natural sunscreen

In Australia, we understand it is essential to be sun-safe and wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing during the summer months and when we spend a considerable amount of time in the outdoors.

As a naturopath, I’m always educating my clients on how to reduce their exposure to toxins in their environment, their food, and their skincare, and this includes sunscreen.

Swapping your conventional chemical sunscreen for a natural mineral-based sunscreen has a number of benefits for your health and the environment.

Conventional or chemical-based sunscreens usually contain 2 or more chemical filters such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. When you rub these sunscreens into your skin, the ingredients penetrate the epidermis and dermis layers of your skin and work by absorbing the damaging UV light.

One problem is that, when these chemicals are absorbed into your skin, they make their way into your bloodstream, and these chemicals are toxic. They can accumulate in our bodies, burden our liver and disrupt our hormones.

Phthalates and parabens are another problem. They are common ingredients found in many skincare products, and also often used in chemical sunscreens as fragrances or preservatives and credible clinical studies indicate that they are associated with a number of serious health problems including infertility, testicular dysgenesis, obesity, asthma, allergies and breast cancer.

Then there is the environmental impact of these chemical sunscreens. Two of the most widely used chemical sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone and octinoxate, were banned in 2018 in Hawaii because they devastate marine life, including coral, algae, sea urchins, fish and mammals. This ban has since been followed in the US Virgin Islands, Palau, Key West in Florida and resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean and Fiji.

Mineral sunscreens are made from natural ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These minerals create a physical barrier on your skin that deflecting the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays rather than absorbing them. As an added bonus, they begin to work immediately once applied.

As these minerals create a physical barrier, they are a little thicker in texture than chemical-based sunscreen, but technology is evolving and micronized versions of these minerals are resulting in more sheer and smooth formulas.

The brands that produce natural sunscreens generally use organic ingredients and avoid fragrances or preservatives making them suitable for sensitive skin. It is also worth mentioning zinc oxide can be beneficial for anyone with skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea or psoriasis.

My 4 favorite natural sunscreens are:

Little Urchin Natural Sunscreen
The founder of Little Urchin wanted to create a sunscreen for his young daughter that was safe and chemical-free.
• Broad Spectrum UVA & UVB protection
• SPF 30
• 100% natural and organic
• Safe for Babies, 6 months and up
• Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide
• Other ingredients: Cucumber, Green Tea, and Rose Hip
• 2-3 hours water resistant
• Preservative free
• Fragrance-free
• Suitable for sensitive skin
• Smooth, clear & non-Greasy
• Best choice for young children and babies and sensitive skin

Surf Mud Sunscreen Lotion
Originally designed for surfers, this sunscreen is hydrating and sweat resistant. It is also available in a baby/children version called ‘Surf Baby’.
• Broad Spectrum UVA & UVB protection
• SPF 30
• Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide
• Other ingredients: Beeswax and Kaolin Clay
• Skin tone
• 4 hours water resistant
• Suitable for face and body
• Non-toxic
• Non-irritating
• Non-allergenic
• Fragrance-free
• Australian made
• Best choice for outdoor exercise

Eco By Sonya Driver Natural Sunscreen
This zinc-based sunscreen rubs in clearly, is non-tinted and suitable for the face and body.
• Broad Spectrum UVA & UVB protection
• SPF 30
• Australian made
• Natural formula
• Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide
• Other ingredients: Vitamin E, Green Tea and Rose Hip
• Non-Greasy Formula
• Water-resistant
• No synthetic, harsh ingredients
• Best choice for anti-aging

Lifebasics by Nourished Life
Also zinc-based, but the lightest cream of all of the products listed. The texture is the most like a conventional sunscreen.
• Board Spectrum UVA & UVB protection
• SPF 30
• Australian made
• Vegan and all-natural
• Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide
• Other ingredients: Calendula, Rosehip Oil and Green Tea
• Designed for the face but can be used all over
• Only available online
• Best texture and absorption

Sun safety

Prolonged high-risk sun exposure should be avoided. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen after you have been in the water or sweating excessively: water-resistant does not mean waterproof and you should reapply any sunscreen every 2 hours.

Try to avoid using sunscreen all day every day. In the morning take a short amount of time in the sun without sunscreen to allow your body to produce vitamin D and in winter, when the sun is not as harsh and you are not outside all day, you may not need sunscreen. This will depend greatly on your skin type and where you live in Australia.

Jean Jarrett is a naturopath, nutrition, and Buteyko breathing practitioner at Elemental Health in St Ives. She believes strongly in ‘food as medicine’ and works with her clients to educate them and help them implement dietary changes in ways that best suit their lifestyle.

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