As children we reluctantly permitted our parents to slather sunscreen onto us, even though we didn't dig being sticky all over. By the time we've grown up, we've incorporated the message: you have to apply sunscreen when you go tanning and best use it as a daily foundation on your face to prevent developing skin cancer and premature wrinkles.
While it holds true to this day that sunscreen can protect from these things, not all sunscreens do an equally good job. Some of them actually contain harmful ingredients that can contribute to developing cancer - how ironic (and sad) is that?!
And not only are some over the counter sunscreens toxic for your own body, they also harm coral reefs and ocean wildlife. As an environmentally conscious person, we're sure you don't want to add to the already alarmingly high pollution of our oceans and are curious to find out what to look for in sunscreen.
How can I find the ideal sun screen?
We did some digging for you and can provide you with some pointers on how to find the perfect match for your skin and the environment.
Chemical vs. mineral sunscreens: There exist different types of sunscreens. Mineral based and chemical based, as well as some hybrids. Mineral based ones sit on your skin and build an actual physical layer of protection from UVA and UVB rays, however they can leave a whiteish layer on your face. Chemical sunscreens get fully absorbed into your skin, which can cause irritation in people with sensitive skin. The chemicals contain compounds that absorb UV light to prevent it from penetrating into the skin. Overall there seem to be less harmful ingredients in mineral based sun screens, so we recommend to opt for one of those.
Broad spectrum: Ideally you want your sunscreen to be broad spectrum, meaning it block both UVA (associated with skin aging and damage) and UVB rays (associated with skin burning).
Water resistant: if you plan any activities in water, you definitely should look for a water resistant option.
Check for "reef safe" and "cruelty free"/"vegan" labels: I think we don't have to make a point why it's important to pick a sunscreen that hasn't been tested on animals and that isn't harmful for ocean life.
Avoid the following harmful ingredients: oxybenzone (one of the most commonly-used sunscreen chemicals, yuck), octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene (if you wanna do some further reading on harmful substances in suncreens, go here for starters and get some search engine digging done).
Example sunscreens: apparently Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 (from Canada, can be found internationally) is one of the best non toxic sunscreens for dark skin tones that doesn't leave a white shimmer. If you're Australia-based, WOTNOT 30 SPF NATURAL SUNSCREEN ranked high on some listings for eco-friendly sunscreen and Europe/UK-based folks can take a look at TROPIC GREAT BARRIER sun lotion. There are plenty more, so just do your research with our pointers and we're sure you'll find a sun screen that fits your skin's needs perfectly.
What about vitamin D?
UVB-rays are essential to trigger vitamin D production, but sunscreen blocks them. Originally we planned to include information on how to naturally, but safely get your vitamin D in this article, but then we realized the topic is VAST and deserves it's very own, dedicated article. Stay tuned!