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What You Need to Know About Safe Sunscreen

Jul 15, 2019

Today, I’m going to teach you what you need to know about safe sunscreen plus a few extra sun loving tidbits.

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Funny story: When I was in high school and college I pretty much refused to wear sunscreen because I knew the ingredients were so toxic. Ok…yes true but not really the right action to just not wear sunscreen.  My sorority sisters are most likely laughing reading this!

Ok but first…Do we really need to fear the sun?

Well…yes and no.

Yes, the sun is very powerful, in fact if it were just a 1/4th of an inch closer we would burn up and any farther away, we would all freeze. And the sun does have some harmful rays.

BUT, the sun is also life giving. Sunshine is the best bio-available source of Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for our daily functioning like keeping our bones healthy and protecting our immune system. 

Why is it we always feel better after some fresh air and sunshine? Because sunshine is a positive thing. Now too much can be a negative so sunscreen is often needed! But don’t be afraid to get some sun rays this summer!

Let’s chat safe sunscreen.

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There are two kinds of sunscreens: chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens

  • Chemical sunscreens are technically sun filters. The vast majority of sunscreens on the market are chemical sunscreens containing ingredients oxybenzone which is tip top on my naughty list. They’re called sun filters because they absorb the sun’s UV energy and release it back into the air as heat. These also damage the environment, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
  • Mineral sunscreens use physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They create a barrier between the skin and sun to scatter or reflect sun’s rays away from the skin. Mineral sunscreens are great for people with sensitive skin and don’t contain endocrine disrupting toxins.

What does reef safe mean?

This is all the buzz right now because ingredients in sunscreen are literally bleaching the coral reefs and having a huge negative impact on the ocean environment which in turn affects everything else. In fact both Hawaii and Florida have now banned the sale of sunscreen with oxybenzone in it.

So what’s happening? Just as chemicals in sunscreen can affect you, they can damage the ocean in particular the coral reefs, a foundation to marine life. These chemicals can bleach the coral reefs, cause DNA damage and accumulate inside of fish, you might end up eating! 

According to National Geographic: an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash into the oceans each year and 82,000 chemicals from personal-care products may be harming the seas.

I want to show you a photo I found on instagram from @aliciaunderwater of coral reefs in the French Polynesia that shows the bleaching of the reefs. This first photo was taken in January and the second one just 4 months later in April. 4 months is all this took. This is insane…and really sad!!!

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Reef-safe is the way to go!

So what about aerosols?

While these may seem easy to apply, aerosol sunscreens actually pose a greater threat to both you and the environment. Typically when you are spraying, much of the spray doesn’t actually hit your skin, it hits the sand or the air and eventually that washes into the ocean. As well, the gas used to power aerosols contains propane and hydrocarbons which can irritate your lungs and easily enter your blood stream.

My favorite safer sunscreen from Beautycounter uses innovative technology with compressed air to propel the sunscreen out of the bottle and onto you, without any chemicals!!

So how does sunscreen damage my healthy and hormones?

According to a recent study done by the FDA, chemicals in sunscreen can be absorbed into he body in just 24 hours. One day you guys. That’s crazy!!

Many of these toxic ingredients, in particular oxybenzone, are endocrine disruptors which means the can mimic or partly mimic your natural hormones. Hold on, that sounds dangerous.

YES…it absolutely is because it can send mixed messages and confuse your body’s natural signals. If you’ve ever had a communication error in your life like me, you know this can be super harmful and create a whole lot of other issues.

Other ingredients to avoid?

Fragrance is a big one! We are all familiar with that familiar coconut-y Hawaiian tropical smell in our sunscreen and this is a result of fragrance—now fragrances are a companies trade secret which means their ingredients don’t have to be disclosed and can literally contain hundreds and thousands of chemicals all labeled to use as the consumer as “fragrance.”

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Alright, so what’s that safer alternative?

My personal favorite safer sunscreen is Beautycounter’s Countersun line! I’ve been using it for 4+ years now and it was actually the first Beautycounter product I tried and I was hooked. I started using it when we were living in Hawaii so it’s safe to say it works.

It is broad spectrum sunscreen so it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Why is this important? 

UVB are burning rays (what SPF protects against) and cause sunburns.  Most sunscreens only protect against UVB rays. Beautycounter’s sunscreen takes it a step further protecting against UVA rays, these are rays that are present all year round and penetrate glass and clouds causing premature aging!

Non-nano zinc oxide. Say that 10 times fast. Now there is a big difference between zinc oxide and non nano zinc oxide, and that is the partial size. “Nano” means dwarf in Greek and this refers to the particle size. This is super important because non-nano zinc cannot penetrate to your blood stream.

I also LOVE Countersun because it does NOT make you as white as a ghost and rubs right in!! The sun stick is a lifesaver for life with little wiggly ones and I always keep on in my bag and suitcase.

So yes, the brand of sunscreen matters just as important as the ingredients due to testing, batch testing and transparency!

Do you have a favorite brand of safe sunscreen? I’m curious! Tell me below 👇🏻

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Photos by kylie martin

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