Get prepared to stop buying those chemical fuelled suncreams.
Have you ever questioned what goes into suncream to make it so effective? Maybe you are questioning the toxicity of the suncream you're putting on your skin and are searching for an alternative - a suncream more natural but just as effective. It's a difficult choice at the best of times, let alone when you're faced with even more choice.
The good news is that there are brilliant options out there and I have done the research for you, giving you 4 things you need to consider when buying a natural suncream to make sure that it works exactly the way you want it to for you...and your family.
Ultimately the reason for using the suncream in the first place will provide you with your sun cream requirements.
For what reason do you need the suncream and who is it for? Kids? Adults? For daily coverage, use in water? Are you able to apply frequently? Is it for someone with sensitive skin? Do you require hypoallergenic or fragrance free?
Do you need an easy spray or are you happy with a cream?
Whatever your reason, having the answers to these questions in mind will stand you in good stead when choosing.
2. Active Ingredients - what to look for and what to avoid.
In 2019, when the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the agency that governs suncream safety – proposed its most recent updates to suncream regulations, it found that only two ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, could be classified as safe and effective. But it also found that there are three main chemicals in normal suncream that may be endocrine disruptors (wreaking havoc with your hormones) - homosalate, avobenzone and oxybenzone. These chemicals also stick around for weeks after being used and have even been found in breastmilk and urine (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010).
So in short, look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and avoid oxybenzone, homosalate and avobenzone.
Higher SPF sunscreens contains higher concentrations of chemical sunscreen ingredients. It is scientifically shown that chemical sunscreen ingredients can be absorbed into the skin, and when struck by UV radiation, these can become quite aggressive free radicals, increasing the risk of damage. Remember that chemical, oxybenxone, we just talked about? Oxybenzone is a frequently used, inexpensive active ingredient which helps achieve high SPF ratings, it is also widely known as being one of the most irritating raw ingredients to work with. So it may be worth opting for a lower SPF but applying more frequently.
Another aspect of SPF to consider is that the SPF value on product labels only pertains to UVB protection. So a sunscreen with an over-the-top SPF may not adequately shield skin from the harmful ultraviolet A rays that cause skin aging and possibly melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
4. Other ingredients
Fragrance - That lovely suncream smell can be really nostalgic for us, reminding us of holidays gone by and bringing a feeling of excitement the minute the bottle is opened. But did you know that smell comes from the fragrance used within the suncream? Did you know that fragrance is made up of hundreds of chemicals that can be harmful to your skin and your respiratory system? It was definitely worth considering options that are fragrance free to greatly reduce the toxicity of your suncream.
Alcohol - Alcohol may be used in suncream to thin out and preserve suncream. Alcohol denat in skincare is bad news for skin. It's harsh nature can strip your skin of moisture and dry out your in all it is best avoided
Insect Repellant - Sometimes suncreams contain insect repellant. The FDA have shown concern over the use of insect repellant in suncream, particularly N- diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), which is a strong insect repellant. Often products containing DEET advise to apply sparingly, however suncream usually stipulates regular application. This is conflicting and there is concern that regular application of suncreams with insect repellants mean that exposure to strong chemicals in insect repellants is increased.
As with all suncream application whether natural or not, always make sure you apply suncream at least 20 minutes before you go out into the sun and apply frequently - every couple of hours, maybe even more regularly depending on skin type - in my experience this is definitely key to avoiding burnt skin. Make sure you use other precautions also - finding shade, wearing a hat and clothing to protect you and your children, and even avoiding the sun altogether between 12-3.
So there you have it, some really helpful information to get you started. But you want more, I hear you cry! Which natural suncream is the best? Which should I buy? Below are four of my favourites for adults and children. Let me know which you decide to try!