Looking for a reef-safe sunscreen that uses only zinc oxide as an active ingredient? You may want to keep looking!
With over 100 natural mineral sunscreens tested by my family of six in the past 10 years, we’ve had our share of miserable failures. White out? Paint drying? Sticky, chalky, makes you look like an alabaster statue or Casper the ghost?
I will tell you this: it’s entirely possible to find a zinc oxide sunscreen that is reef safe, really works, and goes on smoothly.
This brand is not one of them.
Read the full review below to find out all of its transgressions, and then be sure to go to my ultimate guide to natural mineral sunscreens to find a safe sunscreen that really works.
Earthley Sun Shield
Ease of Application
EWG rating: not rated
Ingredients: Organic olive oil, avocado oil, virgin raspberry seed oil, grapeseed oil, organic mango butter, organic comfrey leaf, organic dandelion leaf, organic calendula flowers, and organic beeswax.
Antioxidants added: Practically all the ingredients are antioxidants!
Where to purchase: Earthley
Ease of application: +
The ingredients in this sun shield surprise me a lot because there is neither zinc oxide nor titanium dioxide included. The formulation relies purely on oils and some healing herbs to protect the skin from the sun.
Is this positive or negative? It all depends on whether you burn for starters, but there are other considerations.
Even if these oils can protect from the UVB rays of the sun, which cause visible effects, I don’t think there is any research to show whether they protect from the UVA or UVC Rays. This gives me pause. If I was of the opinion that the sun is plain and simple good for us and can’t really cause harm other than a sunburn, I might trust my family to this product. As it is, I usually only tested it on myself because I did not have that trust.
The really really positive thing, of course, about a sun protection cream with no zinc oxide is that it’s incredibly clear. This goes on like a slick lotion, and the only bad thing about it is that it is shiny and greasy with all those oils. A little goes a long way! Had this been the 80s where everyone greased up to increase their tan, this product would have been amazing. I really only feel comfortable recommending it for short times in the sun whenis more important than skin protection.
In side-by-side tests, this brand definitely burned worse than thinkbaby SPF 50. We also tested it at a soccer game in September versus nothing on the other side and we did have a worse burn on the side with nothing, but just barely noticeable in comparison. I’m wondering how much additional protection was on the side with this lotion… I would think not a very high SPF, just guessing.
For a non-white, darker complexion, I would say that Earthley definitely rubs in the most clear due to not having zinc. Might be one to try, since as one reader pointed out, zinc oxide can be a particular challenge for darker skin! But…there’s no guarantee it’s protecting you from anything, so that’s not very helpful. 🙁
UPDATE 6/24/20: In 2019, I chose to wear Earthley on my shoulders and one arm at a beach in Florida all day long. This was a really bad idea, and a smart friend with me explained why. Because there isn’t zinc oxide, a mineral that sits on top of my skin, all the oils in this Earthley formula sink right in. So even though they may be rated for SPF, they’re just not sticking around. I absolutely burned to a crisp and hurt for days.
- Protects from UVB rays
- No zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
- May not protect against UVA and UVC rays
- Allowed sunburn in tests
Wondering if this one is the very best natural sunscreen for your family?
I organized alllll the sunscreens we reviewed in each one’s recommendation category – one page, at-a-glance to find out what is safe to buy AND works! Print it or save to your phone for reference!
The guide also includes answers to questions people ask me all the time:
- Which brand rubs in the clearest?
- What’s the best for all day outdoor sports?
- How do I save money on natural sunscreens?
- What looks good on ladies’ faces?
- Is there an option that is FAST to apply to wiggly kids?
I’ll send a copy to your email so you can see it right away and find it again later!