A big reason behind providing these SimplySunSafe guides to my readers is to ensure that, regardless of the different situations you may find yourself in, you have more than enough information to find the perfect sunscreens for you.
It’s so important to wear sunscreen on all exposed skin every time you are outside in order to reduce your chances of skin cancer. Sometimes that can mean tailoring the products you buy to very specific criteria/activities. Sometimes your needs are little broader.
What if you you’re just looking for a better sunscreen than what you’ve got right now? If you’ve been reading these articles for a while, I’m sure you know that not all sunscreens are created equal.
If you’re new here, reading this guide will explain why certain sunscreens are better than others. Meant for no particular event or situation, the products recommended in this guide are all-around great sunscreen options if you’re interested in finding the healthiest products you can.
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Butterbean Organics Simply Healthy Sunscreen as the best sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens.Butterbean Organics Simple Healthy Sunscreen SPF 30
Finding the best sunscreen isn’t guesswork. There are a number of key features the best sunscreen will have. You should look for these features when searching for a great sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
Broad spectrum protection is an absolute must when choosing your sunscreens. This term refers to the type of protection a sunscreen product offers against solar radiation. Usually this is indicated on packages with a logo saying ‘Broad Spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB protection’.
In addition to the light we see coming from the sun, there are also rays coming from the sun that are not of the visible light spectrum. These are called ultraviolet rays. With sunscreens, broad spectrum choices protect from UVA and UVB rays, whereas others protect only from UVB rays.
UVA rays are responsible for long-term damage to our skin that is often not noticed until it’s too late to be helped.
These rays penetrate deeper into the skin, damaging the DNA of the affected skin cells. As these damaged cells duplicate over time, genetic mutations can occur, possibly causing cancerous cells to form.
This damage also accelerates all of the skin’s visible signs of aging, leaving you with skin that is discolored, thickened, wrinkled, and saggy.
UVB rays cause damage that is mostly shorter term, and is easily visible as soon as it occurs.
This is what we know as sunburn. Skin becomes tender and pink or red. If the skin has been exposed for a very long time and the burn is sufficiently severe, the skin can even form blisters that are painful to the touch.
This can also cause skin to darken or form sunspots as skin reacts to repeated sunburns.
While it’s great the basic sunscreen can at least stop you from getting nasty sunburn, it’s also pretty crucial to give your skin that extra level of UVA ray protection.
To ensure you’re getting exactly what you need, opt for a broad spectrum sunscreen every time.
In order to ensure you are getting a sunscreen that will offer enough protection, an SPF rating of at least 30 is recommended.
Most folks know that when you are purchasing sunscreen, SPF is an important feature to consider.
What does SPF really tell us, though?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This is a rating that sunscreen manufacturers give their products to help you understand how strong a particular product’s protection level is.
The difficulty is that, unfortunately, this rating can be little bit confusing and misleading if you aren’t familiar with how it works.
The SPF rating is a factor (yep, there’s math involved) telling you how much longer you’d be able to stay outside without burning while using the sunscreen versus no protection.
Theoretically, this means that an SPF 15 product lets you stay outside 15 times as long without burning, and so on for every rating.
Now, there are a few problems with this rating system that cause misconceptions.
The first is that no sunscreen, regardless of how much protection it offers, should be worn for more than 2 hours without reapplication. This is because sunscreens cannot be counted on to be effective beyond this time limit.
If you are sweating a lot, in the water, or exposed to very bright sunlight, that time limit shortens even more.
Lastly, because SPF rating are only concerned with burns, they relate to UVB rays only – not UVA. In fact, most sunscreens only protect from UVA rays about ⅓ as well as they do from UVB rays.
A more useful way to think of SPF ratings is in terms of the percentage of UVB rays the product can protect you from. Take a look at the table below:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see from the table, as the SPF ratings climb higher the differences between them become very small. This makes it difficult to know which is the best SPF.
SPF 30 is the recommended baseline of protection – it’s readily available and gives you a dependable level of protection.
If you are particularly photosensitive, though, you may want to choose an SPF 50+ product.
If you go this route, keep in mind the tiny difference (1%) in protection between SPF 30 and 50 so that you don’t end up paying more than you should.
Often, sunscreen companies charge a premium for protection above SPF 30, even though it is only marginally more effective than the SPF 30 options.
Physical is better than chemical
Just like over the counter medications, sunscreen products have a spot on their label where the list active ingredients.
Active ingredients are those that actually enable the sunscreen to protect us from the sun’s harsh rays. Based on the type of active ingredients used, sunscreens can be generally categorized as either physical or chemical formulas.
If you want the best sunscreen for your skin, physical sunscreen is definitely the way to go.
It’s very likely that you grew up using chemical sunscreen. You may even still buy it today for yourself or your family.
If this is the case, it may be an adjustment to switch to physical option, but when you take a look at how much better they are for you, it really is the best choice you could make for yourself in terms of healthy sun protection.
Chemical sunscreens are designed to soak down into the skin, where they are then able to absorb UV rays before they have a chance to damage your skin.
These products need to be applied 15-20 minutes before sun exposure, as it takes about this long for them to soak in properly and become effective.
There is no special label of most chemical sunscreens that tells you ‘hey! I work because of chemicals!’- you’ll have to check the active ingredients list to be sure.
Chemical sunscreens typically use a combination of several ingredients. These can include: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.
There is a growing concern over the use of chemical sunscreens. They’ve been shown to act as an allergen with repeated use, and may cross into your bloodstream where they would mimic the action of hormones and disrupt your endocrine system.
Of these, oxybenzone is the worst, with use restricted outside of the US.
Physical sunscreens work a little bit differently than their chemical counterparts. Rather that soaking down into the skin, this stuff stays right on top.
Using zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or sometimes both as mineral active ingredients, the resulting product forms a barrier on top of the skin that prevents UV rays from reaching your skin in the first place.
Think of it like a mirror overtop your skin – the rays bounce right off.
Some physical sunscreen products will say ‘mineral’, ‘chemical-free’, or similar.
If not, be sure to check the list of active ingredients for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
Physical sunscreens are effective immediately upon application -no wait time! They are also considered to be calming to the skin rather than an allergen.
Most of the products recommended on SimplySunSafe are purely physical. However, on rare occasions I will recommend sunscreens that mix physical and chemical ingredients.
If see a chemical-containing sunscreen listed on this site, rest assured that I will never recommend products containing oxybenzone or any purely chemical sunscreen options.
Choose sticks and lotions over sprays
Believe it or not, the method of application for the sunscreen you choose matters too.
It is always advisable to choose lotion or stick sunscreens rather than sprays. This is because sprays hold a much higher risk of toxic complications compared to other methods.
What about spray sunscreens that use minerals instead of chemicals?
Are they safe?
Unfortunately, when it comes to spray sunscreens, physical sunscreens can still be harmful.
The reason sprays hold a higher risk for toxic levels of exposure is because they can be inhaled. While mineral sunscreen ingredients may be just dandy to put on our skin, inhaling them is a much more direct form of exposure that you certainly want to avoid.
Avoiding spray sunscreens is important for everyone, but kids are most at risk of accidental inhalation so definitely don’t let your little ones use these types of products.
As far as choosing between lotions and sticks, which is ‘best’ really depends on your needs.
We’ll discuss this more in the next section, but for example: the best sunscreen for daily use is probably one that won’t feel thick or shiny on your skin.
Stick sunscreens have a lot of wax in them, so you’d want a lotion instead.
However, if you’re a distance runner and need to keep your arms and legs from burning without taking time to rub on a lotion, a few quick swipes of a stick may not be pretty but it will certainly get the job done.
Suited to intended use
When going through sunscreen options – whether its from the selected products shown below or from the hundreds of options available online or in stores – it’s important to choose a sunscreen that is suited to what you want to use it for.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you narrow the search:
- What part of the body is it going on (face sunscreen or body sunscreen)?
- Is this for everyday use, or for a vacation?
- Do I need water resistance?
- Do I need this to be a sensitive skin sunscreen?
- Will it dissuade me from using this product if it leaves a white cast?
- Will this need to blend well with cosmetic products?
- Am I travelling with this?
If you’re going on summer vacation and plan on participating in swimming, hiking, etc, you won’t need to worry so much about whether the sunscreen leaves a white cast.
Rather, you want to make sure it has a high concentration of active ingredients, and is water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes to keep it from disappearing with water or sweat.
If you want to find the best sunscreen for facial protection, you’ll want something that doesn’t leave a greasy finish and isn’t overly white.
This usually means going with an oil-free product containing a more moderate amount of active ingredients.
If you wear makeup you may want to consider a tinted product that will mix well with your foundation.
If you’re traveling, or want to keep a travel-size bottle on hand for reapplication, then it’s a good idea to look for products that offer these smaller sizes.
Because of the consistency of sunscreen it can be a pain to try and transfer it into a smaller container. You can even find some sunscreen sticks that attach to carabiners to keep close without worrying about lotion exploding in your pocket or bag.
Best Sunscreen Comparison
|Butterbean Organics Simply Healthy||Cōtz Flawless Complexion||Nurture My Body Organic||SanRe Vanilla Sensation||EltaMD UV Pure|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (22.0%)||Zinc Oxide (20.0%)||Zinc Oxide (25.0%)||Zinc Oxide (9.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (4.0%)||Zinc Oxide (10.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (5.5%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||None||None||None||80 minutes|
5 Best Sunscreens
After through research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and are suitable for a variety of uses.
Butterbean Organics Simply Healthy Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using only zinc oxide (22.0%) as the active ingredient.
It’s also water resistant for up to 80 minutes, providing plenty of protection against the elements.
This sunscreen is packaged in a bottle with a spray-style pump. The product isn’t airborne, though. The pump simply makes for a less-mess way to portion out and apply the sunscreen.
The high concentration of active ingredient in this sunscreen is especially impressive considering the relatively low price point.
Outside of the active ingredient, this product only has 8 ingredients. All of them are natural and organic so you can rest assured that what you are putting on your skin is going to do nothing but help keep it healthy.
Upon application, this sunscreen can leave a bit of a white cast. This will happen with all mineral sunscreens, however, with this product it isn’t overly noticeable.
The effect will show on darker skin tones but if you are fair it won’t be noticeable because it is still a sheer finish rather than opaque.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Natural and simple formula
- Slight white cast on darker skin
Flawless Complexion sunscreen from Cōtz is a fabulous option to use if you want to avoid a white cast but maybe don’t want to look like you’re wearing makeup.
It has a very subtle tint that is sheer enough to blend with cosmetics. If used alone, the sheer tint blends with most skin tones to help offset the white cast so common with mineral sunscreens.
This product provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50 using 20% zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.
All of this sunscreen’s genius goes into aesthetics. It’s not waterproof, so isn’t recommended to wear when engaging in athletic activities or water sports.
However, that’s not why you’ll love it.
This is a high SPF sunscreen options that is very reasonable priced, has a high concentration of ingredients, and uses a universally flattering tint that can be worn alone or blended with cosmetics.
This is the sunscreen you put on when you want to avoid the ‘sunscreen’ look. No white cast, no clogged pores. Just dependable protection.
The only possible downside to this product is that it does have a slight shine in the finish. If you’ve got dry or normal skin this will probably just be enough to give you a ‘glow’.
If you’re skin tends toward oily or you are wearing it on the face, you may want to use a bit of setting powder overtop of the sunscreen for a mattifying effect.
- Moderately priced
- High SPF
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Slight shiny finish
With the highest concentration of active ingredients on this list, Nurture My Body Organic Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 32 using an impressive 25% zinc oxide.
This is one sunscreen you can count on to work as hard as you do. Unfortunately it isn’t waterproof so if you do need a sunscreen product with water resistance this isn’t going to serve you very well.
The formula is non-comedogenic, so you can use it for both body and face without having to worry about clogged pores.
The price is a little bit higher than other products, but the generous 4 oz bottle provides great value.
This is especially true as Nurture My Body makes a point of sourcing high quality, BPA-free bottles that do not degrade in the heat.
While it is mostly wonderful that this organic sunscreen has a super-simple formula, it also means that the high concentration of active ingredient will leave a noticeable white cast.
This may not be a big deal depending on skin tone and how invisible you need you sunscreen finish to be, but it is certainly a point of consideration.
- Moderately priced
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Not water resistant
- White cast
SanRe Organic Skinfood’s Vanilla Sensation Solar provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using zinc oxide (9%) and titanium dioxide (4%) as the active ingredients.
With ingredients like aloe, coconut oil, and essential oils, this is one sunscreen that not only protects you but does a standout job of nourishing your skin.
Without unwanted chemicals, this lotion helps to feed and condition your skin while protecting you from the sun. Pretty cool, right?
The smaller concentration of active ingredients is both a hit and a bit of a miss.
On the one hand, it means that this sunscreen doesn’t really live a white cast. However, wearing sunscreen is always more about safety than aesthetics and a low concentration of active ingredients means you really want to remember to reapply.
It’s important to remember that sunscreens aren’t effective all day – waiting to reapply until you notice a sunburn starting isn’t the way to go.
With macadamia, coconut, and safflower oil, this sunscreen formula may be a bit too thick/greasy in the finish for use on the face.
It should be wonderful for folks with dry skin, but if you’ve got normal or oily facial skin you may want to use on just your body and choose a different formula for your face.
- Nourishing ingredients
- Moderately priced
- Low concentration of active ingredients
- Slightly oily finish
EltaMD’s UV Pure sunscreen provides users with broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 47 using a mixture of zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5.5%) as the active ingredients.
While the concentration of active ingredient is a little low compared to some of the higher ranking products listed here, it still offers solid protection.
Zinc protects form UVA rays better than titanium does, so having almost double the zinc means you not only get the benefits of the higher SPF with this product, but also achieve well-balanced protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
This is also the only water resistant sunscreen in this list outside of the overall top pick, offering 80 minutes of water resistance to keep you safe from sun damage even during a day spent in the water.
It’s important to note that water resistant isn’t the same as waterproof (which doesn’t exist) – excessive perspiration or even towelling off when you get out of the pool should both be indicators to re-apply early in order to avoid sun damage.
The overall texture of the lotion is pleasant compared to many mineral sunscreens. It spreads pretty easily across the skin, absorbing well.
It leaves a very minimal white cast as well, such that it would probably only be noticeable if you have a dark skin tone.
After application the finish isn’t overly greasy – it should work quite well for most skin types as both a body and facial sunscreen.
- High SPF
- Pleasant texture
- Water resistant for 80 minutes
- Lower concentration of active ingredients
- Slight white cast on darker skin
Have you found this guide helpful? I hope so!
I work hard to provide my readers with lots of good information to help inform you when it come to buying sunscreen so you can find the best sunscreen for normal skin from the all-around great picks above!
While SimplySunSafe does recommend Butterbean Organics Simple Healthy Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen, it’s important to remember that everybody is different.
We all have different needs and different skin chemistry. Because of this, you may find yourself going through a few different products from this list before you find one that is perfectly suited to you.
If there’s a sunscreen you’re absolutely in love with that you think should’ve gotten a shout out in this guide, please feel free to let me know.
After all, learning about great new products goes a long way toward making these guides better and helping to provide awesome content for all of you.