Top 8 Sunscreens Worth Applying (& Reapplying)

Sunscreens of different types, sizes and colours as seen from the top through a clear beach bag

Let’s get this straight, I am not a sun-hater.

I am fully aware of its fantastic health benefits, not to mention it being a great mood booster both directly (Vitamin D) and indirectly (e.g. Family picnics, outdoor activities). But that’s for about 20 minutes of unprotected exposure, then it goes downhill from there. I will let you google the short- and long-term risks on your own…

Once the shock, regret, and motivation sink in, I have prepared a list of 8 of my favourite sunscreens to suit every individual, activity and budget. And they are all cruelty-free. Leaving you with ZERO excuses to leave the house unprotected, at any point of the year (Yes, winter too).

 

For Those That Appreciate a Zero White Cast: Invisible Physical Defence SPF30 by Dermalogica ($77 CAD)

A hand holding the "Invisible Physical Defence SPF30" by Dermalogica with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

New summer skincare cocktail: Zinc Oxide, but hold the white cast. As if I wasn’t head over heels for Dermalogica already (big shock), they recently launched the Invisible Physical Defence SPF30. It is a physical sunscreen with a promise to reflect sun rays and blue light, while leaving your skin looking, well, like your skin. And I am here for it.

From the nerd perspective, it contains a Bio-active Mushroom Complex and Green Tea Extract to help soothe, hydrate, and defend the skin against environmental aggressors. Similarly, the active ingredient is the Non-nano Zinc Oxide, meaning that the larger mineral particles are safer for the skin (i.e. less absorption potential) and equally as effective at blocking and absorbing rays. *pushes glasses up the bridge of the nose*

A sunscreen with iced coffee, book, black sunglasses, and flowers on a faux fur throw

From the consumer perspective, it is lightweight, soufflé-like in texture. It blends easily into a sheer, non-greasy, makeup-friendly protection. Most importantly, it looks and feels like a chemical sunscreen, leaving no heavy, white evidence behind. Lastly, bonus points are awarded for recyclable packaging, and reef safe, vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free statuses of the brand. I’ve lost count on the number of wins, but you get the picture.

 

For Natural and Clean Ingredient-Seekers: The Perfect Sunscreen by Consonant Skincare ($48 CAD)

A hand holding the "Perfect Sunscreen" by Consonant Skincare with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

With a recent and drastic shift toward label-reading, ingredient research, and environmental accountability, Consonant Skincare created the Perfect Sunscreen. Broad-spectrum, water-resistant, 100% clean and natural sun protection that is proudly Canadian, and also happens to look really good on your bathroom shelf.

Staying away from chemicals, the clinically-supported brand included a blend of non-nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide as active and ray-protecting ingredients. For hydration maintenance, they incorporated botany and oil-extraction, such as Aloe Vera and Grape seed, into the formula. To offset the well-known phenomenon associated with Zinc Oxide, the team added Natural Mica tint (light brown-ish in colour). Lastly, and thankfully, the list of ingredients is much, much less complicated than the “hot list” of chemicals (e.g. artificial fragrance) that they avoided when formulating this product. Read more about the nasties here.

Three sunscreens pictured on a black wooden deck, peaking out of an ivory bag along with a scrunchie, earrings, small scarf and flowers

My appreciation for the brand goes a couple years back and is supported to this day by half of my bathroom shelf reading “Consonant.” My appreciation for the Perfect Sunscreen, however, is only half a year-old, and was introduced post facial treatment at their Queen St. W. location. I walked out with a different kind of glow: not heavy or greasy, just supple and breathable skin. These days, my skin prefers a light layer, small dabs of concealer and eyebrow gel for a natural day look. Lastly, my respect extends to the hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic and reef-safe statuses, as well as the recycle-for-reward-points incentive. Sun: 0, The Perfect Sunscreen: 1.

 

For the Multitaskers: Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF30 by bareMinerals ($40 CAD)

A hand holding the "Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF30" by bareMinerals with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

News flash, life is wild. One morning you can indulge yourself in a 17-step skincare routine, do a full blowout, AND enjoy a coffee that is actually still hot. Another morning you employ dry shampoo, 10-in-1 coverup routine (is that even possible?), and a plaid blazer to fake your put-togetherness. Yes, “wild” is highly subjective, but if this sounds like you (*raises hand*), simplification of makeup, skin- and sun care, especially on the latter days, is a must. Cue Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream: Moisturizer, sunscreen, and BB cream in one. Boom. You’re welcome.

Sunscreens of different types, sizes and colours as seen from the top through a clear beach bag

With ingredients that nourish (e.g. Coconut), energize (e.g. Magnesium), protect (e.g. Globe Daisy), and replenish (e.g. Marine Botanicals), hydration is at the centre of this mineral-based sunscreen. Dry and combo types, I am looking at you. Texture-wise, you are blessed with a gel-cream that is sheer-to-medium in coverage, builds and blends with ease, provides a natural finish, and earns major glow and radiance points. Dab concealer to brighten, brow gel to tame, and highlighter to, well, you know, and you are set.

Clinically proven, 3-time winner of the Allure best of beauty award, and Katie Jane Hudges-approved. The brand’s commitment to clean beauty and a long list of avoided nasties are just about the only cherry left to add on top.

 

For the Proactive City-Dwellers: Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 by Dermalogica ($104 CAD)

A hand holding the "Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50" by Dermalogica with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

Repeat after me: “Accepting aging gracefully does not mean preventative measures are to be ignored.” Dermalogica’s Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50, as part of the best-selling Age Smart line, was created with exactly that in mind. It’s an antioxidant-rich, anti-aging moisturizer and a chemical broad-spectrum sunscreen in one application. So basically, no excuses.

With White Tea, micronutrients, and a unique chain of amino acids placed on the front lines, the science-forward brand focuses on protecting our skin from some serious abbreviated nasties: AGEs, MPPs, and ROS. Aka the conspirators behind degrading existing and prohibiting the formation of new collagen. Cue wrinkles, sagging skin, and dryness. Couple that with a no-joke SPF and you have yourself an anti-aging cocktail with long-lasting benefits. Oh, and no hangover, because those hurt more after your mid-twenties.

Mom (early 50’s) and I (super late 20’s) equally rave about it to everyone who will listen. It is medium in weight, smooth and glow-y in the finish. It absorbs ridiculously fast and leaves no greasy residue on the skin. Personally, I appreciate it more during the transitional seasons, such as Fall or Spring, due to its texture and 2-in-1 benefits: A generous layer and you’re out the door. Lastly, while Dermalogica is notorious for discontinuing products without notice, this one is here to stay, and for good reason.

 

For the Conscious Consumer (and Lip Balm Hoarder): Natural Sunscreen Flavour Free Lip Balm SPF15 ($8 CAD)

A hand holding the "Natural Sunscreen Flavour Free Lip Balm" by The Green Beaver Company with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

Sunscreen on face? Check. Sunscreen on body? Check. Sunscreen on lips? Simply grazing them when patting sunscreen on? Yeah, that won’t fly. Much like the eyes, the skin on the lips is very thin, thus lacking oil and sweat to protect it from sun damage. You already protect them from dry weather and lack of moisture, why not the sun too? The Green Beaver Company can help with that.

The Canadian husband (microbiologist)-and-wife (biochemist) team have been putting health, family and environment first for nearly two decades. Their Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm is no different. It is a 100% natural and organic lip balm infused with ingredients that heal and protect (Canadian Sunflower Seed Oil), as well as moisturize and condition (Canadian Raspberry Seed oil). The flavour-free balm is soft and medium in texture, goes on smooth and colourless, and finishes matte. Bonus points for the hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and reef safe statuses.

Thus, whether you are running errands or hardcore paddle boarding, you have zero excuses for skipping sunscreen for your lips. And that little tube fits and belongs everywhere. In all 13+ places that you have stashed your lip balms (I can’t be the only one!).

 

For the Beach-goers and their entire family: Original SPF 30 Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion ($18 CAD) & Lip Balm ($5) by Sun Bum

A hand holding the "Original SPF 30 Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion " by Sun Bum with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

When it comes to sun protection, sun damage and aging, Californians should, and do, know best. Birthed from the need for effective sun care without harmful ingredients, Sun Bum made it into the sun game. Offering sunscreens in spray, liquid, stick and mineral forms, the brand is basically a one-stop shop for your whole family.

Nearing the end of my second bottle of Original SPF3o Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion, I can still see, feel and smell the hype. When shaken well, and it must be, the sunscreen goes on light and absorbs quickly. No sticky, greasy or white residue, just hydrated skin (thank you, Vitamin E). The only evidence left is the Sun Bum Original Scent, aka a piña colada being sipped on a hot summer day, somewhere in the Bahamas. Yeah, you won’t be able to “unsee” (or “unsmell”) that image either, but don’t worry, unscented options are available should that not excite you. Lastly, the lip balm is the same Original Sunscreen formula, with just a dash of Aloe, simply adding extra hydration to the same trusted protection. Hello, soft, healthy, and supple lips all day, season, and year long.

A hand holding the "Original SPF 30 Moisturizing Lip Balm" by Sun Bum with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

Thankfully, for us (Canadians), many retailers, such as Shoppers Drugmart and Well.ca, offer a wide variety of Sun Bum products, and often in value packs and on sale. Do keep in mind that they have only recently started to move towards the “reef-friendly” status, and with the 3-year shelf-life, the sunscreens containing Oxybenzone might still be circulating. But not to worry, the brand’s vegan, hypoallergenic, gluten-free, cruelty-free, and paraben-free statuses, to name a few, remain confirmed.

 

For the Eco-Conscious Travellers: Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream SPF30 by Badger ($30 CAD)

A hand holding the "Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream SPF30" by Badger with a phone, lemon water, scrunchie, lip balm and leafed branches in the background

Honestly, Zinc Oxide gets a bad rap, from my younger self included. Besides being an overachiever in physically blocking and reflecting UV light, its white powder form creates the unpopular “white cast.” Cue the Clear Zinc Sunscreen Cream solution by Badger. This family-run B-corp has fused nano into non-nano Zinc Oxide, yielding high transparency and low whiteness. Aka the same safe and effective protection, but with little to no white cast.

On the inside, the sunscreen consists of 98% organic ingredients that protect (Sunflower Oil), support (Vitamin E), and heal (Beeswax). Similarly, it is free from fragrances, parabens, synthetics, and other nasties. On the outside, it is a white, heavy cream at the start, but rubs in clear. Its consistency requires a bit of a between-palm warm-up, while its concentration takes on the less-is-more approach. Since it is a mineral sunscreen, do expect a light layer to remain on your skin, as to physically block and reflect UV light.

Three sunscreens pictured on a black wooden deck, peaking out of an ivory bag along with a scrunchie, earrings, small scarf, cellphone, and flowers

Lastly, and my favourite part, this sunscreen is reef-friendly and biodegradable. Thus, whether at your local lake or in the North Atlantic Ocean, you are doing your part in preserving the marine ecosystem. Aka leaving it the same way you found it, for others to enjoy.

 

 

And that just about covers it.

With all of my go-to sunscreens listed above, which ones have you tried or are interested to try? I am dying to know!

P.S. Now that you have my ultimate list of sun care products, using them properly is another battle. Click here for the most effective and ever-so easy ways of protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.

A blonde wearing a white bucket hat and t-shirt, with two sunscreen patches as 'warpaint' on both cheeks

Cheers,

A

 

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