***Summer is fast approaching (yay!), so it’s a perfect time to share this post originally published in May 2014. I still adore these sunscreen choices and highly recommend them if you’re looking for alternatives to chemical sunscreens…and don’t forget to check out Choosing a Healthy Sunscreen, Part 2 (sunscreens for the body and lips) as well!***
With summer just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to discuss how to choose a healthy sunscreen and share some of my favorite sunscreen brands. As we all know, sunscreen use is important to protect against skin cancer as well as premature aging of the skin. Unfortunately, I know this all too well, as I’ve lost count of how many procedures I’ve had to endure over the last several months in my dermatologist’s office. I’m so tired of receiving “atypical” biopsy results (which I believe are a result of both my sun exposure over the years and my use of mercaptopurine, a medication which is meant to help treat Crohn’s). Take it from me: being cut into time and time again (along with the joy of stitches and scarring) is not fun. So making sure I’m using sunscreen when I’m in the sun for prolonged periods of time is a priority for me, and I highly recommend that others take it seriously too. Prevention is the key!
The problem is that most of the sunscreens found in the average drugstore are composed of dangerous chemical sunscreens and other ingredients that can actually contribute to the development of skin cancer and other health conditions (not to mention, a lot of people are allergic to these chemical ingredients).
What to Look for in a Healthy Sunscreen
Some of the ingredients I look for in a healthy sunscreen product are:
- mineral sunscreens (i.e. zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) as the active ingredients and no chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone)
- no parabens (i.e. chemical preservatives linked to cancer and other health hazards)
- no retinyl palmitate or any variations of vitamin A (which can actually accelerate the development of skin cancer).
(For detailed information on why these factors are important when choosing a healthy sunscreen, this info from Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great source.)
So what’s the difference between a mineral sunscreen and a chemical sunscreen? In a simplified nutshell: chemical sunscreens greatly absorb into the skin and can cause harm to our organs, while mineral (or physical) sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) provide effective protection and are less likely to penetrate the skin or reach far enough to do damage.
Where to Find Healthy Sunscreen Products and Information
If these healthy sunscreens are not often easily found in the local drugstore, where can we find them? I have the best luck online, but some nutrition stores (like Whole Foods and Sprouts) also carry alternative sunscreens (just be sure to read the ingredient lists, as not all are as natural or chemical-free as they claim to be). For a quick reference on the healthiest sunscreens, EWG’s annual Sunscreen Guide compares hundreds of sunscreen products and rates them according to their health hazards (the lower the score, the better). They don’t list every sunscreen available, but it’s a good start, and the website provides tons of useful information about healthy sun protection (EWG’s Skin Deep database does the same for cosmetic products).
My Favorite Healthy Sunscreen Products for the Face:
Still, as I’ve come to learn, just because a product is a healthy alternative to chemical versions, it doesn’t always mean it easy to use or apply. Finding a sunscreen that is both healthy and easy to use can be difficult. I’ve experimented with a lot of mineral sunscreens, and unfortunately a lot of them are quite thick and can leave a pasty white film on your skin, and like most sunscreens, they can be rather greasy too. None of this works for me, so it’s important for me to find products that meet my health criteria and also are easy to apply, don’t leave a pasty look and leave a nice texture.
Choosing a healthy sunscreen for the face, in particular, is a very different task than choosing a sunscreen for the body because the skin on the face is quite different. Keeping your complexion in mind, you have to consider skin types, sensitivity issues and breakout potential, especially because a lot of sunscreens are greasy and can make breakouts worse.
So after a lot of experimenting, here are some of my favorite healthy sunscreen products for the face. The following mineral sunscreen products are all free of chemical sunscreens, parabens and retinyl palmitate, and are ideal as far as application goes. They also do not contribute to breakouts (at least for me). Although they are not all completely natural, they are a good balance of healthy and practical:
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Tizo3 Protection Facial Mineral Fusion SPF 40 by Solar Protection Formula is probably my favorite sunscreen for the face. This tinted formula glides on to leave a silky, matte finish, instead of the typical greasy sunscreen feel. I love that it’s tinted…in fact, I often use it in the place of makeup since it provides very sheer coverage and a lovely finish. (Note: if you find the tint too dark, which may be an issue if you’re fair-skinned, like me, just mix a little of your regular moisturizer with your Tizo3 application. Just don’t dilute it too much, as this will provide less sun protection.)
2. Rodan and Fields
Prefer a facial sunscreen without tint? Rodan and Fields makes two great mineral sunscreen products: Soothe Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 is light and perfect for sensitive skin, and Unblemish Oil Control Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 20 is perfect for those looking for blemish and oil control. My hubby, who finds difficulty finding a facial sunscreen that isn’t greasy or doesn’t cause breakouts, really loves this one because he can use it worry-free!
3. Andalou Naturals
Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without some all natural options. Andalou Naturals BB All in One Beauty Balm, Sheer Tint, SPF 30 has a list of ingredients that is so healthy, it rates only a score of 1 on EWG’s sunscreen database (an almost perfect score!). Although this sunscreen product is tinted, it’s a very sheer tint as compared to Tizo3 (and it has more of a yellow undertone, just as a side note). The tint helps deter that white cast look and it feels great to know I’m using all natural ingredients. Andalou Naturals also has a non-tinted version, Andalou Naturals Oil Control SPF 30 Beauty Balm, Untinted, which has a nice matte finish and is not at all greasy.
Do you have a favorite mineral sunscreen for the face? If so, please share! And stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I will discuss choosing healthy sunscreen products for body and lip protection.
Until then, stay healthy and beautiful, inside and out!