Back to Basics’ has really become the name of the game for many consumers as they alter their buying habits to refocus on more natural and organic products – not just in terms of groceries, but other personal care products as well.
Don’t get me wrong, many of our modern technological advancements are vital to enjoying a better quality of life than any of us would’ve have 50 or 100 years ago.
However, somewhere along the way, when it came to finding ways to make cheaper, more shelf-stable foods and beauty products, it seems that we lost a bit of focus on whether or not these things are actually good for us.
This is true of foods like cheese curls and it’s also true of skincare products that leave your skin in worse shape than ever.
If you think I sound overly dramatic, I don’t blame you: at first I didn’t believe all the hype either. But it’s been proven time and time again that chemicals in modern skincare products can cause allergies and other skin issues.
Given that one of the main reasons sunscreen is so important is to protect our extremely delicate skin, I thought it’d be a good idea to put together a guide showcasing some of the best natural and organic sunscreens as well as tips for finding them on your own.
After thorough research into requirements for natural and organic sunscreens to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best natural sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 natural and organic
For a natural sunscreen to offer amazing sun protection using an organic formula it needs the following must-have features:
Broad spectrum protection
One of the most basic requirements when choosing any sunscreen is to ensure that you are getting broad spectrum protection.
You can usually tell if a given product offers this because it will say ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB protection’ somewhere on the labelling. If not, check the active ingredients: anything with mineral sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) will offer this high level of protection.
This label refers to the quality of sun protection a sunscreen product promises to provide. Broad spectrum is the gold standard because it screens both UVA and UVB rays.
Not sure what that is? UVA and UVB are both types of solar radiation, invisible to the naked eye but responsible for sun damage to our skin.
UVA rays are responsible for the more serious type of skin damage. These rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing damage to the DNA of your skin cells that can accelerate the visible signs of aging and eventually cause skin cancer.
UVB rays cause what we would know as a tan or sunburn. This is visible damage. A little bit can cause a tan or slight reddening of the skin. As damage progresses so does the redness, which will eventually become painful and blister if left unchecked.
A is for Aging, B is for Burning. Neither is ideal, so make sure you choose broad spectrum sunscreen products.
Best natural sunscreen SPF
Once you ensure that your sunscreen is protecting you from the right things, you need to take into account how effective it is at protecting you from those things. That’s where SPF ratings come in.
Most folks know these are important, but are a bit unclear as to why they matter or how exactly they work.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Basically it’s meant to be a measurement of how much longer you can stay outside (wearing the sunscreen) without burning than if you’d gone outside with no protection whatsoever.
For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen is 30 times more effective than no protection. However, that doesn’t mean you can stay outside 30 times as long, as these products do have upper limitations in terms of how long they are effective.
To find a more useful way to look at these SPF ratings, take a look at the table below that explains what sort of protection they offer:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see, these ratings can be misleading to the unknowing eye. Once you pass SPF 30, the differences in the amount of protection offered are barely noticeable.
SPF 30 is a good amount of coverage for most people. If you are extra sun sensitive and want to go for SPF 50+ you shouldn’t be paying a ton of extra money for it considering it’s only an extra percentage point or two of protection.
Physical is better than chemical
When shopping for the best natural sunscreens, it’s also a good idea to check out the active ingredients. In sunscreen products active ingredients fall into two categories:
Physical sunscreens are like wearing a suit of armor that helps protect any exposed skin. It sits on top of your skin and deflects sunlight so that the UV rays cannot damage your skin.
These sunscreens are effective immediately upon application, and are considered to be more calming to the skin than chemical sunscreen ingredients. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the two physical sunscreen used in today’s products.
Chemical sunscreens work a little bit differently than physical ones. Upon application, they soak down into the skin where they are designed to absorbed incoming UV radiation before it can harm your skin.
It takes about 15-20 minutes for most chemical sunscreens to soak in, and they are not effective until after this time has passed. Ingredients are usually a combinations of: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.
These ingredients are considered at risk of causing skin allergies with repeated use, and there is also a mounting body of research suggesting that chemical sunscreens can cross into the bloodstream where they disrupt your endocrine system.
Anyone new to physical sunscreens may notice a thicker texture that requires more rubbing to apply, compared to popular chemical brands.
However, considering all the positives that physical sunscreens offer over chemical options it seems more than worth it to make a commitment to physical sunscreens when trying to find the best organic sunscreen.
Choose lotions over sprays
Whenever possible, you’ll want to stick with lotion sunscreen formulas over sprays.
Especially if you want to go all-natural. Searching for the best natural spray sunscreen is a bit of an oxymoron. In order to make products light enough to be sprayed, lots of chemicals are typically added and that’s exactly what you’re probably trying to avoid if you are going the more natural route.
Even sunscreens that use physical over chemical active ingredients are less safe in spray form. Whole New Mom explains why in more detail, but here are the basics: physical ingredients are safer to put on your skin, but they’re still dangerous if inhaled.
Sprays sunscreens greatly increase the risk of inhalation. Also, they can make it pretty difficult to be sure you are actually applying coverage evenly to the skin – which is the whole point.
If you absolutely hate the idea of a ‘tube of goop’, try looking for a sunscreen that has a spray-styled pump. These don’t pose a risk of inhalation but they do allow you to apply a pump to a specific area and be a little more discerning in your application. You’ll find an example of this type of sunscreen in the product reviews below.
Know the lingo
Last, but certainly not least, you need to make sure you understand all the extra labels on your sunscreen.
Just like with SPF ratings, some of the words manufacturers use to describe their products can be a little bit misleading. It doesn’t mean these are bad products, merely that it’s important to really understand what you’re buying so that you don’t base your purchase decision on a misconception.
Some examples of these extra labels are:
Natural and Organic are not the same thing. It’s possible for a product to be natural without being organic, and it’s possible for the natural ingredients in a product to be organic without the entire product being considered natural.
Natural simply means that the ingredients were sourced from nature rather than created synthetically – like using olive oil as an emollient rather than dimethicone.
Organic ingredients have to pass specific standards of purity. Usually this is regulated by the USDA, although other organizations such as the NSF also do this.
Unscented or Fragrance-Free does not, under any circumstances, mean that a product has no smell. What it does mean is that the manufacturer hasn’t purposely added fragrance chemicals to change the natural odor of the formula.
Going back to olive oil as an example it’s going to smell like olives, just like when you cook with it. The only way to change that is to chemically alter the olive oil so it smells less, or add lots of fragrance chemicals that overpower the smell.
Typically, fragrance chemicals are allergens to folks with sensitive skin so avoiding these is generally kinder to your skin.
Vegan and Cruelty-Free, similar to natural and organic, do not always go hand in hand either.
Vegan products are of course cruelty-free, but many products with the cruelty-free label are not vegan. They use animal-derived ingredients but simply don’t conduct animal testing. If you’re vegan then this is something to watch out for on product labels.
A common ingredient that falls into this category is stearic acid, which is normally made from pig stomach.
Of course, you are the only person who can tell you which labels are important and which aren’t. However, if a product having this or that label will influence you to buy it, be sure that it really means what you think it does and that you aren’t falling victim to a commercial white lie as is sometimes the case with these slippery terms.
Best Natural Sunscreen Comparison
|Badger Sport Sunscreen||Loving Naturals Clear Defense||Butterbean Organics Simple Healthy||True Naturals Neutral||SanRe Shaded Rose-Solar|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (24.7%)||Zinc Oxide (22.0%)||Zinc Oxide (22.5%)||Zinc Oxide (9.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (4.0%)|
|Natural/Organic||Natural & Organic||Natural & Organic||Natural & Organic||Natural, Not Organic||Natural & Organic|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||40 minutes||80 minutes||None||None|
5 Best Natural Sunscreens
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best natural, organic sunscreens.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and are natural.
All of Badger’s products are wonderful, environmentally conscious offerings. They even have an entire section on their website dedicated to explain the negative effects that chemical sunscreens have on our coral reefs!
This sunscreen is 100% and 98% organic, with only 5 ingredients!
It offers broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 35 through the use of zinc oxide (22.5%). The higher concentration of active ingredient does mean that it will leave a bit of a white cast, however, this is a sports sunscreen rather than a product for everyday use so just consider it a reminder to reapply!
It’s rated as water resistant for a full 80 minutes, so you can enjoy your fun in the sun without worrying that your sunscreen is going to wash off in just a few minutes.
It’s also very well priced – no need to break the bank just to get high quality sun protection.
The sport formulation and high zinc concentration do mean that you’ll have to do some rubbing to distribute evenly across the skin. For most this isn’t a problem, but for folks with extra sensitivities the excess rubbing may cause a reaction.
It’s also got absolutely no added fragrance, which is a lovely way to simplify the formula and give you a more natural product. The sunflower oil does give it a bit of a nutty smell, but nothing overpowering at all.
- Great value
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Water resistant 80 minutes
- White cast
Loving Naturals’ Clear Defense Sunscreen is a 100% natural product that provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 35+ through a whopping 24.7% zinc oxide.
That is the highest concentration of active ingredients on this list. While more expensive than the Badger sunscreen, this option is still moderately priced and provides a lot of value when you consider that wonderful concentration of active ingredient.
It is water resistant for up to 40 minutes so while it might not work if you’re planning to spend the entire day in the pool, it’ll tough it out through a little bit of water or sweat.
Just remember to reapply regularly, because extreme conditions will reduce the effectiveness of any sunscreen.
Aside from the active ingredient, there are only 4 ingredients in this formula, definitely making it one of the best all natural sunscreen options for anyone who craves simplicity in their skincare products.
One of these inactive ingredients is Hemp Seed Oil, which is becoming increasingly adored in skincare circle for its anti-aging effects.
However, the hemp seed oil also leaves a slightly oily finish after rubbing the lotion in so it may not be the best natural sunscreen to use for the face. That is, of course, unless you have particularly dry skin in which case you may find this therapeutic.
- Moderately priced
- Water resistant 40 minutes
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Slightly oily finish
This Simple Healthy Sunscreen from Butterbean Organics (that is both natural AND organic) delivers broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using only zinc oxide (22%) as the active ingredient.
If you have trouble applying the proper amount of sunscreen, the packaging of this product helps to make it one of the best natural face sunscreens.
The spray-style pump delivers just the right amount of product so that you can rub it in quite easily, without worrying about making a mess.
The bottle is a little on the small size, so you might have to repurchase often if using on your whole body. However, that same tiny size makes it perfect to throw in your bag as a go-to facial sunscreen that you can easily reapply when out and about.
It’s water resistant for 80 minutes so you needn’t worry about the sun’s harsh rays harming your skin if you’re planning a beach day or a nice hiking trip. The formula isn’t overly thick, either, which makes application a breeze.
Pro tip: because of the natural formulation, if you haven’t used the product for a little while the ingredients may settle in the bottle and pump out improperly mixed. To avoid this issue, simply give it a good firm shake for a few seconds before pumping to help reincorporate everything smoothly.
- Water resistant 80 minutes
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Contents may settle
This is the only sunscreen on the list that isn’t organic, but the formula does use high quality natural ingredients.
Neutral from True Naturals is a sunscreen geared toward those with sensitive skin. It offers broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50, made possible by a combination of zinc oxide (22.5%) and titanium dioxide (6.0%).
In this particular sunscreen you do notice a pronounced white cast if you have a medium or dark skin tone. The kicker is that it’s also NOT water resistant, which does limit the ideal uses a bit for the product.
However, if you are on the paler side or particularly need a high SPF like this one, you may not care as much about the white cast as a trade off for super strong protection.
The formula is a little bit on the thicker side, so you shouldn’t have trouble ensuring sufficient coverage when you put it on.
The manufacturer also recently changed the formula to remove the honey, and now this is also a vegan product in addition to being natural and cruelty-free.
- Moderately priced
- High SPF
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Not water resistant
- Slight white cast
SanRe Organic Skinfood makes products that really embody their name. They want you skin to feel happy and refreshed after using these products so you know that you’re really nourishing your skin.
This all natural sunscreen is intended to be used for the face, and the price tag is reflective of that, competing more with a beauty-counter facial moisturizer than an all-over sunscreen.
Shaded Rose-Solar provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using both zinc oxide (9.0%) and titanium dioxide (4.0%). The lower concentration of active ingredients definitely means you’ll want to remember to reapply as needed but from an aesthetic standpoint it also means that the cream won’t leave any white cast after application.
This means you can seamlessly integrate the cream into your existing skincare routine, adding a natural, organic sunscreen to your daily beauty regime.
It’s not waterproof so perhaps choose a different facial sunscreen for days when you know you’ll be perspiring or around water.
The formula is luxuriously smooth, but it achieves this effect without harsh chemical emollients. In fact, this cream is beloved by users with sensitive skin and who have health issues like eczema or rosacea because it does a fabulous job of protecting and moisturizing without irritating.
- Great for sensitive skin
- Smooth texture
- Low concentration of active ingredients
There you have it: the basics of shopping for the best natural sunscreens and my top 5 products in this category. I hope you’ve found this helpful!
While SimplySunSafe recommends Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen as the best natural/organic sunscreen, all of these products are wonderful choices. Everybody is different and so if you find that Badger just isn’t the one for you, trying one of the other options listed here may help you to find your perfect match.
If there are any questions you have that I’ve not answered here, please let me know in the comments. I love learning about new products and striving to make these guides the best that they can be, so if there’s a natural or organic sunscreen you’re in love with but don’t see listed here – tell me!