There’s been some recent publicity in the media about a popular company being sued due to Benzene, a classified human carcinogen, being discovered in a number of popular sunscreen brands. As terrible as this is, it has made people become more aware of what they’re putting on their skin this summer. Let’s dive into why safe sunscreen is important, and some of the best safe mineral sunscreen options for adults and kids.
In NZ, the Cancer Society of NZ has done a good job of conditioning us Kiwi’s to slather on the sunscreen to our kids daily. Because of this, it’s important to know what is in it. Many people have sunscreen in their medicine cabinets, but haven’t considered what’s on the label.
Let’s start with the basics, there are two kinds of sunscreens on the market; chemical and mineral.
In chemical sunscreens, synthetic compounds (including avobenzone, octisalate, and oxybenzone) create a chemical reaction in our skin, which transform the UV rays from the sun into heat, which is released into the air.
Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, create a barrier on the surface of the skin (using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) to physically bounce or reflect the sun’s rays.
The bad news? Many chemical UV filters, which are most commonly used in sunscreens, have endocrine disrupting effects and aren’t proven to be safe. For example, oxybenzone, which is found in 40% of chemical sunscreens on the market, is linked to hormone disruption, breast cancer, negative birth outcomes, reduced male fertility, and possibly cancer. Other popular chemical UV filters, including octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone, are all linked to endocrine disruption and research also revealed they circulate in the bloodstream for days after application. Previous studies detected many sunscreen ingredients in breast milk and urine samples (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010)
Even though mineral filters are safe, these sunscreens can still contain other ingredients to make them lightweight, smooth, and wearable. You need to avoid ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, and fragrance (parfum).
What about SPF?
There are two types of UV radiation that affect us. UVB is the type that causes sunburn, while UVA permeated deeper into our skin and is responsible for aging our skin. Both can increase your risk of cancer. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays. Now common sense would suggest an SPF with 100 rating would give us twice the protection as an SPF of 50, however the relationship doesn’t work like that. In fact, an SPF of 30 protects about 97% of UVB radiation, SPF of 50 about 98% and an SPF of 100 about 99%! So don’t be fooled by an SPF higher than 50. It is misleading and will likely just mean you spend more time in the sun thinking you’re more protected than you are!
How to protect yourself from the sun safely
Be smart about sun exposure
You need to be exposing your skin to the sun on a regular basis so that your skin is able to synthesise vitamin D (amazing for immune function and mental health among other things), but you don’t want that exposure to lead to redness or burn. As a general rule of thumb, exposing your skin to about 15 minutes of direct sun a day is enough to provide sufficient vitamin D if you aren’t already deficient. You can also supplement with vitamin D3/K2 orally if needed. If you’re interested in learning the ideal times for exposure for optimal Vit D absorption based on where you’re located in the world, download a free app called Dminder. It’s a fun way to track and accounts for supplementation and food intake to calculate your levels.
Cover up: wear protective clothing
Instead of lathering yourself and your kids top to toe with sunscreen, use protective swimsuits, shirts, and hats. This is especially important for kids. My kids wear long-sleeve rash shirts, and a hat anytime they’re outside. The less skin exposed, the less you need to cover with sunscreen.
Between the hours of 10am and 3pm, ensure you have access to some kind of shade, whether that’s a big pohukakawa at the beach, a beach tent or at a minimum an umbrella.
Protect yourself with safe mineral sunscreen
Look for a mineral sunscreen that has at least 15% zinc oxide, which provides excellent protection against UVB and UVA rays.
My favourite safe sunscreens:
KIDS & ADULTS:
Is your sunscreen safe?
If you want to see how your current sunscreen rates, Check out the EWG Guide to Sunscreen and then go check out Health Post red list to make sure yours doesn’t contain any of the list. Reach out if you use a natural sunscreen you think should be added to the list, I’m always keen to expand it and support kiwi small businesses at the same time.
Hope this was helpful! Leave a comment below if it was x
EWG Annual Guide to Sunscreen. (2021) retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/