Not all sunscreens are created the same. If you're one of the many who overlook exactly what's in our sunscreens, you should know that there are actually two types of SPF: chemical and physical (also known as natural) sunscreen.


While the word "chemical" may throw you off, it's important to note that chemical sunscreens aren't unsafe for you. Here's the science behind them: "Chemical sunscreens absorb light & create a chemical reaction with the sunscreen ingredients, which turns UV rays into non-damaging wave lengths of heat which the skin then releases," says celebrity esthetician Candace Marino. But, one issue that comes with chemical sunscreens is their impact on the environment. One of the most popular ingredients in chemical sunscreens, oxybenzone, is actually known to endanger wildlife and damage coral reefs.


So, if you would rather opt for an eco-friendly alternative to your SPF, a physical sunscreen uses all-natural derivatives to provide UVA and UVB protection to your delicate skin. "Physical sunscreens work by creating a physical barrier between the skin and UV light rays," says Marino. "The active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, work to deflect or scatter light away from the skin to prevent UV absorption." Not only do these SPFs work as well as their chemical alternatives, but they're also known to be reef-safe options to use.


If you want to switch over to an Earth-friendly SPF, then give some of our favorite natural sunscreens a try.



EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 Sunscreen


You know a sunscreen brand is top-notch if it earns a spot in Kourtney Kardashian's and Kendall Jenner's skincare routines. This physical alternative of the brand's best-selling sunscreen gives you all of the sun protection you love and need while adding a touch of tint to easily blend into your skin tone.

This natural sunscreen is lightweight enough to make you forget you have anything on your face, and it's fragrance-free (bye-bye, weird synthetic coconut scents).


PCA Skin Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 45


When it comes to physical sunscreens, this is the one I tend to come back to. It's super lightweight and absorbs easily into skin so it doesn't leave an oily sheen on your face, and it comes in a universal tint to match all skin tones without leaving streaks of white all over your complexion.

Plus, this clean sunscreen is free of any fragrances, so sensitive-skin types can enjoy it too.

DD Eye Dermatologically Defining Eye Radiance Cream SPF 30


Since our undereyes and lids are extra delicate, they deserve some added SPF for ultimate protection. To stay safe instead of ending up sorry, layer this natural sunscreen formula over your eye area to gently guard skin with SPF 30.

It’s also tinted, so feel free to skip the concealer after patting this on.


Love Sun Body 100% Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30


If you think putting sunscreen solely on your face is enough, think again: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, we should all lather on at least two tablespoons of sunscreen on our body daily.

For a head-to-toe natural sunscreen experience, try out this sunblock lotion from Love Sun Body. Its reef-safe formula uses 100% natural, plant-based, non-GMO ingredients, so you won't find any synthetics in this formula. This sunscreen is also hypoallergenic, non comedogenic (no back acne!), and water-resistant for a full 80 minutes.

Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 30


Sensitive-skin types always have to be diligent about the ingredients in their sunscreen, which is why this is our favorite one for those with easily irritated skin.

This ultra calming sunscreen was made with sensitive-skin types in mind, and works to soothe dry, irritated complexions through nourishing oat extract. It's also fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, oil-free, and noncomedogenic.


ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Sunscreen


Another major reason why sunscreen is so important is that UV rays can also cause premature aging, also known as photoaging.

ISDIN's mineral sunscreen is crafted specifically with delicate, mature skin types in mind to keep excessive damage at bay. This sunblock uses the power of SPF 50 to keep your skin protected from intense UV rays, and goes above and beyond with additives like vitamin E to add an anti-aging antioxidant boost to your daily routine.

Mattescreen Sunscreen SPF 40


If you have oily skin, then you know how annoying it is for sunscreens to leave a greasy feel on top of your already-greasy skin.

Well, you can officially say adios to oil-slick sheens with this mattifying sunscreen. Its natural mineral formula is ultra light, translucent, weightless, and of course mattifying while it guards your skin from harmful sun rays. This sunscreen is perfect for acting as a priming base for your makeup.

Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense Sunscreen SPF 30


Dry, flaky skin getting on your nerves (and your skin)? Then this new mineral sunscreen from Dermalogica will help give your complexion a hydrating boost. This particular sunscreen has moisturizing and acne-clarifying argan oil to give thirsty pores exactly what they need — plus green tea, which provides antioxidant benefits.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid


Although we love racking up Sephora points as much as anyone else, sometimes we're missing out on amazing products by ignoring the aisles of the drugstore.

Exhibit A: this sunscreen from La Roche-Posay. It's a drugstore favorite for its broad-spectrum SPF 60 formula that absorbs with ease into your skin. It's also lightweight and fragrance-free for sensitive-skin types to enjoy with ease.


Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Face Tint SPF 30


If you want to even out your complexion while guarding it from harmful sun rays, then give this natural sunscreen a try. It has a tinted formula that blends into all skin tones with ease for a flawless, sheer finish.

Plus, its formula is ultra light and won't leave a greasy feel behind.


iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50 Plus


Marino says that this is one of her all-time favorite sunscreens for a variety of reasons. First off, it contains broad-spectrum SPF 50 to provide the ultimate protection to your skin. But what makes this sunscreen so great is that it contains antioxidants, like vitamin E, to guard your skin from other harmful elements, like pollution.


CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 Face Lotion


If you're looking for an under-$20 physical sunscreen, this one will fit your bill. This sunscreen may be on the bargain side, but its formula is top-notch.

This hydrating sunscreen has broad-spectrum SPF 50 to guard your delicate skin from UVA and UVB rays, but it also contains hydrating ceramides to give your complexion a plumper, more hydrated look and feel.


Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50


If you'd like to touch up your makeup or have a grease-free look to your skin, then a brush-on powder sunscreen may be in your future. Though many powder sunscreens come in a natural formulation, this pick is one of our favorites.

This one is great for its impressive formula that provides SPF 50 protection, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and a tinted finish.


Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 PA +++


If you have a deeper skin tone, then you know the struggle of dealing with the notorious white, ashy film most sunscreens can leave behind.

But this one has the sheerest formula in the whole lot, so your skin can stay guarded with broad-spectrum SPF 30 without a grainy look or texture.


Babo Botanicals Super Shield Natural Sport Stick


Babo had us at its precious packaging and bunny logo, but what keeps us coming back is its equally-as-delicate formula.

The Super Shield Sport Stick is enhanced with organic shea butter, plus avocado and jojoba oils, to add natural moisture to the mix and combat the drying properties of the sun's rays.






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May 11, 2020 — Candace Marino