Healthy Sunscreen Ingredients: What You Want in an SPF

Healthy Sunscreen Ingredients

Chemical sunscreens, vitamin A, parabens, phthalates, petro-chems. At this point, it’s safe to say you know what you don’t want in a sunscreen. But have you thought about what you do want in a natural sunscreen?

It is not just about avoiding this nasty chemical or that risky ingredient. Think of sunscreen as you do skincare. You wouldn’t buy any old facial or body product just because it was free from harmful ingredients, right? Same goes for sunscreen. What you really want is optimum protection that also offers healthy ingredients in a product that suits your skin.

Sound like a dream? Not with natural sunscreens. High quality, nontoxic SPF products are designed with the betterment of your skin in mind. Brands dedicated to safety in cosmetics don’t just put up sunscreen that sounds healthy. They walk the talk, using nourishing, anti-aging, antioxidant ingredients to nurture and support skin.

It is not difficult to find information on what you should avoid in sunscreens. We know that chemical sunscreens oxybenzone and octinoxate can cause hormonal disruption and allergic reaction. We’ve heard plenty about vitamin A and its link to accelerated tumor growth when exposed to sunlight. And the usual synthetic suspects? We can see those coming a mile away.

We are talking about ingredients you do want to see when perusing sun protection product ingredient listings. Healthy plant oils, butters, and extracts that hydrate skin. Protective antioxidants and natural anti-aging ingredients to ward off further UV damage. There are even some natural plant ingredients with SPF.

Mineral Sunscreen Ingredients

So, what are these highly beneficial ingredients to look for? Let’s start at the top. Mineral sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are much safer than chemical sunscreens and provide far better protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate to deeper layers of skin and are responsible for more serious damage, like premature aging and skin cancer. UVB rays affect the top layers of skin and are the ones associated with sunburn.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing into the skin, allowing UVA rays to reach deeper layers. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. All have been detected in human urine and/or breast milk, and most are linked to hormonal disruption and allergic reaction.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are derived from chalky minerals with reflective properties. Zinc is often used on its own in sunscreen products, while titanium dioxide is generally used in combination with zinc. Titanium dioxide has come under scrutiny by some critics as having health risks when inhaled. The FDA is currently doing more research on the health risks and effectiveness of spray and powder form sunscreens. For now, we advise staying with creams, lotions, butters, and stick sunscreens.

Mineral sunscreens provide a physical barrier on top of skin, providing immediate, effective protection and are less likely to cause allergic reaction. A much safer choice over chemical sunscreen ingredients. All products listed in our guide are mineral sunscreens.

Moisturizing Ingredients

Sun and wind tend to be drying, so hydration is key even in hot, humid months of summer. Sunscreens made with rich plant butters and oils keep skin supple and help to hold in natural moisture. Shea butter, mango butter, and sunflower seed oil contain fatty acids and skin-supportive vitamins, to soften and moisturize dry skin.

Try these moisturizing sunscreens:

True Natural Sunscreen: Face Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Unscented
Goddess Garden Facial Natural Sunscreen
Goddess Garden Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion

Calming Ingredients

Strong ingredients and sun exposure can upset delicate skin. Skin calming ingredients protect and soothe at the same time. Aloe vera lightly hydrates and soothes skin. Cucumber cools and reduces puffiness. Chamomile is ultra mild and helps to tone down redness or irritation.

Try these calming sunscreens:

Badger Balm Sunscreen Cream SPF 30 – Chamomile & Calendula
The Honest Co. SPF 30 Sunscreen
Erbaviva Sunscreen SPF 30

Balancing Ingredients

Sunscreen can present a whole new dilemma for those dealing with excess oil or acne. You don’t want to use a greasy moisturizer that could leave you with breakouts, but going unprotected is out of the question. Naturally balancing ingredients that offer antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are best for this skin type. Rosemary is naturally antibacterial to help keep skin clear. Turmeric calms inflammation and evens skin tone. Light oils, like coconut and jojoba, offer oil-balancing hydration that won’t overwhelm oily skin.

Try these balancing sunscreens:

DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+
Ilia Beauty Sheer Vivid Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20
100% Pure Green Tea Oil Free Hydration SPF 30

Firming Ingredients

Yes, you can have your sun protection and anti-aging benefits too. Products made with natural anti-agers, like hyaluronic acid and green or red algae, support skin and diminish the appearance of discoloration. Antioxidant rich pomegranate oil and green tea prevent further damage.

Try these firming sunscreens: 

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30
Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Sunscreen For Body SPF 30
DeVita Solar Body Moisturizer SPF 30+


*You can check out and shop all of the sunscreens here:


For more information on sunscreen product picks for face, body, sport, and kids be sure to take a look at Behind the Label: The Safe Sunscreen Debate for even more information on the good and bad in sunscreens.

image of woman on beach via Shutterstock

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Liz Thompson

Liz Thompson is an organic beauty expert who has been researching and writing on the subjects of natural beauty, health, and wellness for over 10 years. She specializes in sharing safe beauty products and her knowledge on healthy ingredients with her readers, and helping organic beauty brands and shop owners share their message and products with the world through her writing services.