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The 2018 Safe Sunscreen Update - Get Vacation Ready!

a live photo of waves crashing over bare feet on a beach


Ahoy there Internetters!  Yes, I know that for many of you, this seems like a strange time of year to be providing an update to my periodic safe sunscreens postings, but I'm afraid this is just the way it is with me. When you live between Scotland and Florida, summer is winter, winter is summer, and spring and fall are more theoretical constructs than times of year, so I really pay no mind at all to the changing of seasons. I am led completely by necessity, and this past few weeks, I needed sunscreen.

First off, if you're new or need a refresher, have a read-through of my previous safe sunscreen postings:

As with my two previous postings, I always check any product I am trying-out for the first time against the Environmental Working Group's Safe Sunscreens database. They have amassed an incredible amount of data and have reviewed just about every major brand you can think of that is readily available - particularly those in the US. If you have never visited this website, you simply must. Every year, they test a raft of sunscreens and rate them, giving the consumer a tidy list of some of the safest and most effective products on the market. And some surprising recommendations of products to steer clear of as well (seriously, if you're still using those aerosolized sunscreens, or worse yet any of the Ambre Solaire products - I strongly encourage you to visit this site and read-up!)

Generally speaking, the safest sunscreens are always going to be the mineral-based ones -  the zinc and titanium dioxide sunscreens. Yes, they tend to leave a bit of a whiteish cast on the skin, but if safety is what you're after, there simply is no alternative. There are some good "hybrid" products out there (sunscreens that are a combination of a chemical sunscreen and minerals), but as far as effectiveness, sensitivity, and side effects go, your mineral sunscreens are always going to be at the top of the list.


A Slightly Different Approach to Safe Sunscreen

This time around,  I took a different tack than I have in the past when looking at sunscreens. Normally, I would look at the EWG recommendations, then order a handful of their top-rated sunscreens and take them for a whirl. However, a lot of their top-rated versions are not readily available in stores, particularly if you live in a place with limited access to more "natural" brands, which a lot of these top-rated mineral sunscreens tend to be. Added to that I get sent a lot of stuff for the blog, so I always have a few products laying-around that I did not come by because of the website.

With that in mind, I made my selections this time based on things that were more readily-available in stores. Sure, I cheated a bit to make sure that the ones I was choosing had been reviewed, but this time, you should be able to walk into a Walgreens or a Boots and put your hands on the product without having to order it from Amazon. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Amazon has literally been here to the house in FL about eight times in the past two weeks as I fly into a panic preparing to return to the UK. But I digress. Here's the intel, and a quick reminder that with the EWG, the lower score is what you want - think of it as a "demerit" system -  a 1 is their highest rating. The higher the score, the less safe the sunscreen.

Photo of a bottle of ThinkBaby sunscreen on a plain white backgrounf

I mention this one again because it is my hands-down favorite sunscreen of all time. I've been using it for years. It goes on easily (for a mineral sunscreen), does not leave you looking too much like a ghost, can be used on your face with ease, smells amazing, and stays on forever, even in the pool (that's not to say you don't need to re-apply, but I'm a medium-olivey skinned girl so I likely get a little more time out of it than some). This one will probably always be in my cache here in Florida.  This one gets the top rating of 1/10 from the EWG. And from me. A+

UPDATE JUNE 2023: This sunscreen is consistently in my top picks, and probably always will be. I have no notes on this. Still one of the best.

A tube of Neutrogena sheer Zinc dry touch sunblock

While this sunscreen isn't the cheapest you'll find in the drugstore, it is without a doubt probably one of the best. This pure mineral sunscreen gets a top rating of 1/10 from EWG (the face version gets a 2/10) goes on easily, and it definitely does have less of a whiteish cast than your average mineral sunscreen. One of the best things about this sunscreen is that it dries-down on your skin and doesn't leave you feeling like a piece of walking fly paper. Need to buy some sunscreen in a pinch? I reach for this, every time. A

JUNE 2023 UPDATE: This Sunscreen really hasn't been in my rotation, really only because it really doesn't represent a particularly great value for the amount of product you get, as good as siad product is. You get so much more product

A bottle of Kind to Skin Protecting moisturizer, SPF 15

with just about any other drugstore sunscreen, and a UK price tag of over £20 for 3 oz of product? Eek!! If you're looking for a great option that really dries down and sinks into the skin (particularly for the face), I like the Simple Kind to Skin Light Moisturizer With Sunscreen. Granted, it's only SPF 15, so you may want to step it up a bit and try the Raw Elements Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30.

Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ $8 US / £8 GBP (similar mineral-based product for babies)

A photo of Banana Boat Kids mineral sunscreen

If affordability is what you're after, this is an excellent option - but tread lightly. Make sure you are purchasing the Tear-Free, Sting-Free Kids formula, and not one of the other many variations that Banana Boat has out (like the Kids Sport, which unfortunately is much more readily available on shelves). This tear-free formula gets a 3/10 from EWG (while the other permutations get a 6/10 and more), and it has great protection. Granted,  it's a bit more difficult to spread evenly than say, the ThinkBaby sunscreen. However, if you can find this in the store, it will only set you back between $8-10 USD, a bargain when you compare it to some of the pricier "natural" options. If you are going to be somewhere where you think you'll go through a lot of sunscreen, this is a great option. B

JUNE 2023 UPDATE: At the time of the original writing, Banana Boat was in the midst of changing a lot of their formulas and branding labels, so their offerings are quite different now, and sadly no longer carry any that I would currently recommend you try.

A better sensitive/kids option is the Earth Mama Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion.

A tube of Earth Mama sunscreen on a white background


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