Our bodies absorb 70% of what we put on our skin…Be mindful
of what you put on your skin not only for the health risks
but also if you have diet restrictions, such as
gluten free, as it absolutely goes into your bloodstream.
I should have written this post in the spring but it’s never too late to start right with sunscreen. Plus, people travel and need sunscreen year round. We even use it in the winter on the ski hill as sun reflects off the snow (and water) – making the sun’s rays stronger – all the more reason everyone’s winter pale complexions need to be protected.
For starters, there are two types of sunscreen:
• MINERAL SUNSCREEN (sometimes called physical sunscreen) – sits on the surface of the skin and blocks/reflects rays, which is why you are able to go out, protected, in the sun immediately.
• CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN (classic, commercial sunscreens – hellooo Coppertone & Ombrelle) – is absorbed into your skin and therefore needs to be applied 20 minutes prior to heading out into the sun, where it absorbs (& sometimes scatters) the sun rays.
Mineral sunscreens are the natural, safer route. Most mineral sunscreens I find are also vegan, gluten free, etc.. Be mindful of what you put on your skin if you have diet restrictions as it absolutely goes into your bloodstream. Keep in mind, our bodies absorb 70% of what we put on our skin. 70%! With all the unknowns about cancer and other health issues, why wouldn’t you want to err on the side of caution and stay clear of absorbing chemicals into your skin and bloodstream (which can be measured in blood, urine and breast milk!?) that could do you or your kids harm. I prefer not to be a guinea pig with all the known health risks, and play it safe.
Some information on what to avoid and look for in your sunscreens before I get to my favourites:
The most worrisome synthetic chemical added to many sunscreens; oxybenzone, a hormone disrupting compound, is found in most non-mineral sunscreens.
Another chemical to avoid is Avobenzone. It works by absorbing the sun’s harmful radiation and then releasing it into the skin as free radicals, which act as a breeding ground for cancer to develop. Free radicals are also known to cause aging and are associated with allergies.
(Some feel avobenzone is safe, but I choose to avoid until further clarification on that.)
Parabens are a preservative and are found in many commercial sunscreens as well as other beauty products and are estrogen disruptors, eeeeek. Parabens have been associated with infertility, asthma, allergies and some forms of cancer, such as breast cancer.
VITAMIN A (retinyl palmitate)
Yup…another issue of free radicals once exposed to UV light. There is also talk of its daily use by pregnant women and its effect on the developing fetus.
I noticed my Badger mineral sunscreen says ‘non-nano’. I had to look this up as I wasn’t sure what this meant. It has to do with the particle size of the titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. That nano particles have the ability to pass through the skin more easily (which is why they aren’t as white as other sunscreens) and have a higher photo-reactivity, which also generates free radicals that may cause cell damage, increasing your risk of cancer.
Fragrance is made up of chemicals and can contain stabilizers, preservatives, scents and sometimes dyes. Try to avoid anything artificial from being sucked into your bloodstream. Stay as natural as possible. Lots of products are scented with essential oils or extracts these days (even my laundry detergent) or go unscented, as are all of our sunscreens mentioned below.
BROAD SPECTRUM UVA/UVB PROTECTION
You want to look for a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects you against both UVA (causing premature aging and cancer) and UVB (causing sunburn) rays. This is very important as some sunscreens protect only against one.
TITANIUM DIOXIDE &/OR ZINC OXIDE
Mineral sunscreens use a base of Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide, which automatically protects you from both UVA/UVB.
(Titanium Dioxide in its powdered form, when inhaled, is controversial at the moment; but until there is further studies on this, I’m ok to keep using it. There are, however, some mineral sunscreens that contain only zinc oxide, like Badger or Devita, mentioned below.)
WATER RESISTANT, IF NEEDED
Don’t forget to reapply as directed. I find every sunscreen is different so don’t apply one rule to them all. Sometimes, reapplying mid day is not enough, especially if swimming and/or sweating heavily is involved. Be more concerned about reapplying then using the highest number possible. Mineral sunscreens have a reputation for being white, but some are better than others, some hardly noticeable at all (like my daily natural sunscreen). Also be patient, I find that after applying, the white diminishes. Or there is a greasy, non-white option mentioned below.
my favourite natural sunscreens
I do like to experiment and explore different options with new, natural sunscreens. Partially because I’m always keeping my eyes open for new and improved mineral sunscreens or listen to feedback from my every growing and changing kids. This is the lot we are using this summer, that my kids and I are happy with.
Badger has a great reputation and scores really well on the EWG website (mentioned below). I’m guessing part of that is because it only contains zinc oxide (for those that don’t want the titanium dioxide mineral base). They’ve added a tint to this bottle to help diminish the white appearance. I find some minutes after applying this the pasty look subsides, especially if swimming.
Sometimes mineral sunscreen can feel like it dries out my skin – my kids’ too. This mineral sunscreen is not white, but greasy. There is a time where my skin feels dry and I find this greasy spray is refreshing on my skin. I would not wear it if I was wearing my favourite tunic. But I love wearing it on my face when I swim, opposed to looking like a pale ghost, for a waterproof option. My kids love this sunscreen when at the water and swimming a lot as the greasy feel goes unnoticed, and eventually goes away. It does say to reapply every 2 hours, which is less than other mineral sunscreens. But if you are looking for an alternative then the white sunscreens then this is a good option.
This brand is fantastic. We love the spray, but we spray into our hands first. We find this one is not as white as some other mineral brands. The only downside is after repeated, daily use your skin can feel dry. Solution – be sure to wash it off at night and moisturize your skin, because after testing a lot of other brands, this one is worth the extra effort (if it dries out your skin). It only dried my older two kids’ skin, not my 4 year old’s skin. The stick is handy too to shove in your kids’ knapsacks. We use it for the face only, but really cover your face with it before rubbing it in, not just a few strokes.
My everyday, non-water resistant mineral sunscreen. It’s not greasy or white. I love it. I put it over top of my regular face and body moisturizers. The kids wear it too if we’re not going to be in water. Only downfall is that it’s hard to find in Ontario or I find the price is expensive where I have seen it. But that won’t stop me – I love online shopping, and order it regularly at cheaper prices from luckyvitamin.com or IHerb.com. Vitacost.com also sells it and ships duty free to Canada.
UPDATE August, 20, 2017:
THINK SPORT/THINK BABY
My daughter’s new favourite sunscreen (and she’s almost 13, she is very ‘particular’). We buy the 50 but it comes in 30 as well; because, being on the water sailing all summer she needed something higher. I bought Think Baby by mistake but it contains the same ingredients as Think Sport (exact sunscreens often have different packaging for kids/babies). We love the smell (orange?) and my daughter says the Think Baby rubs in easier. It’s not greasy and doesn’t leave you looking like a ghost. And it is rated as a 1 (excellent!) on the ewg website. I bought it first in a health food store, and also ordered it online at well.ca. Did I mention we love the smell?
And don’t forget about the basic, common sense protectors:
Use the below list in addition to sunscreen, or if you’re not one for wearing sunscreen, whether you don’t like the hassle or the chemicals in the classic sunscreen or the whiteness or grease of the mineral sunscreen, it is not that hard to protect your skin in other ways:
• hats (not baseball)
• long sleeve tunics/linen shirts; sarongs draped over your shoulders
• find shade from a tree or parasol when on the beach
• plan your outdoor time before and after the strongest sun hours (12-3pm), when the sun is lower
NOTE Kid’s sunscreens are often the same as regular sunscreen, the kids’ label can just be a marketing tactic. Simply compare the two ingredients list and don’t hesitate to buy regular if you can’t find any kids versions. Also, I’m just noticing now that my goddess garden bottle says ‘shake well’, which we didn’t notice before. Take note of that as surely not shaking the bottle has an affect on the protection it provides.
Also check out EWG‘s website’s cosmetic database if you haven’t already. It allows you to plug in any sunscreen (or any other personal care or beauty product) and will tell you if it’s healthy or not.
Play safe and never assume a product is healthy or safe because you’ve been told or sold that it is. Own your health and your kids health, too. A little effort goes a long way.
summary of tips
oxybenzone, avobenzone, parabens, sprays (unless you spray into your palm first), vitamin A, nanoparticle minerals, fragrances
zinc &/or titanium mineral based sunscreen, non-nano, water-resistant if needed, tinted creams to help diminish the white appearance; don’t forget to shake well and kids versions often the same as regular