Everything You Need to Know About Natural Sunscreens

The sun is of course the key element to spring, summer, and early fall weather. It gets you outside and keeps you there with mostly amazing benefits—you’re more active, maybe your garden is on fleek, and you’ve got a gorgeous sun-kissed glow. But, of course, it’s easy to overdo it. You need protection beyond a shady spot under a tree or a big hat and glasses. But when making the switch from conventional to natural sunscreen, there are a few things worth knowing.

What is a ‘Natural’ Sunscreen, Anyway?

It’s important to know that the word “natural” isn’t regulated by the FDA. That means that just because a brand says it’s natural, doesn’t mean it is. Generally, the term is found on sunscreen products that rely on minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which work like tiny mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays away (conventional sunscreens often just absorb those rays instead via synthetic chemicals).

But a sunscreen is so much more than the active UV protection. Most are lotion or crème based and that means oils and butters used for ease of application—so that the product smooths onto the skin. For a “natural” product, you want to avoid any of those coming from petroleum (like mineral oil), and instead opt for natural oils like almond, jojoba, shea butter, etc.

A truly natural sunscreen product won’t contain artificial colors or fragrances or other fillers. A good rule of thumb is to look for easy to read ingredients lists. The only difficult-to-pronounce words should be the SUV ingredient (titanium dioxide) and the Latin words for botanicals, as is the common practice (but don’t worry, they usually come with an English translation as well).

Is Natural Sunscreen Worth It?

Only you can decide what’s right for you and your family. But according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit dedicated to health and environmental safety, chemicals, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in conventional sunscreens, may be hormone disruptors and cause skin allergies. Some ingredients, like retinyl palmitate, have been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer.

Do Natural Sunscreens Work?

According to Consumer Reports, the answer is a resounding maybe. Among the “natural” sunscreens it tested, none received higher marks than “Good” (there are “Very Good” and “Excellent” options as well).

The caveat, according to Consumer Reports, is that the natural products don’t often apply evenly enough to provide full coverage and protection. That’s due to the particle nature of the zinc or titanium dioxide. The easy workaround? Multiple applications (which you should be doing every few hours, anyway), and many natural brands are now offering sprays, which can be easier to apply than sunscreen lotions.

You can also increase the SPF—Consumer Reports recommends a 40 or higher for a natural product, but at least an SPF 30.

We also recommend layering your sun protection. For example, Zatik offers several sun protective moisturizers that work great for keeping your skin healthy and gorgeous and offer SPF protection as well. So if you’re already wearing a sunscreen to begin with—at least on your face—you’re giving yourself additional protection right from the start.

Check out our Argan & Yarrow Sunscreen Mineral Moisturizer.

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