While most experts say there's no reliable evidence that chemical sun blockers pose health risks for humans, some consumers would rather not take a chance when there's an alternative. Natural sunscreens use physical sun blockers -- zinc oxide and titanium dioxide -- that sit on top of the skin and reflect the sun's rays rather than chemical blockers that absorb them. These sunscreens are also a good option for anyone with sensitive skin, as the ingredients pose less risk of irritation.
Reviewers say Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen (Est. $1.50 per oz.) provides a reliable, natural alternative to chemical sunblocks. But, perhaps most importantly, they say this hypoallergenic physical sunscreen is relatively easy on the wallet, unlike many other natural sunscreens.
Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen is SPF 30, though the company does make separate kids' and sport formulas that are SPF 45. The broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Environmental Working Group says it is "a top choice for sun protection" and gives it a good rating for UVA protection and UVA/UVB balance. Active ingredients are mineral blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but EWG does flag a few ingredients as potential irritants and health concerns, including benzyl alcohol and phenoxyethanol.
Paula Begoun of PaulasChoice.com lauds Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen for containing "several antioxidants and soothing agents; you can apply this to the face as well as the body." She recommends it for normal to dry skin and for those who aren't prone to breakouts. Some reviewers complain that it is a little thick, making it tricky to apply, and say it leaves a slight white tint on the skin. Still, they say it's not greasy or sticky and love the fact that there is no irritating fragrance.
Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen (Est. $2 per ounce) is another excellent natural sunscreen that won't break the bank, reviewers say. The paraben-, phthalate-free physical sunscreen uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients. It's also available as a spray, face sunscreen, and daily lotion.
Like Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen, Alba Botanica Very Emollient is SPF 30, but other versions for kids and sport use go up to SPF 45. It is water-resistant up to 80 minutes. EWG gives it good marks for both UVA protection and UVA/UVB balance. However, like Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen, it still contains a few ingredients of concern according to EWG, including benzyl alcohol and phenoxyethanol.
Begoun of Paula's Choice praises Alba Botanica Very Emollient as an excellent pick "for anyone with dry, sensitive skin, including those struggling with rosacea." She also singles out the sunscreen's shea butter, plant oils and plant extracts for providing "an antioxidant boost" that further protects against the sun. However, reviewers do note that it is quite thick and can be hard to rub in, leaving some white residue -- common for a physical, natural sunscreen. The formula is fragrance-free, which reviewers like.
If you're very cautious about sunscreen ingredients and don't mind paying a bit more for a very simple formula, Badger Sport Sunscreen (Est. $4.62 per ounce) could be worth the price premium, reviewers say. In fact, this lotion has only five ingredients: zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax, jojoba oil and Vitamin E. It also comes in a stick version.
Badger Sport Sunscreen is SPF 35. It offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays and is water-resistant up to 80 minutes. EWG gives it top "excellent" marks for UVA protection and a "good" rating for UVA/UVB balance, but note that some users say they still got burnt using it as directed. It also gets EWG's lowest-possible health-risk rating, and the group says the ingredients pose low or no health concerns.
Like many physical sunscreens, Badger Sport Sunscreen gets decidedly mixed reviews for ease of use. Some reviewers say the lotion is quite thick and can feel a bit sticky. It also leave a noticeable white residue, most users say. However, most say a little goes a long way. They also like the fragrance-free formula, though some reviewers still note a light, oatmeal-like smell.