Covering Up for Sun Protection: Safe Sunscreen Picks


Cross-posted on Surf Like a Girl

There’s so much to love about being in the great outdoors—paddling out for a surf or swimming in the ocean, relaxing on a sandy beach, hiking in a park or strolling along the shore, eating al fresco, reading a book in the front yard. For all of these activities, the warmth and light from the sun can seem magical.

So here’s the “but.” The sun can warm you, give you light, and provide good-for-you vitamin D, but too much exposure can be damaging and cause skin cancer.

Happily, you can still enjoy the sun while protecting yourself with non-toxic products that block the damaging rays. The best way to start is by consulting the Environmental Working Group’s guide to safe sunscreens, which includes recommendations for safe products that contain zinc oxide and other better-for-you ingredients. My safe sunscreen favorites:

Face: The Organic Wear line from Physicians Formula makes a lightweight tinted moisturizer with SPF 15. For more coverage, I use the Supergoop! CC Cream with SPF 35 or Jane Iredale’s PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation with SPF 20. Tip: after applying product to your face, wipe excess on the tops of your hands.

Lips: Badger has a lip balm stick with SPF 15 that I use alone or blended with a lip color product. My favorite tinted lip balms with SPF: Alba Botanica’s Terratints with SPF 15 and the All Good Lips line with SPF 18 from Elemental Herbs.

Body: I like sunscreens from Badger, California Baby, and Alba Botanica’s Very Emollient sunscreen line, which is especially gentle and effective.

For protection that doesn’t come in a bottle, compact, or tube, you can count on hats, sunglasses, and clothing—sarongs and thin cotton tunics are great for covering up at the beach, even when it’s hot.

Beauty for Beach Days

I consulted the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide and was happy to find my favorite SPF 30 sunscreens by Badger and California Baby ranked highest for safety and effectiveness. The Badger SPF 30 sunscreen stick is also good to apply pre-surf for nose, ears, hands, and cheeks, and their SPF 15 lip balm stays put during surf or swim sessions and beach yoga classes.

I’ve got a collection of hats and make a point to wear one when spending more than a few minutes outdoors. Baseball caps (Yankees AND Dodgers, showing my East and West coast support!); straw cowboy hats; cotton floppy hats. When in the water, I wear a beat-up baseball cap and tie the string on my wetsuit zipper to the hat (so it doesn’t get lost at sea when I wipe out).

Even when I’m wearing only sunscreen on my face, I like to put a little color on my lips. My current favorite is Jane Iredale’s PureMoist Lip Colour SPF18. There are no harsh chemicals or artificial colors and it’s got SPF protection. My favorite is a soft and pretty red color named Nicole, which I dab on lightly for a bit of color during the day; at night, I wear it loud and proud. I have become a devotee of many of Iredale’s products and also like to use some of the 24-Karat Gold Dust powder (mineral, nothing toxic) for a subtle shimmer on eyelids and cheeks or to blend it with some moisturizer or sunscreen for a pretty glow. You can find more safe-for-you cosmetics (and see how the products you already use rank) at the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database from the Environmental Working Group; for even more information on the safety of makeup and personal care products, visit the site for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Beach Hair Spray:
I make my own beach hair spray. In a spray bottle, I mix 1 cup of filtered water, 1 tablespoons of sea salt, 1 teaspoon shea butter, 2-3 drops of essential oil of choice (I like jasmine and orange). Shake and spray. (Twist and braid a few pieces of hair for some waves.)

Hair bands:
Self-promotional plug! I make hair bands, from basic black elastic bands embellished them with recycled scraps of fabric (denim, hankie, chino, linen, tulle, silk tie…) and sell them on my Etsy shop, which features upcycled and vintage clothing and accessories.

Shea butter, from head to toe.