The Best Non-Toxic Sunscreens

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The term “non-toxic sunscreen” is tricky to define, and often, labeling a product as “non-toxic” is a matter of marketing hype more than anything else. The most important thing about choosing a sunscreen is that it works for you so you use it daily, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Orit Markowitz, who spoke to Elite Day for this article. “As long as they don’t fall on any harsh chemical list or haven’t been recalled, you should be in good shape,” she says.

Dr. Markowitz adds, “If you’re being cautious with all of the possible harshness of sunscreens, as well as the preservatives that can cause skin irritation, then you are most likely better off with a mineral sunscreen. Some of the natural blocking ingredients such as iron or titanium oxide are sunscreen in the purest form and are on all of the OK lists in terms of harsh ingredients, not damaging the environment, and lacking any chemical components that can be absorbed because they are physically on top of the skin.”

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, chair of Functional Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, tells Elite Daily that she prefers mineral-based sunscreens over chemical ones, particularly those made with non-micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Dr. Stephenson advises patients to avoid oxybenzone, because of concerns it may act as a hormone disruptor (though it has not yet been definitely proven as having this effect in humans, Dr. Stephenson believes there’s enough information to act with caution and avoid it), and likes sunscreens that contain antioxidants like vitamins C and E, “Because these add an additional layer of protection and can also help to repair existing skin damage.”

With that in mind, keep scrolling to discover six of the best sunscreens you can feel good about using. But remember: If none of these sunscreens wind up working for you, the most important thing is to keep trying new ones until you find your perfect match — because sunscreen isn’t toxic, it’s vital.

Expert’s Pick: Best Tinted Sunscreen

Dr. Markowitz says the tinted, fragrance-free EltaMD UV daily sunscreen “Doubles as my winter sunscreen plus foundation. In the winter months when the sun's rays are less harsh, and I am not outdoors as often, this sunscreen provides sufficient sun protection. In the summer months, I like to layer my sunscreen for added protection, so this product becomes my sunscreen primer. I love this formula because it doubles as protection and as a foundation. Additionally, it is super lightweight, making the application process feel good.”

Unlike the other sunscreens on this list, this is a combined mineral and chemical sunscreen, with 9.0% zinc oxide and 7.5% octinoxate providing the sun protection. Additional ingredients include hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to further nourish and protect your skin.

Expert’s Pick: Best For Sun-Damaged Skin

Dermatologists, including Dr. Markowitz, often recommend ISDIN Mineral Sunscreen because the zinc oxide formula also contains vitamin E and plankton-derived photolyase enzymes, which are clinically proven to repair DNA that’s been damaged by UV light, so this product works both to protect and heal sun-damaged skin. With an SPF of 60 and a water-resistant rating of 40 minutes, this elegant sunscreen works for beach days as well as applied underneath makeup.

The Best Tinted Sunscreen For Dark Skin

If you have very tan or Black skin, this is one of the rare mineral sunscreens that won’t leave behind a white cast, thanks to its brown tint. It’s an amazing product for daily use, as it has an SPF of 50, is rich in skin-protecting antioxidants, and helps promote a smooth, even-looking complexion while leaving behind a matte finish. It even has a water-resistant rating of 80 minutes, so it would work for beach days, as well. If you have very deep skin, this still might not be dark enough, but it’s still a much better alternative to all the other, ghostly-white mineral sunscreens out there.

The Best Sunscreen Tin

This tin of clear, fragrance-free, mineral-based sunscreen from Badger is made of just four ingredients: 22.5% zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E — that’s it. It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, so it provides great, long-lasting coverage. It’s also quite thick, which is excellent for preventing sunburns, but it does require a bit of time to apply broadly across the skin.

The Best Sunscreen Stick

Another sunscreen with a super-short and easy-to-understand ingredients list, Waxhead’s sunscreen stick contains 25% non-nano zinc oxide, coconut oil, beeswax, and vanilla extract. It provides 80 minutes of water resistant coverage and has an SPF 30 rating. You dot this thick sunscreen onto your skin, and though it it goes on white, it turns transparent after rubbing it in. It doesn’t feel at all greasy and won’t run into your eyes, even when vigorously sweating, so it’s a great option for outdoor athletes.

The Best Sunscreen Spray

Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen Spray is made with 14.5% non-nano zinc oxide for sun protection, along with nourishing ingredients like calendula, coconut, safflower seed oil, and bisabolol. The fragrance-free formula has an SPF of 30 and a water-resistant rating of 80 minutes, feels lightweight and non-sticky on skin, rubs in easily, and comes in a convenient, non-aerosol spray bottle. It’s safe for use on babies of course, but adults will love this gentle sunscreen, too.

The Best Sunscreen With Iron Oxides

Many customers find the thick, white cast of mineral sunscreens unappealing, so Dr. Stephenson says, “One solution some companies have found is to add iron oxide to their formulas. Its reddish cast neutralizes the whitish cast of non-micronized formulas and has a nice tint. It also protects against visible light in [a] micronized formula [and] against melasma, a skin discoloration condition many people experience when visible light reacts with estrogen.”

Water-resistant up to 80 minutes, MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50 is made with 2% titanium dioxide and 17% zinc oxide, along with iron oxide to help provide the product’s sheer, disappearing tint. Ideal for skin that tends to be on the oily side, it contains oil-absorbing dimethicone and leaves behind a matte finish. Additionally, it’s made with antioxidants like vitamin C, green tea, pomegranate, and cranberry to amp up its protective benefits. It’s also free of both fragrance and oil, in case those are things you prefer to avoid.


Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Orit Markowitz, M.D., Founder of OptiSkin, NYC

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, D.C., C.N.S., chair of Functional Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America & Author, VIBRANT: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow

Studies referenced:

Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone-3 by Joseph C DiNardo, Craig A Downs