All You Need to Know about SPF + the Best Safe, Natural Sunscreens

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Did you know: 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 anti-chemical sunscreensand pro-physical sunscreen. 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.

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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.

Our Take on MD Solar Sciences

Although they do have a few products that contain chemical sunscreen ingredients, overall I would say that MD Solar Sciences makes truly clean, wearable, and high-performing sun care. It's our personal favorite brand and we're excited to stock it in-store and online. Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.

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. You can't go wrong with any of their mineral products.

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. That means that their products disappear quickly and easily even on dark and deep skin tones.

The Verdict: There are so many reasons why we stock MD Solar Sciences. They have some of the most crowd-pleasing formulas that disappear on all skin tones while having excellent quality ingredients for both body and environment. I haven't yet met anyone who doesn't like the feel of their MD Solar products, no matter skin tone, skin type, or age.  Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.

Seriously Fab

Bright Body Zinc It Over Seriously Fab

Overview

Seriously Fab is known for their one groundbreaking product - Zinc It Over Sunscreen Mist. It's unlike anything else on the market - a sheer zinc sunscreen mist that applies clear on all skin tones over makeup (or bare faced). No need to rub this in!

Our Take on Seriously Fab

I'll admit, I was skeptical about this product when I first heard about it. I have medium skin and was concerned that the mist would leave a white cast especially when I get darker over the spring and summer. I was also concerned about the ingredients necessary to achieve such an application. But Seriously Fab does not disappoint!

Zinc It Over has a fantastic ingredient list and unparalleled performance. If you don't want to apply a cream under your makeup, this is a great option instead - spray on top. It functions as both a sunscreen and a makeup setting spray. Of course, this product can also be applied to a bare face. There's nothing else out there on the market that compares in ingredients + functionality. Shop Zinc It Over here.

The Verdict: Seriously Fab is an awesome option if you want to protect yourself from the sun but don't want to add another cream to your skincare routine. Zinc It Over is a sheer, lightweight, good-for-you SPF spray that also sets your makeup. We're obsessed. Shop Zinc It Over here.

Suntegrity Skincare

Bright Body Suntegrity Suncare

Overview

A favorite of aestheticians, 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 most unique about Suntegrity is that they have several cosmetic-grade products - tinted moisturizers and SPF lip products.

Our Take on Suntegrity

Suntegrity's Champion designation from EWG speaks volumes of their ingredient quality. Their ingredients are top-notch - free of parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, synthetic fragrance, mineral oil, and synthetic dyes. They're also vegan and cruelty-free. 

Since their line is 100% mineral, we are comfortable recommending their entire line, but it's not my first choice for dark and deep skin tones.

Suntegrity's products are not nearly as goopy as many traditional zinc sunscreens, but they do require more rubbing in than MD Solar Sciences and Supergoop! products. Fair and light skin tones won't have too much trouble rubbing in the products, but medium to deep tones will need to work harder. This is the main reason the we don't stock Suntegrity face or body products - we wanted options that would work for all skin tones.

The Verdict: We recommend Suntegrity face and body products for fair to light skin tones and we love their SPF lip care products for all skin tones. If you've got medium to dark skin and/or want a sunscreen that disappears quickly into the skin, try MD Solar. Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.

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.

Our Take on Supergoop!

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 comparable in ingredients to Suntegrity.

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. They also have some good sheer and lightweight options for face and body. Their cream formulas disappear better than Suntegrity but not as well as MD Solar.

The Verdict: We recommend Supergoop! face products if you tend toward dry skin and/or like a dewier finish, and they're our first rec if you're looking for a setting powder vs. a cream product. They also have a mineral spray-on body sunscreen which is great if you're on the go (though you'll still need to rub it in). If you'd like something with a more matte finish that disappears, try MD Solar. Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.

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).

Our Take on COOLA

COOLA has a number of products with nutrient-rich, plant-derived ingredients. Their Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion has reviews that say it goes on clear, which is quite a feat!

However, 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, I will say that the quality of ingredients in their mineral products are comparable to MD Solar Sciences, Suntegrity, and Supergoop!

The Verdict: If you're looking for a mineral spray-on body sunscreen, we recommend COOLA. Other than that we think you're better off going with Suntegrity, MD Solar, or Supergoop! Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.

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.

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 or for dark or deep skin tones.

Our Take on Badger

Badger's ingredients are squeaky clean and their ingredient lists are simple and streamlined. I can certainly appreciate that, but since there aren't any silicones, fatty alcohols, or other similar ingredients, the formulas are goopier, heavier, and oilier. Their prices are also lower than other safe sunscreens on the market, but you find out why when you try to rub them in. They are very thick and will take a little while to rub in properly, even on fair and light skin tones.

The Verdict: Badger is a great choice for kiddos (over 6 months) that you want to make sure are 100% covered - they're thick and you'll be able to easily see where you've missed and where you'll need to reapply on your little one. If you're out in the garden and going to get dirty anyhow, Badger is probably a great choice. But I would not recommend it for daily wear, nor would I recommend it at all for medium to dark or deep skin tones. If you're looking for daily wear or for darker skin tones, we highly recommend MD Solar Sciences. Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.

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

  • MD Solar Sciences Mineral products are our favorite because they have high-quality ingredients in fast-absorbing and lightweight formulas good for all skin tones and types. Shop our MD Solar Sciences faves here.
  • Suntegrity is in a very close second with MD Solar Sciences. It has wonderful ingredients though the formulas take a little bit longer to work in than MD Solar products. They're a perfect fit for fair to medium skin tones, if you're ok rubbing in product for a little while longer, or if you're looking for pigmented SPF lip care.
  • Supergoop! absorbs a little better than Suntegrity but not as well as MD Solar. Their ingredient quality is on par with MD Solar and Suntegrity. Some Supergoop! users report that their formulas err on the oilier side so they're best for dry skin and/or if you prefer a dewy finish. We also recommend them if you're looking for a mineral body spray or an SPF setting powder.
  • COOLA is the most "greenwashed" of these brands and I personally think you get higher quality and more bang for your buck from MD Solar and Suntegrity.
  • Badger Balm is the most traditional in that it's the goopiest but also the simplest in its formulas. Best for grimy outdoor work or for kiddos, I personally wouldn't recommend it for daily use or for darker skin tones.

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We're excited that we now stock our MD Solar Science Favorites + Zinc It Over Sunscreen Mist. Click here to shop our safe sunscreen faves.

Until next time,

Gabi Day 

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  • This review was extremely helpful in making my decision to pick the best sunscreen. I have supergoop but felt like the consistency was oily and did not provide sufficient coverage (SPF 50!)b I put my makeup on over the spf and it just didn’t look great. I got a sample of suntegrity and I love it. I tried to get more info on it and stumbled across your site. It validated my thoughts on the product so thank you!!

    Mel on

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