We all know that protecting skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation is crucial for preventing skin cancer and premature aging. But what if the suncream you are using for your beach holiday is also harming your health? The whole point of suncream is to protect your skin, not expose it to potentially dangerous chemicals! Besides the safety of the sun-blocking chemicals themselves, we also have to worry about other questionable ingredients that manufactures sneak in to make creams easier to apply or to preserve shelf life. Plus, if concern for your own health isn’t enough reason, some of these chemicals could also be hurting corals and marine life.
One of the most dangerous (and common) chemical sun blockers is oxybenzone. In the laboratory, oxybenzone has been found to cause skin reactions and mimic hormones in the body, which may cause cancer. Scary stuff, right? Fortunately, natural alternatives do exist. Here are some of our favorite ways to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging effects without using ingredients with spotty safety records.
First of all, cover up! Using hats, sunglasses and long-sleeve shirts is the simplest way to avoid sun damage. Covering up doesn’t have to look matronly, either: sporting or surf stores often carry special sun shirts or wraps made of light-weight fabric that will keep you cool while protecting your neck, shoulders, and arms from the punishing summer sun. To make sure the fabric offers sun protection, look for a“UPF” rating on the label. Finally, take a cue from actresses like Nicole Kidman who protect their complexions with a chic wide-brimmed hat and large sunnies. If you’re on a beach holiday, consider bringing a large umbrella or other source of shade.
Zinc Oxide is a natural mineral (not a chemical) that physically blocks the damaging rays of the sun. It’s the go-to natural sunscreen for a reason: it has a great safety record and is one of the safest choices for kids and babies. Although it has a reputation for being thick or chalky, newer formulations have added other non-toxic ingredients like coconut oil that help with absorption. It’s also possible to find water-resistant/sweat-proof formulations, but don’t forget to re-apply every hour.
Titanium Dioxide is another mineral with similar properties and safety profile to Zinc Oxide. Its SPF value is not quite as high, so Zinc Oxide is still the better choice if you’re going swimming/running or doing another outdoor activity directly in the sun. Titanium Dioxide is, however, often found in natural face creams and foundations. To keep wrinkles away, use a daily face moisturiser or foundation with Titanium Dioxide while you’re working, running errands, or going out with friends. Your skin will thank you later.
Shea butter is another safe choice if you’re going to be mostly covered up. Shea butter has amazing skin-healing properties, including reducing the look of wrinkles and spots. It’s also safe for all skin types, and has a low naturally-occurring SPF value, too. To make sure you’re getting the full benefits of shea butter, look for a label that says “unrefined”; it’s often available at your local health food store. Avoid creams that simply contain shea butter, as the characteristics of this healing compound are significantly reduced if it’s processed. Because it doesn’t have the high SPF rating of Zinc Oxide or chemical sunscreens, it’s best used alongside other sun protection measures like hats and long sleeves. Unrefined shea butter also makes a great after-sun balm for dry or irritated skin.
Author: By Natalie Millis