Let’s Get Shady: The Top 5 Safest Sunscreens


When I think summer, the first thing that comes to mind is being at the beach. I love the simplicity of laying by the ocean and soaking in the sun with nothing more than my favorite hat and a good book.  But now that I’m a twin mom, this sounds more like a dream than reality. However, regardless of what your summer reality or dream looks like, we all know that summer is not complete without sunscreen. There are a ton of options out there, so before we dive into our picks for the safest ones, let’s focus on why we need it.

We need protection from UVB & UVA Rays

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin to cause the free-radical damage that contributes to premature aging. They’re present year-round and can penetrate glass and clouds. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn, so we see and feel the damage as it occurs.

Sun Protection Factor or SPF

SPF is the measure of a sunscreen’s ability to protect your skin from being damaged by UVB rays.  Based on skincancer.org’s website, an estimated 90% of the signs of aging are caused by the sun. In the U.S., more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. It’s alarming, I know, but that is why we all need to use sunscreen! Sunscreens with SPF of 15 or higher do a great job of protecting us from our daily activities, but choosing the right amount of SPF really depends on much sun exposure you’re anticipating. You also need to consider if you are light-sensitive, or have a history of skin cancer. Although the differences in SPF may seem very subtle, they can have a big impact if those factors are more prevalent. Another thing to notice is that no sunscreen is 100% effective.   

You can look at how SPF works in two ways: from a time perspective or by percentages.

For example, If it takes your unprotected skin 10 minutes to burn, and you use SPF 30, then your skin will be protected for 300 minutes or 5 hours (10 x 30 = 300). 

Another way to look at it is:

SPF 15 = blocks 93% of UVB rays

SPF 30 = blocks 97% of UVB rays

SPF 50 = blocks 98% of UVB rays

Active Ingredients: Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreen

You will see sunscreen options that are either mineral or chemical based. Chemical sunscreen uses avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone as their active ingredients. This option is ideal for those that sweat a lot or are swimming for extended periods of time and need it to be absorbed into the skin very quickly. Mineral based sunscreen uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to protect against the sun and does not get absorbed into the skin. This option tends to be preferred because it’s moisturizing, and less irritating, especially for those with sensitive skin. You will notice that mineral based sunscreen does not blend into the skin as easily, and some will leave more of a white cast than others. If you are going to be in the ocean, a mineral based sunscreen will most likely be safe for the coral reef, but you will have to check each brand specifically.

Best Practices

  • Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen so you get coverage from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Chemical sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.
  • Choose fragrance-free, & paraben-free
  • Use SPF of at least 30 or higher.
  • Apply at least 1 0z liberally and evenly 15-30 minutes before exposure.
  • Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming and towel drying.
  • Use additional protection like hats, sunglasses, and cover ups, and limit exposure time.

Top 5 Safest Sunscreen Picks

Here we go! These are in no particular order.

Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen

clear zinc sunscreen water resistant unscented

I love that this one starts out white and rubs in clear. It makes it easy to see where I’m applying on my kids, and it’s parent friendly – we don’t look as cute with white casts all over our bodies. Its a broad-spectrum, mineral based cream with SPF 30 which provides excellent UVB/UVA coverage. It’s lightweight, moisturizing, free of fragrance, and anything artificial and harsh, so it’s great for all skin types. It’s family-friendly, reef-friendly, and biodegradable! You can get this one here and also check out their active, baby/kids, and daily sunscreen collections.

Countersun by Beautycounter

The Countersun Collection includes a broad-spectrum mist, lotion, and stick, all with SPF 30. I love the application options because my husband loves the mist, but I prefer lotion. The formulas are all lightweight, very moisturizing, and gentle. They use antioxidant-rich California poppy to block against UVA, UVB, and Blue Light rays which provides great coverage and smells so good. The lotion is a 2018 Best of Beauty Allure Winner. These are also family-friendly and safe for the coral reef. 

Coola Sunscreen Lotion

Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 - Fragrance-Free featured image

This is another great broad spectrum, SPF 30 option. It’s designed for the body, but gentle enough for the face. The sheer, lightweight, hydrating, and fragrance and chemical-free formula is ideal for sensitive skin. It uses 70% organic ingredients, is reef-friendly, and offers 80 minutes of water resistance. It’s also safe for the whole family! Shop here.

Blue Lizard Australian Sensitive

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive 5 oz Bottle

This broad spectrum option was designed by dermatologist to protect from head-to-toe. It’s safe for the whole family, the coral reef, and your sensitive skin. This is a mineral based formula and is fragrance, paraben, and chemical free. One really cool feature is their Smart Cap Technology. The cap will turn blue in sunlight as a reminder to stay sun safe wherever you are. Then you’ll always know when harmful UV rays are present!

Juice Beauty Sport Sunscreen

Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen

Juice Sport is designed for an active outdoor lifestyle which is great for Colorado. The water resistant, mineral based, and broad spectrum protection formula is exactly what we need for long pool days, hikes, and all the other ColoRADical outdoor activities the state offers. I love that this is another great option for the entire family. The formula uses organic coconut, aloe & jojoba, which provide antioxidant-rich hydration and blends onto the skins easily. It also free of oxybenzone, which has been banned in Hawaii and Florida for harming coral reefs.


What is your favorite safe sunscreen for all of your summer adventures?









Previous articleUnderstanding Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome
Next articleDenver’s Best Splash Pads
Laura is a stay at home mom of twin girls, Cali and Gianna, and an adopted Labradoodle. She was born in Colombia and grew up in Miami where she met her Denver native husband, Chad, and together decided to move to Denver. They have been living in Denver since 2010 and love taking advantage of all the seasonal activities Denver has to offer. Prior to the mom gig, she worked as an Industrial Engineer and Project Manager for American Express Travel and later Travelport. In additional to contributing to Denver Metro Mom's Blog, she created her own space in 2017, TwinJamJam, with the intent to connect with other parents by sharing her experiences, easy and difficult, as a mom of twins. She is passionate about empowering families find strength and inspiration in their own journeys as parents. You can follow her multicultural, twin mama life on Instagram @twinjamjam.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here