9 Natural Sunscreens You Need This Summer
Made from minerals, these sunscreens are a healthier alternative to chemical sunscreens.
Summer and all that comes with it — warmer, longer days; weekends in Nantucket; vacations to Provence — present quite a catch-22. We love the sun — no, we need the sun (hello vitamin D! Goodbye seasonal affective disorder!) — but without proper protection, prolonged exposure can lead to painful burns and an increased risk of skin cancer. On the flip side, if we do protect ourselves with conventional sunscreens, potentially toxic chemicals can not only be absorbed into our skin and body systems but also wash off and harm the environment.
Several scientific studies have reported that chemicals in sunscreen can bleach our precious coral reefs and stunt their growth. As a result, Hawaii passed a bill last month banning sun blocks that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two of five potentially harmful ingredients found in conventional products, according to the Environmental Working Group. And if these chemicals can have such detrimental effects on our natural ecosystems, imagine what they can do to our bodies. While more research is needed to truly discern the effects of oxybenzone and the like (studies point to hormone and endocrine disruption, for starters), the ingredient is certainly pervasive: It has been detected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in over 96 percent of the American population.
There is another option: physical sun blockers, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients, which are naturally broad spectrum,” says Kimberly Sayer, founder of her eponymous natural skincare brand. “[They] work by sitting on top of the skin and deflecting the sun’s rays.” Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, are meant to absorb the rays, says Tara Foley, the woman behind green-beauty store Follain. “Natural sunscreens are arguably more effective,” she says. And they’ve come a long way from the chalky, opaque paint we associate with surfer bros and lifeguards’ noses. Recent innovations have better options, like clear or tinted zinc formulas, Foley says.
Below are our top picks for safe summer fun.