Over the last couple of years, I've experienced some health concerns that have inspired me to pay more attention to the products I use in my home, and on my face, hair and body. But one of the challenges I’ve come across with non-toxic products is that what I gain in natural ingredients, I often lose in effectiveness. (It took much trial and error to finally find a natural deodorant that works, and now I’m hooked on Sola). I’m a huge fan of SPF for its melanoma- and wrinkle-preventing properties (I wear at least SPF 15 on my face year-round), but up until now I haven’t come across a non-toxic sunscreen line that is free of harsh chemicals.
When it comes to evaluating whether a product is safe to put on my skin and hair, I use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. I simply type in the name of the product and the database provides a rating from 1 to 10 (1 being the least toxic and 10 being the most).
Dr. Mark Lupin of Cosmedica in Victoria says when shopping for a non-toxic sunscreen or sunblock you should look for a formula that uses mineral active ingredients such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, instead of the chemical filters oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate included in most sunscreens on the market. Also, look for the words "Broad Spectrum” on the sunscreen label as this indicates that, in addition to UVB protection represented by the SPF rating, the product also protects from UVA rays which can contribute to skin cancer and premature aging.
Here are four non-toxic suncare brands I recommend trying this summer:
1) Beautycounter, the skincare and makeup line known for its commitment to using non-toxic ingredients, has just launched a line of non-toxic suncare products for body and face formulated with non-nano zinc oxide and antioxidant-rich California Poppy. Most of the products boast EWG ratings of 1 and are available in mist, lotion and stick formulas, perfect for the whole family to use.
2) Vancouver-based natural product brand A Healthy Beginning makes a zinc oxide-based SPF 25 Whipped Mineral Sun Butter which contains raspberry seed oil to boost sun protection and hydrate the skin. All ingredients have a low EWG rating, the product packaging uses minimal plastic, and the butter can be used on the face and body (and is perfect for kids, too).
3) Josie Maran loves her argan oil and she makes a beautifully scented, chemical-free facial oil that protects with an SPF of 47, and is available at Sephora.
4) Also available at Sephora with EWG ratings between 1 and 3 is Coola's range of non-toxic SPF products which includes a White Tea Face Sport SPF 50 and an SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray Pina Colada.
Whichever sunscreen you choose, be sure to apply 30 minutes before sun exposure, reapplying every two hours, and after swimming.