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If you've ever stood in the sunscreen aisle trying to decide which tube or bottle to buy, you know the possibilities are endless...and a bit overwhelming.
We all want to keep our skin safe from the sun's harmful rays, but what's the difference between that spray sunscreen on sale or those fancy-looking tubes that claim to be made from natural or organic ingredients?
What are natural and organic sunscreens?
According to Brittany Dulmage, assistant professor of dermatology and board-certified dermatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, there are a few reasons people may decide on natural or organic sunscreens.
"When most consumers are asking about 'natural' sunscreens, they're asking about sunscreens that contain physical blockers as opposed to chemical blockers," Dulmage told Shop TODAY. "Physical blockers are mineral-based and include active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide."
Dulmage says these ingredients work by physically blocking the sun's rays from reaching the skin, shielding the skin from the whole range of light the sun produces. Chemical-blocking ingredients in sunscreens, however, absorb the sun's rays once they come in contact with your skin.
Dulmage says the physical-blocking ingredients in sunscreens are generally better tolerated by patients with sensitive or allergy-prone skin, but warns that terms like "natural" and "organic" aren't well-regulated.
"Those words aren't defined by the FDA, so they can really mean whatever the drug or sunscreen company wants them to mean," she cautioned.
There's also an environmental component to natural sunscreen use.
"One other benefit is that physical and mineral blocker sunscreens are considered reef-safe," Dulmage added.
What should I look for while shopping for a natural sunscreen?
"With any sunscreen, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 or higher and broad-spectrum protection, meaning the sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays," said Dulmage.
Dulmage says cream or lotion sunscreens are generally a better choice because it's easy to miss areas with spray or not use enough product when spraying down. Still, the dermatologist knows sprays can seem more convenient.
"There are some ways the use of spray sunscreen can be optimized," she said. "Sprays should be used until the skin glistens — a good rule is that a typical size spray sunscreen bottle should only last for six applications if used by an adult."
Dulmage also says to thoroughly rub sprays into the skin in when applying, and cautions that sprays should not be applied directly onto the face, but rather onto the hands and then patted on the face.
"Sprays should also not be applied on a windy day," said Dulmage. "Any type of sunscreen should be reapplied right after swimming and every two hours when outside."
Natural lotion sunscreens
This peach-scented SPF 70 sunscreen offers high protection that's super sheer and designed to fight free radicals. The hydrating formula is also made from 70% certified organic ingredients.
This water-resistant SPF 50 mineral sunscreen absorbs into the skin quickly and has a matte finish. It's also cruelty-free and coral reef safe.
Lightweight and fast-absorbing, this SPF 45 is designed to protect the skin from UVA/UVB rays and infrared radiation while improving the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
This mineral sunscreen from Jumby Beauty comes in SPF 30 and is made with sunflower seed oil and shea butter to keep skin hydrated. Unlike many chemical-based sunscreens, the broad-spectrum formula doesn't leave your skin feeling greasy.
Made with aloe vera and coconut oil, this SPF 30 lotion is hypoallergenic, reef-friendly and safe for all ages. Have we mentioned it'll also leave your skin smelling like a tropical vacation?
This mineral SPF 30 moisturizer is perfect for all ages and provides full-spectrum protection from the sun. It's also infused with skin-healing botanicals and is naturally scented with plant extracts.
This mineral sunscreen has SPF 30 and protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays. It's also cruelty-free, easy to apply and hypoallergenic. It's also one of the Environmental Working Group's top-rated sunscreens.
Natural spray sunscreens
Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and suitable for all skin types, this SPF 30 non-aerosol spray is vegan, reef safe and biodegradable.
Safe for all ages, this moisturizing non-greasy SPF 30 spray contains ingredients like aloe, jojoba and sunflower oil.
Natural face sunscreens
Created just for him, this water- and sweat-resistant face lotion packs SPF 50 and contains soothing aloe and shea butter.
Designed for face or body use, this 2-in-2 sunscreen packs SPF 35 and contains botanical oils and vitamins to nourish skin.
This fragrance-free SPF 30 sunscreen contains moisturizing ingredients like sunflower oil and vitamins C and E.
This weightless, sheer SPF 30 moisturizer helps protect the skin from sun damage while giving it a boost of moisture thanks to hydrating peach flower and anti-aging euphrasia extract.
With vitamins C and E and antioxidants like green tea, raspberry seed oil and organic aloe juice, this travel-sized mineral facial sunscreen is SPF 30 and suitable for all ages.
Watermelon, sea buckthorn and carrot are a few of the luscious botanical ingredients in this broad-spectrum SPF 30 facial sunscreen. It's also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Soothing rose extract and moisturizing botanicals make up this SPF 30 facial sunscreen, which disappears into the skin and protects from the sun and blue light.
Natural tinted sunscreens and powders
This tinted facial sunscreen provides SPF 50 and comes in three different shades to match any skin tone.
This tinted SPF 40 sunscreen stick glides on smoothly and is infused with moisturizing shea and cocoa butters. It's available in two skin tones designed to blend in with any skincare routine while keeping skin protected.
A mineral primer and moisturizer, this Unsun product contains SPF 30 and comes in two shades to fit most skin tones.
Non-greasy with a subtle tint, this mineral SPF 30 sunscreen gives a subtle bit of color to skin while protecting from the sun.
This mineral-based foundation comes in several skin tone shade. The SPF 30 powders are also lightweight and water-resistant, making them perfect for warm, humid climates.
Available in four skin tone shades, this mineral facial sunscreen has SPF 30 and works well as an anti-aging BB cream in addition to providing sun protection.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Yes, you need to put sunscreen on your scalp — a dermatologist explains why
- These derm-approved sunscreens are perfect for darker skin tones
- 9 SPF moisturizers dermatologists actually recommend, from CeraVe to Supergoop!
- 15 of the best sunscreens for kids, according to safety experts
- 10 top-rated sunscreens that won’t irritate sensitive skin