Between Jessica Alba’s Zinc-Gate and the Environmental Working Group’s claim that 80% of the 1600 suncare products they tested offered inferior sun protection or contained worrisome ingredients such as oxibenzone and vitamin A, the sunscreen scene has never felt so scandalous.
We enlisted a few of our favorite skin experts to weigh in since the situation gets more complicated as we transition to fall and rely solely on our everyday sunscreen for our broad spectrum protection. There is no debate that zinc- and titanium-based formulas are the safest since a chemical sunscreen will leave you unprotected after two hours. Says Professor of Dermatology at the George Washington Medical Center and Director of Capital Laser and Skin Care, Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi,
“My favorite formulas contain physical sunblock ingredients like zinc and titanium. They offer broad spectrum protection but are gentle enough for the most sensitive skin.”
It’s easy to opt for a non-nano zinc oxide formula when you’re sitting poolside, but for your everyday needs look for a moisturizing, tinted version to hide the inevitable white cast or even a clean, nano-zinc oxide base for its sheerness and touchability.
We spent our summer testing these non-toxic yet ghostbusting options, so you could appear as barefaced as a grunge-era Shalom Harlow yet still be protected. Here are the best ones along with the Environmental Working Group’s rating.
For Your Goop-iest Friend, (EWG Hazard Factor: 1)
Marie Veronique out of San Francisco makes a beautifully sheer tinted mineral sunscreen called Everyday Coverage SPF 30 fortified with antioxidants to fight free radicals. She collaborates with her braniac, physicist daughter Jay Nadeau on formulas which adds credibility as well as an “aaw” factor. Grace Lee, founder of Nine Naturals, a skincare line devoted to ultra-safe products for expectant moms, reaches for fellow organic lady brand Juice Beauty’s SPF 30 Sheer Moisturizer. Ms. Paltrow is now the creative director for Juice Beauty’s yet-to-be launched makeup line and working with the company on Goop’s first private label skincare collection, both due out in 2016. Juice Beauty counters are being thronged by Tracy Anderson devotees as I type.
These two formulas use high percentages of non-nano zinc oxide which is known to be the safest and most effective of sunscreen ingredients. We are also loving The Perfect Sunscreen from Consonant out of Toronto, a tinted titanium/zinc hybrid.
Lee also recommends going one step further and make sure you consume lots of antioxidants. She says,
“UV energy creates a lot of free radicals, eating antioxidant-rich foods like carrots, plums, tomatoes and dark veggies reduces damage because the antioxidants sacrifice themselves instead of allowing the free radicals to attack your body’s natural chemistry.”
The Nano Solution (EWG Hazard Factor: 1)
For those who are looking for just a straight up sunscreen with no tint that earned top honors from the EWG, Keys Solar RX Moisturizer SPF 30 is it. The lovely ladies at Cap Beauty carry it at their amazing West Village store and on their perfectly-curated naturals website. The formula features 20% pharmaceutical-grade, uncoated, nano-zinc oxide and a slew of botanicals in a smooth, elegant base. Keys uses infrasonic sound to blend their formulas to keep air out. To create their nano particles they use a vapor deposition technique that was originally developed in Silicone Valley to create magnetic media. The formula is pretty perfect even delivering a luminous sheen which is not the norm in the realm of mineral sunscreens. While the jury is still out on nanotechnology, the studies thus far have found it’s not hazardous and the ever-vigilant EWG is cautiously ok with it, given the rating of this product.
Mineral Sunscreens With Silicone, (EWG Hazard Factor: 2-3)
Many organic-leaning brands use silicone to deliver a smooth finish or make dense zinc oxide formulas easier to mix in production. Like in hair care, there is some minor concern that continued use of silicones could suffocate skin causing break outs or irritation. It is still a good option if the rest of the formula is organic, since silicones aren’t considered toxic. Notes Dr. Tanzi, “I don’t see anything wrong with silicones, in fact I find they hydrate skin.” Celebrity facialist, Joanna Vargas who counts Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rachel Weisz as clients, also notes, ‘If I have to pick between someone not using sunscreen or using this type, then I vote yes to sunscreen.” Joanna prefers MD Solar Science Mineral Sunscreen which earns an excellent EWG score of 2 and is the top recommendation of the Skin Cancer Foundation for everyday use.
The Coola brand is beloved for its lovely mattifying formulas. These particular sunscreens earned a respectable but not overly impressive rating of 3 because they only offer moderate and not excellent broad spectrum protection. They do feel really great thanks to that silicone. We prefer a good-excellent rating in our daily sun protector so augment with a mineral powder. Vargas swears by Eminence Organics Mineral Powder Sunscreen in Translucent. She notes, “You can wear it with or without makeup and it helps protect against sun damage and hyperpigmentation.”
Avobenzone’s Not So Bad, (EWG Hazard Factor: 3)
If you can’t let go of the chemical sunscreen and aren’t bothered that they breakdown faster than their mineral-based counterparts, avobenzone-based formulas are totally a practical choice. Avobenzone is soluble in oils and alcohol so you’ll also see it in spray suncreens and face oil products. It’s an excellent UVA filter but tends to deteriorate in the sun and needs other chemicals like oxibenzone or octocrylene to stabilize it. Look for formulas that are stabilized with octocrylene (Hazard Factor 3) and homosalate (Hazard Factor 4) like SuperGoop CitySunscreen Serum or Coola Classic Sunscreen.
But really, the best sunscreen is the sunscreen you’ll wear all the time, so ponder these offerings and commit to one.
Photography and Words by Bea McMonagle