July 17, 2012

The Ultimate Sunscreen Guide 2012

It's SUMMER TIME! It's the season filled with warm nights, sandy toes, and freckles. Want to know what sunscreen to wear for that next beach trip? You're in the right place.

The EWG sunscreen report this year warns that only 1 in 4 sunscreens earn high marks in safety and efficacy. That makes it tricky to find an effective sunscreen. On top of that, it's tough to find a sunscreen that doesn't leave you looking like Mortitia Adams. So let's start with the basics.


Chemical UV Shields 
First things first. Get rid of those chemical UV blockers. They make you break out, they release free radicals beneath your skin, and they provide less coverage than mineral sunscreens. Chemical blockers include oxybenzone, octocrylene, avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate, and PABA. Keep these ingredients out of your cream and opt for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead.

Retinyl Palmitate
In last year's Sunscreen Guide I warned against retinyl palmitate in sunscreen. Retinyl palmitate has been shown to accelerate the growth of skin tumors and lesions when exposed to UV light. I don't know about you, but I like my sunscreen to protect my skin from harsh UV, rather than make me more vulnerable. Keep this additive out of your tube.

Citrus Oils
Citrus oils applied to the skin can lead to phototoxicity. The International Fragrance Associate recommends keeping their concentration below 0.5% for topical applications. The safest route when it comes to sun protection is to avoid citrus oils, because any patch of skin with sunscreen will likely be exposed to sunlight. Once you're on the look out, you will be surprised how ubiquitous they are.

Mineral sunscreens, such as zinc and titanium dioxide, can be made at very small scales. While this has the benefit of creating a clear sunscreen, the jury is still out on how those particles affect your body once absorbed by your cells. Zinc and titanium dioxide at sizes <100nm are considered nanoparticles. Studies show that zinc and titanium nanoparticles can reach the bloodstream and the brain, but there have been no proven health hazards. On the flip side, their safety has yet to be proven also. Until definitive proof exists, I avoid nanoparticles in my sunscreens.


That's a lot to look out for. Overwhelmed yet? Don't worry, I'll help you decide exactly what you should be putting on your skin under those rays. I like including free radical scavengers and antioxidants like astaxanthin and green and white tea in my sunscreens. Ingredients that bulk up your UV protection like red raspberry seed oil, olive oil and cupuacu butter are always great additions. Soothing ingredients like aloe and plant oils are also beneficial to stressed skin.

But not all sunscreens are created equal. I hate to admit it, but so many clean sunscreens seem fantastic until they leave the bottle. They can apply too greasy, chalky, or painfully white. So to avoid white creased elbows, I have a few recommendations for you. And the awards go to...

Best All Around
I have a new love. It goes by the name of Devita Solar Body Block SPF 30+. Don't let the name fool you. This sunscreen is fantastic for body and face. It applies utterly clear without a trace of white, and does not contain nanoparticles. The base is aloe, which is perfect for sun kissed skin. It contains the antioxidants of green tea, goto cola and seaweed extract. It is full of nourishing plant oils such as rose hip oil and olive oil.  After application, this sunscreen leaves no chalky, greasy or tacky residue. To top it all off, it's vegan, gluten free and doesn't contain GMO's. Because it's the lowest price per ounce of any clean sunscreen I've found yet, slather it on generously.

Thinksport sunscreen is a returning finalist. This time, they have an improvement: an SPF 50+ sunscreen. This sunscreen rubs in well (admittedly not as effortlessly as Devita) and contains 20% non-nano zinc oxide. To boost the sun protection factor, they include red raspberry seed oil in their formula. It smells like white currants and works just as well on your face as on your legs.

Best For Face
Marie Veronique Organics Moisturizing Face Screen is the gold standard for facial sunscreen. It contains 20% zinc oxide, but you would never know it. The tinted liquid applies like makeup. In fact, my boyfriend has stared incredulously while I apply this after 9pm to go out. I have to explain that I'm using it as makeup, not as a sunscreen. He would understand if he dabbed on some of this enchanting cream. The pearl powder and mica reflect light to disguise imperfections, and the slight tint allows for a hint of coverage. Apricot kernal oil and meadowfoam seed oil nourish the skin, while red raspberry seed oil bolsters the UV protection. It applies perfectly matte and may be addictive.

Water Proof
If you're swimming in Caribbean seas, your neighborhoods pool, or just the closest beach this summer you'll want a water resistant sunscreen for your shoulders (or your derriere if you're snorkeling. Trust me, I know). One of the best water resistance sunscreens is True Naturals SPF 40. While the tacky feeling of the sunscreen lasts all day, it means that the ocean waves won't wash all your sunscreen away. It applies clearer than clear, and smells like orange wafers. It contains cupuacu butter, which is thought to have some UV protective qualities as well as provide extra hydration for your skin.

Best For Lips

Eating, drinking and kissing will rub sunscreen off  those lips of yours faster than anywhere else on your body. And because your lips have some of the thinnest skin from your head to your toes, you definitely want a lip balm with an SPF. Don't just buy any lip blalm with zinc and without parabens. White lips might even be worse than a white face. There are only two lip balms I know of that contain zinc and don't give you a white pout. The first of which is Alba Terra Tints. These colorful tubes are tinted to hide that white zinc. Opt for bloom if you want a natural look, but if you'd like some punch, try Garnet, Blaze or Sienna.

The second choice (you men will be happier with this) is Burn Out Lip balm. This balm goes on clear, without the use of nanoparticles and has a whopping 18.6% zinc. It glides on smooth and moisturizes with shea butter. I die for their mango and coconut scents. That about covers you, from your freckles to your toes.

Go out, strip down, and dive in!

___________ _ ___________

Ingredients in Devita Solar Body Block SPF 30+
Active ingredient: Zinc oxide 19%. Inactive ingredients: Aloe barbadensis (certified organic aloe vera gel), Water (purified), Camellia sinensis (Japanese green tea) leaf extract, Capric/caprylic triglycerides (derived from coconut oil), Glycerin (vegetable), Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), Olea europaea (olive) oil, Lecithin phospholipid, Hyaluronic acid (vegan source), Simmondsia chinensis* (jojoba) seed oil, Squalane (olive), Panthenol (vitamin B5), Tocopherol (vitamin E), NaPCA, Rosa moschata (rose hips) oil, Centella asiatica (goto kola), Copper gluconate, Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, Fucus vesiculosis (seaweed) extract, Allantoin, Sodium riboflavin phosphate, Chondrus crispus (Irish moss), Lavandula officinalis* (lavender) essential oil, Anthemis nobilis (chamomile) flower essential oil, Vitis vinifera* (grape) seed extract.
Ingredients in ThinkSport Sunscreen SPF 50+
Active Ingredient: Zinc oxide 20%. Inactive ingredients: purified water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, capric caprylic triglycerides, sorbitan stearate (coconut based), pine wood resin, vegetable glycerin, hydrogenated castor oil, magnesium sulfate, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, vitamin C, vitamin E, olive oil, raspberry seed oil, cranberry seed oil, hyaluronic acid (vegetable derived).
Ingredients in Marie Veroniques Moisturizing Face Screen SPF 30
Active Ingredient: 20% non-nano zinc oxide. Inactive ingredients: green & white tea, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, meadowfoam seed oil, sunflower oil, emu oil, vitamin E, vegetable glycerin, red palm oil, red raspberry seed oil, lecithin, potassium sorbate, allantoin, Cosmocil CQ*, xanthan gum, mica, sea buckthorn oil, yangu oil, rosemary, pearl powder, carrot seed essential oil, cistus essential oil, honeysuckle, helichrysum essential oil, iron oxides.
Ingredients in True Naturals Active Suncreen SPF 40:
Active ingredients: Non-nano, uncoated zinc oxide (17.5%). Inactive ingredients: aloe barbadensis leaf Juice*, beeswax*, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cocoa butter *, coconut oil *, cupuacu butter*, deionized water, glycerin*, jojoba oil *, lemon oil*, olive oil *, orange oil*, p-anisic acid, shea butter*. *Certified organic ingredients
Ingredients in  Alba Terra Tints
Active ingredient: Zinc oxide 5.1%. Inactive ingredients: Coconut oil*, olive fruit oil*, candelilla wax*, beeswax*, castor seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, silica, calcium sodium borosilicate, peppermint oil*, polyhydroxystearic acid, triethoxycaprylylsilane, tocopheryl acetate, extract of calendula officinalis flower and echinacea purpurea. May Contain: mica, iron oxides, titanium dioxide.*Certified organic ingredients

Ingredients in Burn Out Lip Balm
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 18.6%. Inactive ingredients: Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Beeswax, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Virgin Hemp Seed Oil, Natural Coconut Flavor, Simmondsiz Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax.

Images Courtesy of:
4. EWG
6. Robbins


  1. morganya7/18/2012

    Thanks, as always! Especially for the waterproof option. I've been looking for a good scuba sunscreen.

  2. Great post! I'd never heard of a lot of these brands of sunscreen, and will be checking them out. I also really like Badger's new face sunscreen. It goes on much smoother than their body sunscreens I've tried.

  3. @Morganya Thinksport is also supposed to be water resistant, although I haven't tested it out.

    Thanks Mary!I haven't tried Badger recently because of my previous chalky white experiences. I might have to give them a go again!

  4. Thanks for a great post! Question... are you still using the Devita solar block? I read a review from 6 months ago that said they changed something in their formula and it doesn't absorb well anymore. Have you found that to be true? Thanks for sharing all your great research!

    1. I am still using Devita! And I still love it. I checked the ingredients on my brand new bottle that I bought 1 week ago, and it matches the ingredients from this post. So looks like they haven't changed their formula. It behaves just the same upon application for me as well. I don't think anything has changed!

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