• Beauty

Everything you need to know about sunscreen

We break down the confusion so you can make better choices

Once we made the switch to natural beauty and personal care products it wasn’t long before we found ourselves searching for the perfect sunscreen. But the more research we did the more confused we became, because when it comes to this year-round skincare necessity there are a LOT of grey areas. Skin cancer and melanoma rates are continuing to sky rocket, and experts across the globe will tell you the benefits of sunscreen – chemical or otherwise – far outweigh the risks of cancer, premature ageing, skin and cellular damage. So just how do you navigate the world of sunscreen and feel empowered to make the right choice for yourself and the planet? Here we break it down for you.

NOT ALL SUNSCREEN IS CREATED EQUAL

Essentially, sunscreen falls into two categories; mineral – or physical blockers like zinc oxide – and chemical.

OK, SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Mineral sunscreens work by physically blocking – or reflecting – UV radiation. In a nutshell, they act a little like a little blanket to protect your skin. Your sunscreen will be mineral based if you see active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They’re generally thicker than their chemical counterparts and can also leave behind a white residue.

Chemical sunscreen on the other hand uses synthetic ingredients to absorb or scatter UV radiation. A combination of Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone and Homosalate are the most common ingredients in these types of sunscreens.

ARE ALL CHEMICALS BAD?

Not necessarily. If you’ve been caught short and natural sunscreen isn’t readily available or you’d prefer to avoid the downside of ‘ghosting’ often left by mineral based creams, we believe chemical trade-offs are OK. Just choose the best ingredients. According to The Environmental Working Group (EWG) – a non-apartisan consumer advocate group – Avobenzone, Octocrylene, Octisalate and Homosalate are your best choices when it comes to chemical sunscreen. However, Oxybenzone is one we’d well and truly avoid – not only for its ability to mimic hormone production – also known as an endocrine disruptor – but it also causes havoc on marine life. You can view more of EWG’s sunscreen ingredient ratings here. Or check your product using the Think Dirty app.

Don’t be fooled by marketing

Just because your chemical sunscreen is marketed toward kids, don’t be fooled into automatically thinking it’s the best choice for them. Many still contain parabens and Oxybenzone, so again, double check the ingredients above before making a purchase.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU AVOID?

Spray sunscreens in general as they can be inhaled, and may not completely cover the skin

HELP! I HAVE SENSITIVE SKIN

It’s a struggle we know all too well, so when it comes spending time in the sun we will generally opt for zinc-based, which can be a better choice if you’re prone to breakouts, eczema or contact dermatitis.

WHAT ABOUT THE OCEAN?

Recently, the Pacific Island nation of Palau announced they’d be banning “reef-toxic” sunscreen by 2020.  It’s a drastic move but one that they hope will protect their marine environments. It comes after Hawaii also passed a similar bill this July to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate from 2021.

Looking for a tried-and-tested natural sunscreen? Discover our favourites here

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