Thursday, May 23, 2019

Safe Sun Protection Guide (including best organic and natural sunscreens!)

best healthy natural sunscreen guide

You would probably have to be living under a rock to not know that sunscreen has come under fire recently. 

Sketchy ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been demonstrated to cause harms to coral reefs and in some areas like Hawaii and Turks and Caicos have banned sunscreens that use those ingredients.

A study published in early 2019 showed that common sunscreen chemicals are absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream in amounts many times higher than FDA standards (read Consumer Reports' write up about it here)


So what's a busy family to do?

So what do you do about your plans to play in the sun? Should you swear off sunscreen and stay inside?

If you have a sun protection plan, you can minimize damage from the sun without having to avoid it!

Note that what I didn't say was "if you use the right sunscreen"....

YES, the right sunscreen is important BUT there are other things you can do first and on conjunction with a natural sunscreen that will maximize your protection and minimize the hard from chemicals.

Do you just want to jump to the safer natural sunscreen list? Scroll to the bottom!

The Best Ways to Stay Sun Safe This Summer:

how to avoid sunburn without sunscreen


Wear Clothes

There is no doubt that a baby running around in the just a diaper seems like the quintessential image of summer freedom. 

The truth is, the more skin you have exposed, the more at risk you are for sun damage. 

Even wearing a shirt, shorts and a hat will go a long way to protect a significant amount of your skin real estate.

My kids wear long sleeve rash guards when playing outside in the sun in their swimsuits. It's a great non-chemical way to protect their arms and torso from too much sun but it keeps them cooler as they play, too.

Be sure to grab a hat as well.

Find or Make Shade

If you're going to be playing on a beach, large open park or somewhere without natural shade from trees, bring an umbrella or pop up tent with you. 

Be sure to keep infants in the shade to protect their especially sensitive skin.

If shade is available, set up your home base in the shade and then take breaks from sun play in the shade.

Don't forget your eye protection

Sunglasses aren't just a fashion accessory: they protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation. Be sure to pick up a pair for every member of your family!

Many glasses will come with a rating for how much UV filtering they do. Try to choose a pair that filters 100% of UV rays for maximum protection of your sight.

Plan Around the Sun

As much as possible, try to plan your outdoor time in the morning and early evening when the sun is lower in the sky and less intense. This lets you enjoy the sun without the deep, penetrating rays that can also make you overheat.

Bonus: Take your kids outside to play earlier in the day and the just might take a nap for you in the afternoon!

Don't Get Burned

If your skin is turning red, it's time to take a break. 

Keep in mind that burnt skin burns more easily, too. If you're starting to turn pink, take a break in the shade or inside. 

If you got a bad burn, you may need to take a break from the sun for a couple days or cover up with longer clothing (if the burn is on arms or legs) while your skin heals. Be extra careful to not expose your burnt skin to any more sun until it is healed.

Check the UV Index

Most weather reporting sites or apps will also list the UV index along with the projected weather. You can get more information about the UV Index and what it means on the EPA's website

The UV index is much more effective than temperature to help you accurately gauge the intensity of the UV rays you'll be exposed to on a given day. 

On days when the UV index is high (above 6 or 7), you may want to plan on indoor activities for the middle part of the day in order to stay out of the sun.

Keep in mind that even a lower UV index (like 3-5) can cause an increase in UV ray exposure if you are playing around reflective surfaces like sand or water that will bounce the rays back up at you from the ground.

Choose a Natural Sunscreen

I hope what you gathered from the first few points of this article is that sunscreen is important but it shouldn't be your only defense. 

A lot of sunscreens contain sketchy ingredients including endocrine disruptors (read: they mess with your hormones!) and ingredients that actually make skin cancer worse.

Stick to safer options: Look for sunscreens that contain Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as the active sun protection ingredients.

I also personally look for sunscreens which are labeled as phthalate and paraben free (other classes of endocrine disruptors) and "non-nano". Non-nano means the particle sizes are not nano-particles, and are therefore larger and less likely to be absorbed into the body from skin application.

Avoid sunscreens which contain: Oxybenzone, Vitamin A (sometimes listed as retinyl palmitate) or added insect repellent.

My favorite natural sunscreens

These are my favorite brands of natural sunscreen. I have personally found these products to perform well and meet my safety criteria listed above. If you are particularly worried about looking pasty and white, the ThinkSun Everyday Face sunscreen is tinted to help it blend more naturally with your skin.

Click the referral links below to go straight to the product on Amazon.



For more sunscreen options, check out EWG's sunscreen guide the find the least toxic sunscreens for you and your family. 


About the Author:

Carissa is a green lifestyle advocate and mom of two active boys. The owner and lead writer at Creative Green Living, she won the Craftys Award for the "Best Craft Blogger" category in 2016 and the ShiftCon award for "Best DIY Blogger" in 2018.

Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects and healthier choices that are beautiful and delicious! She is also the author of the hardcover cookbook, Beautiful Smoothie Bowls (Skyhorse, 2017) and Proven Techniques for Keeping Healthy Chickens (Skyhorse, 2018). Her projects have been featured in magazines like Kids Crafts 1-2-3, Capper's Farmer and Urban Farm Magazine. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter or join the Creative Green Living Tribe on Facebook.
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Sponsored content disclosure: In 2016, EWG sponsored a post on Creative Green Living about sunscreens at the URL where this post lives. The post has since been updated and no longer contains sponsored content. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and reflect my authentic experience with EWG. I only recommend products I personally enjoy and think my readers will as well. For more information, see my full sponsored post and review policy.

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