SafeMama’s 2010 Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet

By Kristie Turck •  Published 04/09/10 •  11 min read

Last updated on April 10th, 2011 at 08:09 am

SafeMama™ Sunscreen Criteria: All sunscreens we approved needed to be free of Parabens, Phthalates, PEG’s, Propylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Benzoate, Dimethicone, SLS and a bevy of other chemicals I won’t bother listing.  Brands exhibit a very respectable ingredients list. The sunscreening ingredient we mainly avoid is the synthetic chemical oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor which can affect the nervous system, has been linked to cancer in some laboratory studies, and creates free-radicals when exposed to the sun which are harmful. Below are our selections of safer natural sunscreens that use mineral (or sometimes referred to a physical) sunscreen which is typically Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide or any combination of those two.

A note about the Skin Deep ratings. Their ratings are a good start, but take them with a grain of salt. They have a big job over there and sometimes formulas change and their information gets a little outdated. Which is why we stress learning to read the labels!

A note about Micronized and Nano: There have been many reports that micronized vs. nano particles of titanium or zinc oxide have the ability to pass through the skin more easily (which is why they aren’t as white as others). There is also a concern that nano titanium/zinc dioxide particles have higher photo-reactivity than coarser particles and may generate free radicals that can cause cell damage. Some manufacturers have addressed this issue by coating the particles to prevent free radical formation. We have listed the exact active ingredient in each sunscreen for a reason. So you as a consumer can decide which is right for you. We will continue to investigate these materials further and share with you our findings. We are comfortable recommending sunscreens with Micronized zinc or titanium (most natural sunscreens ARE). NANO zinc or titanium is something we feel should be avoided if possible.

A note about Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate): Recently the EWG put out their 2010 Sunscreen Guide and with it they made public some information regarding retinyl palmitate and its use in sunscreen. A study done by the FDA revealed it may speed the growth of skin lesions and tumors in lab mice.  The study is still in a controversial stage at this point so instead of removing any sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate we have added a notation to the listing so you can decide for yourself.

Sunscreen Lotions & Creams

Badger All Natural Sunscreen for Face & Body

badger30Protection: SPF 30+ / SPF 15
Active Ingredient: Non-nano, uncoated Zinc Oxide 18.75%
Skin Deep Rating SPF 30: 1 (last updated 03/07) SPF 15: 2 (last updated 03/07)

Price: ~ $14.00
Reviews: Kathy says, “I had heard Badger sunscreen was like spreading toothpaste, but I’ve got to say that totally isn’t the case at all. Goes on thick (like any natural sunscreen) but spreads pretty easily, doesn’t have an overpowering smell and really protects nicely. One of my new favorites! Badger says its naturally water resistant and I’d have to agree. One of the few that are 100% chemical free.” Read our full review here!

Notes: For extra protection, choose Badger Lip Balm SPF 15 – safe for you and the kids.

ThinkBaby (ThinkSport) SPF 30+ Sunscreen

Protection: SPF 30+
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 25%
Skin Deep Rating 0 (last updated 2/16/10)

Price: ~ $16.99
Reviews: Kathy says, “ThinkBaby has been working on their sunscreen for sometime in an effort to make the safest sunscreen possible. They use mostly natural ingredients and it has no harsh scent to it. Just good ingredients that protect really well. ThinkBabys sunscreen has also passed the Whole Foods Premium Care requirements. Leave it to ThinkBaby to come out with a safe product. It’s not sticky in the least – in fact it’s more powdery and protects great. I’ve been using it for a few weeks and have mostly enjoyed it.”

Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm

Protection: SPF 15 (3rd party tests rated it an SPF 29.5)
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide
Skin Deep Rating: 2 (last updated 4/30/08)
Price: ~ $27.90
Notes: Kathy says, “Miessence has a great ingredients list packed with almost all Certified Organic ingredients. It goes on smooth, but thicker so it would definitely be water resistant. Watery sunscreens always make me wonder if I’m just sweating them off. Has no strong smell and absorbs well. Used it while out walking the other day and no burns!Read our full review here

Mexitan Sunscreen Lotions*

Protection: Comes in SPF 15, SPF 30 and SPF 50
Active Ingredient: Titanium Oxide & Zinc Oxide
Skin Deep Rating: SPF 50: 1 / SPF 30: 2 / SPF 15: 3 (last updated 4/30/08)
Price: ~ $14.95 – $19.95
Notes: This brand has a great ingredients list overall. *Contains Retinyl Palmitate. See for details.  Update: A reader emailed us to say that mexitan has taken Retinyl Palmitate out of their sunscreen formulas. I have not heard back from them to confirm this.

Loving Naturals Sunscreen

Protection: SPF 30
Active Ingredient: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide 24.8%
Skin Deep Rating: 0
Price: ~ $9.99 – $18.99
Notes: This brand was rated the top choice on EWG.  Has a great ingredients list, no ickies – totally natural.  I haven’t tried it yet but it seems promising.

Green Goddess Kids Natural Sunscreen

Protection: SPF 30
Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 6% and Zinc Oxide 6%
Skin Deep Rating: 2
Price: ~ $12.00
Notes: This brand rated really well with EWG .  Has a great ingredients list, 70-80% organic, no icky ingredients.  I haven’t tried it yet but it looks great… they also have a variety of adult versions and a face sunscreen too.

Mama Rose’s Naturals Sunblocker All Natural Sunscreen

sunblocker

Protection: SPF 30, SPF 50
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (inquiring further information)
Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Price: ~ $15.00 – 18.00

Notes: Seems to be chemical free, comes in an SPF 50 which is the highest natural sunscreen SPF we’ve seen. Available online through the companies website. Kathy says “I really like this sunscreen and it’s one of the few times I’ve seen an SPF higher than 30 on a natural sunscreen. Goes on white, but its never sticky or slimy like others can be. CAN get a little chalky but I think that’s due to the high SPF. Rinses off easily when swimming so I save it for long days outside instead of the beach or pool.”

Elemental Herbs Kids Sunscreen

Protection: Kids SPF 20
Active Ingredient: 25% non-nano Zinc Oxide
Skin Deep Rating: Kids SPF 20: 2 (last updated 1/09)
Price: ~ $8.99 – $19.39

Notes: Comes in 1 and 3 ounce sizes and in a SPORT, SPORT TINTED and a KIDS version.  The Sport Tinted version is SPF 22.

Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stuff

Protection: SPF 15, SPF 30
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 10% (spf 15) and Zinc Oxide 20% (spf 30) (Z-Cote)
Skin Deep Rating: SPF 30: 1 (last updated 2/24/10)
Price: ~ $7.99
Notes: Purple Prairie has some great products and this one in particular has a fabulous ingredients list.  Totally chemical free and uses mostly organic ingredients.  Looks fantastic.  And how cute is the packaging?

Episencial Sunny Sunscreen

Protection: SPF 35
Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 10% & Zinc Oxide 4%
Skin Deep Rating N/A

Price: ~ $14.99
Reviews: Kathy says, “I’ve been using this for a few weeks and really like it. It has no strong scent, goes on smooth and isn’t cakey or waxy. Has a lotion texture to it and absorbs great. Thumbs up!” Full review coming soon.

Weleda Children’s Sun Screen

weledaProtection: SPF 18
Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 7.6%, Zinc Oxide 0.4%
Skin Deep Rating: 4 (last updated 6/08)
Price: ~ $14.00 (no longer available anywhere)

Reviews: Statia Says: “Neither of us has tried this sunscreen yet, however by the ingredients listed, we feel it makes the list and is considered one of the safer sunscreens out there.”

Soleo Organics Chemical Free Sunscreen

soleoProtection: SPF 30
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 22.3% (Non-Nano)
Skin Deep Rating: 0 (last updated 03/08)
Price: ~ $9 – $23.00

Reviews: Coming Soon

California Baby Everyday/Year-Round™ Sunscreen

cababyProtection: SPF 30+ (Also avail. in SPF 18)
Active Ingredient: Micronized Titanium Dioxide (CA Baby does not specify particle size)
Skin Deep Rating SPF 30: 1 (last updated 03/07) Skin Deep Rating SPF 18: 2 (last updated 03/07)
Price: ~ $17.99 – 19.99 No fragrance: $17.00 – 19.00 With Citronella: $19.00 – 25.00

Reviews: Kathy Says: “CA Baby SPF 30 goes on thick and works well but it’s sticky.”

Statia Says: “We have the bug blend and it goes on well, not as sticky, but it has a strong smell.”

Variations: These come in a No Fragrance version and a Citronella version (which Kathy can never find)

Burt’s Bees Chemical Free Sunscreen (w/ or w/o Hemp Seed Oil)

burts2Protection: SPF 30+ (Also avail. in SPF 15)
Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide (8.58%)
Skin Deep Rating SPF 30: 3 (last updated 04/10) SPF 15: 3 (last updated 04/10)
Price: ~ $9.99 – 11.00

Reviews: Statia Says: “I wasn’t really that impressed with this stuff. It was immediately cakey upon contact with the skin, and yet, I still felt really sticky. I felt gross all day.”

Kathy says, “I made friends with the SPF 30 version… it is a little tough to get on but it protects like the rest. It’s not my first choice, but it works.”

Erbaviva Natural Children’s Sunscreen

erbavivaProtection: SPF 15
Active Ingredient: Micronized Titanium Dioxide
Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Price: ~ $26.00

Reviews: Kathy says, ” This sunscreen blends in wonderful and there is no over powering scent whatsoever – great for faces too. I use it mostly on myself as a daily sunscreen since the SPF is lower. Works great under make up too.Full review here.

Kabana Skin Care Green Screen

greenscreenspf20Protection: SPF 20
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 25%
Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Price: ~ $16.50 40z.
Company Website: KabanaSkinCare.com

Notes: Made from 8 edible-grade organic and natural ingredients and uses non-nano Zinc Oxide for protection. This only has an SPF of 20 (also available in tinted SPF 22 and SPF 15) but it a great option as far as safe ingredients go. We’re anxious to give it a try. Kathy says “I tried a sample of this and I love that its mostly natural, but it makes you look pretty white and powdery looking. Does protect and isn’t greasy.”

Sunblock Sticks

Purple Prairie Sun Stick

Protection: SPF 30
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 20% (Z-Cote)
Skin Deep Rating: 1 (last updated 2/24/10)
Price: ~ $7.49
Notes: Purple Prairie has some great products and this one in particular has a fabulous ingredients list.  Totally chemical free and uses mostly organic ingredients.  Looks fantastic.

TruKid Sunny Days Face Stick

trukidstick
Protection: SPF 30+
Active Ingredient: Micronized Titanium Dioxide 8%
Skin Deep Rating: 0 (last updated 3/08)
Price: ~ $8.99
Reviews: Kathy says “I carry one of these in my bag for those ‘oops I forgot’ moments or unexpected uses. I rub a little on faces and cheeks for quick protection. Makes getting tops of ears and noses easy too…stays on well. “

SuperGoop Dr. T’s Quickstick

Protection: SPF 30
Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 8%, Zinc Oxide 5%
Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Price: ~ $9.00
Important Editor’s Note: This is the only SuperGoop product we feel comfortable recommending. SuperGoop has reformulated their sunscreens to eliminate parabens and some synthetic ingredients but they still contain phenoxyethanol. They aren’t horrible but there are more natural choices.

California Baby Everyday/Year-Round™ Sunblock Stick

cababystickProtection: SPF 30+
Active Ingredient: Micronized Titanium Dioxide
Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Price: ~ $14.99

Sunscreen Usage and Sun Tips

Follow the directions on the sunscreen you use for proper sun protection. However, our motto is “everything in moderation”. This means sun exposure too of course. It’s ok to be out in the sun for 20 minutes without covering every square inch of your kid with SPF 80. Sun exposure is good for us, (Vitamin D!), and it’s been studied that people – especially kids – with regular moderate time in the sun are healthier and may have less risk of developing conditions like Multiple Sclerosis or other auto-immune deficiencies. But sunburns are not good, so choose a safe sunscreen and apply according to the directions for days when extended sun exposure is on the docket!

When the option is available, use hats, cotton clothing or use the shade of umbrellas to avoid too much sun exposure. No need to bake in the sun all day… keep cool and stay in the shade! Investing in some SPF Protected clothing for the kids is a good idea too. Reduces the need for so much sunscreen and can have a UVB protection of up to 50. Snapper Rock makes great SPF Swimwear for kids. We also like Baby Banz Sun Hats for baby and kids… they also have a wide brimmed bucket hat with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating of 50+. The wide brim helps keep sun off kids faces. If you can avoid prolonged sun exposure between 10-2 it’s recommended.

Enjoy the outdoors! Be sure to check out our Safer Bug Repellent Report for safe choices to keep the buggies at bay.