Kootenay Co-op’s Guide to Natural Sun Protection
When venturing out into the summer sun it is important to protect your skin from sunburn. Wearing breathable natural fibres or UV protective clothing during the sun’s most intense time (approx 10am-3pm) is a very effective form of natural sun protection. Although we must take care to avoid skin damage, natural sunlight is a very important component in human metabolism and health. Exposing bare skin to early morning and later afternoon/early evening sun is a great way to soak up essential Vitamin D while lessening the chance of skin damage due to sun burn. Also consider consuming an antioxidant rich diet of berries and vegetables as antioxidants protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation. Likewise, an antioxidant supplement can provide added protection.
Where do suncare products fit into the picture? A suncare product that provides both UVA and UVB protection (broad spectrum) is essential. While UVB rays produce the visible sun burn, UVA rays can create more long lasting invisible damage. UVA rays penetrate the skin’s epidermis layer causing damage which has been linked to the development of skin abnormalities later on in life, as well as accelerated signs of aging such as wrinkles.
A common mistake is to assume that if your skin doesn’t burn, it means that your skin is fully protected by your chosen suncare product. It is however, essential to ensure that UVA radiation has been effectively blocked.
Mineral vs. Chemical Sunsceens
The most safe and effective natural products use inert minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide concentrated at 10% or more. These minerals act as a sun ‘block’ and physically shield the skin from the sun’s rays. These minerals remain stable and effective in the hot sun, and they are not absorbed into the skin.
Chemical/Synthetic sunscreens such as dixoybenzone, oxybenzone and cetyl cinnamates are used in most commercial, as well as some ‘natural’ sun care products. Although they will protect you from a nasty sunburn, these chemicals have been found to perform poorly for UVA protection. These chemicals work by absorbing into the skin and have been shown to lead to oxidative/free radical skin damage, which can contribute to skin abnormalities, premature aging, and wrinkles.
Also scientific studies released by Switzerland’s Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, conducted in 2001, prove a link between synthetic sunscreens and hormonal disturbances in the body. The chemical compounds in synthetic sunscreens have been found to accumulate in body fats and in breast milk, and, by mimicking the effects of estrogen, can induce undesirable hormonal changes. (Schlumpf , Margaret; Beata Cotton, Marianne Conscience, Vreni Haller, Beate Steinmann, Walter Lichtensteiger. In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens. Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 109 (March 2001) pp 239-244)
How do I choose the Sunscreen that is right for me?
All the sunscreen brands carried at the Kootenay Co-op use mineral sunblocks, either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide or a combination of both. The Co-op does not to sell any products containing chemical ‘absorbers’ or those combining chemical absorbers with blockers. None are 100% waterproof, although some may be water/sweat resistant. However, since reapplication after every 2 hours is recommended for most products in order to maintain optimum protection, this should not be a deterrent in trying natural sunblocks.
Aubrey has reformulated their sunblocks and have introduced a new and improved line this year. There are three sunblocks available to choose from. Two SPF 30, (scented and unscented) containing 11% zinc oxide and 6.3% titanium dioxide and an unscented face specific SPF 15 with 12% zinc oxide. Non-whitening and not greasy this product is easy to spread and contains many certified organic ingredients.
Badger has three sunblocks available. The SPF 15 (12.5% zinc oxide) and SPF 30 (20.5% zinc oxide) rate very well for broad spectrum protection. New this year is the unscented SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen. It has a very thick texture, is not very easy to spread but is quite translucent once applied. Warming this bottle in the sun improves its spread ability, making it ideal for the beach. It also has a high level of water resistance even after 40 minutes in the water or perspiring.
Green Beaver is new this year to the Co-op and uses 21% zinc oxide to provide full broad spectrum protection. They offer Certified Organic adult and children’s formulas, both SPF 30. This non-whitening product is very moisturizing, easy to apply and is fragrance free. Made in Canada.
Newco offers a citrus scented SPF 15 product that uses 10% zinc oxide providing high broad spectrum protection. This product is less whitening and not as heavy as Badger and it spreads quite well. It tends to need more frequent applications and is not water resistant but works well for those times you are not jumping in the water or perspiring heavily. Made in Canada.
Lavera has a number of water resistant sun care products available. A baby and children’s spray and lotion, both SPF 20, a face specific anti-age SPF 15 formula and a sensitive skin SPF 20 lotion. The products contain at least 15% Zinc Oxide and 7% Titanium Dioxide. All formulas have high broad spectrum protection, are moisturizing and well absorbed into the skin. Titanium Dioxide can typically leave a white film, but this formula is quite translucent after application.
Soleo SPF 30 has high zinc oxide concentration (22.3%), rates very high for full spectrum protection, is non-whitening and fairly water resistant. This product is very similar in consistency to the Green Beaver sunblocks. It is a concentrated formula that goes a long way.
Solar RX at 18.5 % zinc oxide provides full spectrum protection. Since this product is made with nano-sized zinc particles it does not look white when applied and is one of the few sun screens that make an excellent facial moisturizer with SPF. Since the ingredients have healing and soothing properties it is an exceptional product for those with sensitive skin and children prone to eczema. It is more expensive for this reason, but becomes more affordable if you are only looking for face, neck, arm and leg protection.
For your own research please visit www.cosmeticdatabase.com type in “sunscreen” and see how individual brands rate.
A note on SPF
The SPF measurement pertains only to the products protection against UVB rays:
For SPF 15, 93% of the harmful UVB rays are blocked
For SPF 20, 95% of the harmful UVB rays are blocked
For SPF 30, 97% of the harmful UVB rays are blocked
If you would normally, without a suncare product, burn within 20 minutes then an SPF 15 would allow you to be out 15 times longer, in this case 300 minutes or 5 hours. For sensitive individuals who burn more rapidly, SPF 30 is advisable. Regardless of the amount of protection time suggested by the SPF number, all sun blocks recommend that they be re-applied every 2 hours, after swimming or excessive perspiring.