(I may earn a small commission on the products mentioned in this post.)
Here at Beach Life Expert we talk at length about sunscreen. After all, it’s the most essential item for the beach.
These days there is constant conversation regarding chemicals and their effect on our lives. Chemicals are found in food wrappers, clothes we wear, the air we breathe, and the lotions we put on our bodies.
We know that our bodies absorb the lotions we apply. Because of this fact, many people are weary about sunscreens that use chemicals as ingredients.
Chemicals have the ability to affect our bodies by causing cancer and also have the ability to negatively affect the environment. The following information should help you choose a more natural sunscreen for you and your family.
Sunscreen, Sunburns, and Youth Spent at the Beach
I grew up at the beach 1990’s when sunscreen was available but not as popular as it is today. I was sunburned constantly and because I was young, my skin healed quickly. To be honest, being sunburned was part of growing up in California.
As I got older and went to university I continued to get sunburned and to this day I still can’t seem to learn from my past experiences. I either forget to wear sunburn, think I’ll be ok, or I don’t apply enough sunscreen to my body.
Part of the reason I don’t use sunscreen as much as I should is because of the chemical ingredients in lotions. I am fair skinned, allergic to many things, and sensitive to anything I put on my body.
Although sunscreen will keep me from being sunburned the ingredients sometimes cause me to break out in a rash. The potential for skin irritation has caused me to skip sunscreens in the past.
As I researched sunscreen for this article I found a few sunscreens that use natural ingredients and should be more gentle on my skin.
UVA and UVB Radiation
It’s important to know the difference between UVA and UVB radiation. These stand for ultraviolet light A and ultraviolet light B and they are the main causes for health problems in the U.S.
- Radiation penetrates deep into skin
- Skin aging
- More UVA radiation in atmosphere
- Even on cloudy days
- Affects superficial skin layers
- Sunburn, redness
- Also cancer causing
- Significant at high altitudes, snow (reflection)
- Less UVB radiation in atmosphere
In order to protect yourself from cancer-causing radiation and sunburn, you’ll need a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB light.
Related: Beach Essentials for Women
Natural vs. Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients
Below are a list of common mineral and chemical sunscreen ingredients.
Mineral (natural) (sun deflectors)
- Zinc oxide
- Titanium oxide
Chemical (sun absorbers)
- Aminobenzoic acid (PABA), Avobenzone, Cinoxate, Dioxybenzone, Ecamsule, Ensulizole, Homosalata, Meradimate, Octocrylene, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone (allergies and anti-androgenic effects), Padimate, Sulisobenzone, Trolamine
There are a few tough choices to make about sunscreen:
- Chemical ingredients do a really good job for skin protection
- Although approved for use in sunscreen, we don’t understand many of the long-term effects of chemical sunscreen use on our bodies.
- Some chemical ingredients (oxybenzone) can be found in our urine after applying to skin.
- Some of the FDA approved chemical ingredients are banned in other countries
- Just because an ingredient is “natural” (titanium oxide) doesn’t mean it’s healthy. There are concerns about the effects of titanium oxide on our body too
- All of these chemicals and minerals have the potential to be harmful to the ocean – more-so chemicals but minerals (nano-particles) also.
The Beach Environment and Sunscreen
The more I research sunscreen ingredients the more I understand the terrible effects sunscreen has on our environment. Yet most people visiting the beach have no idea. In Hawaii you can visit the beach any time of year and test for sunscreen ingredients in the water…they don’t go away.
Oxybenzone is present is all tourist beaches and especially harmful because it bleaches coral reefs (other chemicals and minerals are suspected to do so as well).
Every year 14,000 tons of sunblock seep into our ocean waters and not all of it is from swimming in the ocean. When you travel home and shower much of the soap and sunscreen washes down the drain and ends up in the ocean.
After learning this information I know I will be more careful when I buy sunscreen, not only for my own health but the health of the oceans.
7 Best Natural Sunscreens Safe for Babies, Adults, and the Beach
While writing this article I read many other reviews on “safe” sunscreens. I also checked with the Environmental Working Group website to find well-rated sunscreens for humans and the environment.
I was shocked at the misinformation on the internet. Many websites claimed certain sunscreens were chemical-free but actually they had chemicals.
Even sunscreen companies misrepresented what they were selling, claiming “Reef Safe” when they had petroleum-based ingredients.
In the list below I mention some of the best sunscreens available for human and environmental health. I noticed that Badger, Manda, Auctiv, Raw Elements, and LureLux sunscreens stood out from the rest and really were what they claimed.
There are others on this review that are good options as well.
There’s a saying when it comes to chemical based products: “If you can’t say it, don’t spray it.” I hope this list helps you make an informed decision for you and your family.
No. 1 Badger Baby Sunscreen – SPF 30 – All Natural & Certified Organic
Badger comes in at the top of our list and it’s for good reason: take a look at the ingredients below. I can pronounce all of them and it truly is chemical free.
Even though a product is labeled “baby”, it doesn’t mean adults can’t use it also. This would be a great everyday sunscreen to wear on your face without worrying about chemical effects on your body.
If you decide to wear at the beach, I recommend applying more frequently than the recommended 1x every 2 hours (maybe 1x every hour). The reason I recommend more frequent application is because natural ingredients often are less effective than their chemical counterparts, but it doesn’t mean this product isn’t effective.
*Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E), *Anthemis Nobilis (Roman Chamomile) Flower Oil, *Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Flower Extract, *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Seabuckthorn) Fruit Extract
For the sake of our health and environment, give this product a shot. There are a ton of reviews supporting the product. They are doing something right!
No. 2 MANDA Organic Sun Paste – SPF 50
Manda was created after learning about the harsh impact chemical sunscreens have on our environment. At the same time, the founders realized they could create a healthier product for people as well.
This sunscreen uses Thanaka, which is a tree bark paste used in Myanmar for skin health and sun protection. I actually worked in Myanmar in recent years and it’s great to see a company adopting useful traditional practices that are 1) natural and 2) effective.
Manda has blended organic ingredients with a mineral based non-nano zinc oxide protection. The non-nano means it’s ok for the environment and the zinc oxide is great for UVA and UVB protection.
Active Ingredients: Non-nano zinc oxide – 20%, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Beeswax, Organic Cocoa Butter, Thanaka, Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Shea Butter, Organic Cinnamon Oil
This product also uses recyclable packaging. It is a paste not a lotion so keep this in mind when buying and let us know what you think!
No. 3 LureLux Sunscreen – SPF 25
LureLux is a hidden gem in the sunscreen industry. They focus on human AND environmental health. This sunscreen is SPF 25 and the main ingredient is zinc oxide (non-nano).
The remaining components are plant/fungi/beeswax ingredients and they even use pineapple and coconut extract to create a pleasant smell.
Fresh Organic Hand Filleted Aloe Vera Leaf, Fresh Spring Water, Zinc Oxide USP 15%, Vitamin D2 Extracted From Fresh Mushrooms, Grape Seed Oil, Beeswax, Vegetable Wax, Fermented Horseradish, Grapefruit Extract, Pineapple and Coconut Extract (Natural Fragrance)
There are over 300 reviews for this product and a strong average rating. I like seeing products that not only work, but are also a healthy and environmentally friendly. Get familiar with this brand because it’s growing quickly!
No. 4 Raw Elements Sunscreen – SPF 30
Raw Elements is legit, take it from bro below. Raw Elements is reef safe, uses no chemicals and non-nano zinc oxide. It’s also non-gmo, never tested on animals (bunny friendly), and has a lot of organic ingredients.
Raw Elements sunscreen has multiple forms of sunscreen but their most popular is the lotion and stick. It does apply thickly and can look white (effect of zinc oxide) but you can rub it in for a while and after soaking into the skin the color will go away.
Non Nano Zinc Oxide 23%, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Green Tea, Organic Black Tea, Organic Coffee, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, All Natural Mango Butter, Organic Beeswax, All Natural Rosemary Oil Extract, All Natural Vitamin E (most are organic).
Reviews for this product are numerous and positive. People like the fact it doesn’t come off in the water and fair skinned people say after days in the sun, no sunburn. I like the sound of that! Check out this helpful review below:
No. 5 Badger All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
Badger has another great sunscreen that is unscented. It uses zinc oxide as there main ingredient which gives good natural protection from UVA and UVB radiation. The other ingredients are easy to read and familiar.
If you want a bit more protection with added zinc oxide this may be a better option for long periods of time at the beach. It is also likely safe for young kids over the age of 6 months.
There is 1 negative about this product: ideally, the zinc oxide would not be micronized (not the best for ocean), however it lacks chemicals which is a big plus for human health.
Micronized Zinc Oxide 20.5% Other Sunscreen Ingredients: *Extra Virgin Olive Oil, *Beeswax, *Jojoba Oil, *Cocoa Butter, *Shea Butter, and CO2 Extracts of *Rosemary, and *Seabuckthorn Berry
As with all Badger products you’re getting natural, quality products that are also well-reviewed. This natural sunscreen has over 300 positive reviews.
No. 6 Auctiv Organic Face Sunscreen – SPF 30
Until I wrote this article I had never heard of Auctiv. As it turns out, Auctiv is from my home state, California, and was created by none other than surfers.
One thing we can rely on surfers for is clean, healthy products because they want to keep their waves safe. Auctiv makes sunscreens for athletes, not only in the water but also on land. Their sunscreens are chemical-free and 100 biodegradable, including the packaging.
Certified organic and natural. Made with Zinc Oxide (non-nano) 25%, certified organic beeswax, certified organic cocoa powder and extra virgin coconut oil.
These guys have a great message. You’ll notice in the video below that it’s a stick sunscreen. You use the tube to press sunscreen against your face or body and use your hands to rub it in. Don’t worry, after rubbing in the sunscreen the white color will fade.
No. 7 Kiss My Face Kids Mineral SPF 30 Natural Organic Sunscreen
Kiss My Face is a better known brand that makes healthy and natural skin care products. This mineral-based sunscreen is great for kids and has a strong SPF 30 (anything over 50 is overdoing it).
One thing you’ll notice right away is the added titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. The combination will provide good protection from UVA and UVB rays. The rest of the ingredients aren’t much different than the others on our list.
Titanium Dioxide 6%, Zinc Oxide 6% Other Ingredients: Cera Alba (Beeswax)*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Lycium Barbarum (Goji Berry) Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame Oil)*
Kiss My Face sunscreen is a good option for people who want an affordable sunscreen, solid protection, and who care about the ocean they are swimming in. Titanium oxide has had some negative press over its impacts on humans and the environment, however it is natural and in my opinion a much better option than any chemical-based sunscreen.
So there you have it. We covered why sunscreens are important, UVA and UVB rays, chemical vs mineral sunscreens and reviewed some of the best natural sunscreens on the market.
I think you’ll find that the products I mentioned really are chemical-free and 6 out of 7 are great (ok, not harmful) for the environment – 2 birds with 1 stone. There are a number of other sunscreens out there, so do extra research.
I really wanted to add Stream2Sea and AllGood sunscreen brands to this list, however there were some ingredients that looked like chemicals (or were hard to say). To play it safe I left them off the list.
I hope this information helps clear up the misinformation out there. I also hope it keeps your family, especially children, safe during those summer days at the beach. Remember, just because a sunscreen says “babies” or “kids” doesn’t mean adults can’t use it too.
Note: Speak to your doctor before applying sunscreen to a newborn, baby, or child.