Once upon a time, the average consumer couldn’t care less about the ingredients in their skincare products. They just wanted those products to work. However, younger and more socially-conscious consumers are pushing the beauty industry to offer more transparency in product formulas, as well as more sustainable ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, cruelty-free practices and no harsh chemicals such as parabens.
This movement makes sense, as we want to make sure that whatever we are applying to our skin, especially on a daily basis, is actually safe and good for our bodies. When it comes to sunscreen and other sun protection products, there are tons of manufacturers that claim their products are “natural.” But when shopping for all-natural sunscreen, what does “natural” really mean? Unfortunately, for a word that’s thrown around an awful lot, there doesn’t seem to be a clear industry definition, nor is the term regulated by the FDA.
To help our readers find the best natural sunscreens, we talked to a few experts to find out what you need to know when looking for sun protection products.
How To Pick the Best Natural Sunscreens
“Natural is just a vague marketing term; the key differentiation for sunscreens is ‘physical’ versus ‘chemical,'” Dr. Kenneth Mark, a cosmetic dermatology expert, told SPY in a recent interview.
Physical sunscreens, which are also known as mineral sunscreens, sit on top of the skin and reflect the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and absorb UV rays.
“The two best physical blockers, which by definition are more natural than chemical ingredients, are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide,” Mark said. “Since chemicals are not considered natural, avoid potentially dangerous ingredients such as oxybenzone and PABA,” he said. Other chemical active ingredients to look out for are avobenzone and octinoxate.
“Furthermore, natural sunscreens are less harmful to the environment and are considered coral reef-friendly,” said Dr. Orit Markowitz, Board Certified Dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in New York City. “Plus, natural sunscreens are especially beneficial for people who have sensitive skin and prone to irritation as natural sunscreens have fewer ingredients than chemical sunscreens.”
Unfortunately, natural zinc sunscreens have a reputation for turning users white as a sheet. That can be a problem, even with the best all-natural sunscreens. Generally, zinc sunscreens designed for daily use or with a more expensive formula generally blend into your skin much better.
Should You Wear Sunscreen Every Day?
Lately, dermatologists, beauty influencers and men’s grooming experts have been united by a shared belief: people should wear sunscreen every day. You’ve likely heard this advice by now, and if you’re like most men, you’ve ignored it altogether.
However, you don’t have to lather on Banana Boat beach sunscreen before heading to the office each day. Rather, there are many moisturizers and grooming products that provide SPF protection in addition to moisturizing and anti-aging benefits. These products lack the fragrance and oily texture of the sunscreen you’re used to but still provide protection from UV rays.
There are a lot of good reasons to apply sunscreen to your face (and even your lips) on a daily basis. First, these products will help reduce your risk of some types of skin cancer. In addition, many signs of aging are worsened by sun exposure. Guys who are starting to worry about wrinkles, dark circles, uneven skin tone and other signs of aging will benefit greatly from all-natural sunscreen.
If you’re skeptical about the advice to wear sunscreen every day, then consider adding one of the products below to your daily grooming regimen. Here are twelve natural mineral-based sun protection products.
1. Olivina Men 2-in-1 Face Moisturizer & Sunscreen
You want to keep your skin moisturized as well as wear your sunscreen but aren’t interested in a two-step process. Well, Olivina’s 2-in-1 face Moisturizer & Sunscreen is the product you need to reach for. It’s lightweight and contains zinc oxide for broad-spectrum UVA & UVB protection. Plus, its non-greasy formula contains ingredients like aloe vera that hydrates, and vitamins E and C can boost protection. “We know antioxidants help mitigate sun damage, so vitamins E and C can serve as natural sunscreen ingredients,” Mark said.
2. Every Man Jack Sun Shield Spray, SPF 50
If hiking and tough mudder events are your idea of a relaxing weekend activity, then Every Man Jack Sun Shield may become your favorite sunscreen. Its spray action allows you to get better coverage without streaking and doesn’t easily melt away from perspiration. Use it on days when you plan on heading outdoors for a nice long run or swim. With SPF 50, it offers serious protection from the sun. Plus, we’re a sucker for a good spray-on sunscreen.
3. Blissoma’s Photonic Light Shifting Solution, SPF 25
BEST FOR ACNE PRONE SKIN
We like this product because of how easily it applies, as some sunscreens can be a little too thick. It provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients from ingredients such as argan oil, organic sesame seed oil, red raspberry seed oil and squalane. It doesn’t use silicones, which can sometimes clog pores, making this a good option for those who may be prone to acne.
4. Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion, SPF 50
“So this product is on the pricier end, but the formula is really gentle. I prefer Eryfotona Actinica, which is zinc oxide based and has DNA repair enzymes,” Mark told us. The formula won’t irritate your skin, which may even look healthier after using it. “It’s cosmetically elegant formulations rub in nicely, unlike the stigma typically associated with zinc oxide-based products of being pasty white,” he added.
5. EleVen by Venus Williams x Credo Sunscreen, SPF 30
BEST FOR DARKER SKIN TONES
It can be a challenge for those with olive or darker skin tones to find SPF that doesn’t go on and look thick white gluey, and even chalky. Tennis champion and entrepreneur Venus Williams has partnered with Credo to introduce a sheer mineral sunscreen that blends into all skin tones. Plus, its semi-matte finish will stop you from looking shiny and greasy.
6. Powder-Me Dry Sunscreen, SPF 30
BEST SWEAT ABSORBING
While a powdery SPF may seem off-putting, it may be just the thing you need. In addition to being weightless, it can also be used on your scalp. For the days when you are running behind and need to skip washing your hair, it can help absorb some sweat. It is a broad-spectrum sunscreen made with titanium dioxide and comes in a refillable flow-through vegan brush.
7. EiR NYC Surf Mud & Snow Patrol Pro, SPF 50
BEST STICK SUNSCREEN
EiR NYC uses 100% compostable, plastic-free packaging and ingredients for zero waste. Its sunscreens are reef-safe, too. The Surf Mud Pro and Snow Patrol suncreen sticks contain ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide, cocoa butter, vitamin E, turmeric and cedar oils that protect with a chocolate scented finish. They are made to withstand the outdoor elements for active individuals.
8. Alchimie Forever Protective Day Cream SPF 23
Though using sunscreen regularly can help to protect you from the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays, there are many botanicals and anti-aging ingredients that can help maintain youthful-looking skin. in addition to homosalate, octocrylene, octisalate and avobenzone, Alchimie Forever Protective day cream also contains organic Swiss Edelweiss extract, an acid that improves the skin’s protective barrier, thus increasing protection from free radicals. Other ingredients such as European blueberry, vitamin C and vitamin E help prevent signs of premature aging.
9. Versed Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 35
BEST TRAVEL SIZE
Versed Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen comes in the perfect size to grab and go. The brand uses environmentally-friendly packaging but doesn’t skimp on protection, using 15% zinc oxide to protect you from the sun. It is also 100% vegan, fragrance, dye, and synthetic fragrance-free.
10. MyChelle Sun Shield Coconut, SPF 28
MyChelle Sun Shield is a broad-spectrum mineral protection sunscreen. One of the best all-natural sunscreens, it’s made with vitamin E and aloe to help soothe irritated skin and provide UV protection. It’s also rich in antioxidants and created without phthalates, parabens, sulfates, ureas, artificial fragrances and colors, petroleum, GMOs and gluten.
11. CōTZ Sport, SPF 45
BEST PLANT-BASED SUNSCREEN
For those who prefer plant-based formulas, it isn’t always easy to know which brands you can trust. Well, CōTZ Sport is USDA Certified Biobased, containing 93% USDA certified biobased content. This reef-friendly sunscreen formula is also free of gluten, preservatives, parabens and phthalates. Plus, it’s never tested on animals. Best of all, this high-performance sunscreen was specifically designed with athletes in mind, and it won’t disappear at the first sign of water or sweat. So if you’re looking for the best all-natural sunscreens for athletes, this is our top recommendation for you.
GREAT FOR ATHLETES
12. Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream, SPF 40
If organic ingredients are important to you, then Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream is a good option; it contains 98% organic ingredients. Plus, it is certified Protect Land+Sea, meaning it does not have any contaminants considered harmful to coral reef environments, sea turtles and other life on land or sea. “I love this brand because they make safe and natural mineral sunscreens using ingredients like zinc, vitamin E, and beeswax,” Markowitz said.