Why Choose a Natural Sunscreen?
We all know that sunscreen protects us from the sun by preventing sunburn, skin damage, and skin cancer.
But, before you purchase your next big bottle of sunscreen that does the job, have you ever thought about the chemicals it uses? That long list of ingredients is pretty much gibberish to most of us - it's as if you need to have a degree in chemistry to understand what that all means!
Don't worry; we've got you covered. In this article, we explain the differences between chemical and natural sunscreens, so you can understand why you should go down the au naturel route.
Are chemical sunscreens really that bad?
In short, yes.
Chemicals absorb straight into the skin, which can often cause allergic reactions. They have also been found to mimic hormones that are linked to disrupting reproductive, developmental (for children), neurological, and immune systems.
If you are prone to skin conditions such as acne, this is particularly bad as the chemicals are more likely to clog pores, leading to higher chances of breakouts and inflammation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that companies who produce spray sunscreens should test whether they're safe and do not cause irreversible damage to the lungs from inhalation, but there are no regulations for this.
Not only are chemical sunscreens bad for your health, but our coral reefs are in danger too. Scientists have estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in oceans around the world each year! No matter how water-resistant your sunscreen claims to be, chemicals will seep into the water and get absorbed by coral reefs. These interfere with the coral's reproductive and growth cycles, which causes bleaching.
What is natural sunscreen?
There are two types of sunscreen: chemical sunscreen and physical (natural) sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreen is designed to absorb the sun's U.V. rays and convert them into heat. Therefore, the chemical structure of the sunscreen ingredients helps reduce the degree of penetration into the skin.
On the other hand, natural sunscreen incorporates two key ingredients that have reflective properties to scatter U.V. light (just like what clothing does). These are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – which is worth noting that they are the only sunscreen ingredients recognized by the FDA and safe and effective.
Its consistency tends to be much thicker, leaving a more obvious white cast (layer) than chemical sunscreens, making it cosmetically unappealing.
Most natural sunscreens are mineral-based, and they can contain other protective secondary ingredients, such as antioxidants, hydration molecules, and DNA repair enzymes that may prevent skin damage.
What sunscreen ingredients to avoid
The biggest culprits in the sunscreen world are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate (or Octyl Methoxycinnamate). These are partially banned in some countries such as Mexico, the USA (Hawaii, Key West, U.S. Virgin Islands), Aruba, Bonaire, and Palau.
Other ingredients you should look out for to avoid are:
· Mineral oil
· Retinol (or retinyl palmitate/acetate)
· PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
Other safe-sun habits
There are other ways you can play safely around the sun.
Try to seek shade whenever possible and avoid being in direct sunlight during peak hours. Wear sunglasses with U.V. protection and long-sleeved loose clothing when possible. If you are more active during sunny periods, make sure you re-apply sunscreen every couple of hours to dry skin.
Protect your skin, protect your health, and protect our planet!
Author: Courtney Black
· "Sunscreens and Photoprotection." StatPearls Publishing, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537164/
· "Natural Sunscreen: How does it work?" Fullscript, https://fullscript.com/blog/natural-sunscreen
Image source: pexels.com, unsplash.com