We often look at sunscreen as an optional “extra” in our beauty routines, but if the staggering statistics regarding skin cancer are any indication, we simply have to change our outlook. When we’re not shielding our faces with hats, finding shade, or simply avoiding direct sunlight, we should be slathering ourselves in SPF. At the same time, we also realize that not all formulas are created equal. And for that, we have organizations like the Environmental Working Group to thank for steering us toward the safest ones.
Every year, the EWG publishes an extensive sunscreen guide that requires in-depth testing of 1,000 sunscreen products across a wide range of categories, including the number of worrisome ingredients and whether or not there’s an adequate balance of UVA and UVB protection. Each product is graded on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being the best.
This year, less than one third of the products tested garnered a “1” or “2” rating. And while we’re happy to have that very small pool of options, this also serves as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done. A huge number of products sold stateside continue to include harmful ingredients such as the chemical oxybenzone (an allergen and hormone disruptor) yet claim to help prevent skin cancer—blame our super lax FDA regulations.
The “1”-rated sunscreens on EWG’s list are mostly natural and mineral-based, which means they don’t absorb completely into the skin and literally act like a mirror, reflecting UV rays away from the body. And because we don’t believe sun protection should come at a steep price, we’re highlighting the best under-$20 options ahead.
Kabana Organic Skincare Green Screen Sunscreen SPF 35
Kabana Organic Skincare
True Natural Ultra Protect SPF 50 Antioxidant Sunscreen
This 100 percent natural sunscreen is free of common allergens, but does leave behind a slightly white film because of the zinc and titanium particles.
$19.99 at True Natural
Waxhead Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
A non-greasy formula that goes on smooth and replenishes the 100 percent Daily Value of vitamin D.
$18.99 at Waxhead
All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
Provides water-resistant protection for up to 80 minutes.
$15.99 at All Good
Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
A hypoallergenic formula that contains 19 percent zinc and certified organic oils.
$19.95 at Babo Botanicals
Badger SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen
Biodegradable and cruelty-free, this fragrance-free formula starts out white, but rubs in clear.
$16.99 at Badger Healthy Body Care
Badger Healthy Body Care
Caribbean Sol Sol Guard SPF 30
In addition to zinc oxide for sun protection, cucumber extracts, organic aloe leaf, and kukui oil help the skin to cool off itself.
$16 at Caribbean Sol
Goddess Garden Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion
Made with all plant-based ingredients and pure lavender essential oils, which you can smell as you apply.
$17.99 at Goddess Garden
Hawaiian Sol Sol Guard SPF 50
This one is free of oxybenzone, one of the most dangerous but commonly used ingredients in sunscreens.
$18 at Hawaiian Sol
Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen
This water-resistant sunscreen, made without chemical ingredients, was formulated specifically for anyone with an active lifestyle.
$16 at Juice Beauty
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
The dry finish of this formula is easy to layer with summer makeup.
$6.39 at Target
Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+
This top-rated sunscreen by the EWG since 2010 is made with the highest allowed amount of SPF and UVA/UVB protection.
$12.99 at Thinksport
Bare Republic Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick
Made without that typical "sunscreen" scent and free of active chemicals, this naturally vanilla-scented formula is safe for babies and adults alike.
$9.99 at Bare Republic
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive
A dermatologist-approved sunscreen intended for face and body coverage, and gentle enough for skin that's prone to irritation.
$14.99 at Blue Lizard
BurnOut Ocean Tested Sunscreen SPF 30+
Made with athletes in mind, this biodegradable, chemical-free sunscreen is extremely waterproof and sweatproof.
$17.99 at BurnOut Suncare
Zeb's Organic Sunscreen SPF 30
Non-whitening, chemical-free and water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
$9.99 at Amazon
Tropical Sands SPF 50 Unscented Mineral Sunscreen
Biodegradable and made with ingredients that won't harm reefs as you swim in ocean water.
$19.95 at Mexitan
Butterbean SPF 30 Original Formula Sunscreen
The fragrance is derived entirely from virgin oils and butters, while 22 percent zinc oxide provides sun protection.
$12.50 at Butter Bean Organics
Kabana Bali Bloc SPF 30 Raw Cocoa Sunscreen Stick
Due to the presence of raw certified-organic cocoa powder, this sunscreen stick also delivers a bronze tint to the skin.
$19.49 at Kabana Skincare
Poofy Organics "The" Sunscreen
Since this is free of chemicals, you will need to frequently reapply, especially if you're coming in and out of water.
$16 at Poofy Organics