Best Natural Sunscreen – How to Pick a Natural Sunscreen


It’s time to invest in a natural sunscreen. Apart from saving the coral reefs, you could also be saving your skin—that’s a two-birds-one-stone situation if we’ve ever heard one. Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon from Art of Skin, explained that with chemical sunscreens, the product is essentially changing light into heat energy which can have negative effects on the skin. “Heat causes inflammation on the skin, which can cause deleterious effects on the skin and premature aging changes,” explains Palm.

Needless to say, choosing the right sunscreen matters. Natural sunscreens, also called “physical sunscreens” by the FDA, consist of two types of mineral-based formulas: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These sunscreens work by reflecting the sun rather than using energy conversion like other chemical-based sunscreens.

Some of the best sunscreens out there now combine the best of natural sunscreen elements with the power of anti-inflammatory agents and/or anti-oxidants. Palm advises looking for active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the labels to check. We’ve also taken the guesswork out of finding the perfect natural sunscreens for you, with these 10 derm-approved picks.

Isdin Actinic Care Eryfotona Actinica

This Spanish brand of sunscreen is basically the Neutrogena of Cattelans! “This particular formation has a physical sun-blocking agent with zinc oxide along with antioxidant protection courtesy of vitamin E,” says Palm. “What makes it truly unique amongst sunscreen is the DNA Repairsomes technology that contains enzymes that help to restore damaged skin cell DNA from UV sun exposure.” Bonus: It reverses the signs of aging and has been shown to reverse precancerous skin lesions.

Isdin Actinic Care Eryfotona Actinica, $50; insdin.com

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Elta MD UV Elements SPF 44

“This line is an absolute favorite amongst dermatologists, approaching almost cult status,” Palm says. Along with being a tinted sunscreen, “the formulation features not only moisturizers (hyaluronic acid) to increase skin hydration but antioxidant protection (vitamin C) to protect from visible/infrared light exposure and free radical protection.” Perfect for those with sensitive skin, “it is fragrance-free, paraben-free, noncomedogenic and gluten-free.”

Elta MD UV Elements SPF 44, $33; dermstore.com

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Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50

“This unique formulation starts with broad spectrum UV protection with micronized zinc oxide, but contains antioxidants and proprietary compounds to ward off the deleterious effects of pollution and even infrared light, both of which can cause premature aging of the skin,” explains Palm. Additionally, this formulation uniquely blends into all skin tones and is hydrating and water resistant.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50, $50; dermstore.com

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Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face

Dr. David Colbert recommends this sunscreen for full protection. “When used in sunscreen, zinc oxide is like millions of tiny umbrellas protecting your skin from the sun’s burning and tanning rays,” says Colbert. Finally, an army of Mary Poppins at your fingertips.

Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face, $34; sephora.com

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NYDG Chem-Free Active Defense SPF30

Colbert, whose clients include Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, and a bevy of Victoria’s Secret models, is the founder and head dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group. With his practice, they launched their own line of skincare products, including their chemical-free SPF. It’s “enriched with argan oil plus antioxidants and zinc oxide,” he says. “It goes on smoothly with no white residue and mixes well with makeup, making it great for everyday use.”

NYDG Chem-Free Active Defense SPF30, $98; nydg.com

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Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch Sunscreen

Colbert recommends the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch Sunscreen because the sun-repelling zinc oxide is micronized and goes on smoothly without making you look pasty. The product is also free of fragrance, parabens, dyes, and harsh chemicals so it’s gentle on the most sensitive skins.

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch Sunscreen, $6.39; target.com

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ColoreScience Sunforgettable Brush On Sunscreen SPF 30

In the makeup-as-SPF world, ColoreScience is top of the line. “This paraben-free, fragrance-free, and gluten-free zinc-based sunscreen is endorsed by the Skin Cancer Foundation and features an easy brush-on, refillable applicator for easy and consistent application,” Palm says. Bonuses include: being water-resistant, easy to carry, and “it makes sunscreen re-application after applying makeup earlier in the day a snap.”

ColoreScience Sunforgettable Brush On Sunscreen SPF 30, $65; dermstore.com

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Headhunter SPF 20 Sunscreen

For breaking a sweat, Colbert recommends this product popular among pro tennis players and swimmers because “it is truly water resistant.” It also comes in a tinted formula.

Headhunter SPF 20 Sunscreen, $12; amazon.com

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Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion WetForce Broad Spectrum SPF 50

When it comes to department store picks, Shiseido is Palm’s favorite. Beyond sun protection, this formula also hydrates and brightens the skin too.

Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion WetForce Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $34; sephora.com

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Yeah Bah Sunscreen Lotion

“It was created by female surfer to halt hyperpigmentation,” Colbert says. “Yeah Bah Sunscreen Lotion made with zinc oxide and coconut oil is both a great moisturizer and sunblock.”

Yeah Bah Sunscreen Lotion, 15; amazon.com

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