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Safe in the sun: Non-chemical sunscreens hit the beach

I'm as pale as pale gets, but I loathe wearing sunscreen. Often sticky, always heavy, and sometimes even flaky (ew!), sunblocks with high SPFs make me feel like jumping in the shower all over again.

Which is why, in my world, the recent proliferation of chemical-free sunscreens is as welcome as a Barneys gift certificate on my birthday. The lighter, less tacky-feeling formulations — which are free of old-school sunscreen ingredients octinoxate and oxybenzone — are mineral-based, so they wear much more kindly on the skin.

A few of my favorites:

Melvita Sun Cream in SPF 15 and 30

This organic sunscreen by French skin care company Melvita is available on the brand's website and protects skin against UVA and UVB rays with naturally derived titanium and zinc. The super-smooth, sweet-smelling cream also packs moisturizing mango butter and cupuacu oil. $34 at



Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen

This inexpensive formula also uses sun-blocking titanium dioxide -- a naturally occurring oxide. And because it's made with 100% natural ingredients, it's safe for babies and children. $15 at


Jason Facial Natural Sunblock SPF 20

This oil-free, ultra-sheer formula contains titanium dioxide and is enriched with antioxidants such as organic grape seed and green tea extract. And it's so lightweight, it's perfect for wearing under makeup. $15.50 on

Clarins_UV Plus HIGH RES
Clarins UV Plus SPF 40

Clarins took its sweet time in launching a suncare line, determined to get it right without using questionable chemicals. And this thin-but-powerful mineral elixir, which also uses titanium dioxide, was worth the wait. Unlike the goopy face screens of times gone by, UV Plus actually dries on your face — creating a sheer barrier against sun and pollutants that's neither oily nor shiny. Perfect-o. $38 at

-- Emili Vesilind

Photos (from top) Melvita Sun Cream. Credit: Melvita

Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen. Credit: Burt's Bees

Jason Facial Natural Sunblock SPF 20. Credit: Jason

Clarins UV Plus SPF 40. Credit: Clarins

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Have you checked whether any of these products have nano ingredients? There's some talk recently of nano-sized particles in skin products being able to enther the bloodstream, leading to various diseases.

I guess you didn't consult a chemist when touting the benefits of "chemical free." WATER is a chemical, as well as titanium, zinc, mango butter, and various oils.

Not to mention that, since titanium and zinc are mined, they're ALWAYS "naturally derived."

Chemical Free? Non-Chemical? Great words but not really possible. Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide are minerals but they don't come in nature small enough to be used in a cream. To make them small enough (micronized or nano-sized) is a chemical process.
The are physical blocks but not really chemical free.

Hi Janet S - Science overwhelmingly shows that particles of zinc oxide greater than 30nm, when applied to the skin, do not get absorbed into the body, do not enter the bloodstream, and are not a threat to human health. There are no studies showing that nanoparticles of zinc oxide can penetrate healthy human skin, whereas there are several studies showing that chemical sunscreen ingredients, which are molecular in size and thus significantly smaller than nanoparticles, are absorbed into the blood. The biggest concern with nanoparticles in cosmetics is the threat of inhalation with powders. This is not a concern when the powder is dispersed in a cream base. Even the Environmental Working Group recommends the use of nano sized mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens.

In full disclosure, I work for Badger who makes a great non-nano mineral sunscreen (our zinc oxide has been tested both in powder form and in the cream base). We used to use zinc that had a certain percentage of particles that fell under 100nm, but recently switched to non-nano. We did this for people such as yourself, who are concerned about nanoparticles.

Personally, I look for sunscreens that have an active of zinc oxide, or zinc mixed with titanium. Titanium alone doesn't provide enough UVA protection - and since the US doesn't currently regulate UVA claims, I won't wear anything that doesn't have a Boots Star Rating or PA+ Rating (EU and Japan, respectively).

Kiels also has a fantastic sunscreen- spf 50. It's incredibly lightweight- you don't even feel like anything is on your face. It's awesome and the price point is great!


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