Recent studies suggest that certain chemicals in sunscreen may be harmful when they are absorbed through the skin. Oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A palmitate, which may have negative effects, have become the ingredients to avoid. But they are common in many sunscreens. According to the 2012 sunscreen guide released by the Environmental Working Group, only 25 percent of the 800 sunscreens tested are effective at protecting your skin without the use of potentially harmful ingredients.
Here are five new sunscreens for 2013, tested out by yours truly. They're all made with natural ingredients. They are safe for you and your kiddos, and great options for just about any occasion.
• Kiss My Face Oat Protein Complex with Hydresia, SPF 30, 4 ounces, $12.95: A friend of mine swears by this product, so I decided to give it a shot. I can see now why she is so crazy about it. Made with natural mineral zinc dioxide, this sunscreen spreads easily and soaks in well. Not only did it feel good on my skin, there was no stinging or funky smell. The oat protein protects and soothes the skin, reducing irritation, and helps fight damaging free radicals. I think this would be a great product for daily use, or even at the pool.
There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, it takes a little time to rub in, so this is probably not a great product to choose if you're usually in a hurry. Second, it's a little liquidy, so make sure you store it upright to avoid making a mess. However, I still found it to be a fantastic sunscreen and moisturizer. It's gentle enough for children and sensitive skin.
• Burt's Bees Baby Bee Face & Body Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30, 0.7 ounce, $9.99: Don't be fooled by the name -- this little stick is for adults, too. This sunscreen was easy to throw in my purse so I could pull it out later and apply when I knew I was about to be in the sun. It does take a little time to apply and get rubbed in because the stick is a little hard. For this reason, it might not be the best choice for kids, as they might not be interested in sticking around for application. However, it's good for on-the-go daily use. It would be perfect for a stroller ride or for your face before a run. I threw some on before heading out for an impromptu jog, and even when I began to sweat it didn't get in my eyes.
• Banana Boat Natural Reflect sunscreen, SPF 50, 4 ounces, $11.99: Sometimes sunscreens can make my skin feel like it's burning. This product was great for sensitive skin. There was no smell, no greasy feeling and no residue after I put it on. It took a little rubbing in (like every sunscreen), and at first it seemed like the white would not fully rub in, but it did. The EWG gave it a rating of 3 out of 10 (1 is the best). It's a great, affordable option if you're looking for a nontoxic, mineral sunscreen. The sunscreen stayed put really well on me, even after being active.
For active users
• SkinCeuticals Sport UV Defense, SPF 50, 3 ounces, $40: If you are outside a lot, run a lot, sweat a lot, are in the water a lot, this is the sunscreen for you. Don't be put off by the price. After some rigorous testing, I think it's well worth the money. I often find that sports sunscreens feel heavy on my skin. This product is smooth and not at all oily. I wore it outside during a long day of wakeboarding and I didn't burn. It contains zinc oxide, but it felt like I didn't have any sunscreen on at all -- perfect for the hot and humid weather we all know so well in Texas. And while I don't have any tattoos myself, I did some research and found out that this product is great for keeping them protected from the sun. The maker's website touts that this product is marathon-runner tested, and after my own trial, I know I'll be using it for summer races.
• MD Solar Sciences Mineral Tinted Creme, SPF 30, 1.7 ounces, $32: After years of using another high-end tinted moisturizer, I've been convinced to make the switch to this cream. It has a nice matte finish, blends well and provides enough coverage that I don't need any other foundation to supplement it. I was impressed by the nonoily feel, and even after a few hours of wear, it stayed matte. I also like the higher SPF 30. My current product has SPF 20 and I always feel like it's not enough. This is a great solution for daily use, and a welcome addition to my makeup bag.
• THE BOTTOM LINE: There are a lot of options out there for sunscreen. Keeping a few guidelines in mind may help you avoid being overwhelmed by the choices:
Choose sunscreens with a minimum SPF 15 and a maximum SPF 50. Anything over 50 isn't necessary and gives a false sense of security that you are more protected. You aren't.
Make sure you choose something that is labeled broad spectrum (meaning it has UVA and UVB protection). SPF only refers to UVB protection, but you need both.
Avoid products containing oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate if you're worried about potentially toxic chemicals.
Choose a rub-in lotion over a spray so you avoid missing areas.