I've Tried Hundreds of Mineral Sunscreens, and This Under-$20 Option Is One of the Best

It’s reef-safe, too, because the ocean has enough going on.

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Mineral Sunscreen
Photo: Marco Testi/Unsplash

Not to brag, but I've been using sunscreen daily since the ripe age of 17 — and at 28, the deep wrinkles my mom's struggled with her whole life have yet to announce themselves on my face (her trying every anti-aging cream in the book to get rid of them did influence me, yes. Spoiler: Chanel works). And since learning more about hormone-disrupting ingredients' effect on our bodies and the environment, I've transformed into a veritable mineral sunscreen lover. The best mineral formula I recommend to everyone? C'est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion.

If you're not familiar with the topic, in 2018 Hawai'i became the first U.S. locale to ban oxybenzone and octinoxate out of concern for the ingredients' impact on coral reefs. Researchers found that the compounds were hormonally active, and when coral were exposed in a lab setting, the equivalent of one drop of oxybenzone in an ocean area the size of six-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools damaged coral and made it harder for them to recover from normal bleaching incidents.

As one of the study's authors told The Guardian, exposure "causes weird deformities in soft tissue, and also causes the coral larvae to encase itself in its own skeleton, in its own coffin" — not a happy image, especially given that, you know, the ocean is already on fire and has multiple enormous garbage patches floating around. It has enough going on, so switching to mineral sunscreen is an easy way to minimize environmental impact while still protecting yourself from UV damage.

C'est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Shop now: $18; target.com and amazon.com

Thankfully, the past few years have seen an influx of formulas that are wonderful to use (word to the wise, though: Avoid formulas that tout "clear zinc," since it's often nanotized and just as eco-unfriendly). The downside is that many of them are pricey, and that's not a great aspect for something you want to use a lot of, often.

Enter C'est Moi's fabulously hydrating sunscreen, an SPF 30 drugstore option that I first tried three years ago and repurchase to this day. The brand is fully EWG-approved, and its formulas are cruelty-, sulfate-, paraben-, phthalate-, and fragrance-free for maximum peace of mind. I rub a dollop between my hands to thin out the formula, then pat it on for easy, moisturizing coverage.

Other reviewers are just as impressed. "This sunscreen is amazing! You get adequate protection for every day, using gentle, clean ingredients," one person writes. "It melts into the skin and I had no issues with it pilling. Best of all, this is people of color friendly (I'm MAC NC40 for ref)! Most mineral sunscreens are ashy, but this isn't. For the first time ever, I don't have to spend an eternity rubbing it in for the ashiness to disappear."

More shoppers agree the moisture and protection last through the day; the lightweight lotion wears beautifully under makeup, doesn't clog pores or irritate rosacea, and leaves their skin feeling as soft as a baby's. The formula leaves such a glowy finish that one reviewer steals it from their daughter. And it's so effective, it shields skin through sunny vacations with ease, too.

Per a last reviewer, it's the Platonic ideal of a sunscreen. "It's always so hard for me to find an SPF that I like, since they always break out my sensitive skin. However, this product is great. It isn't greasy-feeling, and leaves skin feeling hydrated and protected." If $55 sunscreen isn't feasible, this one's well worth adding to your cart.

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