Sunscreens/sunblocks with the best ingredients

I'm pale enough that I get a sunburn just listening to Beach Boys songs, so sunscreens are important to me. For a long time I assumed that sunscreen ingredients were nothing to worry about (except for those triggering acne or irritation), believing they just sit on the surface of the skin. But it turns out that common active ingredients like oxybenzone are readily absorbed into the bloodstream with negative effects. To avoid this, I'm switching to physical barrier sunscreens with minimal ingredients.

Sunscreen recommendations:

I like both of these products because of their use of non-nano zinc oxide, minimal ingredients, and primarily non-polyunsaturated oil bases. On the negative side, these physical-barrier type sunscreens may not always be as effective as their chemical-action competitors. I personally accept that trade off.

Photo of Pronounce Skincare Skinshade (SPF 20+)
Pronounce Skincare Skinshade (SPF 20+)
Available on pronounceskincare.com

International shipping available.

Positives:
  • physical barrier protection
  • paraben-free
  • phthalate-free
  • PABA-free
  • non-nano particles
  • non-GMO
  • Jess, who creates this product, is open about how it's made and even provides instructions on making it yourself
Negatives:
(none)
Ingredients:

Active ingredient: zinc oxide (uncoated, non-nano, and not micronized).

Inactive ingredients: coconut oil (organic), shea butter (organic), beeswax (organic), apricot oil (organic), vitamin E (non-GMO).

Photo of Kabana Organic Skin Care Green Screen (SPF 35)
Kabana Organic Skin Care Green Screen (SPF 35)
Available on kabanaskincare.com
International shipping available.
Positives:
  • physical barrier protection
  • paraben-free
  • phthalate-free
  • PABA-free
  • non-nano particles
Negatives:
(none)
Ingredients:

Active ingredient: zinc oxide (25%, non-nano).

Inactive ingredients: Eldorado Springs artesian water, certified organic extra virgin olive oil, certified organic beeswax, vegetable vitamin E (non-GMO from sunflower seeds), vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, 400iu/ounce sunscreen).

Willing to try an unusual approach?

My favorite tiny supplement company makes a skincare product called Solban that has unusual sunscreen-ish effects from its vitamin B3, caffeine, and aspirin ingredients. Based on my experiments with it, I'd make a wild guess it's comparable to some of the SPF 15 daily wear products when applied frequently. The most I've tried is around 2 and a half hours of heavy sun exposure (with re-applications every 45-60 minutes), and I didn't burn.

It's become my default sunscreen when I just need mild sun protection because it applies quickly, doesn't feel unpleasant, and may have other beneficial effects for skin health:

Photo of IdeaLabs Solban
IdeaLabs Solban
Available on idealabsdc.com

International shipping available.

Forum thread discussing the product here.

Positives:
  • paraben-free
  • phthalate-free
  • PABA-free
Negatives:
(none)
Ingredients:

Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), caffeine, aspirin (magnesium ecetylsalicylate), 20% ethanol solution.

When you need to find a sunscreen at a store:

When you need to pick up sunscreen locally, here are some rules of thumb:

Using those principles, here's an example of the two best options at my local store:

Photo of Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen (SPF 50)
Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen (SPF 50)
Positives:
  • physical barrier protection
  • currently paraben-free (other formulations have contained methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, and propylparaben)
  • PABA-free
Negatives:
  • questionable additives
Ingredients:

Active ingredients: titanium dioxide (3.1%), zinc oxide (4.0%).

Inactive ingredients: water, caprylic/capric triglyceride, isohexadecane, butyloctyl salicylate, octyldodecyl citrate crosspolymer, cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1, dimethicone, lauryl PEG-8 dimethicone, C30-38 olefin/isopropyl maleate/MA copolymer, sodium chloride, ethylhexyl methoxycrylene, dimethicone, caprylyl glycol, PEG-8, alumina, glycerin, sodium citrate, tocopheryl acetate, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, phenoxyethanol.

Photo of Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen (SPF 60+)
Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen (SPF 60+)
Positives:
  • physical barrier protection
  • paraben-free
  • PABA-free
Negatives:
  • questionable additives
Ingredients:

Active ingredients: titanium dioxide (4.9%), zinc oxide (4.7%).

Inactive ingredients: alumina, arachidyl alcohol, arachidyl glucoside, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beeswax (apis mellifera), behenyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, BHT, bisabolol (L-alpha), butylene glycol, butyloctyl salicylate, cetyl dimethicone, dimethicone, dimethicone PEG 8 laurate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate (licorice root), disodium EDTA, ethylhexl glycerin, glyceryl stearate, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, isohexadecane, methicone, methylisothiazolinone, pantothenic acid, PEG 100 stearate, PEG 8, polyaminopropyl biguanide, polyhydroxystearic acid, polymethylmethacrylate, polysorbate 60, retinyl acetate (vitamin A), silica, stearic acid, styrene acrylates copolymer, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), triethoxycaprylylsilane, trimethylsiloxysilicate, trisiloxane, water, xanthan gum.

Here's a good choice if you're at a health food type store:

Photo of Badger Broad Spectrum Unscented Sunscreen Cream (SPF 30)
Badger Broad Spectrum Unscented Sunscreen Cream (SPF 30)
Positives:
  • physical barrier protection
  • paraben-free
  • PABA-free
Negatives:
(none)
Ingredients:

Active ingredients: non-nano, uncoated zinc oxide (18.75%).

Inactive ingredients: Helianthus Annus (organic sunflower) oil, Cera Alba (organic beeswax), tocopherol (sunflower vitamin E), CO2 extract of Hippophae Rhamnoides (organic seabuckthorn).


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