When women are pregnant, it’s common to experience changes in your skin, and this can often result in dark spots or melasma, often called “pregnancy mask.” And one of the most effective things you can do to prevent these dark spots from developing (and causing long-term damage) is using sunscreen daily. I use sunscreen as part of my daily skincare routine pregnant or not, but I’m especially diligent when I’m pregnant.
Not all sunscreens are created equal. There are a lot of sunscreens on the market that are full of potentially harmful ingredients, so in today’s post I’m sharing what to look for in a sunscreen when you’re pregnant, what to avoid, and which brands make my favorite options.
When choosing sunscreens suitable for pregnancy, here are the things you should look for:
Broad spectrum means that the sunscreen will shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, which prevents sunburn and premature aging.
A mineral — or “physical” — sunscreen is made up of UV blocking ingredients (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) that sit on top of your skin and reflect the UV rays away from your body. Since the ingredients sit on top of your skin, you aren’t risking the absorption of potentially harmful ingredients into your bloodstream.
Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, use potentially harmful ingredients, and I try to avoid these. Chemical sunscreen ingredients include:
These ingredients are absorbed into your skin to protect you from UV rays. However these ingredients are known widely as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, so even if they do prevent UV rays, they are not necessarily a safe option for you or your baby.
During pregnancy, some women may become more sensitive to fragrances. I’m sensitive to scents, pregnant or not, and it’s even worse since I got pregnant again. Using fragrance-free sunscreens also helps avoid potential irritations. It’s also worth noting that “fragrance” is a trade secret in the beauty industry. Since brands don’t have to disclose what makes up that fragrance, companies will include ingredients they otherwise wouldn’t disclose, and just slap the word fragrance on there to cover it. Given that, it’s best to avoid any products with the ingredient “fragrance” on the back if it isn’t an essential oil or something natural. (You can read more about “fragrance” and other harmful ingredients in this post about The Never List.)
Look for these words when sunscreen shopping. Sunscreens labeled as hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic are less likely to cause allergic reactions or clog pores, which is great during pregnancy when our skin is more prone to sensitivity and breakouts.
Okay, now that we’ve talked about what to look for in a pregnancy safe sunscreen, let’s jump into my recommendations. These are all brands and products I used throughout my first pregnancy and feel confident in.
The best face sunscreen I’ve tried is the Daily Sheer from Beautycounter. It was designed to be worn under makeup, so the non-nano zinc oxide dries completely sheer and doesn’t leave a white cast. It goes on smooth, isn’t greasy or sticky, and preps the skin well for foundation. This sunscreen also gets bonus points for protecting against blue light (light from our phones and computers).
The main ingredients in this sunscreen are non-nano zinc oxide, chicory root extract, vitamin E, and squalane which protect against sun damage and environmental stressors while locking in hydration. I have a full review of the the Daily Sheer sunscreen here.
AnnMarie Sun Love Everyday Sheer Sunscreen is a mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 30. It absorbs quickly without a white case and is easy to wear alone or underneath makeup. It does have a texture to it and feels a tiny bit gritty when I apply it. This doesn’t bother me but it’s worth nothing. This sunscreen has a slightly earthy smell to it, and as someone who generally hates scented products, I actually like this one.
The key ingredients are non-nano zinc oxide, buriti fruit oil, and pumpkin seed oil, which help tighten and nourish the skin (love those anti-aging properties). It’s a great safe and natural option for pregnancy, but the only downside is that it doesn’t protect against blue light.
Dime Beauty is another one of my go-to brands for safe/clean skincare products, and I especially like their mineral based sunscreen, the Wonderscreen SPF 30. It’s slightly thicker than the Beautycounter Daily Sheer, and takes just a little bit long to rub in (this is the one downside). However it’s not greasy and goes on sheer without a white cast.
The main ingredients in this are zinc oxide, beetroot, and squalane, which help to protect and soothe the skin, fight wrinkles, and hydrate skin.
Beautycounter Countersun Line is a great one-stop shop for pregnancy safe body sunscreen. They make a few different options: a spray, lotion, and stick. All of Beautycounter’s products are safe and non-toxic (they have a list of over 1,500 ingredients they’ll never use in their products), and their sunscreen is best-in-class. I’m sharing my two favorites along with a few other brands I like.
Beautycounter Countersun Spray is a mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 30. It uses non-nano zinc oxide and California poppy, which helps to protect and soothe your skin. It’s lightweight and doesn’t feel sticky or greasy. The only downside is that it leaves a whiter cast than some other mineral sunscreens, but it does protect skin well. Make sure to shake the can really well since this keeps the ingredients combined for effectiveness, and then spray it liberally.
The lotion version of this sunscreen is also made with the same non-nano zinc oxide and California poppy. I prefer this when I am trying avoid getting the spray residue on everything. I have a full review of Beautycounter sunscreen here.
While the this Thinkbaby Baby Sunscreen is indeed, made for babies, that should be your first sign that this is a great option for pregnancy too. Since babies have super sensitive skin, baby sunscreen has to be ultra clean. I love this specifically because it has higher SPF protection than the Beautycounter options. Like the others, it’s made with Zinc Oxide and the fragrance they use is derived solely from natural oils.
Badger Mineral Sunscreen Cream is another great, super clean option. It’s made with uncoated zinc oxide (meaning it’s not coated in any other chemicals), and just 4 other natural ingredients that help moisturize, nourish, and protect your skin. It’s reef friendly and comes in 50% PCR tubes.
In the past, I would have said no, because even Neutrogena’s super-popular Ultra Sheer stick sunscreen contained oxybenzone (a no-no), but their new formula is made with Zinc Oxide, so I’d feel better about using it now. I would consult your doctor before making a decision, however. My preference is still one of the brands above that are 100% committed to clean ingredients.
Is there a sunscreen that you loved that I missed? Let me know below in the comment section.
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