Best Sustainable Sunscreen of 2019

Best Sustainable Sunscreen of 2019

November 19, 2019

Your Skin & the Sun: A Love-Hate Story

Aside from a mixed bag of DNA, the most influential factor in reducing the appearance of aging skin looking skin is a near-religious use of sunscreen. Fortunately for millennials, terms like “climate change” and “ozone layer” were already familiar by the time they were born. Today’s summers are not the summers of the 1960’s youth –– summers when air was equal parts baby oil and secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, it took us decades of skin cancer research to acknowledge that although the sun is vital to our survival, it is also something to be protected from

No matter what teen glamour magazines tell you, melanin does not hang out in our skin for aesthetic reasons. It, like sunscreen, is our body’s armor against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It is why those who do not naturally have much melanin in their skin will burn more easily when in the sun. People who intentionally expose their skin to increased levels of UV rays as part of a beauty regimen (ie. sunbathing and tanning salons) should keep in mind that these same rays actually have the potential to "reduce skin elasticity and cause a person to age prematurely. Suffice it to say, sunscreen is your friend.”  

woman showing peace sign

Below we’ve included a list of some of our favorite sunscreens and the Certified B Corporations that you can buy them from. But keep on reading because beneath that, you’ll find a short-and-sweet explanation of the origin of this love/hate story between our skin and the sun. 

Best Sunscreens 


What to Look For 

  • Broad spectrum (protects from both UVA and UVB rays) 
  • Fragrance-free (gentle on sensitive skin) 
  • Noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores) 
  • Paraben-free 
  • SPF of at least 30 or higher (once you go above 30, the the difference matters very little) 
  • Majority of ingredients are Certified Organic 
  • Certified Reef-Friendly and biodegradable 
  • Certified Cruelty-Free 
  • Certified Non-GMO 
  • Free from dyes, parabens, petrolatum, and synthetics


What to Avoid 

  • The ingredients avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone (found in most common chemical sunscreens) 

woman in the sun

 The Difference Between UVA and UVB: And Why You Should Care 

The easiest way to understand UVA and UVB rays is by associating UVA with “aging” and UVB with “burning.” The skin tans because exposure to UVB rays causes the skin to produce more melanin and thus darken; the skin literally burns. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s online education source, MedlinePlus explains that "the tan [only] fades as these cells move toward the surface [of the skin] and are sloughed off.” 


Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreens

The main difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens is the way they do their job. Unlike mineral sunscreens, the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are actually absorbed into the bloodstream. Those chemicals then absorb UV rays, convert them to less harmful energy like heat, and then release them from the body. On the other hand, mineral sunscreens do their job by sitting on top of the skin to reflect (think “block”) the sun’s rays. 

What currently concerns the FDA about chemical sunscreens is the long term effect of absorbing these chemicals on a daily, life-long basis. Remember, however, that the simple fact "that an ingredient is absorbed through the skin and into the body does not [itself] mean the ingredient is unsafe,” insists the FDA. Rather, it merely implies that further research is needed to determine its safety.  

friends in the sun

On the other hand, the active ingredients of zinc and titanium oxide (found in most mineral sunscreens) have been accepted by the FDA as both “safe and effective” when used on this same daily, life-long basis. Mineral sunscreens dominate the top of the list of products recommended by the nonprofit, non-partisan organization EWG (“Environmental Working Group”) because of this. 

Goddess Garden Organics (one of our tested brands) explains that “when you apply mineral sunscreen, you can go out into the sun immediately without worrying about getting a sunburn. With chemical sunscreens, [however] you need to wait 15 to 20 minutes before it protects you from the sun. This is because it takes time for the chemicals to absorb into the skin and become ‘active’.” Mineral sunscreen is also more moisturizing and less irritating for sensitive skin as a result of not being absorbed, explains dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon David Harvey, M.D.

These are just a few reasons why we ultimately chose mineral sunscreen as the best route to go. But remember, no matter what you wear, just wear SOMETHING –  and wear it with a smile.   

by Ariel Maccarone

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