The 17 Safest Sunscreens and 3 to Avoid

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Before you slather on sunscreen, check to make sure it's a safe and effective option.
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If you're serious about sun protection, you're probably using a ​lot​ of sunscreen. And when you do, some of the active ingredients in your SPF may be absorbed by your skin, ending up in your blood, according to a January 2020 study in ​JAMA.

The small study tested four common sunscreens on 48 adults, who applied either lotions, sprays or creams four times a day for two days. At the end of the study, blood samples showed the participants' levels of chemicals like avobenzone and oxybenzone were higher than the limit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets before further safety testing is needed.

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In other words, we need more research to really know how these ingredients affect our health at higher levels. Not the most comforting news. Still, sunscreen is a must to protect against harmful UV rays. So you should keep using it — just make sure you're using the safest one available.

Easier said than done: Nearly three quarters of more than 1,800 products tested in the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Guide to Sunscreens 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.

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We've sifted through top picks from the EWG to help make it easier to find the one that's right for your needs, whether you're looking for the best water-resistant sunscreen, the best moisturizer with SPF or simply the biggest sunblock bang for your buck.

Here are 18 safe products to shop, and keep scrolling for three types of sunscreen you'll want to apply with caution.

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1. Best Sport Sunscreen: All Good SPF 50+ Sport Sunscreen Butter Stick

Image Credit: All Good/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

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This zinc oxide in All Good's SPF 50+ Sport Sunscreen Butter Stick leaves little residue, which is especially beneficial for darker skin tones, Dr. Roberts notes. 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.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $13.99 for 2.75 oz ($5.81/oz)

2. Best Water-Resistant Sunscreen: TruKid Sunny Days Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Image Credit: TruKid/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

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With sun protection from both zinc oxide and aloe vera, TruKid Sunny Days Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a great choice for extended time in the water.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $19.99 for 3.4 oz ($5.71/oz)

3. Best Baby Sunscreen: Badger Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 30

Image Credit: Badger/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

"With its high concentration of zinc oxide, this is a great physical sunscreen," dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Water- and sweat-resistant for up to 40 minutes, it contains calming chamomile and soothing calendula. And the sunflower oil base makes for easy application.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $14.44 for 2.9 oz ($4.98/oz)

4. Best Kids' Sunscreen: Raw Elements Baby + Kids Sunscreen Lotion Tin SPF 30

Image Credit: Raw Elements/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

"A long list of organic botanical ingredients and UVA coverage help protect [kids'] skin," Dr. Roberts says, explaining that this makes Raw Elements' Baby + Kids Sunscreen Lotion a top choice for little ones. This non-nano zinc sunscreen is even great for sensitive skin.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $17.99 for 3 oz ($6/oz)

5. Best Kids’ Sport Sunscreen: Thinksport Kids Body & Face Sunscreen Stick SPF 30

Image Credit: Thinksport/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

Thinksport's offering is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, free of harmful chemicals and suitable for sensitive kid skin.

Buy it:Target.com; ​Price:​ $8.99 for 0.64 oz ($14.05/oz)

6. Best Sensitive Skin Baby Sunscreen: Erbaviva's Baby Sun Stick

Image Credit: Erbaviva/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

As well as being vetted by the EWG, Erbaviva's Baby Sun Stick won the Healing Lifestyles Earth Day Beauty Awards in 2020. Its gentle, water-resistant formula can be used on babies if sun exposure is unavoidable. Parents can even use it as stand-alone skin protection or under makeup.

Buy it:MotherNaturesBestMarket.com; ​Price:​ $16 for 0.6 oz ($26.60/oz)

7. Best on a Budget: Butterbean Organics Original Healthy Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Image Credit: Butterbean Organics/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

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 under $4 an ounce, the price is unbeatable.

Buy it:ButterbeanOrganics.com; ​Price:​ $27.99 for 7 oz ($3.99/oz)

8. Best Scented: Badger Zinc Lavender Sunscreen Cream

Image Credit: Badger/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

"[Look for] broad-spectrum coverage and water resistance combined with eco-friendly packaging and biodegradable ingredients safe for coral reefs," Dr. Roberts says. This one ticks all of those boxes.

Badger has a number of different products rated 1 by the EWG. The Badger Zinc Lavender Sunscreen Cream is the brand's original sunscreen formula, lightly scented with lavender.

Buy it:BadgerBalm.com; ​Price:​ $17.99 for 2.9 oz ($6.20/oz)

9. Best Moisturizing Sunscreen: Badger Sunscreen Cream SPF 30 Unscented

Image Credit: Badger/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

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, Dr. Roberts says. It's unscented, water- and sweat-resistant for up to 40 minutes and even comes in eco-friendly packaging.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price: ​$15.29 for 2.9 oz ($5.27/oz)

10. Best for Long-Term Sun Exposure: Eleven by Venus Williams

Image Credit: Eleven by Venus Williams/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

If you need a sunscreen for very intense sun exposure, Eleven by Venus Williams On-the-Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 offers broad-spectrum UV coverage thanks to its 25 percent zinc oxide content. Bonus: It's vegan and cruelty-free.

Buy it:ElevenbyVenusWilliams.com; ​Price: ​$42 for 1.7 oz ($24.70/oz)

11. Best Everyday Facial Sunscreen: Beauty Counter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense for Face

Image Credit: Beauty Counter/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

The Beauty Counter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense for Face is free of irritating chemicals. This lightweight, non-greasy formula is loaded with antioxidants to help protect your skin from pollution.

Buy it:BeautyCounter.com; ​Price:​ $42 for 1.7 oz ($24.7/oz)

12. Best Tinted: Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 30

Image Credit: Suntegrity/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 30 is a sunscreen and BB cream that blends with many skin tones and has a sheer-to-light coverage. You can use it as a makeup primer or a stand-alone face sunscreen. Plus, you can choose a tone that best matches your skin color.

Buy it:Amazon.com; ​Price:​ $45 for 2 oz ($22.50/oz)

13. Best for Sensitive Skin: Celtic Complexion Organic Sunscreen Lotion Sensitive Skin SPF 32

Image Credit: Celtic Complexion/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

Celtic Complexion Organic Sunscreen Lotion Sensitive Skin SPF 32 is an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin. This water-resistant sunscreen is made with only nine simple ingredients, which help shield your skin from free radicals caused by UV rays.

Buy it:CelticComplexion.com; ​Price: ​$29 for 3 oz ($9.66/oz)

14. Best Organic: Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen SPF 35

This SPF 35 sunscreen contains only USDA-certified organic ingredients.
Image Credit: Kabana/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

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.

"Based on our modeling, this product provides excellent UVA protection and a good balance of UVA protection in relation to the SPF," according to the EWG's report.

Buy it:KabanaSkincare.com; ​Price:​ $19.79/4 oz ($7.49/oz)

15. Best Sensitive-Skin Moisturizer With SPF: Algenist ALIVE Prebiotic Balancing Moisturizer SPF 15

Image Credit: Algenist/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

A neutral-tinted moisturizer, the Algenist ALIVE Prebiotic Balancing Moisturizer SPF 15 minimizes the appearance of unbalanced skin and evens skin tone while providing hydration, leaving the skin soothed. It's formulated with an algae prebiotic to target unbalanced surface skin bacteria.

Buy it:Algenist.com; ​Price: ​$40 for 1.7 oz ($23.53/oz)

16. Best for Face and Body: Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer SPF 30

Image Credit: Block Island/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

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.

Buy it:BlockIslandOrganics.com; ​Price:​ $27.99 for 3.4 oz ($8.23/oz)

17. Best Mineral: Kari Gran Essential SPF 28

Image Credit: Kari Gran/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

EWG Rating:​ 1 (lowest hazard)

Kari Gran Essential SPF 28 is a cruelty-free mineral sunscreen that's also non-greasy and non-toxic. Safe for the whole family, it's made with organic ingredients perfect for those with sensitive skin.

This lotion is available in a small, TSA-friendly size. It contains organic ingredients like avocado oil and jojoba seed oil for added protection (along with zinc oxide).

Buy it:KariGran.com; ​Price: ​$48 for 1 oz

Sunscreens to Approach With Caution

1. Sprays and Aerosols

While more than a quarter of the products on this year's guide are sprays, you still want to use these with caution, per the EWG report. Sunscreen sprays and powders come with a risk of being inhaled, which can be damaging to the lungs.

2. Super-High SPF

You'll also want to steer clear of products with an SPF above 50. 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, per the EWG.

In other words, high-SPF products can be very misleading. The higher number gives the impression of increased safety, but the products will actually leave you more exposed to potentially dangerous UVA rays, the report claims.

Plus, high-SPF sunscreens may have higher levels of harmful chemicals, per the EWG.

3. Chemical Sun Protection

Even sunscreen products available at your nearest pharmacy may contain harmful ingredients like oxybenzone. These chemicals can get beneath the skin's surface and disrupt your hormone levels, causing a variety of health problems, according the EWG.

Instead, put on a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, a long-sleeved shirt and pants and 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," Matthew Miller, MD, a dermatologist in Greenville, South Carolina, says.

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