Summer Skin Care – Safe Sunscreens and Where I Found Them

Believe it or not, summer is here. It snuck in on me like a back-door visitor while I was busy lounging on the front porch. I stepped back inside and was startled to find it sitting on the couch to greet me, ready or not. Suddenly I was scrambling to prepare myself for this unexpected guest and I’ve found myself coming up short.

The year-end field trips began last week with a zoo trip for Logan, and I realized I hadn’t even opened the drawer where the sunscreen has been in a deep slumber since last October. It was time for him to spend a day in the sun, and that very morning was the first time I opened the drawer to take a peek, fingers crossed that there would be something inside to ease my ill-prepared mind.

And there was…but just barely. I had two cans of Target-brand sunscreen spray in SPF 30, left from last summer, and both almost completely empty. I resigned myself to accepting that there should be enough between the two cans to get him through the day, so I handed them off to Logan and added sunscreen to my shopping list. Luckily he arrived home with just enough sunscreen left for me to coat myself in a light spray pre-winery trip this past weekend — a few girlfriends and I had a girls’ day at Apple Creek Winery, which was hosting their annual Crawfish Boil that weekend:

I knew that meant that I had to get some sunscreen this week. Last summer began my quest for a good, natural, mineral-based sunscreen. The good-for-your-skin sunscreen can definitely come with a shocking price tag, but in all honesty even the “cheap” stuff has become a bit exorbitant on pricing, so the difference is no longer that great. I had already bought a sunscreen for my face that I wear year-round on days when I’m not wearing makeup (my makeup already contains SPF) and want a protectant for my face. But I also had a mineral sunscreen by Two Peas Organics (photo below) saved to replace my Target brand when it ran out, so I went back to take a look.

two peas

In all honesty, I wasn’t overly pleased with it. The price wasn’t terrible — $12 — until you take a look at the size of the container and realize it’s only three ounces. What?! That’s about half of a normal-size tube of sunscreen, for the same price. Which means in order to truly compare, it’s actually $24 for this sunscreen…and that is way too much for me. The Think Dirty app loves it, of course, with a big shiny green 0 rating, but I find it unrealistic for a single mom with an average Joe paycheck.

Thus began a search for a good, or at least much-better-than-standard, sunscreen. Preferably one that I could buy locally for the sake of convenience, and that wouldn’t break the bank.

My go-to store for all things personal care is Target, and they’ve been much better in the last year or so at carrying natural personal care products. I’ve finally been able to find shampoo, soap and toothpaste there that eliminated my need for relying on Amazon Prime. So maybe I would get lucky and find some good sunscreen too. I equipped myself with the Think Dirty app (I will share more about this and link you to it farther down) and started searching the Target app, narrowed down to only products available in my local store. Here is what I found:

Bare Republic, the same brand of sunscreen that I use for my face, has some of their products available at my local Target this year. I looked up the sprays and the lotions on Think Dirty, and found that the spray can of Vanilla-Coco in SPF 50 is pretty darn good, earning a score of 4. Considering it’s an aerosol can, that was especially surprising. The Bare Republic Sport lotion in SPF 50 had a rating of 7, which is considered “half and half” between being clean (0-3) and dirty (8-10). It would do in a pinch — the Bare Republic Face is also a 7, but the skin on my face is extra-sensitive and prone to breakouts and the “clean” options don’t always work well for me.

I kept browsing, finding “natural” brands and looking them up, only to find that they get a dirty rating. I finally found Babyganics, a sunscreen marketed for babies and children, and found a sunscreen lotion in SPF 50 with a 5 rating — lots closer to “clean” than the Bare Republic lotion with a 7 rating. I like to use a lotion for areas I can reach, because lotion tends to last a lot longer. The spray cans are easier to apply, but they tend to run out fast, so you get less sunscreen for your money. I like to have a spray can because it’s the only way I can get my back, but I like lotion for everywhere else. So I added the Babyganics lotion to my list. At six ounces for $12, it’s half the price of the Two Peas Organics brand I had picked out last summer, and I can pick it up at the store rather than ordering it.
babyganicsWith a history of leukemia on my mom’s side of the family, I work pretty hard to find personal care products that aren’t filled with chemicals, since leukemia especially is attributed to chemical exposure more than any other environmental factor. I’m wiling to pay a slight margin above the standard prices for products that are more natural than the run-of-the-mill, mainstream personal care products.

Once upon a time I had to research all of the chemicals in our products and find out which ones were safe and which ones were not. Then I had to read labels ad nauseum to find the rare product that was truly safe. When I began this health journey back in 2008, when my youngest was still under a year old, living a “natural” lifestyle was excruciating. Clean products were few and far between, and I actually had to resort to making a lot of things myself. These days the word is much more widespread on the harmful effects of the chemicals in our everyday products, and there are so many alternative products out there on the market. There are, however, a lot of dirty products out there masquerading as clean with misleading labels and marketing ploys.

That’s where Think Dirty comes in, and I thank the good Lord above for whoever the app’s creators are, because it has saved me countless hours of research and label-reading. I can look up products on the app and it shows the ingredients in the product, what each ingredient scores on its own, and what the product scores as a whole. And if you’re at the store, it has a scanner where you can just scan the barcode and the product pops up. If the product isn’t in the library yet, you can even submit it to be added.

It has definitely simplified my life. Now I just bust out this app, and anything that gets a red 8-10 I don’t buy. Anything in the yellow “half and half” category from 4-7 I will get if I can’t find a better alternative. And if it gets a green 0-3, I buy it and make note of it, because if I really like the product it will become my new go-to. Anything in the yellow middle of the road ratings I usually keep searching to find better alternatives, but they’ll do for now.

So while I haven’t found an affordable sunscreen just yet that gets a fully clean rating, I feel like I’ve found something very close, with only 1-2 points above the clean rating, which is also available locally and without breaking the bank. I picked them up yesterday after work, then went home, applied them, and went outside to get in my walk and then do yard work to see how they faired in the late afternoon/evening sun.

The verdict: both products are a win. Granted I haven’t tested them in a pool yet, but they definitely covered well and protected my skin while I walked and worked in the yard. I have my new go-to’s for this summer, and now I move on to my next quest for a natural but effective product – insect repellant. If you know of any…please share!

Happy summer, friends!





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