It’s that time again: for the fourth year running I’m delighted to be a judge at the annual Clean Beauty Awards, organised by clean beauty certification body CertClean. This year, 455 clean beauty products were entered in 24 categories, and for the first time I’m judging not one but four categories! So hold on tight, there’s more to come as I deliver the first, aptly timed, instalment: sunscreens. This skincare category has enjoyed well deserved attention these last few years, as SPF is elevated from once-a-year summer holiday status to an everyday skincare staple to combat signs of ageing. Fashion and beauty trends website Who What Wear predicted mineral sunscreen in particular to be a key skincare trend for 2022: ‘With the latest FDA statement and ongoing research regarding the chemical ingredients in sunscreen products, I think we will see more products available that are mineral-based, especially tinted options which help eliminate the white cast that can occasionally occur’. So ahead of the summer solstice I review six mineral suncare products to get you in the mood for sunny days.
Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreen
First things first, what is the difference between mineral (also known as physical) and chemical sunscreen? A mineral sunscreen contains naturally occurring active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to form a protective barrier on your skin’s surface to physically prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin. This is why you will often experience a white cast which can give you a ghost-like aura (actually sought after in Asian countries). Chemical sunscreens protect the skin differently: the UV light is absorbed into the skin, but the sunscreen then converts the light into heat. There is ongoing debate around the safety of chemical sunscreens, some studies suggesting that these chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream. It is however pretty universally accepted that the benefits of regularly applying sunscreen – and therefore protecting yourself from skin cancer – far outweigh the potential risk of absorbing sunscreen chemicals. So whichever format works best for you, slather it on!
If there’s a country that’s on it’s SPF A-game it’s got to be Australia. Not only do they enjoy long, hot summers, but they also have to contend with particularly strong UV rays and the second highest rate of skin cancer incidence in the world (source: Gritty Pretty). When it comes to sun protection, Australians know their stuff and have a host of suncare specialist brands to show for it. Born in Western Australia in 2005, Soleo Organics offers a cruelty-free range of 100% mineral sunscreens formulated according to Naturopathic principles, without the use of any chemical UV-absorbers. Their Everyday Extra-Lite Natural Sunscreen provides SPF30 UVA and UVB protection suitable for the whole family. What makes it ‘extra lite’? Well it sinks into skin remarkably quickly considering it’s a mineral sunscreen, which typically are thicker textures than their chemical counterparts. That gets a big thumbs up from me. As does the protection (i.e. it works). The only downside is the scent which is a little too ‘base-y’ for my liking.
On the other hand this one smells of – you’ve guessed it – coconut: the pure scent of summer! A full-on coconut-y scent for those beach vibes. Not for you if you hate pina coladas, but to me this is summer in a bottle – or tube to be exact. It does feel greasier than the extra-lite version, and will need another rub in once applied around creases (elbows crease, behind knees) where the product bunches up and reveals white streaks. And it does need a little shake before application otherwise you can end up with the first tube squeeze yielding nothing more than coconut oil.
I was really looking forward to trialling Soleo’s face sunscreen, and although it does offer good sun protection, what lets it down is the weird scent of… fish?? I will caveat that this could be a reaction with my skin rather than the product itself. Some beauty products will react differently depending on your skin (I once tested a seaweed-based product that smelled of old fish on me but not on my colleague). The sunscreen smells absolutely fine when it comes out of the tube, but as soon as I rub it in it lets out an odd scent that, although only noticeable when I stick my nose to it, I can’t quite come to terms with.
My favourite from the line up! Providing high SPF50 protection and with a pleasant discreet herbal scent, this cruelty-free sunscreen from Korean brand Dr Orga sinks into skin incredibly quickly without leaving a greasy residue… everything you can wish for from an SPF cream. Trust K-beauty to deliver a flawless skincare performance.
This one comes in a bit of a tricky format. I’m a big fan of solid beauty, but out of all six products I find Birch Babe 100% Mineral Sunscreen leaves the most obvious white cast on skin. It delivers SPF30 protection does smell pretty great though. Although it’s coconut-scented it also has a hint of minty freshness which balances out the richness of coconut, so a good alternative to Soléo Organics Coconut Performance Sunscreen SPF30 in that respect.
My second favourite product! This Canadian-born vegan and cruelty-free brand offers a cross between a sunscreen and a tanning oil. Initially I mistook MisMacK’s Sunday Body Glow Oil for the kind of sun oil I used in my early twenties to bask in the holiday sun, trying to fast track a tan to make up for the 11 months of the year I spent in UK greyness. But that would be an insult to this product. Rich in apricot and jojoba oils, it’s nourishing but sinks into skin quickly, it leaves a hint f shimmer on skin and smells of ylang ylang – bliss. This is not a sunscreen though so don’t forget to apply SPF!
Features gifted products