suncare

All the Best Natural and Mineral Sunscreens (That We’ve Written About on the Strategist)

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Sunscreen should be more than just a last-minute addition to your beach bag. In fact, it should be a daily step in your routine — regardless of the weather — because it “protects the skin from sun damage and skin cancer,” says Dr. Fayne Frey, a New York–based dermatologist and the author of The Skincare Hoax. It comes in two main forms: chemical and natural. The latter contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which act as a physical barrier between your skin and the sun, says Craig A. Downs, an ecotoxicologist and executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory. These minerals are considered more environmentally safe than those used in most chemical sunblocks, which can create an “oil-slick-type situation that suffocates, bleaches, and kills reefs,” says Ashlee Piper, a sustainability expert and the author of Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.

While these formulations have gotten a bad rap for leaving a chalky or pasty residue, we found some standouts that blend in without a trace — and come recommended by board-certified dermatologists, celebrities, and makeup artists, plus our own writers and editors. Below, we’ve curated a list of the best natural sunscreens we’ve written about, all of which contain at least one of the key ingredients and are SPF 30 or greater. (For more specific sun protection, see our guides to the best ones for lips, face, and children; we’ve even got some picks for bald heads.)

Best natural sunscreen for face

EltaMD UV Clear, a hybrid sunscreen with high levels of zinc oxide, has been recommended to us time and time again by dermatologists (for darker skin tones, aging skin, cystic acne, and teens, too). It’s also a consistent Strategist best seller. Beyond being fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, the lightweight formula contains ingredients like niacinamide, a vitamin-B3 derivative with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help fight breakouts, says Dr. Nava Greenfield, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group. Plus lactic acid, “which will gently exfoliate the skin and regulate sebum buildup,” also helps keep breakouts at bay, says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue.

Best natural sunscreen for dry skin

To manage dryness while protecting skin from harsh sun rays, Caroline Robinson, founder of Tone Dermatology, recommends this sunscreen from Venus Williams’s brand, Eleven, which contains a whopping 25 percent zinc oxide. It also has prickly-pear extract to hydrate and soothe inflamed skin. Robinson uses it and says it blends well without leaving a white coating, plus its velvety finish makes it a perfect base for makeup.

Best natural sunscreen for acne-prone skin

Tizo is “really gentle on acne,” Greenfield says. In addition to vitamin E, an ingredient that Robinson says can treat post-acne spots, it’s infused with vitamin C to brighten and reduce inflammation. (Former Strategist writer Lori Keong has written about how Tizo is also suitable for those with body acne as, with regular application, it can prevent hyperpigmentation.) And while dermatologist Dr. Chauncey Barbulescu is a fan of the tinted version for darker skin tones, this colorless formula is also sensitive-skin-friendly, as it’s made without oil, parabens, and fragrance.

Best natural sunscreen for darker skin tones

Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst recommends this moisturizer from Urban Skin Rx — our best facial sunscreen for darker skin tones — because it’s one of the few mineral sunblocks that doesn’t turn her skin white or purple-ish, she says. That’s because it contains finely milled zinc oxide that blends in fully. “The formula does go on white at first, but if you work it in thoroughly, it leaves skin with a noticeable glow,” Denton-Hurst says. It also contains safflower oil, which she says is “considered one of those rare oils that isn’t irritating to acne-prone skin,” plus vitamin C to brighten and bisabolol to soothe.

Best natural sunscreen for mature skin

Both Strategist columnist Chris Black and cookbook author Claire Saffitz use this 100 percent mineral sunscreen and say it has an ultrasmooth texture that disappears into skin without leaving residue. It’s also on our list of the best facial sunscreens because it’s full of antioxidants and photolyase enzymes, which Francesca Fusco of Wexler Dermatology says have “been shown to reverse the specific DNA mutations caused by ultraviolet [light].” Corey L. Hartman, the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, frequently recommends this sunscreen, which he says works well for all skin types and most skin tones because it doesn’t leave a white or iridescent cast. If it doesn’t disappear completely, Robinson recommends using the tinted mineral formula instead.

Best natural sunscreen and moisturizer combination

In our roundup of the best moisturizers with SPF, this is our top-rated mineral option recommended by Dr. Rachel Westbay, a dermatologist at Marmur Medical. “It has a creamy texture that melts into skin without leaving it feeling greasy and, although it’s a mineral-based formula, it doesn’t leave behind a white cast,” she says. Made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, this lotion contains many skin-care ingredients, such as niacinamide to soften fine lines, vitamin C to brighten, and an antioxidant blend to defend against environmental pollutants. As a Paula’s Choice devotee, I apply this to my face and neck each morning after cleansing and can attest to its weightless and nongreasy finish. Once it dries, my skin appears fresher and more awake, and I can easily layer my foundation on top.

Best natural sunscreen for body

This sunscreen is a favorite of dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar, who likes using it all over the body because it’s a “nongreasy SPF and will not leave oily residue all over your clothing.” Beyond that, Aguilar likes that it has powerful antioxidants like rose hip and green tea and moisturizing ingredients like avocado and jojoba oils. It rubs in sheer, plus it’s hypoallergenic and fragrance free. And if you prefer a spray-on alternative, Babo Botanicals also makes a mineral mist that Tara Foley, founder and CEO of the natural beauty store Follain, recommends for easy application.

Best sweat-resistant natural sunscreen

Dermatologists have recommended liquid sunscreens from Australian brand Blue Lizard before — but when we spoke to experts about the best sweatproof sunscreen, this stick form was recommended by Dr. Hadley King. She told us mineral sunscreens in a solid formulation work better because they tend to apply thicker, meaning they “provide good coverage and don’t come off easily with sweat.” King likes that this one is water resistant for 80 minutes, goes on clear, and contains aloe vera, shea butter, sunflower-seed oil, and vitamin E to nourish the skin. Plus it’s non-comedogenic and doesn’t contain parabens or fragrances.

Best tinted natural sunscreen

Frank Ocean’s mom, Katonya Breaux, created this tinted mineral sunscreen with people of color in mind. It’s won over actress Nana Mensah, who told us she uses the medium-dark shade to prevent premature aging and other harmful effects of UV damage like skin cancer. “If I’m doing a Zoom or I’m being photographed in any way, sometimes the flash will bring out a little bit of a white cast, but then I just add a little bit of powder over it, and I’m good to go,” Mensah says. Strategist beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton says that while the consistency is a bit thicker than what she’s used to, once it’s fully absorbed, Unsun gives “one of the most hydrating and illuminating just-left-the-spa glows.” New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff also praises the formula, saying it even works for her very pale skin tone.

Best natural powder sunscreen

Colorescience’s brush-on formula can be used under or over makeup, which is why it’s our favorite powder in our roundup of the best sunscreens. Dr. Sonia Batra, a dermatologist and the co-host of The Doctors, keeps a tube in her car for reapplications to her face, décolletage, and the back of her hands. “I love that it can be brushed over your skin without making palms or fingertips messy,” she says. “It also helps reduce shine on a hot day.” Dermatologist Dr. Caren Campbell says that, along with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, iron oxide (often found in tinted mineral sunscreen) helps further block harmful UVA and UVB rays. It’s also one of the things Dr. Pimple Popper can’t live without because “it’s easy to put on and reapply throughout the day.” It’s available in four different shades — ranging from fair to deep — so you can choose one that best matches your skin tone.

Best natural sunscreen for lips

When we spoke to dermatologists about the best lip balms with SPF, this Elta MD one was our top-rated choice. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Erum Ilyas and plastic surgeon Dr. Joshua Zuckerman gave this balm their stamp of approval because it’s water-resistant for 80 minutes and contains zinc oxide for UVA and UVB sun protection. It also has a blend of vitamins C and E, which “help fight free radicals and keep the lips looking smooth and young,” Dr. Ohara Aivaz says. Furthermore, it contains glycerin to minimize water loss and protect lips from irritation, dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss says. Similar to the brand’s UV Clear sunscreen above, this one is also fragrance-free and non-comedogenic.

Best tinted natural sunscreen for lips

If you’d prefer a not-so-sheer lip balm, this tinted option contains both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and has SPF 30 protection. It’s also formulated with cupuaçu butter and omega-rich mongongo oil, which hydrate and give it a creamy, spreadable texture, Denton-Hurst says. Makeup artist Rebecca Perkins first introduced us to it, describing its appearance as “gorgeous,” while Strategist senior editor Crystal Martin says she appreciates the color range and that “you can throw it on and look a little zhuzhed up but not trying too hard.” It’s also hypoallergenic and water-resistant for 80 minutes.

Best natural sunscreen for kids and babies

$31 for 3

When we wrote about the best sunscreens for kids and babies, Lindsey Bordone, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Columbia University Medical Center, recommended this specific brand from Neutrogena, which is formulated for babies. It features a broad-spectrum SPF 50 shield against UVA and UVB rays, and is dermatologist tested, water resistant, and hypoallergenic. (And we have some expert-approved sun-protective clothing to be used in tandem.)

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All the Best Natural Sunscreens (That We’ve Written About)