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Finding Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Sunscreen Without Getting Burned

Harmful oxybenzone sunscreen is out—so, what’s next?

If you’ve found your ‘holy grail’ of sun protection and it contains oxybenzone, it may soon be reformulated to comply with bans on that ingredient in an increasing number of locations.

Of course, it’s worth it to protect our precious coral reefs from continued harm. Plus, some believe that oxybenzone and other similar chemical may interfere with hormone production in people, although studies have not been conclusive.

That’s a bummer, especially if you’ve tried as many sunscreens as I have before finally finding the one. Your skin still needs protection—and a these changes may put you right back where you started.

Luckily, there are plenty of sunscreens out there that feel good, look good, and do no harm.

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens

You may have heard these words being tossed around in the news lately, but what do they actually mean?

Essentially, sunscreens can be separated into 3 basic “types.”

There are the chemical sunscreens, which use chemical ingredients to absorb UV rays and turn them into heat. This is the kind that requires you to wait 15 minutes or so before going out in the sun, to give the sunscreen time to sink into your skin and form a complete barrier. Chemical sunscreens commonly contain oxybenzone.

Physical sunscreens are made with ingredients like zinc or titanium dioxide. They work by forming a literal physical barrier on top of your skin that reflects light away. They start working right away, without any wait time.

The third type uses a combination of chemical and physical ingredients. These can have different effects depending on their exact formulation.

Sunscreen Pros and Cons

Physical and chemical sunscreens can both be effective. Which one you choose largely comes down to personal preference.

There are a few factors that may influence your decision, though:

  • Physical sunscreens are generally best for people with sensitive skin. They don’t sting or irritate like chemical sunscreens and are safer for people with rosacea.

  • Chemical sunscreens are more waterproof and can give more complete coverage as they sink into the skin—it’s easier to miss a spot with a physical sunscreen.

  • Physical sunscreens are naturally broad spectrum. Most high-end chemical sunscreens include broad-spectrum protection, but not all.

  • Physical sunscreens can sometimes leave a white cast on the skin due to their high mineral content.

Your new favorite people and planet-safe sunscreens

Now that the science lesson is over, let’s get to the goods. Your new go-to non-toxic, eco-friendly sunscreen could be waiting for you somewhere on this list.


Tinted Facial Sunscreen

Beauty By Earth

This is the sunscreen I use on my face every day, so of course I’m going to recommend it first.

The Natural Beige shade blends in with my pale skin without making me look orange, unlike every other tinted sunscreen I’ve tried. It looks a bit dark coming out of the tube, but don’t panic! Once it’s on, it looks great.

It also comes in Toffee and Cocoa for those of you who aren’t giving Casper the friendly ghost a run for his money.

This is a purely physical sunscreen with non-nano Zinc oxide as the active ingredient. It offers an SPF of 20, which may be a little light for some, but it hasn’t let me down.

Because it’s tinted, you don’t need to worry about a white cast being left on your face from the zinc, and you can also use it in place of your foundation, so it doesn’t need to be cosmetically elegant, per se.

I find that this provides sufficient coverage to use as a daily foundation, and if you go with a minimal makeup look, it’s easy to reapply this during the day. Which is a thing we all should apparently be doing, by the way.

The texture of this sunscreen is light and non-greasy, but it still provides moisture that my dry skin drinks up.

A few minutes after application, I can’t even tell that I’m wearing it, and this is coming from a dyed-in-the-wool sunscreen hater!


Clear Zinc Sunscreen

Babo Botanicals

For the rest of your body (or if you’re not into the idea of a tinted sunscreen) you’re going to want a clear sunscreen.

As I mentioned before, this can be hard to achieve with a physical sunscreen, but Babo Botanicals has managed it.


I have no idea. Wizardry hasn’t been ruled out, as far as I’m concerned.

At 30 SPF, this offers a bit more protection than the Beauty By Earth Tinted Sunscreen. It also comes in a scented version, if you prefer. Both options dry down with a clear, smooth finish that feels great and looks good under makeup.


Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen

Babo Botanicals

Dermatologists generally recommend sunscreen lotions over sprays because they offer better coverage, but if your kids refuse to let the stuff touch their skin, sprays are certainly better than nothing!

This physical sunscreen spray is a great choice that’s easy to apply and non-greasy. Just make extra sure you cover every last bit of exposed skin!


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