscreens usually contain oxybenzone, octocrylene, ecamsule, avobenzone, and other toxic ingredients that can potentially disrupt your hormones, cause skin reactions, and worsen skin discoloration. They can also damage marine life and coral reefs.
Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, works by reflecting the UV rays away from your body by sitting on top of your skin. The most common ingredient in a mineral sunscreen is zinc, which is safer than the chemicals typically found in synthetic sunscreens. Mineral sunscreen is a great option for most people with sensitive skin.
When you’re looking for clean skincare and beauty products, the Beautycounter Never List is a great resource for triple-checking the safety of your skincare. The Environmental Working Group also has a great tool that can check how toxic your products are for you. EWG rates that are lower on a scale of 1 to 10 are safer. It’s not perfect and it flags some products that can be safe for some people, but it’s a good place to start if you don’t know where to begin researching safe products. Some chemical sunscreens (like Supergoop) still score low on the EWG scale because they use clean chemicals and pass the test as safe, non-toxic sunscreens.
I shy away from the words “natural” when referring to skincare and personal care products since not all naturally-occurring ingredients are safe (e.g. lead is natural and it’s in many color cosmetics), but people often equate non-toxic sunscreens with natural sunscreens and I think it’s important to distinguish between those two terms, since “natural” can be misleading if you’re not informed.
Okay, let’s get into some sunscreen picks so you can find the ones that will work best for you and get on with protecting your skin and enjoying your life!
This is, hands down, my favorite zinc-based face sunscreen. The Daily Sheer is the perfect everyday sunscreen because it’s made to be worn under makeup. It’s not greasy or sticky, and it doesn’t clog pores. It leaves my skin looking brighter and creates a nice base for my foundation. It’s low on the EWG scale and has a protection of SPF 25.
The Countersun line (full review here) uses non-nano zinc oxide, chicory root extract, vitamin E, and squalane to protect against sun damage and environmental stressors while locking in hydration. It also protects against blue light, which is important since I spend so much time in front of screens for work.
I also use this on my arms, neck, decolletage and legs since it absorbs easily and doesn’t have a strong sunscreen smell. I’m terrible about wearing sunscreen on my body on a daily basis and if using a face sunscreen gets me to do it, so be it. And since I’m applying it to my face everyday anyway, it’s easy to just keep applying to the rest of my body.
My only drawback is that I do find it slightly drying in the winter (but I have VERY dry skin). I have a full review of the the Daily Sheer sunscreen here.
Dime Beauty’s mineral-based sunscreen provides SPF 30 protection without any toxic additives. Its key ingredients are zinc oxide, beetroot, and squalane, which help to soothe, protect, fight wrinkles, and hydrate the skin. It’s safe for all skin types, free from harmful chemicals, vegan, and cruelty-free. This is a little thicker than the Beautycounter one so it takes a little more time to rub it, but it’s great once it’s fully absorbed and it’s not greasy. It also won’t leave you with a white cast. This is slightly more work to rub into skin, but I do like its packaging better.
You can read my review of other Dime Beauty products here
AnnMarie Sun Love Everyday Sheer Sunscreen is a mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 30. It uses non-nano zinc oxide, buriti fruit oil, and pumpkin seed oil, and those oils help protect, nourish, firm, and tighten the skin (yes, please). The product is safe, natural, and non-toxic but it does not protect against blue light.
This sunscreen smells nice (a bit herby!) and absorbs easily. It does have a very mild texture to it… not gritty, exactly, but it’s just not super smooth like you’d expect. It doesn’t bother me, but it’s worth calling out. I love that this sunscreen has a lightweight, sheer texture that doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin, making it easy to wear alone or under makeup. If you want a natural-smelling sunscreen with anti-aging perks, I bet you’ll like this.
This is on my wishlist to try since I’ve heard so many good things. I’m also a sucker for the pretty pink packaging. Eclipse Sheer Mineral Sunscreen is a lightweight and clean SPF 30 mineral formula that’s non-irritating, blendable, and super hydrating. Macroalgae, green tea extract, and jojoba esters help protect from environmental stressors, blue light, and overproduction of oil (which we’re all more prone to in the warmer months) while making skin appear fresher and more radiant. It goes on sheer so it won’t leave a white cast, and doesn’t have the typical sunscreen scent so it’s perfect for everyday wear. If you’ve tried this, I’d love to hear what you think! I’m particularly interested in the macroalgae since I’ve used Osea moisturizers, which also uses marine products, and love them.
Thinksport Kids SPF 50 All Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Spray is a mineral-based, non-aerosol sunscreen spray that is specially formulated for children, but works just as well for adults. It has 20% non-nano zinc oxide and doesn’t contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, or parabens. It’s hard to find sheer mineral sunscreens, but this one is great and leaves no white cast! I keep this one in my running shoe basket and apply it before all my daytime runs!
Beautycounter Countersun Spray is a mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 30. It also uses non-nano zinc oxide and California poppy, which helps to protect and soothe. To use, shake well (this is a critical step with spray sunscreens but especially with this brand’s mist) and spray liberally onto the skin.
I love the lightweight, easy-to-use spray formula that doesn’t leave a sticky or greasy residue on the skin. The only downside I would say is that you have to shake it really well to ensure full protection, and it does leave a slight white cast, more so than their other formulas. But this is still a great option I keep on hand since I get a solid discount on all my favorite Beautycounter products (and the discount on sunscreens is one of the main reasons I signed up to be a Beautycounter consultant.)
This is my #1 pick for a spray sunscreen since it applies clear and smells great. Florida Squeezed SPF 50 Sunscreen Non-Aerosol Spray is a chemical sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. While it is a chemical sunscreen, it has been deemed safe and does not include oxybenzone, octinoxate, parabens, or phthalates. It’s made with vitamin E, aloe vera, and naturally scented with Florida oranges!
The clear formula is especially great for re-applying since I find white casts tend to build over the day and it was just easier to use when I had sand on my body at the beach . This is also the one I keep in my golf bag so my hands don’t get greasy with a lotion and so my golf outfits don’t get ruined by a white cast.
Like the mist version, Beautycounter’s body sunscreen lotion is made with non-nano zinc oxide and California poppy. It’s safe, non-toxic, and lightweight. I like that it doesn’t leave a white cast or feel too greasy or sticky. Also, I go for this lotion if I’m trying to avoid getting spray residue on everything. I have a full review of this sunscreen here.
EltaMD is super popular sunscreen brand (known mostly for their Glow Facial Tinted Sunscreen because of Haley Bieber) but my pick is the UV Active Full Body Sunscreen Lotion by EltaMD. Not only does it have SPF 50+, but it’s made with a blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which work together to block both UVA and UVB rays. It’s fragrance-free AND won’t clog pores or cause breakouts. It has a VERY low rating on the EWG scale, making it a good option for many! This was also a top pick when I polled my Instagram friends on their favorite sunscreens!
Goddess Garden Organics Everyday SPF 30 is a mineral-based lotion that’s great for those with extra sensitive skin. It’s made with coconut oil and shea butter for extra soothing and nourishment, making this a go-to sunscreen for those with dry skin as well. It’s ultra-sheer and fragrance-free, so this is a great option if you’re extra sensitive to scents. One of my friends who is pregnant recommended this and she’s a bit of a snob with skincare products, so I trust her!
Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream SPF 40 is a mineral-based sunscreen made with organic sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E for extra hydration. The product is free from harmful chemicals, hypoallergenic, and unscented. This can also be used on your face, but some people complained of a greasy feeling, so if you have oily skin I would pass. This formula is water-resistant and made for outdoor activities and sports (which is perfect for hot North Carolina summers). This was another top pick from my Instagram friends.
When it comes to choosing sunscreen during pregnancy, you want to make sure to look for products that are safe and non-toxic for both you and your baby. It’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider before using any new skincare products during pregnancy, but these are a few good non-toxic options.
Beautycounter has many types of sunscreens to choose from, and all of their sunscreens are safe for pregnancy. They’re committed to using non-toxic, clean ingredients so you don’t have to worry about accidentally picking up something that could put you at risk. (This goes for all their products and it’s why I used their skincare almost exclusively when I was pregnant.)
Their reef-friendly line includes SPF 25 and SPF 30 protection, and my personal favorite is the Daily Sheer Defense (which I described above). I have a full review of the Countersun line so you can decide which product would work best for you!
Thinkbaby SPF 50+ Baby Sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. It is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. And not only is it great for pregnancy, but this is also a great good option for babies (which is actually who it’s made for!) since it’s been tested for skin irritation and allergy.
Beautycounter’s commitment to non-toxic and safe ingredients makes their Countersun line a go-to for preventing inflammation or irritation in your everyday routine. Their products are specifically formulated to be gentle for even the most sensitive skin, and I would recommend this line if you’re worried about trying out a new product (especially since they have a 60 day return policy, no questions asked). Their mineral sunscreens range between SPF 25 and SPF 30, and I have a full Countersun review here with more details on their sunscreen selection.
Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30+ is a mineral-based sunscreen that is lightweight and non-comedogenic. Niacinamide, squalane, and vitamin E make this formula hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging. It’s free of harsh chemicals, parabens, and synthetic fragrances, making it safe for sensitive skin. Even though the formula is super nourishing, it’s not too greasy and doesn’t leave a white cast. This is one of the (MUCH) more affordable options for non-toxic sunscreens!
Babo Botanicals is an SPF 50 mineral sunscreen made for sensitive skin. It’s free of harsh chemicals, fragrances, and allergens, making it a safe and non-toxic option for people who are extra prone to irritation. It’s not too greasy and doesn’t clog pores or leave a white cast. It absorbs super easily into your skin, and the scent is very light and natural! This is another budget-friendly option!
I really only like to use tinted sunscreen on my face since tinted body sunscreens rub off on everything. For face sunscreen, these are my favorite tinted options:
Supergoop Glowscreen is a clean chemical sunscreen with SPF 40. Even though it’s a chemical sunscreen, it has a low rating on the EWG scale and doesn’t include any dangerous or toxic ingredients. It’s made with hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and sea lavender, which help to hydrate, even out, and soothe the skin while providing a natural glow. To use, apply a small amount to the face and neck as the last step in your skincare routine. It can be worn alone or layered under makeup.
What I like about this sunscreen is that it not only provides sun protection, but also leaves such a radiant and glowy finish without making me look greasy. Its subtle tint makes a great swap for foundation on lighter makeup days! I always wear this when golfing.
The Super Serum Skin Tint is a personal favorite of mine. It feels like a tinted moisturizer but has SPF 40, and it’s super lightweight and hydrating. It’s clean and non-toxic, and the active ingredients double as skincare. Hyaluronic acid, squalane, and niacinamide nourish your skin and improve its texture. It has a fresh, radiant finish and my skin looks gorgeous with this.
The downside is that it has a weird smell when you first apply it. It does fade after a minute or two, but just be aware! To me, it’s worth it because of how natural and glowy it looks. Apply it like a foundation for subtle coverage and follow with your regular makeup routine. This is my go-to for a no makeup-makeup look. It has slightly more coverage than the Supergoop Glow Screen.
Beautycounter Dew Skin was my tried-and-true for YEARS. This SPF 20 tinted moisturizer is non-toxic, sheer, and lightweight. The non-toxic formula is made with black currant seed oil, peony root extract, vitamin C, and organic Madagascar bourbon vanilla to firm, brighten, and enhance skin texture with a subtle vanilla scent. It can be worn alone or layered with your favorite foundation. This can also be layered with regular moisturizer for added hydration. Even though I loved Dew Skin for years, I need more hydration out of my everyday products now. If your skin isn’t super dry, I would recommend this.
This SPF 30 sunscreen stick will be your new favorite if you have a toddler. (I also love it for myself! It’s perfect for putting on my face and ears before running.) The stick makes application SO easy on my 2.5 year old’s face. It’s clean and safe for kids and uses ingredients like California poppy and cocoa butter for smooth, gentle application and added hydration. It’s so convenient to stick in my pool bag or purse for re-application. I keep an extra in my stroller and my diaper backpack for on-the-go!
This top pick for spray sunscreen also made the cut for kid-friendly SPF. It applies clear for a no-mess application with squirmy toddlers, and smells like fresh oranges. (The citrusy scent is a great way to get your kid excited about sunscreen!) I love that this product prevents white casts from forming, so it’s super convenient to use for both me and my 2.5 year old.
This clear non-nano zinc formula is pediatric dermatologist recommended and extra gentle for babies. It has aloe and vitamin E for cooling and conditioning without any toxic or harmful ingredients. It doesn’t leave a greasy feeling or a white cast, and is another go-to for when I need to put sunscreen on Thomas since he won’t hold still long enough for me to rub in lotions that are very white.
Thinksport Kids SPF 50 All Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Spray was one of my top picks for a non-aerosol spray SPF, but it’s also one of my top picks for kid’s sunscreen. It’s SO easy to apply, contains only great ingredients, and doesn’t leave a white cast.
Pipette Mineral Sunscreen was recommended by a few of my friends on Instagram. Like the others in the post, Pipette Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 is a super clean, mineral-based sunscreen that uses non-nano zinc as the main active ingredient. It does not contain harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and synthetic fragrances, so it’s great for all skin types, including sensitive skin. This one gets bonus points because it also contains plant-derived squalane and glycerin, which help hydrate and nourish the skin while providing sun protection.
Hot tip for toddler moms: you can also take any lotion sunscreen and put it in this sunscreen applicator tool from Amazon for easy applying. My son even likes applying it to himself!
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