Healthy Sunscreen Review – the best and the worst

In less than one week I will be living in Maui to enroll in an esthetician program at Spa Luna! Anticipating my future of constant sun exposure and beach days, I began to hunt early for the best natural body sunscreens this summer, so by the time Maui arrived, I would be ready! There were many pool days, hikes, runs, and walks tested with these contestants. All five are 100% natural, with physical blocks of zinc and titanium dioxide. Did you know that drinking green tea or applying it topically helps your body’s natural sun defense? All five contain green tea extract, for added sun protection.

Tropical Sands SPF 30 Sunscreen, 8 oz, $18

I discovered this gem at Popina Swimwear in NE Portland while buying a bikini. The shopgirl insisted that this was the store owner’s favorite body sunscreen by far and had to keep it in stock at all times. It has a distinct eucalyptus scent that reminds me of Brightenbush Hot Springs, and is biodegradable and reef safe! It also boasts green tea extract for added sun protection. At 6% Zinc Oxide and 6% Titanium Dioxide with only 11 other ingredients, this is a liquid sunscreen that is easy to blend in and does not feel sticky or oily at all. I highly recommend freshly showering before applying or the product will “pill” on any other product or residue left on the body. Less is more, so start with a light application or the zinc will be hard to blend in. It survived a day at the beach and hike with only one reapplication.

Schmidt’s Mineral Protection Sunscreen, equivalent to SPF 30, 4 oz, $9. Available at various Oregon and Washington retailers.

This creamy sunscreen comes in a small bottle that is easily stashed in a beach bag, has a barely identifiable scent (but also comes in Lavender and Sandalwood), and is easy to blend in and apply without the zinc chunking up, although it can make your skin a little paler looking. It also has “wildcrafted green tea extract” for added sun protection. I love that it is made in Portland in small batches! My only concern is that this may not be the best product for swimming. Right after jumping in the pool with Schmidt’s on, it felt like it was sliding right off, but I still managed to stay sunburn free, so it could have just been my imagination!

The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 30 Body Cream, LaVanilla Laboratories, 4 oz, $38, available at Sephora.

This creamy sunscreen smells just like vanilla pudding, but with 20% Zinc Oxide, goes on looking and feeling like it too. It is very smooth and thick, and is best suited for just the legs or feet on a day at the beach. Anything applied above the waist doesn’t blend in well enough and can feel too greasy. While I love the product, it makes me look ghostly, so I add a few drops of liquid shimmer bronzer before applying, and that evens out the color nicely! I like Dr. Hauschka’s Translucent Bronzer for a natural hue or LucyB’s Bronze Body Shimmer Oil for bronzed, shimmery legs!

Ultra Light Facial Moisturizer-SPF 30, Kimberly Sayer of London, 4 oz, $32.

While I am aware that this is a facial sunscreen, it is a generously sized bottle that touts sun protection for “combination, oil and blemish prone skin,” which is fabulous for those who break out on their face, chest and back. I love that it is made with organic ingredients. It is extremely sheer, fluid and lightweight, with a delicate scent of lemon bars and frothy milk, to be specific. It stays put and barely feels like anything at all, and doesn’t slide off in the water. It might be a little too luxurious to apply all over your body, but no one can stop you if you have finally found your favorite sunscreen.

Eminence Organics Tropical Vanilla Sun Cream SPF 32, 5 oz, $49.

This sunscreen is by far my favorite, made with organic ingredients, but is also the priciest! It combines Zinc Oxide with Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, which is a chemical block. After speaking with a Eminence product rep about my concern with chemical blocks, she clarified that the product molecule is scientifically confirmed to be too large to sink into your pores, and technically acts as a physical block, so that it cannot be a cancer causing agent. This sunscreen is lightweight, smells like vanilla and is not too greasy or heavy, but can start to feel a little oily after a few hours in the sun. It sinks into the skin after a few minutes and does not turn you white. I don’t have my own photo of it because I used it already and can’t justify buying another $49 bottle until I have used some of the other contenders.

There is one last sunscreen review that has been saved for the hall of shame.

True Natural Daily Moisturizer SPF 20, 3 oz, $18.

I had high hopes for this sunscreen and was extremely disappointed. It goes on clear and smells like tangerines, which is nice, but is the greasiest, oiliest sunscreen I have ever experienced. I’m talking as thick as the foot cream I put on at night. This stuff stuck to all the little arm hairs I didn’t know existed and made me want to crawl out of my skin. It stuck to the upholstery in my car. It got on my clothes. When my naturopath gave me a back adjustment at an appointment later that day, she couldn’t get a good grip on my shoulders because of it, and actually had to go wash her hands afterward. Now THAT was mortifying. I gave it away to a friend with the oily disclaimer, but she didn’t seem to mind. To each her own.