Every year when spring rolls around, the questions and requests start coming in: 1. Will Zoe Organics please create a sunscreen, and 2. What are our non-toxic, go-to sunscreen recommendations for sensitive skin?
We hope to have sunscreen products to offer in the future, but until we are able to develop something truly amazing that hasn't already been done (we really want to knock your socks off!), we will just continue to recommend our favorites and share our tips for taking care of your family's skin this summer. Below you will find a list of our favorite sunscreens that we have personally tested. Then, because summer skincare isn't limited to sun protection, we have included our list of other summer skincare essentials, from after-sun moisture and sunburn relief to insect repellent.
I have a list of main factors by which I judge a sunscreen. These are:
- Is it safe? Check the ingredients list.
- Is it effective? In other words, did we burn when we used it? This is the real kicker. The biggest issue we've experienced with mineral based sunscreens is the short protection time. It is really important to reapply every 90 minutes. The longer it lasts the better - it's hard enough to get the kids to stand still once! We are in the water a lot during the summer, so having a sunscreen that is water resistant is important to us.
- Is it easy to apply? Being able to spread it evenly and thoroughly is really important - we've all seen the blotchy, or streaked burned sections of the skin that were "missed" when applying sunscreen. Because mineral-based sunscreens protect by creating a barrier on the skin, you can't skimp on product.
- Was there a negative skin reaction (other than sunburn)?
- Bonus: If we can manage NOT to look pasty white, it's a WIN. If the smell is pleasant and not overpowering or strangely artificial - WIN again.
NOTE: the sunscreens in this list are all mineral-based, with the active ingredient being zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination. These work by actually creating a barrier on the skin. It can take some getting used to, if you are like me and grew up slathering Banana Boat or Coppertone on your skin. I don't like feeling sticky, or looking pasty – so when I review them, I may be a little more critical about this aspect. But when all is said and done, if we are avoiding toxins, as well as skin damage or cancer, the white cast is a small price to pay.
I will never forget the negative reaction my then 2-year-old had to a "natural" sunscreen product I had picked up at a Whole Foods Market years ago. There weren't many truly natural sunscreen options at that time. I applied it to my 2 & 4 year old boys before a day at the lake. We didn't get sunburned, but the next morning, my 2-year-old (with delicate pale skin) had broken out in a rash.. and the rash continued to get worse until it covered his whole torso and arms! Unfortunately, Benadryl didn't do a thing, so he ended up on steroids and it took 3 days to become noticeably better. This experience was unexpected to say the least, and it has led me to start scrutinizing ingredients lists and seeking out those truly clean, gentle sunscreen options.
The good news is, we have so many more options in natural, mineral-based sunscreens today! The bad news is, it can get overwhelming trying to decipher the best fit for your child or family. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it gives you some more information so you can narrow down your choices and find something that works for you.
Sunscreen for Baby/Child
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 30, non-nano zinc oxide, for face & body, vegan, GF, sensitive skin.
Verdict: This sunscreen cream has a clean ingredients list and we had no sunburns when using it, even after swimming in the pool for two hours. It is great for sensitive skin and a great pick for infants. It is one of the most transparent zinc formulas I have used. After you rub it in, there is only a very slight white appearance. My only wish for this sunscreen is that it was less sticky when applying. It was more difficult to spread on my older kids (6 & 8). I felt like it started drying and became sticky before I could spread it on larger surface areas. For smaller kids and faces, this wasn't an issue. The summer scent is really fun for kids (even big kids), or you can go with the unscented version. I will definitely purchase this product again.
Price: $19.95 / 3 fl. oz.
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 30, non-nano zinc oxide, for face & body, hypoallergenic for sensitive skin. I tried 3 formulas: baby (chamomile & calendula scent), kids (tangerine & vanilla) & unscented (for baby, child or adults with sensitivities).
Verdict: This sunscreen cream has the cleanest, most simple ingredients list of all I have tried, with between 95-98% being certified organic. It works well and is very water resistant. Because it is so gentle, it is ideal for sensitive skin and infants. The downside is the white residue from the zinc oxide. It does not go on clear, but leaves a light white film on the skin. In my opinion, if you can get past the white appearance, you have a very effective, gentle sunscreen. The scents are mild and sweet, or you can choose unscented.
Price: $15.95 / 2.9 oz.
Details: The active ingredient in this sunscreen is non-nano titanium dioxide, rather than zinc oxide. It is very water resistant, lasting up to 80 minutes in the water before needing to reapply.
Verdict: This formula is very thick and I felt it was harder to spread evenly or rub in. It left our skin very white (awkwardly so). The bonus is that it does work well, and it lasts a long time. It it unscented and comes in several sizes, plus it's easy to find (I picked up the 6-ounce size at Target).
Price: $39.95 / 6 oz.
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 30, with non-nano zinc oxide. Chamomile & lavender scent.
Verdict: A luxurious, creamy sunscreen that is easy to apply, doesn't leave a pasty residue and smells heavenly. I didn't find this to be as effective for swimming or water sports, but great for general sun protection. I enjoy using this sunscreen for myself as well, so you'll find it in the sunscreens for mom (section below).
Price: $23 / 2.5 oz.
Details: Zinc oxide broad spectrum SPF 30, full UVA / UVB protection, quick drying and easy to apply spray.
Verdict: This sunscreen was our go-to during our trip to Lake Tahoe this summer. I applied it on myself and my girls once in the morning and then after lunch. I'm happy to report that no one got a sunburn! It did leave a slight white residue, but nothing too bad.
Price: $36 / 3.4 fl. oz.
Details: Full body sunscreen in an eco-friendly plastic free tin. Made from certified all-natural ingredients, it provides UVA-UVB true broad spectrum protection.
Verdict: This product is made for days by the water, as it is water resistant beyond 80 minutes! Safe for everyone in the family with the cleanest certified organic ingredients.
Get 10% off on their site with code zoeorganics10!
Sunscreen for Mom
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 30 non-nano zinc oxide in a light-weight day cream.
Verdict: I'm hooked on this super light, non-greasy formula that leaves clean, transparent protection on my face. I use it directly after my cleansing routine in the morning. I usually go without, or with very light makeup, and there is no white cast from the zinc oxide. I am extremely picky about what goes on my face, and this cream is so lightweight, it feels clean. Not only is this day cream a sunscreen, but it is filled with potent active herbal extracts, plant oils, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that nourish, repair and protect the skin. An added bonus is the light, sweet cocoa scent.
Price: $85 / 2 fl. oz.
Details: SPF 30, Plastic-free packaging, broad spectrum protection, skin-tone tint, packed with biologically active antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and extracts, it continues protecting your skin long after environmental exposure.
Verdict: We love this everyday tinted face SPF! The ingredients are as clean as it gets.
Get 10% off on their site with code zoeorganics10!
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 30+, non-nano zinc oxide.
Verdict: The DeVita Solar Body Moisturizer is another one of my go-to body moisturizers. Great for applying every morning after a shower. It goes on very smoothly and evenly. It blends right into my skin, leaving no white residue.
Price: $27.95 / 7 oz.
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 30, non-nano zinc oxide sun and wind protection, for face and lips; summer scent.
Verdict: The ingredients in this product are a slam dunk, and I love the scent. My husband and I recently spent the day cycling in the Napa Valley. It was a warm, sunny and windy day and we were riding on a road with very little shade. Before we left we applied this sport stick to our faces, and although it is a thick, balmy product, it went on evenly and was transparent. I was so thankful for not only the sun protection, but the wind protection on our faces and lips. We didn't burn, even though we were out for five hours. I'll be keeping this little stick in my jersey pocket!
Price: $12.95 / 0.6 oz.
Details: Broad spectrum SPF 35, non-nano zinc oxide all-season face and lips stick; unscented.
Verdict: This face stick offers great protection for face and lips, and is convenient to apply. It is a great for those who prefer an unscented product and the convenience of the stick applicator. This sport stick doesn't go on as clear as the Babo version, but the ingredients are just as clean, and it is a budget-friendly option.
Price: $9.99 / .65 oz.
Details: Made from certified all-natural ingredients, this water-resistant lip block provides UVA-UVB true broad spectrum protection.
Verdict: Amazing protection, but does leave a slight white residue.
Get 10% off on their site with code zoeorganics10!
Of course there are those unfortunate times when either you weren't planning to be in the sun, you didn't apply enough sunscreen, or you neglect to reapply - and you get a sunburn. What now?
My all-time favorite product for cooling and soothing sunburn is a tepid bath with Zoe Organics Baby Bath Tea. The combination of tepid water and organic oatmeal and herbs cools the skin and works as an anti-inflammatory agent. Our experience has shown reduced pain, inflammation and redness, and faster healing.
Price: $12 / $42 (2 tea bags in a tin / 10 tea bags in a tin)
Long days in the water or skin can leave skin dry and chapped. Not all balms are equal, so I have chosen a few of my all-time favorites based upon ingredients, effectiveness and functionality.
This balm is a very light-weight body balm with a very mild lavender & citrus scent. This is a great choice when a little extra moisture is needed to soothe sun-parched skin. It comes in a .75 oz. tin, which is great for travel (just don't leave it in the heat!).
Price: $9.99 / 2 oz. tin
This creamy, dreamy multi-purpose balm is more heavy-duty than the Badger Balm, with power packed ingredients like calendula, marshmallow root, plantain leaf and pumpkin seed oil. It is highly restorative and perfect for use from head to toe (don't forget lips!). It has a thicker consistency, so you don't need much to be effective. It is has also been shown to work well as an anti-chafing balm, so this isn't limited to after-sun care. The sky is the limit!
Price: $18 / $8 (2 oz. tin / 0.5 oz. tin)
This is our main go-to for lips and faces! Burned or chapped lips and faces can be miserable, and this balm doesn't sting at all. It immediately calms and soothes, and we've always seen a dramatic improvement by the next morning.
Price: $12 / 0.6 oz. tube
Because repelling insects is an unfortunate, but guaranteed, part of your summer skincare routine, we have added our 100% organic, lovely-smelling insect repellent to this list. This lightweight oil blend not only repels insects, but it is also deeply nourishing and soothing. If you do get that unfortunate bite or two, the essential oils in this blend will soothe and reduce the pain, redness and inflammation.
Price: $20 / $12 (4 fl. oz. / 2.7 fl. oz.)
We really hope you found this list helpful! We have had a lot of fun testing products and putting together this list of favorites!