Confession: I didn’t start wearing sunscreen consistently until, well… this year… I know. I know. Why admit this to the world? Because I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
By now, the importance of sun protection has been drilled into our heads enough that I should know better, right? But knowing and abiding are two different things. Sure, I slathered the stuff on whenever a beach day presented itself, but day to day? That was something else entirely. I could never get over that heavy, oily… sunscreen-y feeling of the chemical sunscreens sold at my corner pharmacy. Turns out, I’m not the only one.
Despite the fact that over 9,000 people are estimated to die from melanoma every year, the Melanoma Research Alliance finds that Americans especially are turned off from sunscreen due to the texture of regular sunscreens. Not to mention the chemicals involved in making them effective (or ineffective, as the case may be).
If you’re thinking, “chemicals? What chemicals?”, I don’t blame you. We’re warned so frequently about the dangers of the sun and UVA/UVB rays, the conversation often overshadows another warning we should be heeding at the same time: The danger the chemicals used to create sunscreen pose.
Chemical vs. Mineral Filter Sunscreens
First, let’s talk about the two different kinds of suncare on the market: chemical filter and mineral filter.
What are chemical filter sunscreens? Chemical filter sunscreens typically contain two or more of the following chemicals: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. When applied to the skin, these chemicals work by converting UV/UB rays into heat and dispersing it. If you’ve ever noticed you feel especially hot after applying a chemical sunscreen, this is why. The problem with chemical sunscreens is in their name — the chemicals used to make them. While they may protect you from harmful rays, some of the main ingredients in chemical sunscreens have been found to be possible hormone mimickers, could potentially cause allergic reactions and may be dangerous for the environment (not good when you’re covered head to toe and leaping into a body of water).
Says the EWG, “Sixteen of the 19 ingredients studied had no information about their potential to cause cancer. And while the published studies suggest that several chemical filters interact with human sex or thyroid hormones, none of the ingredients had sufficient information to determine the potential risks to humans from hormone disruption.”
Luckily, there’s an alternative: Mineral filter sunscreens.
What are mineral filter sunscreens? Mineral filter sunscreens typically sit on top of the skin and are – you guessed it, mineral-based. Typically containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, mineral-based sunscreens block UV/UB rays instead of absorbing them and may be a better choice, both for our own personal health and for the health of the environment.
And the EWG seems to agree, “There is good evidence that little if any zinc or titanium particles penetrate the skin to reach living tissues. Thus, mineral sunscreens tend to rate better than chemical sunscreens in the EWG sunscreen database.”
Not only that, but these mineral-based formulas tend to be less slimy, making them far more user-friendly for everyday sun exposure. Score!
Ready to join me in committing to sun safety everyday? The five brands below will convince you that suncare doesn’t have to come with a warning label for you or the environment.
#1 — Raw Elements
Created by an ocean lifeguard who wanted a sunscreen that was both effective and friendly for the planet, Raw Elements’ main active ingredient is zinc oxide. Just zinc oxide. All other inactive ingredients are recognizable and either organic or certified natural and sustainably sourced (and listed right on the website).
With a product line that includes sprays, lotions and plastic-free tins, Raw Elements is for the active beach-goer who values simplicity and ease of use, along and protecting the wellbeing of the environment they’re enjoying. Case in point: The company recently teamed up with Hawaiian Airlines on a reef preservation initiative to work to minimize the impact of sunscreens on coral reef health (over 6,000 tons, yes, tons, of sunscreen is estimated to enter island waters every year, which plays a key role in reef die-off).
Use this if: you want the waves you ride to be pristine and crystal clear.
#2 — Supergoop!
Love the sun but hate the sticky, slimy feeling left behind by regular spray sunscreens? Supergoop! might be your new best friend. A favorite for their game-changing mousse formula and travel-friendly tubes, Supergoop offers a wide range of products to suit every need. Strolling the city for the day? Dust on the 100% Mineral Invincible Dusting Powder to keep makeup in its place. Headed to the lake? The previously mentioned Super Power Sunscreen Mousse nourishes skin while it protects with shea butter and blue sea kale. All this, coupled with formulas designed to be as clean as possible and it’s easy to see how Supergoop! boasts cult status.
Use this if: you want a full-body formula that’s as happy on the beach as it is on your morning commute.
#3 — Suntegrity
Created in memory of the founder’s mother, who lost her life to skin cancer, Suntegrity was made to be a catalyst for change. Suntegrity products are developed to protect from the sun’s harmful rays while providing second-to-none skincare at the same time. Awarded “Champion” Status by the EWG/Compact for Safe Cosmetics, Suntegrity is recognized for their work to create skin-loving products that not only protect and nourish the wearer, but protect the environment as well.
Use this if: you care as much about skin care as you do avoiding that class 5 sunburn.
#4 — Coola
Did you know it’s not just the sun that can cause damage to our skin? A sign of our times, more and more people are experiencing the toll that digital rays can take (also known as HEV rays or “blue light”). That is, the bright rays omitted from your phone, television and laptop screens. These rays are believed to reach even deeper into skin and could be even more harmful than UVA and UVB light. Cali brand Coola is at the forefront of HEV protection with their Full Spectrum Sun Silk Drops, which can be used solo or in tandem with skincare and/or makeup. But that’s not the only offering from this sun protection-loving brand. With offerings that range from hair to sunless tan to makeup to skincare, Coola is a functional, cool-factor brand that protects you and the environment with their Farm to Face philosophy.
Use this if: you’re a screen junkie — or just looking for broad spectrum protection that looks as cool as it feels.
#5 — Juice Beauty
Offering a wide range of sun and skincare products, Juice Beauty is the product junkie’s one-stop-shop for everything from sun protection to serums. Topping EWG’s “Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens” and “Best Moisturizers with SPF” lists for 2016, Juice Beauty’s line of suncare products are made with certified organic ingredients that love your skin as much as they love the water you plan to cannonball into. The best-selling Stem-Cellular CC Cream works to reduce existing fine lines while protecting against new ones and — bonus — it smells amazing.
Use this if: you’re looking for suncare that seamlessly blends with your morning routine.
Do you have a favorite eco-friendly sunscreen brand? Share it with us on Instagram or Facebook by tagging us with @AvocadoMattress or #AvocadoGreenMagazine