Sunscreens We Love: My Family’s Top 10 Sunscreen Picks

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My family has many favorite sunscreens. Yes, that’s plural. And my guess is you are thinking- how in the world can someone have a list of 10 favorite sunscreens?

We just do. Partly because we’ve tried our fair share of sunscreens so we really know what we like and what we look for in a sunscreen. Our children both have sensitive skin and react to almost every sunscreen except for a handful that we have found. With the exclusion of my husband (that man can seriously use anything), we are a family of fair-skinned, burn easily (my husband does fit this category), react to every sunscreen out there kind of people.

So, what do we specifically look for in a sunscreen? Ingredients are key, and we prefer a mineral-based sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens (physical sunscreens) reflect the sun’s rays, rather than absorb the UVA/B rays like chemical sunscreens do. Essentially, they are healthier for your skin.

How do you know if you have a mineral sunscreen? Well, if it doesn’t just say it on the package, a quick tip is to look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient rather than oxybenzone.

In addition to ingredients, we also look at the sunscreen’s packaging. We require convenient packaging. I have to be able to travel with it, without having to put it into a different container. I’ll also admit the aesthetics of the packaging are somewhat important to me too (sorry, not sorry.)

Lastly, we opt for vegan, cruelty-free and reef-safe (as much as possible) sunscreens. As far as reef-safe, mineral sunscreens are certainly safer, but a lot more goes into being reef-safe than just that, so we are taking baby steps here. We, as a family, have made a very conscious effort to shift to the mindset of minimizing our environmental footprints!

Each of our top sunscreens must fall into one of two categories: good for the whole family OR good facial sunscreen.

sunscreens, hat, sunglasses

Whole Family Sunscreens

I want to know that whatever sunscreen I grab isn’t going to cause a reaction on the kids’ delicate and reactive skin.

I want to know that I won’t have to leave directions for another family member about which sunscreen to grab in our house, and instead, I can just say, “The sunscreen is stored there.”

  1. Aveeno BabyThis was the first family-friendly sunscreen we ever used. I should specify that this is specifically the continuous protection sensitive skin Aveeno sunscreen. While it does have that very typical sunscreen scent to it (probably the only downside we noticed when we used it) it’s still a backup option that is easy to find in almost every grocery store. Highlights: SPF 50, TSA ready at 3 oz.
  2. Goddess GardenThis sunscreen boasts a lovely lavender scent (which definitely isn’t for everyone), but it’s one of our favorite scents in the world! Luckily, the scent is far from overwhelming and the product itself is not oily at all. It applies evenly, and smoothly and our family can reach for this without question. Like many, it does come in a spray option, but we never seem to purchase those. Highlights: SPF 30, Vegan, Cruelty-free, Gluten-free, TSA ready at 3.4 oz (phew)
  3. ThinkSport/ThinkBabyThe scent of this sunscreen is more like a lightly fragranced raspberry lotion rather than your typical sunscreen. The scent isn’t offensive and doesn’t linger all day. It’s easy to apply and easy to remove as well, though you can get white sunscreen marks on clothing if your child moves around like it’s a dance party during application time, like mine do! We have never had a burn with this sunscreen, and a bonus is I can actually apply it to my face without breaking out! It wears beautifully under makeup (not all sunscreens do). Fun fact: This is our family favorite. Another fun fact: ThinkSport and ThinkBaby are the exact same product. Our local store that we buy this from let me in on the marketing secret (probably no secret at all since you can just look on the back at the ingredients). Basically, both products have the same ingredients, but they are labeled with different names as a lot of parents look for a baby-specific sunscreen for their babies! Highlights: SPF 50+, Leaping Bunny Member, Made in the USA, TSA ready at 3 oz.
  4. BadgerTruth be told, this one holds a special place in our hearts because Badger is a local brand. We use the Tangerine and Vanilla scented sunscreen. The scent is like an orange creamsicle, so again, nothing offensive about this one. It does take a bit more effort than your typical sunscreen to rub it in, but another solid choice that has resulted in many days of no sunburns for our family. Highlights: SPF 30, Cruelty-free, Made in the USA, TSA ready at 2.9 oz.
  5. Sun Bum Mineral LotionThis is the newest sunscreen for us in our family-friendly lineup. Realistically, I thought we were all set with our previous selections of sunscreens but turns out there is no such thing as too many sunscreen options in your household when your kids just love to be outside! Recommended by a fellow mom with BurlingtonVT Moms Blog (hey girl, thanks!) I’m so happy to say we have officially added this to our lineup. We’ve only been testing it for a short period, but so far, so good! Highlights: SPF 50, Made in USA, Cruelty-free, Vegan, TSA ready at 3 oz.

summer, sunglasses, pool

Good Facial Sunscreens

Now, my husband and I have very different criteria here. In all honesty, he could really care less and just uses whatever I hand him on whatever part needs sun protection. Me on the other hand, the sunscreen needs to wear well under makeup. While I don’t wear makeup daily, its nice to not have to think about the sunscreen and wonder if it’s going to cause separation in my makeup mid-day. I also use sunscreen a bit more than my husband does, since I wear it daily (he wears it only when outside when I remind him and don’t get me started on his lack of sunscreen use when he was a carpenter), and I even wear it in rather uncommon circumstances (like when I’m flying, because those rays are so much stronger!)

I also go a step further in that often times, the facial sunscreen I wear is in addition to my current routine that already includes a moisturizer with SPF. I understand this may not work for everyone, but it’s proven quite effective for me.

  1. Ursa Major Force Field Daily Defense Lotion SPF 18Another local brand that I originally only tried because of my love for my go-to deodorant. While the SPF is quite lower than I typically choose for my face, the lotion isn’t greasy and doesn’t leave a white cast. It is a typical daily moisturizer (not as hydrating as I often opt for), with the added benefits of SPF. As for makeup performance, makeup sits quite beautifully on top of this product! Highlights: SPF 18, Gluten-free, Vegan, Cruelty-free, TSA ready at 1.7 oz.
  2. Josie Maran Argan Daily MoisturizerJosie Maran’s daily moisturizer has been my longest running facial sunscreen. There is also a tinted version which I am looking forward to trying. I find that if you have oily skin like I do, this doesn’t always wear best under makeup in the warm summer months. Instead, I often reach for this one in the winter and spring if I will be wearing it under makeup. In the summer, it is great on its own. One minor downside — the container is a glass bottle (rugged, but glass nonetheless). Highlights: SPF 47, Vegan, Cruelty-free, TSA ready at 2 oz.
  3. SuntegrityThis is a brand I came across when I was searching to see if another local company made their own sunscreen. I couldn’t find another Vermont-made brand, but this sunscreen was recommended to me. I have tried it in both the regular sunscreen and the tinted version. The formula quickly became one of my favorite sunscreens and the scent was very similar to ThinkSport. It wears beautifully alone and under makeup, and while I like both, I really enjoyed the tinted version. The coverage it provides is minimal at best, and while I would not compare it to a BB Cream it will very lightly even out your skin tone and give you a natural glow. It has a heavy moisturizer-like consistency, and the tinted version wears off evenly throughout the day. While color range for the tinted isn’t broad (with four shades options), the coverage it provides is light enough that I honestly feel I could wear a couple shades without noticing a difference. Highlights: SPF 30, Vegan, and Cruelty-free, Made in the USA, you can buy 0.25 oz sample sizes to test.
  4. Juice BeautyDesigned as a sport sunscreen and probably one I could try on the kids too, I often opt to use this without makeup. Ok, the truth is, I haven’t tested it with makeup, but simply because I already have enough options to grab. I use this more as an all over sunscreen, and the ingredients are just what I’m looking for. However, it is not the easiest to rub in and takes much longer to absorb into the skin. Packed with plant oils and extracts, and the scent is absolutely invigorating. Highlights: SPF 30, Cruelty-free, TSA ready at 3 oz.
  5. Coola Mineral Face Matte Tint MoisturizerThe reality is that my face is oily, especially in the summer. Add sunscreen and it can be a recipe for disaster for my skin. Finding a facial sunscreen that works great for oily skin is very welcome! This sunscreen can wear great alone, and it can wear great under makeup. This somehow also reminds me that I’d like to try the kid’s version to see how they react for, you know… yet another option! Highlights: SPF 30, Cruelty-free, Farm to Face, TSA ready at 1.7 oz

hats, straw hats

A couple quick tips about sun safety- in addition to sunscreen – you can use hats, sunglasses and SPF chapstick. I make the kids wear hats as often as possible to cover their faces more. My daughter wears a floppy hat to cover her ears and neck, while my son will ONLY wear a baseball cap. Sunglasses are a must for any extended periods in the sun, and we gravitate towards oversized frames. Lastly, chapstick with an SPF (a lot of sunscreen brands make these – you just have to find one that works best for you), because your lips are just as susceptible as the rest of your skin to sun damage!

With all sunscreens, it’s important to remember that the amount you need is much larger than you think. Don’t trust the SPF in your foundation to be enough to protect your face, because to get the actual SPF protection you would have to apply an obscene amount of foundation. This is why I ALWAYS use an added sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF on my face, neck, and ears. And why I always wear a hat.  

While ten top sunscreens may seem like a lot, you can see that we like to have variety. Most of these sunscreens are not available in our local grocery stores, so we often have to plan ahead. Knowing which sunscreens to have on rotation makes it a lot easier than having to drop everything and potentially drive to grab a sunscreen that won’t make my kids’ delicate skin react.

I also have a few more on my list to try for myself: Elta MD, MD Solar Sciences, and Murad. As well as the Babyganics for the kids since it is available in most grocery stores.

Did any of your top sunscreen picks make my list? And if not, what would you add for you and your family?

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Halie is a Vermonter born and raised, with a passion for travel, beauty, style, and life. She currently resides on the eastern side of the state with her husband and two kids (a hockey-focused son and a ballet-loving daughter.) She attended Colby-Sawyer College and Philadelphia University, then returned to Colby-Sawyer where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. Her family has a running joke that Halie was on her own version of Amazing Race (selecting a college edition.) While she loves to visit cities, she discovered that she can’t live in one! She best describes herself as quirky and sometimes awkward, constantly looking to learn, a makeup and skincare enthusiast, and also an avid lover of coffee, tea, local craft beers, ice cream, HGTV, and basically anything that sparks joy! She is ridiculously comfortable in her own shoes (probably because she ditched heels!) You can find more about her on her blog, Our Small Life Home.

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