We like our sunscreens loaded with minerals—like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—not chemicals.
But according to the Environmental Working Group’s 10th Annual Sunscreen Guide, after surveying over 750 products made by everyone from major beauty brands to indie ones, about 75 percent of the options on the market are guilty of inferior sun protection or containing red-flag chemicals like potential hormone disruptor oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, which can actually make skin damage more likely.
So how can you know what’s trustworthy enough to slather on during a beach weekend? We’ve road-tested physical sunscreens—meaning they’re all mineral based—that top our honor roll, for not only being clean and effective, but also for blending nicely, and causing zero itching, burning, or breakouts. —Melisse Gelula, Lisa Elaine Held, Amy Marturana, Rachel Lapidos
Originally posted June 4, 2012, updated May 25, 2016.
The marquee ingredient in Drunk Elephant’s entire skin-loving line is antioxidant-rich marula oil. Here it’s blended with lightweight (but super potent) nutrients like vitamin C and fatty acids that shield skin from environmental damage, while also helping keep it firm and glowy. Even with the marula, it doesn’t feel oily. You might even forget you have it on—so set a timer to make sure you re-apply, okay?
Consider this the Honda of natural sunscreens—it’s reliable and safe, without being super fancy. The decidedly tacky texture is better for your beach volleyball game than feeling super smooth in a sundress. Just note before taking a swim: while it may have mega high levels of zinc oxide (22.5 percent!) to help keep your protected, it’s not at all water resistant.
Not to be confused with a salad dressing, this non-greasy sunscreen contains a rock solid amount of broad-spectrum, skin-protecting zinc, but otherwise the ingredient list is largely a bunch of plant extracts and oils, like aloe, shea butter, and sunflower. It has a light lavender scent and features the soothing, repairing Immortelle oil—which, when you think about it, is a great pairing for your sun-exposed skin.
Just when you thought you couldn’t survive another summer of the sticky sweet scent of Coppertone, this BeautyCounter offering comes in with a formula including grapefruit extract to give a subtle, fresh, and citrusy scent. The brand’s M.O. is painstakingly vetting and scrutinizing every ingredient (alone and in concert) before packaging it—including the 19 percent non-nano zinc oxide that protects in this sunscreen. Plus, it looks pretty gorgeous in your beach bag—just saying.
Organic and unscented, this zinc oxide sunscreen is slightly tinted, making it easily blendable for a range of skintones—and on hot days, you might just be able to skip your foundation or BB cream. It’s also one of the most affordable on the block and bears a super simple ingredient list (seabuckthorn oil, jojoba, beeswax) that you can easily decipher—a very good sign in a sunscreen.
Soho’s Ayurvedic beauty doctor makes this amazing sunscreen with about five ingredients. The texture and rose scent are super elegant, like a beauty product you’d pay way more for.
If your beach vacation carry-on is busting at the seams, this moisturizer, sunscreen, and primer all-in-one should make the cut. Plus its standout ingredients include things that your skin loves: aloe vera, jojoba, sunflower, pomegranate, cucumber, and green tea to hydrate and calm.
Juice Beauty is known for loading its skin care with antioxidants from fruit, and this zinc oxide sunscreen is no different. It also clings to your skin (yay, wholesome plant oils), meaning that it stays put through yoga in the park or on a long run.
Despite going on thick, it absorbs into the skin in a matter of seconds. That might have something to do with the fact that African shea butter rounds out the ingredients list (alongside titanium dioxide and zinc oxide). Bonus points for the lovely vanilla scent.
Unlike many sunscreen sticks, this one goes on clear—and has a nice (but subtle!) fruit fragrance, to boot. If it feels like it’s doing more than just protecting your skin, you’d be right: Beeswax is one of the first ingredients listed, meaning that it is seriously nourishing as well.
Mychelle’s coconut-scented Sun Shield is one of the lighest-feeling mineral-based sunscreens you’ll find—making it a perfect option for your face, when you’d rather skip the super-thick pastes. Plus, it smells like coconut, which would put just about anyone in a tropical mindset.
Of course, it’s not just about what you put on your skin—these 9 smoothies feature seriously glow-boosting ingredients. And no matter where you’re headed this summer, you’ll definitely want to use these healthy travel packing hacks.
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