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Can sunscreen, which is often pricey and filled with chemicals, actually be safer, effective and affordable? The answer: sometimes. MarketWatch chatted with the Environmental Working Group, an organization that has researched the safety and efficacy of sunscreens for 15 years now, about the safest and most effective sunscreens.  Then we filtered through their top-rated sunscreen picks of 2021 (those ranked with a 1, the highest grade given) to find ones that were also the most affordable. While some sunscreens can clock in at $8 an ounce or more, these are all between about $1 (like this 365 sunscreen) and $5 an ounce.

But first, two big things to know before you buy sunscreen: “The best sunscreens are mineral-based with an active ingredient of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,”  Carla Burns, EWG senior healthy living science analyst, says. You also don’t need an SPF higher than 50, as protection above that is only marginally better, she adds. Here are our top safe, effective and affordable picks. 

Eco-conscious at an affordable price: Think Sunscreen Lotion, Aloe + Tea Leaves, SPF 30, about $9.90 for 3 oz. on Amazon

Amazon

At about $3.30 an ounce, this sunscreen is easy on the wallet, and the brand has a clean living mission that consumers can get behind: No testing on animals for Think beauty products, third-party certification for the organic claims on its labels, and a ban on ingredients like parabens, phthalates, micro-beads or triclosan. The company’s founder writes this of Think: “The first line in the sand that we draw surrounds material safety. We don’t jump on new materials just because they are free of one chemical. The reason is that the potential for landing on some other potentially harmful chemical exists. Instead, we stay keenly focused on the latest emerging studies.”
– Buy at Pharmaca.
– Buy on Amazon.

Easy application (it’s clear, not white): Badger Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Cream, SPF 35, $15 for 2.9 oz. on Amazon.

Amazon

One big perk of this moisturizing, hypoallergenic sunscreen is that it uses non-whitening zinc oxide (no sunscreen ghost face for you) as its main ingredient, but there are plenty of other pluses too. It is water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and made with 98% organic ingredients, including organic sunflower oil, beeswax and jojoba oil. It is also ideal for many with sensitive skin, seeing as it is fragrance free; contains no dyes, parabens, or other artificial ingredients; and is  non-comedogenic. It comes in at around $5 per ounce.
– Buy on Amazon.
– Buy on Vitacost.
– Buy on Walmart.

Bang for your buck: 365 Mineral Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30, $9.99 for 6 oz. on Amazon

Amazon

This mineral sunscreen, made by Whole Foods Market, costs about $1.65 an ounce, making it the most affordable, safe sunscreen on our list. It’s made with 80% organic ingredients, lists zinc oxide as its active ingredient, and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
– Buy on Amazon.

Quick-absorbing lotion: Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30, $16 for 3 oz. on Amazon


Amazon

This $5-per-ounce organic sunscreen, which uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient, is both fragrance and chemical free, so it’s safer for you and the oceans. It also absorbs quickly (no standing around feeling slimy for 15 minutes!) and this tube is small enough to be TSA-friendly, so you can take it on a trip with you.
– Buy on FSA Store.
– Buy on Amazon.
– Buy on Overstock.

For athletes and active adults: Burnout Ocean Sunscreen, SPF 30, $15 for 3.4 oz. on Amazon


Amazon

This ocean-safe sunscreen, made with 18.6% zinc oxide, is very water-resistant and sweat-proof (you don’t have to worry much about it running in your eyes), and the price is right (under $5 per ounce). It is biodegradable; free from parabens, petroleum and PABA; and its moisturizing formula includes hemp seed oil, aloe vera and antioxidants.
– Buy on Walmart.
– Buy on Shop.com.



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