Not all sunscreens are created equal! Here's how to get top level protection from sunscreens that use only safe, natural ingredients (and why it's so important to avoid the sunscreens that don't).
Most of us can spend a small amount of time in the sun without an SPF and benefit from the boost of vitamin D. But for extended periods in the sun (and we’re hoping for lots of those now that summer is here!) and for people with fragile, sensitive skin, it’s absolutely vital to have a healthy sun protocol that includes hats, sunglasses, cover-ups, sunscreen, and after sun care.
In fact, one of the most important things you’ll purchase this summer is a safe, effective sunscreen. But how to choose which to go for?
See Organico's full range of sun protection:
The Trouble with Chemical Sunscreens
Most mainstream sunscreens—the type you’ll commonly find in a supermarket—are chemical sunscreens. They’re made of a carbon-based compound that penetrates the skin. They work by absorbing UV rays into the skin, changing the rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin.
There are more than a few troubling things about chemical sunscreens:
Because they create heat in the skin, they can irritate sensitive or compromised skin, particularly skin affected by rosacea. They’re also linked to a higher rate of breakouts in people with acne-prone skin.
By inviting UV rays into the deeper layers of skin, they create the possibility for those rays to damage the skin below its surface.
There’s also evidence that chemical sunscreens disrupt hormone production in females and males of all ages. One very common active ingredient in chemical sunscreen, oxybenzone, has been associated with increased risk of endometriosis in women, weakened sperm quality in men, skin allergies, hormone disruption, and cellular damage.
What’s more, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aren't confident enough to declare the ingredients in chemical sunscreens as safe. They’re currently trying to gather data to determine whether or not the 12 active ingredients commonly used in chemical sunscreens should be evaluated as Generally Regarded as Safe and Effective (GRASE). For now, there’s not enough evidence to definitively make the call. So why run the risk?
Mineral Sunscreens to the Rescue!
Two active sunscreen ingredients that the FDA have declared as GRASE are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. But you won’t find these ingredients in chemical sunscreens; they’re unique to a whole other category of sun protection known as mineral (or physical) sunscreens.
Mineral sunscreens are formulated out of tiny particles that sit on top of the skin where they deflect and scatter UVA and UVB rays away from the skin. Unlike chemical sunscreens, they don’t create heat (making them better for people with sensitive skin) and they don’t penetrate the skin (so they’re less likely to clog pores).
More to love about Mineral Sunscreens
- Mineral sunscreens are naturally broad-spectrum which means they offer strong protection against UVA and UVB rays
- They start working as soon they’re applied, there’s no waiting for them to kick into effect
- They last longer in direct UV light than chemical sunscreens
When you’re playing in the sun, all sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours, but it’s important to reapply mineral sunscreens more often if you’re swimming or sweating, as they easily rinse off.
The thing about SPF (or ‘Sun Protection Factor’) is that the sunscreen industry wants us to believe the higher the number the better, but experts argue that anything above SPF 50 offers a marginal amount of extra protection. According to the EWG: “When used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values in the range of 30 to 50 will offer adequate sunburn protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn.”
You see, SPF only refers to protection against UVB rays (the kind that cause sunburn) and not UVA rays (the kind that penetrate the skin and cause damage on a cellular level). It's easy to fall into a false sense of security when you're using a high SPF, thinking you're fully protected so you stay in the sun longer and reapply sunscreen less often, when in fact, you're overexposing yourself to UVA and UVB rays.
If you’ll be out in the sun for awhile, Cancer Research UK suggest wearing an SPF 15 or higher and generously reapplying it at least every two hours. It’s also important to know when to cover up with clothing and hats and when to move to a shaded area or indoors (see their page for more details about all that).
Our Favourite Mineral Sunscreens
This certified organic company comes out of the UK and is committed to using only cruelty-free, ethically-sourced natural ingredients. Their line of healthy, natural sun protection uses non-toxic UV filters and a blend of antioxidant-rich rosemary, green tea and edelweiss to protect and nurture the skin.
The sun lotion with tan accelerator gives 25% more tan that lasts (through moisture retention) 50% longer. Its collagen-boosting and antioxidant properties provide additional protection from UV rays.
Shop Green People Sun Lotion with Tan Accelerator
Even better, all of Green People’s sun products now come in plant-based packaging.
Weleda is a naturopathic company that’s been around since the early 1920s. They’re loved for their gentle, cruelty-free skincare made with biodynamic ingredients and Green Energy methods.
The mineral-based sun protection for Babies and Kids, in SPF 30 and SPF 50, from Weleda is waterproof and designed for sensitive skin. The fragrance-free formula contains nourishing coconut oil and shea butter to moisturise as it protects, and edelweiss to provide antioxidant power against sun damage. The lotions create a visible white layer so it’s obvious when and where a top up is needed on your child’s body.
Baby & Kids Sunscreen Lotion Sensitive SPF 30 Baby & Kids Sunscreen Lotion Sensitive SPF 50
This German company was among the first to develop a natural, mineral-based sun protection with their sunblock that hit the market in 1990. We think the company is great for their commitment to natural, healthy skincare that they keep at affordable prices. Their sunscreen is a mineral-based spray that goes on easily and nurtures as well as protects the skin. Perfect for stowing in your handbag and quickly reapplying during a long sunny day in town.
Shop Lavera Sun Spray
Organii’s range of mineral-based natural sun protection is certified organic and made for the whole family. The sun cream is waterproof, perfect for a day in the water, and fragrance free which makes it suitable for sensitive skin.
Shop Organii Sun Cream
The sun milk has a lightweight fluid consistency that blends effortlessly and dries quickly, leaving no residue on the skin. Moisturising extracts of olive fruit, jojoba, sunflower and argan oils keep the skin soft and supple in the heat.
Shop Organii Sun Milk SPF 50Shop Organii Sun Milk SPF 20
If you’ve ever wished for a facial sunscreen that offers anti-aging benefits, Organii has you covered with extracts of argan oil, coconut, carrot seed and flax seed oils that firm and hydrate the skin.
Shop Organii Facial Sun Cream
Badger Natural Mineral Sunscreen for kids is made with only 6 ingredients! The cream is hypoallergenic and biodegradable (making it a good choice for the environment), and it smells like creamsicle. With protection that is water and sweat resistant for up to 40 minutes, it's a must have for long, active summer days.
Shop Badger Kids Sunscreen - SPF 30
Badger Baby Sunscreen is tested by pediatricians and rated as one of the safest sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group. Not only does it protect delicate baby skin from UVA and UVB rays, but it soothes and moisturises with chamomile and calendula.
Shop Badger Baby Sunscreen - SPF 30
For UV protection that is firmly rooted in the skincare category rather than the sunblock category, you couldn’t do better than Trilogy’s Age Proof Multi-Defence Moisturiser with SPF15. This is first and foremost a face moisturiser formulated to hydrate the skin, even the skin tone, and smooth the appearance of wrinkles while also providing protection from UV rays including blue light. The moisturiser mattifies the face and works really well as a base for make-up.
Shop Trilogy Age Proof Multi-Defence Moisturiser with SPF15
After Sun Care
Finished with the sun for the day? Your sun protection routine isn’t over yet! Now’s the time to give your skin the after sun care it needs to stay healthy and hydrated. Even if your skin didn’t burn in the sun, sun exposure can accumulate in its layers and, over time, result in visible signs of damage including premature aging, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.
The key to avoiding damage from sun exposure is to keep the skin hydrated and the skin barrier strong and supple. That means getting moisture deep into the layers of your skin where it can soothe any irritation from the sun before it becomes a visible side effect. Plus, effective after sun care will help your tan last longer!
Weleda After Sun Lotion
Weleda’s light and non-sticky formula contains organic olive oil, cooling aloe vera gel, skin-soothing nettle, refreshing eucalyptus and calming lavender to regenerate the skin after UV exposure and counteract the sun’s drying effects. Think of this as a long, cool drink for thirsty skin!
Shop Weleda After Sun Lotion
Organii After Sun Cream
Organic Aloe Vera Gel
If a day in the sun results in a burn, it’s so important to take therapeutic action as soon as possible to control the damage and stimulate healing. Bioactive aloe vera gel brings cooling relief to the skin—so a burn becomes less painful—while antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and polysaccharides stimulate the healing and regrowth of skin.
Shop Organic Aloe Vera Gel
See Organico's full range of sun protection:
Want a more scientific approach to choosing your sun protection based on your skin type? See Hannah's article How to calculate your sun protection period and tan naturally.
Fun in the Sun
If all this sun protection seems like a hassle, remember that your beautiful body and your precious skin deserve the extra care. Here’s wishing you a happy and safe summer with many glorious days in the sunshine!