Sunscreen winners and losers + best safe sunscreens

I’ve been looking into sunscreens for the last couple of weeks and it’s clear that they’re all over the map when it comes to safety and price. Sunscreen can be hyper confusing – too bad, since all green families deserve safe affordable sunscreen. That said, I’ve narrowed down the best safe sunscreen options for all families, in spite of your budget constraints.

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WINNER: Best sunscreen of 2012!

Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Lotion SPF 50 is this year’s lowest priced safest sunscreen and my 2012 pick for green families on a budget. Not only a safer choice, this sunscreen is perfectly realistic when it comes to price.

This sunscreen is very safe considering the low price, rated a 2 on the EWG sunscreen guide. Oil, fragrance & dye free, plus tear free, this sunscreen choice also offers broad spectrum, excellent UVA/UVB protection. Additionally, this sunscreen comes in a larger 8 oz size, cutting down on plastic waste.

Best of all, at just $0.70 per oz, a family of four can sunscreen themselves up safely and for an excellent low price – just $1,120 per year or $93 a month for four people (2 adults and 2 kids). If you look for sales to get the best deal, try to score some coupons and stock up when it is on sale, you should be able to get this sunscreen at $0.70 per oz. (or even less) year-round.

On a personal note: We have actually tried this sunscreen at my house, and although it rubs in a bit white (keep rubbing) we like it and no burns.

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate (7.5%), Octisalate (5%), Zinc Oxide (14.5%)

Inactive Ingredients: Water, Propylene Glycol, C12 15 Alkyl Benzoate, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetyl/PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, PEG 12 Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Ethyhexyl Palmitate, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Chloride

WINNER: Lowest priced VERY safe sunscreen

Purple Prairie SunStuff SPF 30 is the lowest priced very safe sunscreen you can buy. Rated a 1 by EWG (you can’t beat that) and also the top pick at Safe Mama, this sunscreen contains nothing icky yet is non-whitening, unlike many other “natural” sunscreens. It also offers actual sun protection and good UVA/UVB balance.

SunStuff mineral lotion protects you from sunburn and moisturizes your skin at the same time. It’s also partially organic with both organic shea & cocoa butters and it’s biodegradable. Another benefit is that this sunscreen comes in a nice huge bulk size, thus cutting down on plastic waste.

Even though safe, this sunscreen is more affordable than most. It’ll cost you about $756 to sunscreen a smaller child all year with this sunscreen and $1,260 to cover an adult or bigger kid. Compared to other sunscreens, like my top pick above, this is still pricey though, as a family of four with two young kids would need to shell out $4,032 annually for this product.

Still, if safety, not money is your number 1 priority, Purple Prairie is your best bet and I applaud them for trying to make safe sunscreen a possibility for families.

WINNER: Lowest priced sunscreens overall

No AD Sunblock Lotion SPF 30 is just $0.37 per oz, which is a good deal if you’re willing to put up with small amounts of BOTH retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) AND oxybenzone. This sunscreen also contains some fragrance, so it’s not for folks with allergy issues. If you want a fragrance-free version, check out No AD Kids Sunblock Lotion SPF 50, which also contains vitamin A and oxybenzone, but doesn’t add fragrance. The kids version is great in that it’s just pennies more per oz too.

Overall though both of these No AD sunscreens offer decent, although not excellent sun protection and are available in huge 16 oz bottle sizes, thus super saving on plastic (the majority of sunscreens come in 3 oz plastic bottles).

Price-wise you can’t beat this sunscreen as it’ll cost a family of four just $592 annually or $49 per month. If your budget is a bit more sound, I’d go with the Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Lotion SPF 50 above, but this No AD sunscreen will protect your skin at cost.

HONORARY WINNERS: Companies offering safer sunscreen that’s less expensive

Coppertone and Nature’s Gate offer some sunscreens with low chemical scores at EWG (2-3) that also aren’t too expensive for the average family. The sunscreens, shown below, contain very little icky stuff, yet all come in at about $1.60 per oz or less.

While none of the above are cream of the crop price-wise or safety wise, and both companies have other issues I’m not fond of, they do all offer sunscreens made with far fewer questionable chemicals than many conventional sunscreens and still, a much lower price than every single other safe sunscreen out there.

Good job to these two companies for offering real-life sunscreen solutions for families!

BIGGEST LOSER: Insanely expensive safe sunscreen

Coola MineralBaby SPF 45 Moisturizer Unscented is a whopping $11.33 per oz, making it the most expensive “safe” sunscreen I saw this year. Yet, it’s not any safer than Purple Prairie above ($2.52 per oz) and it’s just mildly safer than my top pick Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Lotion SPF 50 ($0.70 per oz).

Coola uses 70% certified organic ingredients, are cuilty-free and eco-friendly, all of which does usually add up to higher prices. Still, at $11.33 per oz. a family of four would have to spend around $18,130 per year on this sunscreen, if they’re using sunscreen correctly. It’s even more expensive at the official Coola website ($12 per oz) which would mean shelling out $19,200 per year!

This is incredibly unreasonable – even from a green is worth more standpoint. The insanity of expecting green families to be able to afford these prices is seriously beyond me. I have no idea what Coola is thinking and it’s a huge loser move to promote safety at such a high price.

OTHER LOSERS: Most other safe sunscreens

Coola (above) is bad price-wise, but not really alone. Almost every single top safe rated sunscreen on EWG and other top pick lists are way too expensive for typical families.

With prices ranging from a typical $5 per oz all the way up to $12 per oz, it’s unrealistic and insane to think most families can afford these. The worst of the absolute worst companies I saw this year, meaning, companies selling liquid gold sunscreen that few can afford, include:

Keep in mind that these companies have perks, but they cater to a very small financial bracket and for the average green family, that’s unacceptable.

What’s your favorite sunscreen of 2012?

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  1. Jessica says

    I was concerned about the dimethicone and parabens in the best rated Coppertone Pure and Simple. I try to avoid those- are you saying they are ok, or just bearable in this case? Thanks for all your hard work and great information!

  2. Jennifer Chait says

    Hey Jessica, This sunscreen is a newly rated a 2 on Skin Deep and posted by EWG as one of their top picks when it comes to affordable sunscreen. I don’t think this sunscreen is perfect, because it does contain Propylparaben, Methylparaben and a few other ingredients of concern but you also have to consider how harmful sun damage is for your skin and body.

    This sunscreen is hundreds (in some cases thousands) of dollars less per year than sunscreens with better scores (say scores of 1) so if money is an issue at your house, it’s better, in my opinion, to go with this sunscreen vs. one you can’t afford.

    I think this sunscreen is better than bearable though. It’s pretty safe considering the price, but again NOT the safest overall choice. If money is really no object, choose Purple Prairie SunStuff SPF 30 which is very safe and low-cost compared to other safe sunscreens. However, if your choice comes down to no sunscreen due to money issues and this Coppertone sunscreen, I’d go with the Coppertone. It’s what we’re buying this summer. To offset the minimal chemicals in this sunscreen we’re sticking to mostly organic food, paraben-free soaps for the shower and we never use cleaners with chemicals – all of which is cheaper than the safest sunscreen.

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