The small, preliminary study tested four commercially available sunscreens on 23 adults, who applied either lotions, sprays or creams over 75 percent of their skin four times a day for four days. At the end of the study period, blood samples showed the participants' levels of chemicals like avobenzone and oxybenzone exceeded the limit that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets for needing further safety testing.
Oxybenzone in particular has been raising concerns recently. In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban oxybenzone in sunscreens over fears that the ingredient is contributing to coral reef bleaching, the New York Times reported. Oxybenzone may also cause allergic skin reactions, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
However, sunscreen remains an obvious major player in protecting yourself against harmful UV rays. "These results do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen," the JAMA study authors write. Rather, "the systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients supports the need for further studies to determine the clinical significance of these findings."
Until those future studies are complete, you can at least use some helpful sunscreen rankings to find safe and healthy picks that work. Alarmingly, nearly two-thirds of the more than 1,300 products tested in the EWG's 2019 Sunscreen Guide were found potentially unsafe, ineffective or both. But as scary as those numbers seem, the good news is you're still left with dozens of safe sunscreen options.
We've sifted through EWG's top picks to help make it easier to find the one that's right for your needs, whether you're looking for the best oxybenzone-free sunscreen, the best anti-aging moisturizer with SPF or simply the biggest sunblock bang for your buck. Plus, we've also listed the three types of sunscreen you'll definitely want to avoid.
1. Best All-Purpose Sunscreen
According to Wendy Roberts, MD, a dermatologist in Rancho Mirage, CA, top sunscreens have a high percentage of zinc oxide and a simple ingredient list that make the product very safe. The Coola Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 is organically crafted with non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen actives. This vegan, non-GMO option is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
2. Best Sport Sunscreen
This zinc oxide formulation of All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion, Water Resistant leaves little residue, which is especially beneficial for darker skin tones, says Dr. Roberts. Certified organic green tea and rose hip act as antioxidants, while jojoba and extra-virgin olive oils moisturize the skin. Plus it's eco-friendly and safe for kids.
3. Best Water-Resistant Sunscreen
With sun protection from both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, Sunology Mineral Sunscreen Lotion for Body SPF 50 is a very high SPF sunscreen that's water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a great choice for extended time in the water, says Dr. Roberts. Bonus: It's noncomedogenic, which means that it won't clog your pores, and it's rich in antioxidants.
4. Best Baby Sunscreen
"With its high concentration of zinc oxide, this is a great physical sunscreen," dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, says of Badger Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 30. Water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, it contains "calming chamomile and soothing calendula." And the sunflower oil base makes for easy application; no chemical fragrances are necessary.
5. Best Kids' Sunscreen
"A long list of organic botanical ingredients and UVA coverage help protect [kids'] skin," Dr. Roberts says, explaining that this makes Goddess Garden Kids Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 a top choice for little ones. This non-nano zinc sunscreen is even great for sensitive skin.
6. Best Kids’ Sport Sunscreen
BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen SPF 35 is water-resistant, biodegradable, noncomedogenic and suitable for sensitive kid skin. Plus, as Dr. Jaliman points out, "It includes the antioxidant vitamin C and moisturizes with glycerin."
7. Best Sensitive Skin Baby Sunscreen
Vetted not only by EWG, California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30+ has also been recognized by WebMD and SheKnows Parenting Awards. Its water-resistant formula contains no fragrances or scent-masking agents and can be used on babies under six months if sun exposure is unavoidable. Moms can even use it under their makeup or as stand-alone skin protection.
8. Best Sunscreen Deal
The Butterbean Organics Original Healthy Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 is a whipped, creamy sunscreen made with coconut oil, giving it a slightly tropical scent without any added fragrance. And thanks to the zinc oxide in this product, Dr. Roberts says you get "immediate sun protection with no need to wait to let the sunscreen soak in before getting in the water." Founded by a mom in Georgia, the company is committed to using fair-trade, organic ingredients. And at just over $3 an ounce, the price is unbeatable.
9. Best Scented Sunscreen
"Broad-spectrum coverage and water resistance combined with eco-friendly packaging and biodegradable ingredients safe for coral reefs" set Badger Sunscreen Cream SPF 30 Lavender apart, says Dr. Roberts. Badger has a number of different products rated 1 by the EWG's, and this is their original sunscreen formula, lightly scented with lavender.
10. Best Cancer-Fighting Sunscreen
"With water resistance for up to 80 minutes, this sunscreen is an excellent choice for water activities or outdoor sports that make you perspire," says Dr. Roberts. And Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ provides some protection against skin cancer thanks to zinc oxide's broad-spectrum protection.
11. Best Moisturizing Sunscreen
A great biodegradable, coral reef-friendly option, Badger Sunscreen Cream SPF 30 Unscented contains only five ingredients, including zinc oxide for sun protection, vitamin E and other emollients, says Dr. Roberts. It's unscented, provides water and sweat resistance for up to 40 minutes, and even comes in eco-friendly packaging.
12. Best Long-Term Sun Exposure Sunscreen
If you need a sunscreen for very intense sun exposure, Dr. Roberts says that Tropical Sands Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 offers broad-spectrum UV coverage thanks to two physical sun filters: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. It also contains the antioxidant green tea and promises a long shelf life. Bonus: It's coral reef-friendly and biodegradable.
13. Best Anti-Aging Sunscreen
The Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is free of fragrances, parabens and irritating chemicals. This lightweight, non-greasy formula is created with the brand's Purescreen naturally sourced zinc oxide technology. For those with skin concerns, this product was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance as a suitable sunscreen for people with skin conditions.
14. Best Tinted Sunscreen
The Waxhead Sun Defense Tinted Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 31 is a mineral-based sunscreen that blends with most skin tones and has a sheer to light tint. You can use it as a makeup primer or a stand-alone face sunscreen. Based on EWG's data, this sunscreen provides excellent broad-spectrum protection, including a good balance of UVA protection in relation to the SPF.
15. Best Sensitive-Skin Sunscreen
La Roche-Posay's Anthelios SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen—Gentle Lotion is a popular choice for those with sensitive skin. This water resistant sunscreen is made with a powerful antioxidant complex, which helps shield your skin from free radicals caused by UV rays. Another key ingredient in this formula is La Roche-Posay's popular Thermal Spring Water.
16. Best Sunscreen for Outdoor Sports
Whether you're hiking, camping, kayaking or rock climbing — or wherever else your adventures take you — Sunumbra Sport Sunscreen SPF 40+ provides long-lasting, sweat-proof protection from UVA and UVB rays for up to 40 minutes. EWG found it had a good balance between UVA protection and SPF, though they do always recommend protective hats and clothing in addition to sunscreen for any outdoor activities.
17. Best Organic Sunscreen
Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen SPF 35 contains only USDA-certified organic ingredients, including sunflower oil, beeswax, extra virgin olive oil and vitamin D3. According to EWG's report, "Based on our modeling this product provides EXCELLENT UVA protection and a GOOD balance of UVA protection in relation to the SPF."
18. Best Tinted Moisturizer With SPF
The Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer takes the prize on this one. This four-in-one BB cream blends broad spectrum sun protection with minerals and antioxidants, making it your go-to, daily SPF product, primer, antioxidant serum and toner. All skin types can benefit from this product, which comes in several tints and leaves you with a well-protected, radiant and toned complexion. The EWG says this product provides "EXCELLENT UVA protection and a GOOD balance of UVA protection in relation to the SPF."
19. Best Scented Moisturizer With SPF
Offering broad-spectrum protection from zinc oxide, yet almost invisible once applied, Badger Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 25 Damascus Rose is a light moisturizer that features a natural rose oil scent. "It also contains lemon extract to brighten the skin," according to Jessica Krant, MD, dermatologist and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. That said, those with sensitive skin may wish to do a patch test first, since citrus mixed with sun can occasionally cause skin irritation and discoloration.
20. Best Sensitive-Skin Moisturizer With SPF
The Cetaphil Pro Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 20 is specifically formulated for redness-prone skin. A neutral-tinted moisturizer, this product minimizes the appearance of redness and evens skin tone while providing hydration, leaving the skin soothed and balanced. It's mineral-based, non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.
21. Best Oil-Free Moisturizer With SPF
For shine-free protection, go with Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF 30. "This chemical-free moisturizer with sunscreen absorbs quickly and is oil free, so it feels light even on oily skin and will not clog pores," says Dr. Krant. Zinc oxide provides the sun protection, while aloe and grape seed add anti-inflammatory and antioxidant power.
22. Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer With SPF
The Goddess Garden Organics Face the Day Daily SPF 30 Moisturizer & Firmin g Primer is a three-in-one facial moisturizer, firming primer and sunscreen. The lightweight formula hydrates, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and offers protection from sun-developed dark spots and roughness. Plant-based ingredients lessen the appearance of sun damage, and chicory root firms the skin.
23. Best Deal Moisturizer With SPF
You can use SanRe Organic Skinfood Vanilla Sensation Solar Protective Body Moisturizer SPF 30 daily to protect against skin damage and keep your skin smooth and calm. And at less than $7 per ounce, you won't have to put a huge dent in your wallet, either. Given the safest rating by EWG, all ingredients were ranked from 0 to 2, meaning they were associated with little to no health concerns.
24. Best Calming Moisturizer With SPF
Another one on the list for SanRe Organic Skinfood is the brand's Shaded Rose Solar Calming Facial Cream SPF 30. This product moisturizes and helps soothe irritated skin, along with decreasing inflammation and brown spots. It assists in repairing skin imperfections and promotes skin cell growth.
25. Best Moisturizer for Face and Body
When you need a moisturizer with SPF that pulls double duty for your face and body, try Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer SPF 30. According to the EWG, all but one ingredient scored 1 or 2 on health concerns. It's a 100-percent natural mineral sunscreen that absorbs quickly and won't leave your skin feeling greasy. The formulation is vegan, paraben-free and reef-friendly.
26. Best Hydrating Moisturizer With SPF
Wendy Steele, a melanoma survivor, created Keys Solar Rx Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 30+ to protect people with sensitive skin against UVA and UVB radiation in everyday environments. "We use no chemical sunscreens, only pure uncoated zinc oxide in a natural lotion base," she says. Just apply 20 minutes before heading out and reapply as needed, especially after prolonged sun exposure.
27. Best Mineral Sunscreen
The Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Sunscreen For Body SPF 30 is a vegan, mineral sunscreen that's also non-greasy and non-toxic. Safe for the whole family, it's unscented and perfect for those with sensitive skin. And if you plan on traveling to a sunny locale, be sure to take this TSA-friendly sized lotion with you. It contains organic ingredients like green tea, cucumber extracts and pomegranate seed oil for added protection (along with zinc oxide).
Sunscreens to Avoid
Sprays and Aerosols
EWG recommends you avoid all sunscreen sprays and aerosols containing SPF, since it's too easy to accidentally inhale them and/or miss a spot. "People might inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so ingredients must not be harmful to lungs or internal organs," the report says. Some of the brands to make it into their "Hall of Shame" in previous years include Banana Boat, Coppertone and CVS.
Super High SPF
You'll also want to steer clear of products with SPFs above 50+. The reason is that a sunscreen's SPF only refers to its ability to filter the UVB rays that cause sunburn, and it does not guarantee anything about its ability to block UVA rays, which can cause skin damage and/or cancer — especially if you stay outside all day because you think you can.
In addition, their report states, "High-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals [like oxybenzone] than low-SPF sunscreens. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin and have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption."
Chemical Sun Protection
Finally, EWG recommends that you skip the chemical sun protection. According to Matthew Miller, MD, a dermatologist in Greenville, SC, "Some chemical sunscreens could interfere with the normal function of hormones." In fact, 80 percent of chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone, which may mimic estrogen in the body.
Instead, put on a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt and pants, or opt for EWG's top-rated products: sunscreens containing zinc and/or titanium. "These minerals are physical blocks that sit on the surface of the skin, preventing UV light from penetrating it," Dr. Miller says.