Its hard to know what to look for in a natural sunscreen and now with so many options it can be confusing trying to pick the best product for your family, you want to make sure you have all of your bases covered but also aren't adding to the toxic load that mainstream topical products can provide.
Below are some of our favorite sunscreens from New Zealand and abroad plus a little on what you might want to look for.
What Makes a Natural Sunscreen "Natural?"
Simply, it's the active ingredients in the sunscreen that determine whether a sunscreen is natural or not. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the only natural sunscreen ingredients that are approved by the FDA.
If these minerals make up the active ingredients in your sunscreen, it's "natural." If it contains synthetic active ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, or avobenzone, it's not a natural sunscreen but rather a chemical sunscreen.
But, don't let the term natural trick you into thinking you're getting a 100 percent natural product. You're (most likely) not. Remember, the "natural" in your natural sunscreen only refers to the active ingredients. The rest of the ingredients in natural sunscreen can be completely synthetic.
Natural sunscreens work differently than chemical sunscreens. Synthetic sunscreen ingredients absorb UV rays. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, on the other hand, are physical sunscreens. They don't absorb UV rays, they block them. It's like having little "shields" over your skin protecting you from sun exposure.
There's some indication that using physical sunscreens long-term give you better protection against photoaging because, unlike synthetic sunscreens, there is no chemical reaction occurring on your skin.
We have a few customers coming in every summer looking for a natural sunscreen that completely blends into the skin. Natural sunscreens do however have a different texture and consistency compared to your typical sunscreen products. Many people describe it as thicker. It may take a bit more rubbing to get it to fully absorb. This is becouse zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are incredibly white minerals that, in their natural form, don't absorb into the skin. Instead, they sit on top to block the sun.
The products that contain micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will blend much more smoothly and evenly into the skin. If they don't completely disappear, they come pretty darn close. Micronized minerals are ground into a finer and smaller size, so they're much less obvious on the skin. But this is not without controversy.
While zinc oxide and titanium dioxide aren't absorbed in their natural state, when ground into super small-size particles (called nanoparticles) they can more easily be absorbed into the body. The effects this may have on our health, if any, haven't been fully studied as of yet. Some people prefer to avoid nanoparticles because of this.
What does Broad Spectrum mean and is it important?
A sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection protects against UV-B rays as well as UV-A. All sunscreens protect against UV-B rays which cause sunburn however not all protect again UV-A which causes premature ageing of the skin. Recent studies have shown that UV-A radiation plays a large role in causing gene mutations that can lead to skin cancer. Therefore it is vital that when using a sunscreen you check that it offers broad spectrum protection.
Here are 4 things to think about when choosing your natural sunscreen:
- Look at the active ingredients. You're specifically looking for zinc oxide, either alone or with titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide gives broad-spectrum SPF, so it will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide is most effective against UVB only, so it won't protect you across the full spectrum and shouldn't be used as a stand-alone active ingredient. But it can help boost the effectiveness of zinc oxide.
- Choose an SPF of 30 or higher. You'll want your SPF to be at least a 30. This ensures you get enough protection for a reasonable period of time. SPF can go up to 50+, but once you get over SPF 30 the increase in sun protection you get is incremental.
- Take a look at the other ingredients. There is no set standard for what constitutes "natural" for cosmetics . Just because a sunscreen has natural active ingredients does not in itself make the sunscreen 100 percent natural. The vehicle—basically all the other ingredients in the sunscreen—could still be comprised of synthetic ingredients.
- To nano ot not to nano. Meaning to choose a product with nano zinc particles or not. Perhaps you need to do a bit more research on this one to decide or perhaps you are happy just to find a product that will blend into the skin well.
Here are the 5 Sunscreens we stock instore, feel free to pop in and ask us more if you need to.
Wotnot Natural Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+ will protect your baby and family naturally and has been developed in response to feedback and requests from their customers. Winning the Nature & Health awards for Best Sunscreen in 2013 means that we are not the only ones who love it!
They use the finest and most gentle natural extracts. Their products are GMO free and are also free from sulphates, petrochemicals, parabens, artificial preservatives and fragrances. Wotnot formulas are so close to nature they know your family will love them as much as you do!
Zinc oxide active, free from titanium dioxide, provides broad spectrum protection against UV-A and UV-B. No artificial preservative - our preservative is approved by the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) organisation. Ideal for people with sensitive skin Beautiful texture, no separation formula and easy to apply. Independently Tested AS/NZ Standards
Badger Company, All Season Face Stick, Sport Sunscreen, SPF 35, Unscented gives broad spectrum protection with Non-Nano Zinc Oxid, it is water resistant up to 80 min. Safe and effective, bio degradable, certified natural containg organic ingredients. Great for Children & Adults
For full protection, apply liberally (2mg/cm2 of skin) to exposed skin, then rub in to reduce whitening effect.
Eco by Sonya Natural Rose Hip Sunscreen is a zinc based Natural Sunscreen rubs in clearly and easily, is untinted, and suitable for both face and body. Containing zinc to create a physical barrier on the skin to deflect sun rays from permeating your skin. Natural Rose Hip Sunscreen is a non-greasy zinc formula with broad spectrum for protection from UVA/UVB rays. Furthermore, it is SPF 30, up to 3 hours water resistant and suitable for the whole family to use!
We are also proud to say the Natural Rose Hip Sunscreen is reef friendly! This is because it is FREE of oxybenzone, which is a chemical harming our beautiful sea creatures. Also, the added blend of Vitamin E, Green Tea and Rose Hip will help nourish and moisturise the skin. Natural Rose Hip Sunscreen can aid in the prevention of premature ageing caused by sun damage.
Oasis Sunscreen Contains 94% natural ingredients including jojoba oil, shea butter, lecithin and vitamin E to moisturise against wind, water and sunlight.
Made for sensitive skin, suitable for face, body and all your assets, non greasy and non whitening, does not stain clothes (no, it does not leave a yellow stain), can be worn under makeup, contains no colour, fragrance or parabens and uses Non-nano zinc oxide, is cruelty free and suitable for vegans. Proudly made in New Zealand by A brand that's been trusted for over 10 years. AS/NZ Standard 2604:1998, rated High Sun Protection.
My Sunshine Sunscreen is a beautiful New Zealand made mineral Zinc Sunscreen; enriched with natures natural sunscreens Red Raspberry Seed Oil and Sea Buckthorn Oil, to further protect your skin from the sun. To nourish your skin it is loaded with Organic Aloe Vera, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Shea Butter and Chamomile. Also, with mega antioxidants Green Tea, Vitamin E and Olive Oil to fight free radicals and help repair your skin.
SPF 30, containing 13% zinc oxide, high broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, Infrared (IR) - bluelight protection from our computers & phones, Up to 2 hours water resistant, Transparent application for face & body, perfect for sensitive skin, safe for babies 6 months. No parabens, no oxybenzone, no octinoxate, no homosalate, no vitamin A, no avobenzone, no 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, no sulphates, no phenoxyethanol, no glycols, no artificial fragrance or colour, not tested on animals. Ocean and reef safe.
Total ingredients are 97% from natural origin & 30% organic. Made with love in New Zealand