All You Need to Know about Sun Protection + the Best Safe & Natural Sunscreens

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Now that it's officially spring (and starting to feel like it here in Richmond, VA!), we gotta talk sun protection. The #1 cause of early skin aging is sun exposure, and 90% of skin aging is caused by daily sun exposure. That doesn't mean you need to become a hermit or vampire, but it does mean that when you spend time in the sun, you've got to protect your skin!

I get asked a lot if Bright Body currently has (or will ever have) products with SPF. The very simple answer is: not now and probably not for a while. You see, the cost of insuring a sunscreen product is extremely high (more than 5X what I already pay for product insurance), and that doesn't include any of the cost of testing formulas and having them certified. Sunscreens are the one personal care product regulated by the FDA, and in order to say that you have a product of a certain SPF, you've got to put your product through rigorous independent testing in a lab, to the tune of $30K or more. That's just not in the budget right now - or anytime soon - so for now I'm happy to give you the 411 on all things sunscreen and recommend the best safe & natural brands.

First things first, let's talk about physical vs. chemical sunscreen ingredients, because there are major differences between the two.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen Bright Body

Physical sunblock ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work by creating a barrier on the skin that reflects UV rays. Chemical sunscreen ingredients like avobenzone and oxybenzone absorb UV rays, then the body metabolizes them into non-damaging wavelengths of light and/or heat. For those with inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, chemical sunscreens are more likely to worsen inflammation since these active ingredients convert UV rays into light and heat in the skin. Another point of difference is the time needed to become active - physical sunblock ingredients are active immediately, while it takes around 20 minutes for chemical sunscreen ingredients to kick in.

Perhaps more importantly are the effects of these active ingredients on our bodies and our environment. Chemical sunscreen ingredients are known hormone disruptors and also kill delicate coral reef ecosystems. Hawaii has actually banned some chemical sunscreen ingredients because of significant loss of reefs off their coast. According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzone is perhaps the most problematic, though all chemical sunscreen active ingredients have some degree of risk for hormone disruption as well as skin irritation.

This isn't to say that physical sunblocks aren't without their drawbacks. Physical sunblocks can rub, sweat, and wash off easily and require more frequent reapplications. Depending on the formulation, some are goopy in texture and can appear white and chalky on the skin and require effort to rub in. You also need to liberally apply physical sunblock in order for it to be effective, whereas you typically can apply a lighter coating of chemical sunscreens.

 PHYSICAL SUNBLOCK
CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN
reflects UV rays
absorbs & converts UV rays into light and/or heat
better suited to inflammatory skin conditions and sensitive skin
can worsen inflammatory skin conditions, more likely to irritate skin
active immediately after application
active ~20 minutes after application
safe for humans & the environment
majority are known hormone disruptors, many are known coral reef toxins
requires a generous application to be effective can be applied more conservatively
can be thick and/or chalky, difficult to rub in easier to rub in
can be easily rub, sweat, or washed off - requires more frequent reapplications requires less frequent reapplications

 

Due to the concerns about safety for humans & the environment, it should come as no surprise that here at Bright Body we are very anti-chemical sunscreens and pro-physical sunscreens. You might be thinking, "yeah but I need to find something lightweight enough to wear on a daily basis and I just don't have the time or patience to rub in some goopy, chalky-ass formula!" Fear not, there are several brands of safe, natural, and physical sunscreens that have formulated lightweight, easily absorbed, and even oil-free formulas! Let's get into each of the brands, which products we recommend from each line & why, how their ingredient lists measure up, and price.

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Suntegrity Skincare

Bright Body Suntegrity Suncare

Overview

A favorite of the ladies of Luna Aesthetics & Spa, Suntegrity's line uses 100% physical sunscreen ingredients. Suntegrity carries super-safe products for face, body, and lips (hey, they're skin, too!). The entire company received a Champion designation from the Environmental Working Group. What's also unique about Suntegrity is that they have several cosmetic-grade products - tinted moisturizers and SPF lip products. I do wish they had a better shade range for their tinted moisturizers, but of course they also have a colorless makeup primer as well.

Suntegrity Products We 💜

Since their line is 100% mineral, we are more than comfortable recommending their entire line. Yes, really! For me personally, I like the Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer since I like to apply my own makeup atop. On no-makeup or bare-face days, I can definitely appreciate the utility of their 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreens. Their body sunscreens come in a classic and sport formula to reduce the need for applications when sweaty or swimming. Finally, their lip products are gorgeously pigmented and ultra-moisturizing.

Suntegrity's products are not goopy or chalky like more traditional mineral sunscreens, and you'll be happy with their lightweight, easily absorbable formulas.

How Suntegrity Ingredients Measure Up

Suntegrity didn't earn a Champion designation from EWG for nothing! Their ingredients are top-notch - free of parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, synthetic fragrance, mineral oil, and synthetic dyes. They're also vegan and cruelty-free. One ingredient that I don't love but I completely approve and appreciate of their use in sunscreens are silicones. In a non-sunscreen skincare product, silicones are fillers used to create that slick feeling on the skin; they sit on top of skin's surface and form a barrier. However, in a mineral sunscreen, the silicones are sitting on top of skin along with the physical sunblock ingredients, which serves two main purposes (1) help minimize reapplications by holding the minerals at skin's surface, (2) improves rub-in-ability and texture, creating a more lightweight, thin formula. They also feature several plant-based oils, essential oils, and even Hyaluronic Acid to plump skin.

For the feel and performance of their products, Suntegrity is absolutely unparalleled in their ingredients. And you know that's a big deal coming from us!

Price

For the performance and ingredients, Suntegrity's prices are pretty reasonable but of course they are much pricier than Banana Boat at CVS. Their 1.7 oz Face Sunscreen runs $45 and their 3 oz. sport sunscreen for body runs $24. Their 0.1 oz lipsticks are $28.

Supergoop!

Bright Body Supergoop!

Overview

Supergoop! positions itself as a super-safe sunscreen brand, featuring everything from face, body, and lip products along with makeup (including primers, tinted moisturizers, setting powders, setting sprays, and even eyeshadows). They also have products specifically for kids and sensitive skin. They have a Mineral collection of their line with only physical sunblock active ingredients.

Supergoop! Products We 💜

We're a fan of Supergoop!'s Mineral line. Unique to Supergoop! is a mineral-based setting powder - Mineral Invincible Setting Powder - so if you don't want to apply another lotion or cream in your skincare routine, you can still get your SPF by setting your makeup or applying the powder to your bare face. Although the built-in brush and dispensing system for the powder aren't great, you can also get a refill of just the powder and use your own brush! They also have a great sheer face sunscreen good for use under makeup (or by itself), the Smooth and Poreless 100% Mineral Matte Screen.

Also unique to the Supergoop! line is a non-aerosol, mineral spray sunscreen, the 100% Mineral Sunscreen Mist. You likely find you need to rub it in after spraying it on, but it's still more convenient for sandy beach days. They also carry an Eye Cream, which is a great product to consider for your delicate eye area. And finally, a standout new product from Supergoop! is their Poof Part Powder. Ever gotten a sunscreen on your part? Or do you have thin hair leaving your scalp prone to sun damage? This product will be your friend to offer sun protection for your scalp without being greasy on your hair.

How Supergoop! Ingredients Measure Up

Since Supergoop!'s line isn't 100% mineral, their brand as a whole includes ingredients that I'm not wild about. However, their Mineral line is very comparable in ingredients to Suntegrity, which is really the gold standard for safe and high-performing physical sunscreens. They do, however, contain more PEGs and PPGs (usually used as emulsifiers) than Suntegrity.

Price

Supergoop's pricing is comparable to similar brands. Their 1.5 oz Mineral Matte Screen runs $38, 0.15 oz Setting Powder Refill is $20, and 6 oz. Mist is priced at $35.

COOLA Suncare

Bright Body COOLA Suncare

Overview

Coola positions themselves as a "Farm to Face" brand with innovative, scientifically advanced ingredients that you'll love to wear. They don't use oxybenzone but do employ other chemical sunscreen ingredients. They are also paraben and GMO-free and pride themselves on using antioxidant-rich plant ingredients. They have some mineral-based products in their line, including as part of their Sport and Baby collections. Many of their products are also available fragrance-free for more sensitive skin (& noses).

COOLA Products We 💜

COOLA's Mineral Body Sunscreen Spray uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient, and contains many nutrient-rich plant-derived ingredients. It is available in a tropical coconut scent as well as unscented. You'll likely find you need to rub this in after spraying on, but for mineral sprays that's to be expected. They also make a Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion available in SPF 30 & 50 that uses zinc and titanium dioxides. Reviews have touted that this is a mineral formula that actually goes on clear! COOLA only carries one mineral option for face, their Full Spectrum 360 Mineral Sun Silk Creme Organic Sunscreen.

How COOLA Ingredients Measure Up

As a full line, I think that COOLA leans on its "organic sunscreen" branding while getting away with using harmful chemical sunscreen ingredients that aren't oxybenzone. In a nutshell, COOLA is definitely guilty of greenwashing. However, the ingredients in their mineral products are very comparable to like products from other brands.

Price

COOLA's products are on par with similar brands. Their 8 oz Mineral Body Spray runs $42, 5 oz Mineral Body Lotion is $36, and 1.5 oz Face Sun Silk runs $42.

MD Solar Sciences

Bright Body MD Solar Sciences

Overview

MD Solar Sciences boast dermatologist & oncologist developed formulas with ingredients that won't harm our bodies or the planet. Their formulas are advertised to work for even sensitive skin types, and they do not use oxybenzone or octinoxate in their whole line. They also focus on formulating products that are easy-to-use in order to encourage people to wear SPF every day.

MD Solar Sciences Products We 💜

MD Solar Sciences has an extensive line of mineral-based sunscreens for face and body, in lotions, sprays, BB creams (they call it Beauty Balm), and sticks. I don't think you can go wrong with any of the products in their Mineral Sunscreen Line. My personal favorite is their Mineral Moisture Defense, which works on both face & body. It's water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and is very lightweight. I put it on top of the rest of my skincare routine without any goopy, heavy, or oily feeling. It's true that MD Solar Sciences focuses on creating accessible, easy-to-use formulas - you won't dread putting them on and they don't leave you feeling icky.

How MD Solar Sciences Ingredients Measure Up

Although they do have a few products that contain chemical sunscreen ingredients, overall I would say that MD Solar Sciences lands between Suntegrity and Supergoop! in terms of the quality and safety of their ingredients. As for their mineral line specifically, their ingredients are comparable to like products.

Price

MD Solar Sciences products are on-par with similar brands and products. My personal favorite, their 4 oz Mineral Moisture Defense, runs $39.

Badger Balm

Bright Body Badger Balm Sunscreen

Overview

Badger's mineral sunscreen are old-school standbys for safe sunscreen. They only use zinc oxide across their line of Clear Zinc, Baby/Kid, Active, Sport, and Daily sunscreens. They also use probiotic-based preservatives and are loaded with nourishing plant-based ingredients.

I will say, however, that these formulas are definitely on the thick and goopier side. I personally use Badger when I know I'm going to be at the beach for several hours at a time and I need something that's really going to stay on my skin and not wash off easily. I personally wouldn't recommend Badger for daily wear, though they do have formulas marketed for that use.

Badger Products We 💜

The Clear Zinc Oxide Sport Sunscreen is great for long days at the beach, outdoor parties, or long, sweaty days in the garden. Starts off white but rubs in clear with a little less elbow grease than their classic formulas. While it is thicker than most other brands, that also means it doesn't sweat off as easily, either! I'm also partial to their Clear Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Lip Balm which is fragrance-free and has no added color.

How Badger Ingredients Measure Up

Badger's ingredients are hyper-clean and simple, with some products featuring 5 or less base ingredients in addition to the active zinc oxide. However, since there aren't any silicones, fatty alcohols, or other similar ingredients, the formulas are goopier and oilier.

Price

Badger lands a little lower than the average price for safe sunscreens on the market, but again you'll need to tolerate the thicker, goopier texture. The 2.9 oz Clear Sport Sunscreen is $17 and the Clear Sunscreen Lip Balm runs $3.75.

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Phew! I know that was a lot of information, so let's summarize:

  • You can trust that ALL of the products by Suntegrity and Badger Balm are safe to choose from and use only physical sunscreen ingredients.
  • MD Solar Sciences is the safest after Suntegrity and Badger Balm, and has very few products with chemical sunscreen ingredients.
  • If you stick to the Mineral products from Supergoop! and COOLA, you'll be in good shape!
  • COOLA is the most "greenwashed" of these brands since it only excludes oxybenzone from its chemical sunscreen active ingredients. Supergoop! is similar in this respect.
  • Badger Balm is the most traditional in that it's the goopiest but also the simplest in its formulas.
  • Suntegrity & MD Solar Sciences are my favorites for a blend of super safe products, high performance, and wearability.

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I hope this was helpful! As always, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Until next time,

Gabi Day 

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