I have this rule where if I don’t understand something on a label, I don’t buy it before researching some of the main ingredients and any potential toxicity found in studies. The same rule goes for food as it does for personal care products. If unsure, I’ve got the trusty Chemical Maze app on the phone, to tell me yay or nay – I highly recommend downloading it from your app store.
I caught a whiff of just how shocking an amount of potentially harmful chemicals there are in your average sunscreen when it came time to buy one for my then 6-month-old son who is now a very tall young man. When green chemistry is as advanced as it is these days, why we have to continue to use things with potentially harmful effects, is a mystery. We learn, we say no, and we vote with our dollars to seek out the better option. It’s not worth getting upset about what you used up till now and it’s definitely not worth your panic and worry – it’s just an opportunity to grab something that does better by you and our planet.
Here’s what you can expect to find in what we’re NOT using from now on
- Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) is one of the most frequently used chemical UV filters worldwide. OMC easily penetrates the upper layer of the skin and, when exposed to UV radiation, generates free radicals in skin cells.
- Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), octyl-dimethyl-PABA and octinoxate – all hormone-disrupting and oxybenzone is also shown to be damaging to algae and coral formation, leading it to be banned in the state of Hawaii from 2021 (Hooray!)
- 4-Methyl benzylidene camphor (4-MBC) Laboratory tests on rats exposed to 4-MBC revealed that male rats born to mothers exposed to this compound had lower testis weight, experienced delayed puberty and decreased adult prostate weight. Human trials found that both OMC and 4-MBC were readily absorbed through the skin and were detectable in urine. There is also a study that shows pituitary change showing up as hypothyroidism.
- Padimate O (2-Ethylhexyl-4-dimethylaminobenzoate ) shown to bioaccumulate in the liver and kidneys of fishies!
- Fragrance chemicals – As many as 150 chemicals can be used in the catch-ingredient ‘fragrance/parfum’ on an ingredient list. One family of chemicals often found there are called phthalates which are the ‘sticky, plasticiser’ chemicals that make a fragrance long-lasting. What phthalates have also been shown to do, however, is be harmful to our reproductive systems as potent endocrine disruptors.
If you play lots of outdoor sports or you’re a regular surfer then try out Surfmud, a mineral-based physical barrier that covers and protects the skin from the external environment. The best bit, the packaging is plastic free and the product is non-liquid, so safe to keep as a handbag/school bag option.
For after sun care try the Life Basic Aloe Vera Gel. Suitable for all skin types, this cooling gel can be applied to sun-exposed areas such as shoulders and the nose or used all over the body as a general moisturiser.
Dr Hauschka’s After Sun cream is a slightly more luxe option, made up of carrot, rosehip and moisture-rich extracts of ice plant and quince seeds. It’s a fast absorbing lotion and it smells divine.
There are more popping up and you can check out a whole bunch here, and brands local to you wherever you may be, so investigate and feel free to share. I will warn that the velvety fine texture of conventional sunscreens will not be found in natural land in those top two as they are a bit thicker, but definitely, in the Caribbean solutions – It’s a seriously good sunscreen.
Here’s come of our top DIY recipes:
1. Cyndi O’Meara has this simple one.
2. This one is also DIY and great value once you have all the ingredients.
An alumni of this course, Michelle, actually made the latter and costed it out at $13 for 210ml – A big saving on eco brands if you’re prepared to make it yourself.
Home Made Sunscreen
Recipe/Full ingredient listing: Wellness Mama
Ingredients I chose (see the recipe for all options):
- 1/2 cup almond oil (125ml)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (62.5ml)
- 1/4 cup (loosely packed) beeswax yellow beads (approx 25g)
- 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide(approx 28g)**
- 1 teaspoon Carrot Seed Oil (5ml)
- 1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E oil(2.5ml)
- 1 tablespoon Shea Butter (approx 15g)
Key also is to not overprotect to the point where you cause a deficiency in Vitamin D. Allow yourself a little splash of sun on bare skin for at least your legs and arms, for 15 minutes, 10 minutes if really fair and make sure this isn’t smack bang in the middle of the day. We need vitamin D for so many of our body’s functions and adequate levels show added protection against cancer risks, particularly breast cancer, as well as bone and immune system health to name a couple. Our ‘over protecting’ and indoor lifestyles can be contributing to the reemergence of Rickets, which is crazy BUT we do have to be careful nonetheless – especially in the harsh sun of Australia in the summertime. So how do we strike a balance? 10-20 minutes unprotected gentle sun per day in the earlier part of the morning or late afternoon. There’s a great sun-safe app called UV Index Now – UVI Mate that gives you a traffic light system approach to enjoying safe sun time when you can, from wherever you are in the world. This plus a good low tox sunscreen and we’re sorted!
What to do about the mandatory kid’s sunscreen wearing at preschool and school?
BYO. I’ve never had an issue. If you don’t want to be seen as a hippy freak and don’t feel entirely comfortable with the scenario, feign allergy to something / sensitive skin and do that. It’s your little one’s body and YOU decide what goes on it. My little guy has hand sanitiser and sunscreen in his bag and has done since preschool.
Natural sunscreen will give you all the benefits of providing protection and prevention, without having the burden of the potentially harmful ingredients, absorbed into our skin. If money’s tight, it’s better to protect with light, full cover clothing and a good hat, and use a natural sunscreen when you really need it, than it is to settle for the cheap, mainstream stuff.
I hope that’s helped you make your choices as to what to try next,
Low Tox. Happy Bodies. Happy Planet.
Geek out… Further reading and more in-depth explanations from trusted sources, backed by numerous study citations, which I have verified. Also a link to an extensive exploration of nano technology by the EWG.