As summer is finally upon us (well it was briefly…and presumably it will be back) I have been meaning to research and start testing natural sunscreen alternatives. However I am late off the mark as have just come across eco glam blogger Glamology’s Top 10 List of the safest sunscreens, as tested by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which seems like the most appropriate place to start my research!
The EWG is a non-profit organization which provides the invaluable job of testing hundreds of everyday cosmetic products, analysing their ingredients and the effects of these on our health. It then rates each product on a scale of 0-10 based on its toxicity level, and thus risk to our health: 0-2 is low hazard; 3-6 is moderate hazard; and 7-10 is high hazard. Surprisingly (or not, depending on how informed you are), even some of the products you may consider to be natural or organic come up with a 6 or above rating. If you have some time I’d suggest testing a few of your most beloved products by searching in the EWG’s cosmetic database and see how much you love them afterwards…I was suitably shocked!
The key to a safe sunscreen is that it should not contain chemicals which can penetrate our skin (and accumulate inside us), whilst still providing lasting UVA and UVB protection, as well as protection against free radicals. Plus we of course want it to be silky smooth, non-greasy and leave no whitewash marks. Unfortunately there is no magic solution yet as we must choose either chemical based creams which are potential hormone disrupters, or mineral based screams, which don’t always feel as pleasant on the skin from what I’ve heard (although I am yet to test them).
Zinc and titanium minerals are suitable for reducing UVA exposure in place of harsh chemicals such as oxybenzone or 4-MBC which penetrate skin and are believed to be potential hormone disrupters. The below listed brands also do not include Vitamin A in their formulations as recent research by the FDA has found that vitamin A may speed up the development of cancer and “speed the development of skin tumors and lesions” “when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight” (NTP 2009 EWG).
The EWG say “Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) is another good option [for protecting against UVA and B rays], but it’s sold in very few formulations. Tinosorb S and M could be great solutions but are not yet available in the U.S.” I’ll be looking around to see what options the UK market has to offer, perhaps with these minerals in their formulations.
Badger Sunscreen claims it blocks both UVA and UVB rays with an outstanding “Critical Wavelength” score. The formula is water resistant for up to 40 minutes and is moisturising due to ingredients such as Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter and Wild African Shea Butter. Plus, infusions of essentials oils including lavender, lime and orange claim to give it a delicious smell. I’m sold!
From the same range, I found a SPF 15 lip balm which looks great too!
Containing Aloe, Shea Butter and Safflower Seed Oil, this balm from Beyond Coastal sounds like it’d offer really strong protection against the sun and other elements, perfect for outdoor activities such as skiing or surfing. I can’t find it stocked in the UK so you’d have to order from Amazon.com.
This is another I can’t find in the UK, however it looks like a great choice for babies and children and if you like a stick applicator for easy application for the face, hands etc. It has an average 4* rating on Amazon.com (out of 10 customer reviews). However if you prefer a lotion application, you could try the California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30 Lotion ($17.99 on Amazon.com).
Woo hoo – another one available from the UK! Jasons Sunbrellas range uses a mineral formulation that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to protect against UVA and UVB rays. It’s chemical free, fragrance and paraben free, water resistant and enriched with chamomile and marigold extracts to soothe as well as protect. It also claims to be hypo-allergenic making it extra safe for babies and sensitive souls.
6. La Roche-Posay Anthelios SPF 40 ‘Melt-In’ Cream (£11.30 at Health & Beauty Shop)
This is labelled slightly differently than the one on the EWG site – but I think it’s the same. Roche-Posay’s SPF 40 cream claims to protect the skin from cell damage with its unique formulation containing the above mentioned by the EWG Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL (patented sunscreen agents). It’s also non-comedogenic, “fluid and easy to apply”. Just from reading the blurb I get the impression that this could feel quite nice on the skin, although I could just be a sucker for the marketing copy! Unfortunately it’s out of stock for the moment though. Another indicator that it’s a popular product perhaps?
For further reading, the EWG’s Sunscreens Exposed: 9 surprising truths is very informative.
Also check out Caroline Hirons of Beauty Mouth’s (informative) rant about Vitamin D. She explains that although SPF is advisable for long periods of sun exposure, we still need our Vit D – and we can’t get that with sunscreen on. It’s well worth a read.