review: Elemental Herbs sunscreens

Tested out the stick version and two sunscreens (one is the old formula; keep an eye on them over the next couple of months as there’s more reformulation going on). All are cruelty-free, unscented, cheap, have zinc oxide as the sunscreen active / filter, and are SPF 30.

ELEMENTAL HERBS SPF 30 STICK (unscented version)

  • 20% ZnO
  • iHerb: $5.76 / (RRP $7.99)

is dry dry dry: usable if you scrape some off and rub it between fingertips to melt. Used on lips, around the eyes, and on hands. Functions, but feels dry on skin, is whitening, and basically like one of the old zinc oxide sticks from the 1980s. I feel old for remembering them. And the glorious technicolour face-paints…

UPDATE (2013-03): I don’t know if the formula changed or I got better at using this stuff. I now love it. It’s nice and moist on skin, helps keep lips moisturized, applies smoothly, and is not whitening. A different creature altogether.

Here’s the joy: it looks great in theory / on paper:

Drug Facts
Active Ingredients Purpose
Zinc Oxide 20% (Non-nanoparticle) Sunscreen
Inactive Ingredients: Cera alba (beeswax)*, sesame indicum (sesame seed) oil*, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba seed) oil*, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax*, persea americana (avocado) oil*, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter*, tapioca starch*, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil*, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)*, mauritia flexuosa (buriti) fruit oil*, tocopherol (vitamin E).
*Certified Organic by USDA/NOP

Better Other options: BurnOut and Loving Naturals sticks. Even, godshelpus, Purple Prairie (though it goes off fast).

Confusingly, the manufacturer’s website lists the Kids and Sport versions of the sunscreen as being interchangeable. This is not in fact the case.
[SEE UPDATES FURTHER DOWN: both are now one single formula, and it’s the more elegant one. Nice.]


  • 20% ZnO
  • iHerb: $11.54 / 89 ml (RRP $15.99)

is nice: moister than my regular, BurnOut Ocean Tested, which is one of the moister of the BurnOut range. I used the Kids on body and neck; still in experimental stages on face. Will report back on that in a month or so. Sorry: while my skin is sensitive and irritable all over, and this means that if it reacts, it’ll do so really fast with no waiting around (major pro for product testing); on my face, I’ll test things out for at least 6 weeks so as to take into account hormonal fluctuations and interactions with any possibility of hormonal breakouts. Chin. Usually stress-related.


  • 22.5% ZnO
  • iHerb: $11.54 / 89 ml (RRP $15.99)

is very very very nice: still moist, but very fluid. Applied like a dream. Now, one word of warning: again, this is a preliminary pre-review. As with the previous two, no irritation. But unlike other sunscreens reviewed on this blog, I haven’t put these to the test properly yet: i.e. intense sunshine and water. This is because I LIVE IN VANCOUVER + AM NOT ON VACATION.

Caveat over: the Sport is the most fluid “all-natural” silicone-free sunscreen I’ve used. Hands down.

Other plus: that buriti oil is interesting: has also been used in the last ten years by L’Occitane and by Cliniderm in their sunscreens. Besides being moisturizing, it has antioxidants that boost SPF, and would appear to have other sun-protecting/-filtering properties: see for ex. this article from the European Polymer Journal, vol. 42 no. 12 (2006), and this one from Food and Chemical Toxicology 48.1 (2010).

2012-08-13 UPDATE (re. stuff above and below): both the Kids and Sport are now the same new formula, the one with buriti oil, ingredients as on the Sport label above, and nice and fluid.

Great on body. Like I said, not tested for waterproofness. OK on some parts of face and nearby (ex. neck, throat, upper-bosom-reaches); zittifies my otherwise fairly placid T- and A-zones. From between brows, down nose, across chin. Within a day. Alas. But: not throwing it out, using it as a splendid and decently-priced body sunscreen. Will be testing this out in water on next vacation that involves water in a place warm enough to stick one’s feet into it, and indeed rest of body. Will update on that in early March 2013…


Couple more warnings re. possibilities for confusion: hasn’t been updated recently (and is badly-designed and security-compromised, FWIW). There’s more than one apparent online shoping site for them; one,, is now either fatally compromised or has been lost: my links from just two weeks ago now lead to an ad for “Nexternal eCommerce Platform & Shopping Cart Software.”

The ingredient lists on their main site are incomplete and (legally) incorrect (= not in accordance with INCI convention), ex.

iHerb has correct ingredient lists that correspond to reality, checked on my tubes (see pictures above).

Story: I ordered the Kids first (springtime experiments with new s/s). I liked it and went back to iherb to reorder.

It was out of stock but the Sport wasn’t. As at that time according to iherb (who are usually fairly reliable) they both had the same ingredients, I ordered the Sport instead. I thought I was getting the same stuff in different packaging.

But no: different ingredients and stuff. Difference vs. kids:
difference in texture
+ Sport has grape seed juice, buriti oil, and more ZnO
– no tocopherol
[Also: grape seed juice? I thought juice = fruit (mainly water), seed = oil (and other extracts)?? Mystified or am I tired and missing something, like juicing a seed being a logical and obv as milking a cat???]

The Kids had been out of stock with iHerb, and the Sport is currently out of stock with them. I haven’t seen the Kids one for sale elsewhere online: jus the Sport one in and a few surf shops. The Sport one I have is the new version of it (old Sport = identical to old / last-seen Kids, the March/April 2012 version). Elemental Herbs is reformulating, progressively, and that Sport is a newer formulation (phew! I was scared the less-nice Kids might be the reformation!!). From their blog (May 23, 2012):

Whether they’ll change the Kids one to be the same: unknown.

OK, proviso to that caveat: I’ve only done patch-testing on other people for some others in the 2011-12 “green-er-ish” sunscreen crop, and not on me, because there’s been a tendency for the nicer more elegantly-formulated newer ones to have an aloe vera gel base. This is great for providing the same sort of slip, feel, and finish as a “less green” silicone-based sunscreen. Unfortunately, my skin is irritated by that amount of aloe.

There will be another post giving a rapid, rough & ready, cursory (and probably crude & rude) run-down of the current EWG Hot Sunscreen List, many of which are that sort of aloe-based formulation. No, I’m not softening up in my old age. Yes, I still stand by everything I’ve said about the EWG. But a sunscreen list is a sunscreen list; EWG research is improving; and it’s as good a base-list as any others around online. That is: as a starting-point for possible products if you’re in the market for a new sunscreen, or just to check up and keep yourself up-to-date on what’s new.


  1. Kim

    Hi there,

    Thanks for taking time to review the elemental herbs sunscreens(:
    I am currently looking for a sunscreen that is non-whitening, non-drying nor too oily and the most important, SAFE to use.
    And then I came across your blog review, which is great!
    After hearing good reviews about the Kids version I am tempted to buy it, as my face often gets dry at first use, and then oily at the end of the day (I know, it sounds weird…)
    And then I read your review on the stick (unscented) version, I am considering it versus the Kids version.
    But then, I am scared that they are coming up with the old formulation again, sigh…

    One question, which one do you prefer between the Kids version and the stick version?
    Are there any irritations when you’re using them on the face?
    Are they offering enough protection, both in daily use and vacation/outdoor activities?

    Thanks in advance!

    • gingerama

      Hi Kim,

      Well, I use these two sunscreens for very different purposes. I like the stick one for lips and around the eyes, but I’d never use it on face and rest of body. For starters, the cocoa butter in it: zits on me. Yes, even though I have dry skin: it still breaks out with stuff like that. But on the different, very thin skin on lips and in the immediate eye-area? Great stuff.

      I’ve used and liked the Kids and Sport sunscreens, which when I last looked were the exact same formulation. But, again, specific usage: I don’t like the feel so much on face (though it’s tolerable, and it’s a nice light texture compared to, say, old Badger). Good on body.

      As you’ll see from other reviews (just type “sunscreen” into the search box on this blog, all the relevant posts will come up) I’m not using either of them right now.

      Lips & eyes: yes, I sometimes still use the Sunstick, but mainly BurnOut lip sunscreen, the coconut flavour one (being the closest they make to unscented).

      Face: BurnOut Eco-sensitive (on moisturised skin, NB)

      Body: BurnOut Ocean Tested, Graham’s SunClear, or Replenix sheer physical spray.

      All of the above are zinc oxide-only; and all are SPF 30 except the Replenix, which is SPF 50.

      That last one, the Replenix physical spray, is really lovely: and definitely worth a try on the face–light, elegant, etc–provided, as with all sunscreens, that your skin is OK with all the ingredients. In my own case, I have to be careful with cyclopentasiloxane in leave-on products (otherwise: zits). So unless you have a known definite proven issue with cyclopentasiloxane, this is actually the one I’d recommend most strongly right now as possibly the best all-physical sunscreen currently available.

      Second-best, and better on price: the BurnOuts.

      Hope that helps!

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