It’s the first day of spring and pouring snow outside so WHAT BETTER TIME TO WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT SUNSCREEN?
I’m quickly becoming a sunscreen snob. Maybe I always have been. I’m pretty finicky about the texture and smell of things on my skin, so even when I was a kid trying to get sunscreen on me was the worst. And I was a fair-skinned freckled redheaded child, so I’m sure that was great fun for my parents. I got my fair share of sunburns as a teenager and twenty-something before realizing that no, my skin was actually never going to build up a tolerance to the sun, and I needed to be protected if I was going to be outside for more than 20 minutes.
In any case, now I’m medically required to wear sunscreen every day. Even if I’m staying indoors. (Turns out pretty much all light comes with UV exposure, even household lightbulbs. Who knew?)
But if I’m going to be putting something on my skin every single day, I’m determined to use something that is safe and that doesn’t irritate either my super sensitive skin or my super particular senses. I don’t try anything that doesn’t get at least a 2 on EWG’s rating system, or anything that includes chemical-based sunscreen ingredients, since those irritate my skin when exposed to sun.* (Ironic, I know.) For sunscreens not included in the EWG database, I compared ingredients to EWG-rated products to estimate a rating.
To summarize, here’s what I’m looking for in a sunscreen:
- Safe for everyday use
- Includes only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients
- Not a pain to apply
- Rubs in well (I’m pale enough without an additional ghostly cast, thanks.)
- Doesn’t feel sticky
- Doesn’t have a strong scent
- Bonus: moisturizing enough to not need a separate product
Not a lot to ask, right?
Having read a bunch of other people’s blogs and tested approximately every SPF 30+ sunscreen Whole Foods sells and some they don’t, I’ll share with you what I’ve found in hopes of saving you some time and red skin.
Keys Solar Rx (SPF 30+)
I love this stuff. I was using their Luminos moisturizer before I started wearing sunscreen every day, and this is just the Luminos formula with 20% zinc oxide. The zinc oxide blends in with no effort, and it’s moisturizing enough to not need an additional product for my dry skin. It absorbs to a matte finish and doesn’t leave my skin feeling sticky at all, though it’s a little too damp to be able to apply a powder foundation over it. I’m sure you’d have no trouble with a liquid foundation.
When I first started using it I noticed I broke out a tiny bit, but that subsided after maybe a week of consistent use. You’ll recognize all the ingredients, which I like, though it’s not a priority for me. I love simplifying my routine (autoimmune brain fog = memory problems, so the fewer steps to remember, the better!), and this is a great one-and-done product.
MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Liquid, Non-tinted (SPF 50)
I’ve only been using this a week or so, but I like it a lot so far and plan to keep using it. I was very happy with the Keys, but since my doctor would really prefer I be wearing extremely high SPF chemical-based sunscreens, I decided to give this a go. This is just a sunscreen, not a moisturizer, so I have to put on a dedicated moisturizer underneath it. I do find my face gets a little dry later in the day with this routine, whereas that’s never a problem with the Keys, so that’s something to consider if you’d be fine with the lower SPF.
It blends in easily, leaving just a little white cast behind. I don’t think it’s too much on me, but if you’re not the sort of person who has trouble finding makeup in a light-enough shade for you, you might try their tinted versions of this product first, or want to add foundation on top. It dries to a very matte finish, and a very dry finish. I can apply powder foundation over it easily. A little goes a long way with this, so I think the 1 oz bottle will last a while.
It’s worth noting that neither of these face sunscreens are water resistant, so if you’re headed out to the beach or pool, you’ll want to choose a different product.
MyChelle Dermaceuticals Replenishing Solar Defense Body Lotion (SPF 50)
This is one of my new favorites. It’s a good moisturizer, so hooray for not needing 2 products! It blends in easily, despite the 21% zinc oxide content, and it’s water-resistant to boot. Plus my skin smells lovely, but not in an overpowering omg-what-is-that-smell kind of way. What’s not to love? (Ok, it’s a little pricier than some other options, but not by much, given that it comes in a 6 oz tube. For a product that I have literally zero complaints with and saves me a step, it’s worth it.)
ThinkSport Sunscreen (SPF 50+)
This is my other new favorite. It’s not a moisturizer, but other than that it’s just as great as the MyChelle Body Lotion. It blends in with no effort and is water-resistant. My skin looks and feels just like my skin after application. It’s a little cheaper than the MyChelle. They make a version for kids too, so definitely look into that if you’re looking for sunscreen for your little ones.
Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen for Body, Unscented (SPF 30)
This one rubs in super easily and has no stickiness to speak of. It’s harder to find (I ordered it online from suntegrity.com) and not water-resistant, so I won’t be making it my go-to. I do, however, really like this company’s lip products, so have a look at those if you’re interested in sun protection for your lips.
Kiss My Face Mineral Face & Body Sunscreen (SPF 30)
If I somehow left the house unprotected and without my ubiquitous tube of backup sunscreen, and I had to run into a store to buy some, this would be my top choice. It’s pretty widely available, water-resistant, and not too big of a pain to rub in. It will definitely leave you a little on the whiter side, though. I tried it on my face once and regretted it—too white and greasy. But on the body, it’s fine. It doesn’t stay very sticky after application.
Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented and Sport versions (SPF 30 & 35, respectively)
The Badger sunscreens have plenty of devoted fans. I am not among them. On the plus side, they are widely available and water-resistant. But I also found them to be next to impossible to rub in, and they left me looking more undead than any of the other options listed here. My skin stayed sticky long after application. That said, Badger is a great brand, and if I were stuck without any of the above, I’d use these. I’ve kept them in my backup sunscreen stash, and that’s saying something, considering how many other brands I tested and returned.
So that’s it, friends. This is not by far an exhaustive list of sunscreens I’ve tried, but it is a pretty complete list of options I’ve tried and used a second time. Leave a comment and let me know of other sun protection products you love!
*Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are chemicals too, of course, but they work by creating a barrier on your skin so that the UV rays are blocked, rather than absorbing into your skin and causing a chemical reaction that keeps the UV rays from doing damage. For my purposes, “chemical-based sunscreens” refers to these latter products. Mineral sunscreens like the ones I include here tend to be better at preventing UVA damage than chemical-based sunscreens. Whatever you use, choose a product that is clearly labeled “Broad Spectrum” to make sure you’re keeping your skin safe from both UVA and UVB rays.
(This post reflects only my own experience with these products, so of course your experience may be very different. I have no financial stake in any of these products and receive no benefits from this review.)