In theory, sunscreen sticks sound like a great product. They’re easy to apply and you can throw ‘em in your handbag without worrying about potential spillage. But after scouring various product pages, I realized that many mineral/physical sunscreen sticks aren’t designed with acne-prone people in mind. Many of them contain at least one of the ingredients on Acne.org’s list of comedogenic ingredients to avoid—typically cocoa butter and/or coconut oil. Let me show you a few examples.
Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 30 ingredients
Active Ingredients: zinc oxide (15%) (non-nano)
Inactive Ingredients: beeswax, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, calophyllum tacamahaca seed oil, cannabis sativa seed oil, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, jojoba esters, octyldodecyl oleate, oryza sativa (rice) bran oil, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, tocopherol
Although Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick SPF 30 is purely zinc oxide-based (yay), it contains cocoa butter.
Coppertone waterBABIES pure & simple SPF 50 sunscreen stick ingredients
Active ingredients: Octinoxate (7.5%), Octocrylene (10%), Zinc Oxide (15%)
Inactive ingredients: caprylic/capric triglyceride, ozokerite, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, lauryl laurate, bis-peg-12 dimethicone beeswax, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, synthetic beeswax
Coppertone waterBABIES pure & simple SPF 50 sunscreen stick mixes two chemical filters with zinc oxide, and also contains cocoa butter.
Baby Bum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick
Active ingredient: zinc oxide (19.2%)
Inactive Ingredients: cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, linum usitatissimum (linseed) seed oil, oryza sativa (rice bran) wax, butyloctyl salicylate, ozokerite, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), oryzanol, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, carthamus tinctorius (safflower) seed oil, jojoba esters, tocopherol, bisabolol
This one looked really nice because it contained bisabolol and was based purely on zinc oxide for sunscreen filters. However, the first inactive ingredient is a big no-no for my acne-prone face: coconut oil. Plus, like the previous two sunscreen sticks, this one also contains cocoa butter.
Why do sunscreen sticks contain comedogenic ingredients?
I even went so far as to ask my dad if there was a reason why coconut oil and/or cocoa butter were so commonly found in mineral sunscreen sticks. He didn’t think that it would be a problem to find one without either of these ingredients, so I guess there’s no obvious reason why these ingredients seem to be so common in sunscreen sticks.
My dad the chemist’s thoughts on sunscreen sticks for acne-prone peeps
Dear Emily, the best sunscreen for preventing breakout is mineral sunscreen, you should be able to find some formulas that aren’t oily( or greasy) and also not containing cocoa butter or coconut oil, And the best is Zinc Oxide as active.
My dad doesn’t know why this is so common in the products I found. He thinks that mineral sunscreens—particularly ones that contain zinc oxide—are actually the best for acne-prone skin. This only made me feel even more motivated to find a physical sunscreen stick that was suitable for me.
My non-comedogenic sunscreen stick search continues…
Of course, just because a product contains cocoa butter and/or coconut oil, it’s not necessarily going to make you break out. Still, I’d rather not take the risk, especially since I’ve had a few negative experiences with coconut oil in the past, so I know my skin just doesn’t tolerate that ingredient very well.
After a bit more digging, I found two physical/mineral sunscreen sticks that didn’t contain coconut oil or cocoa butter: Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick and CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Stick. I’ll be reviewing Neutrogena’s product in this post, but I hope to try CeraVe’s at a later date.
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ ingredients
Active ingredients: titanium dioxide (8%), zinc oxide (6.8%)
Inactive ingredients: beeswax, bht, c12-15 alkyl benzoate, dimethicone, dipropylene glycol dibenzoate, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, octyldodecyl neopentanoate, ozokerite, paraffin, phenyl trimethicone, polyethylene, polyhydroxystearic acid, ppg-15 stearyl ether benzoate, triethoxycaprylylsilan
Like the other sunscreen sticks I saw, this one contains beeswax, candelilla wax, ozokerite, and paraffin, all very waxy substances that are commonly found in lip balms. I guess that makes sense…a sunscreen stick is sort of like a chapstick with SPF, except designed to cover the rest of your face, not just your lips.
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ review
My first impressions of Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ have been pretty good so far. It leaves a slightly waxy finish but not in a horrible way. It’s actually pretty sheer, as well, considering that it contains zinc oxide.
I’ve listed a few other notes about this product below, but overall, I’m highly pleased with my purchase of Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+. If you’re looking for a sunscreen stick that only contains physical sunscreen filters and doesn’t contain potentially comedogenic ingredients like cocoa butter or coconut oil, give this one a try.
How to apply sunscreen sticks
Sunscreen sticks are typically waxier than liquid sunscreens. Whereas regular sunscreen regulations are regularly publicized (about a shotglass-sized portion is required to cover your body), the guidelines for sunscreen sticks are less well known. I found out that you’re supposed to apply sunscreen sticks at least four times back and forth to get proper protection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Minimal white cast
Although Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ is a physical sunscreen, it doesn’t lighten your skin too much or make you look like Casper the ghost. You can see what it looked like after I rubbed it four times back and forth on my hand:
Not too noticeable, right? I did notice that it felt like it left a waxy residue on my skin, though. If you don’t like that feeling, you might not be a fan of this product (or any other sunscreen sticks in general).
Designed for sensitive skin (and babies)
Another great part about Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ is that it’s fragrance-free and designed for babies’ sensitive skin. It also doesn’t contain any of the high-scoring comedogenic ingredients listed in Acne.org’s list.
Con: Not as much product as you’d expect
I was curious to see if the amount of sunscreen in the package would align with my expectations, based on the packaging. Here’s what it looks like in the package. My naive assumption was that you would get the full length of the pink part of the package, which looks to be about 2.5 inches.
However, once I opened it and twisted the wheel along the bottom to fully expand the length of the stick, it looked like the stick only measured about 1.2 inches. That’s a bit disappointing…
I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it’s only 0.47 oz. If you apply this sunscreen stick as recommended (four times back and forth across all exposed parts of your skin), you’d probably go through these pretty quick. It’s not the more economical option, but it’s very convenient for everyday touchups. Plus, it’s designed to be gentle on your skin.
I like that Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ provides 80 minutes of water-resistant protection, which makes it a great option for beach days. I probably wouldn’t use it as my main source of sunscreen at the beach—not only because I’d need several of these sticks to be able to apply it all over my body, but also because it would make everything feel super waxy.
However, I think it’s a nice solution for reapplying sunscreen during or after a hike. When you’re hiking and your hands are dirty/grimy, you probably don’t want to get your face all dirty by slathering another layer of sunscreen on top. Sunscreen sticks provide a hands-free way to reapply after you’ve sweat off your first layer of sunscreen, so you can continue to get SPF protection. I also think I’ll use it to reapply sunscreen at the end of a day at the office. For some reason, I feel less self-conscious about quickly swiping this across my face a few times—it seems faster and less conspicuous than whipping out a bottle of sunscreen and rubbing it into my face.
Whether you use it for beach days or everyday SPF touchups, I think this Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick is a great product to keep in your bag at all times. You can find it on Amazon here or at your local drugstore.