If you’ve been delaying making the switch to natural sunscreens, this might help make it happen: The US FDA is now re-considering their opinion that sunscreen chemicals do not get absorbed at high enough concentrations to require safety testing.
Crazy how something many of us apply almost every day throughout the summer hasn’t actually been tested for long-term safety. Concerns around sunscreen ingredients arose last year, when Hawaii passed a bill banning sunscreens with ingredients that are known to harm coral reefs. Effective January 1, 2021, sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate are prohibited from being sold without a prescription. Among the reasons stated in the bill, the chemicals have been shown to increase the chance of endocrine disruption.
Studies show the potential for hormone disruption in animals, with some evidence of affect in humans. On this basis the EWG and other advocacy groups recommend avoiding chemical sunscreens with these ingredients, and have been for a while.
The FDA commissioned a study in 2018 and results were published in May, 2019. They found that common sunscreen ingredients – including oxybenzone and avobenzone – were absorbed at much higher concentrations than expected. This means that according to FDA rules, the manufacturers need to demonstrate that the products don’t cause cancer, developmental issues, or endocrine disruption. The study results are preliminary but strongly suggest further investigation.
I’m willing to bet industry is going to come out swinging to fight the allegations and very little will come of the research for quite some time. But it adds even more reason why you should switch to a mineral-based sunblock rather than chemical sunscreens. Yes, you, not just your kids.
Mineral sun blocks use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Which means they can often feel chalky and give a ghost-like appearance. And as a fair-skinned redhead, there isn’t a day in the summer I’m outside without sunscreen. But I’m also super picky about texture and appearance.
This is why sunscreen was one of the last products I switched over to natural. Luckily, mineral sun blocks have come a LONG way. And I finally feel like I’m not sacrificing ease of use and comfort for my toxic-free choices.
If you’re ready to ditch the chemical sunscreens and are looking for a mineral sun block, the choice can be both overwhelming and frustrating. To help save you some headache, here are my top picks for the best natural sunscreens in 2019. And by natural I mean they use zinc oxide instead of chemical active ingredients – they all contain some synthetic ingredients.
ThinkSport has been my own go-to for a few years. It was the first natural sunblock that I found to go on similar to conventional sunscreens. It uses non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient, and is free other ingredients of concern (like synthetic fragrance, parabens, etc.). It goes on white but rubs in fairly well. I do find that it makes black bathing suits and clothes white. And because of the cetyl dimethicone it can take a LOT of soap to get off. This is one ingredient I don’t love as it’s not biodegradable (another concern for reefs), but gave it a pass because of the difficulty finding the “perfect” sunscreen that I’m willing to wear day in and day out all summer. Its texture is fairly close to conventional but is a bit heavier – but I find that the case with all-natural sun blocks.
Beautycounter offers a non-aerosol spray or a cream option that both use non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient (and an air-based spray without the use of harmful propellants). I tried the spray version on my face, and it spread nicely and didn’t make me look (more) pale or greasy. Note that aerosol sprays are not typically recommended because you’re more likely to inhale the product. But if you will only make the switch to conventional products if you can find an aerosol, I’d take this over chemical sunscreens any day. Always apply on your hand first, then rub in. And keep away from your face as you’re spraying to minimize inhalation. I tried the cream on a small area and it rubbed in nicely as well. They have more ingredients overall than ThinkSport, but are free from the main ingredients of concern.
Green Beaver Pump Spray
I love the Green Beaver Pump Spray for my kids and have been using it since they were each 1 year old. Its active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide and is much thinner than most mineral sunblock. While it’s greasy, I find it very easy to apply quickly. And since I’m usually trying to do it while the kids are running into school or to go play, this is a huge plus for me. The cream versions are recommended more for swimming as they are more water-resistant, but I’ve used this one too along with regular reapplication.
Green Beaver Baby Lotion
OK, so I will admit I tried the new Green Beaver Baby Sunscreen reluctantly. Most baby cream sunblocks are incredibly thick and next to impossible to rub in. Well, I put this on my arms and it applied like a conventional sunscreen! I even forgot I was wearing it, which is hard to do with a natural sunblock since they tend to feel think and heavy, even if they don’t look white. I was so impressed! And with fewer ingredients overall than ThinkSport plus being made in Canada, this might be my new go-to for myself. I prefer this over the regular, non-baby Green Beaver sunscreens, too.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add that your first line of defense against sun damage is long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, and shade during the hottest parts of the day. But let’s face it, it’s been a long and cold winter here in Canada so it’ll be hard to keep us out of the sun when it does shine!
I hope this list helps you enjoy summer with a bit more peace of mind. If you’re wondering about other body and skin care products, you should check out my Healthy Body Care List! I’ve compiled some of the most commonly recommended “healthy” brands, and let you know if they’re actually healthy, or just greenwashed. Grab this free download here.