As the thermometer climbs and we see more sun each day, it’s time to (sigh) reach for the sunscreen.
As we all know by now, UV rays cause skin damage, accelerate aging and skin cancer. While there is some debate as to whether sunscreen prevents skin cancer, it does, at the very least, reduce the incidence of sunburn and slows photo aging caused by too much UV exposure. That said, some sun exposure is important to help your body produce vitamin D, so total avoidance is also not advised.
The key here is to prevent sunburn and skin damage while avoiding a slew of chemicals used in many sunscreens that may pose significant health risks. The most commonly used active chemical UV absorbers are Oxybenzone, Octyl / Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate), Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Avobenzone. The biggest offender is Oxybenzone, which has been shown to cause cellular changes, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, and organ toxicity. It also tends to be persistent in the body and accumulate over time. Oxybenzone also acts as a penetration enhancer, which means it, and other less than desirable ingredients in the formula such as parabens, may be more readily absorbed by the skin. Translation? Steer clear.
While a few of these chemical UV absorbers do rate a low risk level on the EWG’s cosmetics database, I still prefer to avoid them, opting for a mineral physical block instead. Part of the challenge of mineral sunscreens, though, is the ‘suck factor’ in using them. They’re hard to put on, spread and get rubbed in, they’re uncomfortable to wear in warm weather, they’re tend to be sticky or really greasy, and often, they leave you looking chalky, which no doubt isn’t your preferred poolside look. The solution? A spray.
Spray sunscreens tend to lead to better compliance because the ‘suck factor’ is significantly reduced by lighter weight formulations that are easier to apply, spread and rub in. They also tend to be more comfortable to wear in warm weather than their heavier, cream-based counterparts. But, a truly non-toxic spray sunscreen is hard to come by, since the only two options in the non-chemical realm are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide–minerals that act as physical UV blockers that reflect the sun instead of absorb it.
Ideally, you want to avoid products that use nano-sized minerals as well, which are small enough to be absorbed into the blood stream or inhaled, which some feel post health risks. If a spray is what you want, your best bet is a non-nano sized, zinc oxide based formula, and honestly, there aren’t many out there. Here are the top 3 we’ve found:
1. All Terrain Terra Sport SPF 30. The winner here, this lightweight, easy to use formula is perfect for everyday use when spending long hours outdoors sweating, swimming and sporting. Proven to be highly water resistant, it’s also proven to still be effective after 80 minutes in the water, and is virtually sweat proof. Uses 19 percent non-nano, transparent zinc oxide for UVA and UVB protection at 30 SPF, and won’t leave you looking chalky and white, though you will be a little shiny. Free of fragrance and any other potentially harmful chemicals and it doesn’t sting the eyes if it happens to get in them.
2. Aubrey Organics Unscented Natural Sun SPF 30. Made using 15 percent zinc oxide for broad spectrum UV protection, this spray lotion comes in a hand squeeze trigger bottle for easy of application. Highly moisturizing, it’s also water-resistant for up to 40 minutes of swimming and perspiring and free from any concerning chemicals. Virtually scent free other than the natural smell of the ingredients, it’s a great option for those who really prefer something with very little odor.
3. Goddess Garden Kids Natural SPF & Continuous Spray. This continuous spray, 94 percent certified organic formula is super easy to apply to hard to reach places when you don’t have anyone on hand to get your back, so to speak. Made using sheer 6.4 percent titanium dioxide and 6 percent zinc oxide, it provides broad spectrum SPF of 30, but not quite as much protection as the higher concentration of zinc oxide in the All Terrain. It’s made using gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO ingredients. The non-aerosol container is fully recyclable and it’s made in the USA.
Have fun in the sun, but keep your skin safe and remember to reapply any sunblock after any time spent in the water or sweating, despite claims of water resistance. Better safe than lobster.
Top image: Youthful Sins