We are back from our summer road trip and beach camping vacation and I am happy to report that no one got terribly sunburned. This is a bigger deal than you might think because we were essentially living at the beach for 5 days. The sun is super strong but the ocean breeze cools you down so you don’t feel like you are getting as much sun as you are. And it’s not like we pack up and go home after a few hours – we were outside all.day.long.
Shade tents, hats, sunglasses and sunshirts for the boys were key tools for minimizing sun exposure but nothing was more essential than sunscreen to keep us from frying in the sun. This trip was the perfect opportunity to road test some natural sunscreens. We slathered them on numerous times a day (much to my 8 year old’s chagrin) to make sure we were aptly covered at all times. FYI – all of these sunscreen products contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their primary sun protection ingredient. These are mineral-based, physical blockers (as opposed to chemical) which are considered by the EWG to be the safest ingredients for both UVA and UVB protection.
Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20%
Price: $13.95 for 3 oz ($4.65 per oz)
Best Features: This sunscreen rubs in well leaving just a hint of whiteness behind (which fades away with absorption). Contains minimal ingredients and some of them are organic. Water resistant up to 40 minutes. Reasonably priced.
Room for Improvement: Leaves skin feeling kind of greasy (more so than the other brands I tried). Good for legs and arms but personally, I would not use this on my face (although I did use it on my kids faces).
Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 11%, Zinc Oxide 5.5%
Price: $15 for 2.7 oz ($5.56 per oz) although you can find it cheaper on Amazon
Best Features: Rubs in easily with barely any whiteness. Unscented which I’m guessing most people prefer. Formula contains healthy oils, green tea extract (to keep skin cool) and a couple of organic ingredients. Resists water for 80 minutes. My top pick for kids!
Room for Improvement: I’d like to see this product in a larger bottle so it would last our family all summer long!
Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20%
Price: $16 for 3.75 oz ($4.27 per oz)
Best Features: Of all the brands I tested, this one rubs in more quickly and easily than the others – probably because it is a tan skin-color to begin with. It has a light, slightly floral scent that is found in other Juice Beauty products. Personally I love the scent but realize that not everyone will agree with me. Water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Reasonable price point and I appreciate the larger sized bottle. My top pick for adults!
Room for Improvement: The tan color (similar to a foundation makeup product) may turn some people off (especially kids). An unscented version would be a plus for those who prefer no scent at all.
Active Ingredients: Zinc OxidePrice: $29.45 for 3.5 oz ($8.41 per oz)
Best Features: When I use Miessence I know I’m using a very high quality product that is not only protecting my skin but nourishing it. The formula contains olive oil, shea butter and jojoba oil and many of the ingredients are organic.
Room for Improvement: The biggest downside of this product is the price. At $8.41 per oz it is the most expensive of the sunscreens I tested. Also, I’m not a huge fan of the coconuty scent myself (you may love it though). *Officially only SPF 15 but tested up to SPF 27.
Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 14.5%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%
Price: $9.99 for 8-oz ($1.25 per oz)
Best Features: A budget-minded option that is safer than most conventional sunscreens. Kid-friendly light scent (although I would prefer unscented). Water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Room for Improvement: This product contains some not so great ingredients including octinoxate, propylparaben and methylparaben. Still, because of its ratings for efficacy and relative level of concern of exposure to ingredients, it scores a 2 (low concern) on the Skin Deep cosmetics database. It is also on the sticky side and takes longer to rub in than some of the other brands. Not my first choice, but as a low-cost and easily found option I wanted to include it on this list.
There’s one last thing I have to say though: My kids still beg me for the super easy to rub in lotion or spray suncreens. Whenever they had the opportunity to use someone else’s sunscreen they would grab it. I say this because as much as the safer sunscreens have improved over the years, they still aren’t as easy to deal with as traditional sunscreens. I know most of my readers are concerned about using safer sunscreens but the majority of Americans are not there yet. Here’s hoping that technology will bring us better and safer products each year!
What is your go-to sunscreen brand?
(Disclosure: I was sent free samples from Juice Beauty, The Honest Company and Miessence in exchange for my honest opinion. There are a couple of affiliate links in this post. Any purchase you make helps keep this blog in business. Thank you!)