Confused about which chemicals to avoid in your sunscreen? The Environmental Working Group, a consumer safety watchdog organization, just released its comprehensive buying guide. We’ve sorted through the findings to bring you the best sun-smart options that are free of harmful chemicals.
The safest sunscreen for the beach
Consistently a top pick for best sunscreen, thinksport’s SPF 50+ sunscreen is waterproof for up to 80 minutes, doesn’t feel oily, and—most important—provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection thanks to a 20 percent dose of non-nano zinc oxide. It’s that zinc oxide, a staple of mineral-based sunscreens, that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) particularly loves because it sits on top of the skin, acting as a physical barrier to the sun and reflecting away its harmful UV rays. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, are absorbed into the body, and chemicals like oxybenzone may cause hormone disruptions, biochemical, or cellular-level changes, and skin allergies. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are also toxic to coral reefs, and Hawaii may soon ban the sale of sunscreens that contain them. Don’t miss these sunscreen mistakes you may not know you’re making.
The safest sunscreen for everyday use
When you’re using something every single day, you definitely want it to be safe—and let’s be honest, also easy to use. That’s why Badger Active Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream SPF 30 is so appealing. It provides broad-spectrum coverage and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes, but unlike many other mineral sunscreens, this one adjusts to your skin tone without leaving a white film. It’s also lightweight and fragrance-free. An important addendum: You should be using SPF every day, all year long. A study published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery found that using sunscreen not only prevents future sun damage but can also reverse existing damage, including wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Scientists theorize this may be because blocking sun exposure with daily SPF allows the skin to rest and regenerate properly instead of incurring more damage and hindering the healing process. Find out the sunscreens dermatologists use on themselves.
The safest sunscreen for kids
Non-nano zinc is the main mineral block in TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen SPF 30, which is also eczema-safe and free of phthalates, parabens, and vitamin A. Chemical sunscreens are particularly worrisome when it comes to children because oxybenzone may disrupt estrogen and testosterone levels. While some researchers caution that more testing is needed to make a full ruling on this, why take the chance when there are fantastic alternatives like this available? TruKid is also a great choice because it’s easy to apply and doesn’t leave much of a white residue on the skin.
The safest sunscreen for babies
There’s nothing more lovely and delicate than baby skin—and nothing more terrifying to a parent than to see it exposed to the blazing summer sun. The active ingredient in California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30+ is titanium dioxide, which, like zinc, scatters and reflects the sun’s cancer-causing rays. Made for sensitive skin, it is fragrance-free, contains natural and organic ingredients, and is soy-free, oat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and almost completely nut-free (it contains coconut). Just keep in mind that when it comes to infants under six months old, your first line of defense should be keeping baby in the shade as much as possible and protecting their skin with hats and sun-protective clothing as well. A mineral sunscreen can—and should—be used on any exposed skin, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.