5 Sustainably-Packaged Mineral Sunscreens for Your Beauty Routine

As a sunscreen evangelist, I could go on and on about its many skincare benefits. Most importantly, it protects you from sunburns that increase your risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States. It also prevents premature signs of aging like wrinkles and dark spots, making it a skin-care must-have if you want to keep that youthful glow. 

“Sunscreen isn’t just for summer. UV rays are just as harmful in the winter as they are in the summer.”

Sunscreen isn’t just for summer, though. Any dermatologist worth their weight in beauty products will tell you to slather on the SPF even when it’s cold and snowy outside. Here’s why: The sun’s UV rays are just as harmful in the winter as they are in the summer. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth even when it’s cloudy outside. That means spending any time outdoors sans protection could lead to skin damage. The sun’s rays even reflect off of snow, worsening its effects, so it’s especially important to cover yourself in SPF while skiing or snowboarding.

Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreens

For a quick refresher, there are two types of sunscreens: Mineral sunscreen, also known as physical sunscreen, which sits on the surface of your skin and deflects UV radiation using zinc oxide, and chemical sunscreen, which contains ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate that absorb the rays. Although chemical sunscreens tend to have sheerer, more elegant formulas, they can often cause irritation in those with sensitive skin. 

They’re also not so great for the environment. As the National Ocean Service reports, common ingredients found in chemical sunscreens can damage coral reefs, cause fertility problems in fish, and inhibit the growth of green algae. Hawaii even passed a law, which goes into effect in 2021, to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. So if you have a beach getaway planned this winter as I do (I seriously can’t wait until I’m in Florida this February!), consider switching to a mineral sunscreen. 

Because one of my goals in 2020 is to use more sustainably-packaged products, I’ve been doing my research to find a few sunscreens that not only have reef-safe mineral formulas but come housed in zero-waste packaging. Whether you’re hitting the slopes, soaking up the sand, or just running around doing errands, here are my favorite mineral sunscreens to try this winter (and beyond!):

1. All Good SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen Butter

by All Good $8 for 1 oz.

Carry-on Approved — This one-ounce, zinc oxide sunscreen is the perfect travel companion as you can stash it in your carry-on bag. The emollient formula is packaged inside a reusable metal tin and glides onto skin smoothly. Unlike many zinc oxide sunscreens I’ve tried, this one doesn’t leave a white cast. It’s also very nourishing, thanks to ingredients like organic coconut oil, organic jojoba oil, and vitamin E, so I don’t have to use moisturizer beforehand.

2. Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer, SPF 30

by Raw Elements $16.50 for 1.8 oz.

Tinted Protection — This travel-friendly sunscreen also comes in a reusable metal tin. What sets this one apart is that it’s tinted. Although the tint is a medium tone, it’s very sheer. It blended very nicely into my fair skin and helped mask the slight redness in my cheeks. I am not a fan of heavy foundations, so I liked that this tint felt very lightweight. Ingredients like green tea and coffee bean offer antioxidant protection against UV rays.

3. Eir NYC Surf Mud Pro, SPF 50

by EiR NYC $30 for 1.5 oz.

Germaphobe Friendly — As a slight germaphobe, I appreciate this stick sunscreen since I can apply it directly to my skin without having to dip my fingers into any container. The brand notes that the formula has a chalky consistency that will leave a zinc-y mark on your face while you swim or surf. I used this sunscreen on a typical morning before work and was worried that my face would look pasty, but I found that it actually blended into my skin pretty easily. In addition to zinc, it’s also formulated with cocoa butter, which made my face feel really soft.

4. Best Friend Beauty, SPF 50

by Best Friend Beauty $20 for 9 oz.

Extra Moisturizing — I love the rich buttery texture of this sunscreen. It sinks into my skin seamlessly without leaving any white residue behind. Beyond providing sun protection with zinc oxide, it’s got a slew of moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter. It’s the perfect formula to use in the winter if you need a little extra hydration this time of year. I used the unscented formula, but you also have the option of purchasing versions scented with lavender, vanilla, grapefruit, or lemongrass essential oil.

5. Raw Love All Natural Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 35

by Raw Love $18 for 4 oz.

Awesome Smell — The packaging is what originally drew me to this product: I’m obsessed with the pinup-esque mermaid on the two-ounce metal tin and can’t wait to repurpose it once I use up all the sunscreen. I like the formula too: While it goes on white, it becomes clear as soon as I rub it in. As a bonus, the scent, a blend of lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils, is very refreshing. This was definitely my favorite-smelling sunscreen of the bunch!

All the products we review must meet our criteria for low-waste or zero-waste (plastic-free) packaging, sustainable production practices, and/or clean ingredients. We only share and promote products we’ve tried and truly love — because, principles.

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