How to Choose a Safe(r) Non-Mineral Sunscreen

Finding a suitable “safe” sunscreen can be tricky business. Things have changed since the Coppertone days (or, for some of us, no-sunscreen-at-all days) of our childhood with, most recently, the mineral-based sunscreens taking the world by storm. Mineral sunscreens (those with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the main ingredients) are reportedly the safest choice for our skin these days. And I am sure there are many out there who would not agree with me recommending anything else, BUT I have to admit … my kids are not the biggest fans and the sunscreen battle can get really tiresome around here. Plus there are some slightly better alternatives worth considering.

Though effective, mineral sunscreens are notorious for not fully rubbing into your skin (since they basically sit on the surface instead of absorbing into your skin like other lotions), not completely washing off for a couple days, and even staining dark bathing suits on occasion (sadly, it’s happened to me). Some mineral sunscreens are definitely better than others, especially those that are tinted (like Sun Love from Annemarie Gianni, which is especially great for faces), and we also like this spray version of Goddess Garden. So we do still use some mineral sunscreens as well … our skin is our largest organ after all, and we want to treat it right! BUT, when you have to use sunscreen almost every.single.day of the summer the super thick stuff can get a little old after a while.

So, since not all of us are always striving for perfection, I want to share how I figured out what safer regular (i.e. chemical-based / non mineral-based) sunscreens to try and what we think of them.

Four Safer Non-Mineral Sunscreens

Sunscreen Safety Ratings

First of all EWG – the Environmental Working Group – is not at all a sponsor of ours. They are simply a fabulous resource that everyone should know about! In their own words the EWG is “a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” They basically do all the homework for us when it comes to choosing safe products for our families including rating the safety of hundreds of different sunscreens (as well as other products) on a scale of 1 – 10. This is just one big science experiment I do not have time for so I always check their database, both on my computer and on their free app on my phone, before making a purchase. I especially love the ability to scan the bar codes of products using the smart phone app when I’m at the store!

I spent some time on their website and want to share my search result links for…

  • The Safest Mineral-Based Sunscreens
    Click my link and as you’ll see this list starts with the safest options first – with a rating of “1” – and there are loads of choices in that category. BUT, if you keep scrolling, there are also quite a lot of choices that are considered moderate and even high hazard (anywhere from a 3 to 7 rating). So, just because a sunscreen says it contains titanium dioxide – one of the main ingredients in “safer” mineral sunscreens – does not mean it’s automatically the safest choice.
  • The Safest Non-Mineral Sunscreens
    Click on these search results and you’ll see there are (not surprisingly) no “1’s” in this category, but the first one does have a “2” rating and is therefore still considered “low hazard.” Obviously that’s not quite as good as a “1” rating – and the database will tell you exactly why it got a 2 if you click on the details – but it’s still not too bad when you look at the overall scale below.

What the ratings mean:

Environmental Working Group hazard score key

Now, let’s be honest … some of us are okay with a “2” and even a “3” rating. Including me on occasion! So, while visiting my parents in Florida over Spring Break, we purchased and used four of the SAFER non-mineral sunscreens just so we could share what we thought of them.

Safer Non-Mineral Sunscreens We’ve Tried

OCEAN POTION

With a rating of “2” this one falls into the “low hazard” category. Not too bad, if I do say so myself. When my 12-year-old, the biggest sunscreen hater I know, told me she actually didn’t mind using this one I thought I might need to have my hearing checked. It is seriously a challenge some days – who am I kidding, most days – to get her to put sunscreen on willingly because she hates it so much. So the fact that she actually found nice things to say about this one (such as how it’s a thinner lotion that rubs in well and smelled nice) was just MUSIC to my ears!

The downside is that it’s $9.59 for a small 3 ounce bottle. That’s $3.20 an ounce.

Ocean Potion Protect and Renew Face Sunscreen Lotion, Oil Free, SPF 35

BEYOND COASTAL

This is the thickest lotion out of the four non-mineral options we tried so you might feel like it gives you a little better coverage, but it did also seem a little greasier than the others and did start to get crumbly on your skin if you rubbed it in too much or too hard.

The 4 ounce bottle of Beyond Coastal does cost $14+ on Amazon so it actually makes the first choice sound like it’s not a bad deal! This one comes out to $3.60 an ounce.

Beyond Coastal Sunscreen, SPF 34

BANANA BOAT PROTECT & HYDRATE

This is likely a brand you’ve heard of and this particular formula is one we first learned about from a friend who was on a similar mission (to find the best non-mineral sunscreens to appease her children!). This one rubs in well although my daughter – who we can just dub the “sunscreen critic” at this point – says it’s her third favorite out of the four listed here. She says it’s hard to squeeze it out of the bottle (gotta agree with her here, especially when you get near the end), and she is not crazy about the smell either.

It is a good deal though – especially if you buy the pack of three 6-ounce bottles on Amazon for $26.99. That’s $1.50 an ounce.

BANANA BOAT PROTECT & HYDRATE Sunscreen, SPF 30

CVS BRAND

This is definitely the thinnest lotion out of the four listed here. Meaning it will start dripping straight out of the tube if you’re not careful. So you might not feel like the coverage is as good as some of the others, but it sure does rub in nicely as a result and makes it my little “sunscreen critic’s” second favorite choice out of these options. They have done a little rebranding so while I’ve purchase bottles that look just like this one below in Florida, the only one we could find this week in NC is pictured above in the group shot. It appears to be pretty much the same formula though.

We found this one for $8.99 for an 8 ounce bottle, which comes out to $1.12 an ounce.

CVS Oil Free Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 30

No matter what sunscreen we use, we do reapply often (especially when swimming) and also use swim shirts and hats for extra coverage as well.

Now, I’d love to know your thoughts on mineral vs. non-mineral sunscreen. Do you only use the SAFEST choices (a “1” rating) or are you okay with some of the other alternatives? Please share in the comments below!

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85 thoughts on “How to Choose a Safe(r) Non-Mineral Sunscreen”

  1. Good info! We ( seniors!) have been using Thinkbaby mineral sunscreen for several years now & we love it! It is rated #1 on the EWG site & has an SPF rating of 50. I have extremely sensitive skin, but this really works for me. It has a very light white cast that goes away very quickly….it is gone by the time you are finished lathering up & it’s waterproof too. They also have a tinted facial sunscreen which applies very smoothly & evens out skin tone. We feel both are worth every penny spent!

  2. We love the Green Goddess spray but after the first 3-5 applications, it will no longer spray out! Anyone found a solution for this?

  3. Great info! My so. And Inare redheads so this is very important. I have a question. Why are the spf 20 all the way up to spf 90? If you are wanting sun protection why would someone but 20 when 90 is right next to it on the shelf? I don’t get it?

  4. Have you ever tried Blue Lizard baby or the regular Goddess Garden? I believe both of these scored a 1 on the EWG site so I was curious if you’d ever found them….

  5. What about sunscreen for my face? Like you all, I have done research and after research until I am so undecided. I’ve chosen Alba because I sprayed only the top of my feet and sat under umbrella at a lake and burned everywhere except where I sprayed. However, my face is sensitive and am using Origins with spf but am still getting burnt on my face and don’t really want some thick, pore clogging stuff on my face. I want something that works but is not heavy on the chemicals. I bought Coola face but when I got home it was rated a 7 on EWG. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR FACE SUNSCREEN/moisturizer???

  6. I love that you are sharing safer options! This is something I am very passionate about!

    I was in the same boat a few years ago with sunscreen. At, the time, my kids were still fairly little and so they gripes no matter what type of sunscreen we put on them! We ended up using a really great brand as far as coverages and safety, but all our old beach photos show them looking like little ghosts.

    Anyway, I was introduced to Beautycounter a few years ago and instantly fell in love with their products. It didn’t take long for me to also fall in love with their mission to educate and get safe products into the hands of everyone!

    They ban over 1400 ingredients that are known to be harmful to humans. (The U.S. only bans 30!)

    They’re not only safer, but the products are amazing too! The sunscreen IS a mineral sunscreen, but it’s NOTHING like other mineral sunscreens. It rubs in like lotion, isn’t greasy and has awesome coverage! We’ve been using it for 2.5 years now and absolutely love it!

    I would love to send you a sample for you to review!

    Please let me know if this is something you’d be interested in.

    Thanks!
    Rhiana

  7. I have found that Alba Botanicals and Sun Bum are the best two sunscreens for my family. We like the coverage (not overly thick), the scent (especially Sun Bum) and for my husband who is bald it does not tend to run into his eyes and burn.

  8. You should try Alba Botanica products – we’ve used them for several years and I LOVE them. Good consistency and they smell awesome.

  9. So glad to see the banana boat protect and hydrate made your cut! I’ve been using it for a few summers now and it’s by far my favorite. I’m very active in summer, and have to do a mix of mineral based and non-mineral based to keep my Irish skin protected! I have to fall back on some of the sprays when I’m kayaking and such, but I always start with that particular banana boat lotion.

  10. I’m so sad that you’re recommending these and considering them “safe” based on an EWG rating. :( This score is an average, and the chemicals in these sunscreens that are of concern rank a 6 or higher. The danger of the active ingredients in these sunscreens in An ingredient that can cause major disruption and harm to our reproductive organs. I agree with the other commenters that Thinkbaby and Beautycounter are amazing mineral based sunscreens that go on incredibly easy. We also love Babo. Perhaps a little more research on very specific ingredients is necessary before encouraging your incredibly broad audience to use these dangerous sunscreens.

  11. I had to switch to mineral based sunscreen after developing a severe skin allergy to the chemical kind. Blue Lizard Sensitive is my favorite. I only had to apply twice a day on my recent Florida vacation and finished out the week without a trace of suntan or rash. It is also not difficult to rub in nor does it leave a white film on your skin like some other brands.

  12. Kari Cowperthwaite

    This is so great – thanks for posting this! I try so hard to use safer and cleaner products but mineral sunscreen has just been a no-go for us. I’ve spent so much time in drug stores reading the back of sunscreen bottles and just not buying them due to their ingredients. Then I just buy the same old Coppertone and cringe. It’s great to see a list of safer options and reviews of those.

  13. ThinkBaby is awesome! 1 rating from EWG, smells amazing, and rubs on super easily. I just wish there were more options for buying it. I have only seen it on Amazon.

  14. I have made the switch to our Beautycounter non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens, and I have to say, they are they best I have ever tried. I have also struggled in the past with the mineral based sunscreens and the issue with the difficulties blending in. We have a face stick and body stick in addition to our all over (SPF 30 lotion), which are super convenient for not only my small children, but myself as well! The sticks are so sheer, you can barely tell you have applied anything on your skin! Please let me know if I can help you with any of our Beautycounter products. I am local in Charlotte and would love to help! Thanks for the great article!

    1. I absolutely agree with the post on Beautycounter! I am not a consultant. I have tried numerous safe sunscreens and get frustrated with application. BC all over sunscreen is easy to apply and rubs in nicely with only a light sheen. The facial stick is awesome!!!!

  15. The honest company makes a really good sunblock that scores well and is relatively affordable compared to some other top rated sunblocks. Some costco locations even sell it at an affordable price.

    1. We all got burned quickly with this lotion and weren’t even swimming. I later saw the reviews on amazon where lots of people had the same experience. I’d say use this one with caution and bring a back up.

      1. Our whole family burned real bad with last years version we bought at Costco. I am staying away from Honest Company sunscreen this year.

  16. I have been on a search for years to find a safer Sunscreen that was easy to apply and worked! I have found Beautycounter’s and I absolutely love it!! Check it out. beautycounter.com/teraalford

  17. Have you ever tried the Protect All Over Sunscreen by Beautycounter? EWG rates it at a 1 and it is the best that I have tried so far. Yes, I am a consultant for them, but prior to finding Beautycounter, I had tried a multitude of safer sunscreens. This is the only one that I have personally tried that is not greasy or smelly and it feels more like a lotion on my skin. I have even worn it on my face and then put foundation over it.

  18. I am wondering if anyone has used the app Think Dirty for researching products? It’s similar to EWG. I found it when EWG didnt’ have a couple of products I was wanting to check into. It lists the Ocean Potion as a 9 and Beautycounter as a 5. I just spent an hour yesterday looking into sunscreens for our family. Last year we used Alba for convenience, we are in a smaller town. Not the best, but not the worst. I know I could dig a little deeper into Think Dirty, but I don’t have time today to do that so I thought I would see if anyone here knew anything about this. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Amy! Beautycounter’s Protect Allover Sunscreen SPF 30 is actually scores a 1 on EWG. Think Dirty has a great mission but also a few problems. Do an online search and you will find that brands that fully disclose ingredients are compared with some companies that are not disclosing all of their ingredients. Also, some of the ingredients in Think Dirty score high because of one or more studies indicating that they may be allergens. While individuals with allergies may have reactions to certain ingredients, that doesn’t mean those ingredients are necessarily ‘unsafe’ to the general population. Other ingredients score high because they may contain impurities, but companies can obtain certificates of purity from suppliers to ensure that ingredients are not contaminated. Hope this helps!

    2. Wow!!! Good to know! We love kids my face and think baby. Scores of 1, goes on smooth and smells great!

  19. I love vanicream 50 spf (2 rating). Light weight and great for sensitive skin. Recommended by my dermatologist for my kiddos.

  20. I was ok with A 2 or 3 until I read the chemical ingredients and their toxic effects. So thanjs for the post! But I will stick to my Arbonne rated 1.

  21. I found COTZ to be pretty awesome. It’s skin colored so it is way less of the casper effect.
    Thank you for your article!!!

  22. Just wondering if you have tried Thinkbaby. It has a pleasant citrus fragrance & rubs in easily. It has an SPF of 50 & is all natural. I have extremely sensitive skin & I can even use it on my face… I wouldn’t use anything else. It has a rating of 1 & most importantly, it works!!

    1. Think baby is amazing. Great EWG rating and goes on nicely. Smell is subtle and refreshing. We’ve used their think sport too!

  23. We are HUGE fans of TruKid sunscreens. They’re “1”s on the EWG rating system and although they’re on the thicker side, they smell great and blend fine with a bit of rubbing. My fair kids have never had a sunburn — we’ve been using TruKid since they were babies. THAT SAID, I’m now also facing a household revolt now that those sweet babies are nearing their teens. So, I’m excited to read this post and learn more options.

  24. I agree with Beautycounter! We have used Badger the past few years and lived with the white paste, but I’m so happy to have this zinc oxide based product that isn’t thick and greasy and doesn’t leave you looking like a ghost! It smells great, too! I love the mission and activism of this company. You should definitely allow the “sunscreen critic” to put it to the test.

  25. I use the Vanicream sunscreen! They have a light version, regular and sport version 30, 35 and 50 spf. And yes the lite version isn’t as think as the others. But coming from someone with VERY sensitive skin and precancerous skin cells I’m all about the think creams! And you can never start Creating a habit for your kids at to early an age.

  26. I love all the Beautycounter ones! I am a Director with the company, but I started using it before when I lived in Dubai and my little family never burned!! I love that it rubs in (we used to use badger and we all looked like white ghosts!!) and it doesn’t smell like you have sunscreen on so you can wear it everyday!

  27. This post was for me! My son hated the zinc and really I do to, but wanted something safer. Thank you!

  28. alethea rollins

    This is helpful. My children hate mineral sunscreen and the teen is especially touchy about all things natural (aka different from the easier/readily available/familiar things her friends use). It is a struggle to pass on values and make compromises. I had to concede on aluminum free deodorant and let her use the least harmful I could find. Some battles are not worth it! I want to pass on information, but my children will eventually need to make their own purchases and I have to allow them that freedom – to walk their own path/journey.

    1. My teen daughter is the same. I am curious which deodorant you settled on. I’m having to make compromises also.

      1. Hey Tamie

        I have used Schmidt’s deodorant for years and love it! There’s is also a brand called Native I have heard is awesome too!

      2. alethea rollins

        She uses Toms of Main. The one with aluminum. None of the others (even those mentioned below) worked for her. And, when I was a teen I probably would have been the same way :)

    2. I use native deodorant. Look it up it’s awesome. The coconut one smells really good. I looked forever for a natural deodorant that actually worked and smelled good. I lasts a long time too. I think 5-6 months. The girls I coach say I smell like Hawaii and my daughter wants to use it but she’s only 8.

  29. I have used Alba mineral fragrance free from Amazon. I have liked it, and my older kids don’t mind it. It gets a 2 on EWG too!!. I have to have fragrance free and mostly chemical free., so this is a great option, and not too expensive.

  30. Love all the love for Beautycounter and totally understand needing a more affordable option! I will say the BC sunscreen goes a long way and before I was consultant with discount I got the face stick and used it on my little one’s body! The face stick is great and they also make a body stick as an alternative to spray sunscreen for wiggly kiddos. To affirm the above, it does not stain, is almost 19% non nano zinc and rubs in without any white residue. This is a great post though! Feel like it’s about progress not perfection and sometimes you need different options to make an informed decision!

  31. Another vote for Beautycounter! I’m a consultant, and the sunscreen was one of the things that took me from happy customer to consultant – my kids actually ASK for me to use the face stick on them, and it rubs in SO much easier than the other mineral brands I have tried! I find that a little goes a long way with it!

  32. Love babyganics stick. I buy it at Target. My kids complain that the spray is cold and they hate having lotion rubbed in. I tell them the stick is like a crayon and I need to color their face and we have no problems at all. They are totally white-faced after this though!

  33. I always buy the Equate spray for kids and the spray they have at Aldi’s for kids. It’s about $4 a can. I would rather my kids use any sunscreen than not use it at all.

  34. I’m not a fan of mineral sunscreen either! It has stained the leather seats in my car, so I’m definitely looking for an alternative. I would love to buy the BeautyCounter brand, but with 4 kids and myself using it most days throughout the entire summer, I need something more affordable. Thanks for the info!

  35. My children are so pale we have had a lot of success with Blue Lizard. Expensive but my kids have never had a sunburn.

    1. I completely agree. My pediatrician recommended Blue Lizard and it’s the only thing I will put on my very fair skinned, sensitive two-year-old. It blends in better than any of the other mineral sunscreens I’ve used too. I use ThinkBaby on my older son who doesn’t have sensitive skin (because it’s cheaper!) and we like that a lot too.

  36. We love Kiss My Face and Alba Botanica. They go on smooth, smell good and seem better than the regular store brands. We find them at Whole Foods or Sprouts.

  37. BeautyCounter has AMAZING non-nano mineral sunscreens that leave NO white residue! Plus, you’re supporting an amazing company who lobbies Washington for safer beauty laws on behalf of ALL of our families.

  38. We have started making our own sunscreens. I was able to purchase all of the ingredients (except for my trusty doTERRA Essential Oils. Please don’t buy those off of Amazon) for around $70, but this amount will last us throughout the Summer and then some. Rubs in so well, and you can make it waterproof by adding in varying amounts of beeswax.

    1. A sunscreen takes around 2-3 years to formulate and get approved by the FDA. Chemists already have a hard time actually formulating an SPF to reach the number on the bottle. The diy SPF is a dangerous trend. You are not getting broad or high enough protection making your own.

  39. Thank you for posting this! I too have mineral sun screen adverse kids and husband so it’s nice to see these other options as we currently live in florida where we need it year round

  40. My family LOVES and I sell Beautycounter. The sunscreen IS mineral based and only uses safe ingredients! It goes on great and does not leave the white residue that other mineral based sunscreens do! If you haven’t tried it I would be happy to send you some!!

    1. I was intrigued by the positive reviews of Beautycounter, but when I went and looked at the ingredients list, it looks like all the formulations contain various types of citrus oil. My understanding is that citrus essential oils (orange, lemon, etc.) cause photosensitivity and should not be applied to the skin before going out in the sun. I love the smell of citrus essential oils, but they seem like a bad idea in a sunscreen! Maybe I’m missing something, maybe the oils that Beautycounter uses are Bergapten-free or are used in such low dilutions that they do not cause the effect?

      1. Essential oils question aside, beautycounter works very well as a sunscreen but it absolutely leaves a white residue. Whether it’s the lotion or the stick, white residue. I love it because it works. My kids hate it and it can ruin a swimsuit. but I’ll take white residue and ruined swimsuit over skin cancer any day

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