It’s summer and hot as eff out, which means less clothes, which means more skin, which means
side boob sunscreen. That’s right, it’s the mid-July obligatory sunscreen post.
Many of you are already on the daily all year round sunscreen tip but, for those of us who are less diligent (guilty as charged), summer is the season we are forced to reckon with all things SPF-related. I usually just buy whatever sunscreen is on sale at CVS and call it a day, but lately, thanks to some super-aware people in my life, I’ve started to give the chemical content of the food I eat, the water I drink, and, now the sunscreen I wear a little extra thought. It’s kind of crazy that we slather the chemical loaded stuff allllllll over our bodies without a second thought (just like I never second guess adding those delicious little mochi balls to my frozen yogurt).
But we need sunscreen, it’s a good thing (a fact that Glamour’s annual mole test issue has indelibly burned into my hypochondriac brain).
The thing that’s tough about all-natural is that sometimes it feels subpar to those good old-fashioned chemicals (natural kitty litter, I’m looking at you). My one go at natural deodorant was less than effective and organic sunscreen has its own particular set of challenges: the more natural you get the more “natural” smelling it is and the less it rubs in, which means you end up looking like the pastiest version of yourself (in other words, the opposite of sexy) while everyone else’s brown skin gleams with tanning oil. Yes, I get it: taking care of yourself isn’t always about being sexy. It’s about being practical, especially when we’re talking about preventing skin cancer. That doesn’t mean that I’m still not looking for a product that does both.
Here are some natural sunscreens (they all meet the Environmental Working Group’s eco standards for a more natural alternative) that are the SPF equivalent of having your cake and eating it too:
Purple Prairie SunStuff: thick and creamy (maybe not necessarily the adjectives you want associated with your sunscreen) with a “distinctive” smell but will do in a pinch (and…no chemicals…so there’s that).
Soleil Toujours Broad Spectrum SPF 30: the gateway mineral sunscreen for newbies: user-friendly (unlike that contouring kit you bought) it absorbs really well into your skin. Only drawback is that it’s not as natural and detoxifying as other products on the market
Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunscreen: the word “botanica” is so pretty that it almost cancels out how thick this one rubs on. Happily no fragrance or parabens but water lovers beware: it’s only resistant for 40 minutes.
Nature’s Gate Sport Vegan Sunscreen: calling all vegans—this mineral sunscreen rubs in real nice (for a mineral sunscreen) and is 80-minute water resistant, which means you can run in and out of the super cold surf pretending you like it as many times as you’d like. Bonus: little to no fragrance.
Jurlique Sun Specialist: good for face AND body (hello multitasking) and absorbs pretty quickly. P.S. sadly it doesn’t feel as moisturizing as some of the others but def not a deal-breaker.
Safe Harbor Natural Suncare: rubs on thick (con). Contains natural anti-aging components (pro). Also: fragrant.
And on a more serious note, I have some questions about the efficacy of organic sunscreens: Is there a possible downside to going organic? Do they effectively prevent skin cancer? Are there any ingredients in the all-natural versions that could have weird side effects? I talked to Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC to get some answers:
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and why you believe sunscreen is so important?
The risk from the sun is cumulative, so it’s always a good idea to wear sunscreen (no matter how old you are or how much previous sun damage you have).
Are the chemicals in regular sunscreen really that bad for you? If so, what are they (what ingredients/names should we be looking out for?) and what are the negative effects?
The negative effects, if any, of sunscreen have been debated for years. There is no scientific proof that they are harmful.
What are the benefits of using organic sunscreen?
The organic sunscreens are usually less irritating.
Does organic sunscreen prevent skin cancer and sun damage as effectively as regular?
Yes, when used properly.
What is the potential downside of using organic? Is there one?
It’s more expensive than regular sunscreen, therefore people might skimp on the amount they are using, which could lead to a lower SPF than what is on the bottle.
What ingredients (good and bad) should we be looking out for in organic sunscreen?
Pure mineral zinc oxide is best.
For someone transitioning to natural sunscreen, what is your advice?
If you have sensitive skin, even so-called “natural” sunscreens may irritate it, therefore you should start slowly.
Aside from sunscreen, what other measures should people be taking to protect themselves from the sun?
As the weather gets warmer, I would recommend transitioning to a foaming or glycolic cleanser in the summer to keep the pores clean, an antioxidant serum in the morning before SPF and at night, a glycolic or retinol to keep skin turning over. These ingredients will make skin a little more sun sensitive, so use an SPF of at least 30 and wear a hat.
There. Now you can all get back to figuring out whose rooftop/backyard/stoop/front porch (upstate peeps I’m looking at you) you’ll be hanging out on tonight.
Do any of you have any good organic/all-natural/chemical free sunscreen goodness tips to share?
With special thanks to McCarren Hotel & Pool
160 N 12th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249 | + 1 (718) 218-7500