Hello summer!! Here in Switzerland we have been enjoying a delightful few months; replete with warm sunshine, soft breezes and the occasional torrential rainfall, to keep the trees and flowers smiling. Whether your plans include jetting off to exotic lands, seeking heat relief further north or lounging in the comfort of your own back garden, summer means more time spent in the great outdoors. Which is why, today, I am talking about SUN CREAM!
Enjoying nature in all its glory is a wonderful thing, all the same it is very important to stay safe! Sunshine can be quite deceptive, and in an effort to protect ourselves from its rays, we tend to lather every inch of our bodies with protective creams and lotions. However, did you know that in America 75% of sun creams are actually toxic because of all the chemicals they contain? Luckily, in Europe the situation is much better as the regulations here are far stricter, inhibiting the products on our market from including any obviously harmful ingredients. Yet, regardless of how toxic their ingredients are to begin with, after associating with UV rays, the chemicals become very dangerous! This is because, most sun creams work by absorbing UV rays and keeping them locked on the surface of the skin within their chemical composition. The problem is, these chemicals often react with the very UV rays they trap, thus undergoing a change in formula and becoming unpredictable in behaviour. Many chemicals then proceed to penetrate deep into the recesses of the skin causing all sorts of health issues.
Furthermore, on their own, most chemicals only protect against one type of UV ray, either UVA or UVB. This means that, to adequately protect the skin from all the sun’s power, many more substances need to be added to the synthetics already in use. The result is a veritable chemical cocktail! Moreover, if you go swimming in any natural body of water, the chemicals will leave your skin and pollute the water, causing severe harm to all the poor fish and their aquatic neighbours. It can, therefore, be concluded that all “chemical” sun creams are mighty unpleasant!
However, avoiding all this chemical nonsense is actually very easy! The solution? Physical sun creams! The term “physical” means that, instead of absorbing the sun’s rays like “chemical” creams, the product reflects and repels them from the skin. How is this done? With a sprinkling of fairy dust known as “zinc oxide”.
Zinc Oxide (ZnO)
Created by burning zinc and allowing it to naturally react with the oxygen in the air, ZnO is a fine white powder somewhat similar to corn starch in appearance. Because zinc itself is a mineral, it reflects the sun by scattering and deflecting any UV rays it comes into contact with. Furthermore, ZnO protects the skin against both UVA and UVB sun rays, meaning it doesn’t have to be mixed with any other substances to serve as effective protection against the sun. Zinc also happens to be excellent for soothing acne, rashes and irritation and even prevents bacterial infections and ageing induced tissue damage. Finally, ZnO is absolutely harmless to any aquatic life it encounters!
The only thing to bear in mind is that, when buying such a sun cream, you must make sure the ZnO is not in nano-particle form. This is very important! Nano particles were developed to prevent ZnO based sun creams from leaving traces of white on the skin. However, due to their tiny size, there is evidence suggesting that these particles actually pass through the pores, into the bloodstream and bioaccumulate. Even though no further problems have been identified thus far and nano-particles are freely used in products, health issues caused by bioaccumulation can take a very, very long time to surface! Besides, many professionals are adamant that for ZnO nano-particles to be deemed safe, much more research still needs to be conducted. Therefore, make sure your product of interest specifies that the ZnO within is “non nano-particle”!
Titanium Dioxide (TiO2)
Some physical sun creams opt for titanium dioxide instead of zinc oxide. The issues with this formulation is that, unlike its mineral rival, TiO2 protects against UVB rays, but not against the full spectrum of UVA rays. Products containing TiO2 will, therefore, either leave your skin vulnerable to the sun or they will have supplementary ingredients within, meaning you will be smothering your skin with an unnecessary amount of substances. Finally, TiO2 is far more allergenic than zinc oxide, so it could potentially cause a nasty skin reaction.
“Physical” sun creams may be a little thicker and, therefore, trickier to apply than the runny, spray on “chemical” products everyone is used to. For this reason, you will probably need to spend a little more time working the cream into your skin. They also rub of quicker and need to be reapplied more frequently. Finally, depending on the amount of ZnO and the oils with which it is combined, physical sun creams can sometimes leave a slight white tint on the skin.
Here is a list of the best natural and organic “physical” ZnO based sun creams I could find! They all contain an abundance of fabulous oils such as jojoba seed, avocado and sesame, as well as an addition of Vitamin E/ Tocopherol, each of which will not only protect your skin from the sun, but will actually nourish it and keep you looking stunning!
- Bare Belly Organics Natural Sunscreen Cream – SPF 30
This product is really quite remarkable! Truly, it is almost unbelievable how few ingredients it contains! Made from nothing more than ZnO , a few oils and Vitamin E, all this product can physically do, is protect and nourish the skin – absolutely nothing else. Since the product contains no stabilisers, just like coconut oil, it tends to melt in very hot weather. While there is nothing wrong with this, for ease of application the brand has also created a “Face Stick” and a “Body Stick”, both of which have been formulated with a greater ratio of beeswax, keeping them firm in texture regardless of the temperature. What is really lovely, is that this is a brand that came to be simply because the company’s founder wanted to help her family avoid unnecessary toxicity by taking control of the ingredients they applied to their skin. With such a personal reason behind its development, there is not doubt that this is a product of unbelievable quality. Buy
- Just Skin Food Natural and Organic Sunscreen – SPF 30
Just like with the Bare Belly Organics products, this sun cream is replete with fabulous nourishing ingredients and no added stabilisers. Aside from a slightly different selection of oils, the only difference between the two is that this is a “stick of product” that you simply rub over any exposed areas of skin. It offers excellent protection and keeps your skin looking beautiful. Buy
- All Good Uscented Sunstick – SPF 30
This option is wonderfully handy to keep on you when you’re out and about! As the name suggest, this is also a stick of product, so apply it as you would a lip balm. It takes up very little room in whatever bag you pop it in and will be your saving grace when the sun is unanticipatedly energetic. Buy
- Odylique by Essential Care Odylique Natural Sun Screen – SPF 30
In comparison to the majority of products included in this list, this cream is most similar in texture to a standard chemical sun cream; liquid, smooth and in a tube. The only concern, is that in order to achieve this fluid and homogenous consistency, it contains a small amount of “polyhydroxystearic acid”, which acts as a stabiliser and emulsifier. Very little data is known about this substance, which is in itself a considerable concern, but it has been known to bioaccumulate in the body, which is a very undesirable side effect. However, if you are reluctant to sacrifice the ease and convenience of chemical sun cream, you could view this product as a much healthier alternative or perhaps as a transitional product. Buy
- Attitude 100% Mineral Little Ones Sunscreen – SPF 30
The packaging may imply the product inside to have been developed specifically for “little ones”, but in practice it works perfectly for individuals of every age! What makes this cream truly different from all the others in this list, is that it contains no shea butter, coconut butter, or beeswax and no special oils. Therefore, if you are someone who is allergic to components such as these, perhaps very sensitive to nuts, then this is the product for you! Hypoallergenic, but nonetheless made from exclusively vegetable and mineral sources. Buy
- Bare Republic Mineral Baby Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 50
Finally, I do not suggest you use sun cream that is stronger than SPF 30 as the higher the SPF, the thicker the layer covering your skin and the less your skin will be able to breath. Especially if you are using “chemical” sun creams, then you are simply doubling the amount of chemicals in contact with your skin! Yuck! However, knowing how sensitive some people’s skin can be, I have done my best to find the safest ZnO based SPF 50 product. This Bare Republic sun cream contains a delightful combination of ingredients such as aloe leaf extract and apricot kernel oil, perfect for all you lovely Snow Whites! Buy
There you have it, my top six fabulous ZnO based sun creams! Now you can bask in the warm sunshine, confident in the knowledge that your skin is as cared for as can be. I wish you all a beautiful summer! Let me know what you get up to!
I hope very much that you enjoyed this post and that you will be back, eager to read more about how to be healthy minded in the world of cosmetics! Nicky xx
My research was conducted with help from these websites: