Unless the science of sunscreen changes, it’s unlikely you will ever find a tube that is certified organic – and we don’t mean sunscreen that is made with certified organic ingredients – of which there are plentiful. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some good, effective natural sunscreen options.
Sunscreens can’t be certified organic because the main ingredient of natural sunscreen is zinc and, like water and salt, zinc can’t be certified organic because it is mined and doesn’t have agricultural origins.
To be certified organic the majority of ingredients in a product (at least 95%) have to be certified organic. (The requirements for beauty and skincare products vary but nevertheless they still need to contain a high proportion of certified organic to wear a legitimate organic logo.) Read this article about an organic certification for beauty and skincare for more info.
Did you know sunscreens kill coral?
Who would have thought! There’s a chemical in conventional sunscreen called oxybenzone that actually kills corals at even incredibly small doses. It interrupts coral endocrines and exacerbates bleaching.
Fortunately studies so far show that zinc oxide – the main ingredient in natural sunscreen – doesn’t harm coral.
Favourite natural sunscreens
The most common complaint about natural sunscreens is that they’re oily and go on white, but if you shake them well before use, it helps to blend the ingredients and make them go on more evenly.
Here are our favourites based on the pureness of their ingredients, their application and effectiveness.
This is a bit on the oily side but it has higher levels of zinc than some other sunscreens and a shorter list of ingredients – if you’re after something simple.
It goes on pinkish and a little thick but easily disappears once rubbed in and spreads far. It claims to be water resistant for two hours and does carry a slight, but not unpleasant, scent.
The company has an adult and baby version of the sunscreen; however the ingredients are the same. UV Natural International confirmed with Sustainable Shopper that there is no difference between the formulations and that they keep both on the market to promote sun safety to new mothers.
It carries the Humane Choice logo to say it’s cruelty-free. Commonly available in health food stores. 150g is $34.10
This is a baby skincare range and this sunscreen is my sister in law’s favourite. She has very fair skin and finds it the least oily and ‘white’ of the natural sunscreen range.
Despite Little Innoscents targeting children, this sunscreen works just as well for adults and claims to last for four hours in the water. It’s available through Chemist Warehouse and Thomas Dux. 100ML is $19.99
This is also a great sunscreen. It has a long list of ingredients; however they’re naturally derived. It claims to be water resistant for three hours and doesn’t carry a strong scent.
It’s available through chemists and online. Soleo also gets a good wrap from the Environmental Working Group in the US. 150g is $35.95
The Soleo ingredients are quite complex for a natural sunscreen so we’ve listed them – just out of curiosity:
Zinc Oxide 22.3%, Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil (Grapeseed), Helianthus Annus Seed Oil (Sunflower), Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride, Vegetable Oil, Candelilla Cera, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Teobroma Grandiflorum Seed Butter, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Green tea), Anthemis Nobilis Flower (Roman Chamomile), Lecithin, Carthamus Tinctorius SeedOil (Safflower), Cucumis Sativus Fruit Extract (Cucumber), Natural Vitamin E Oil.
Ingredient lists must order the ingredients from most used.
What else is there?
There is a more widely available sunscreen that’s marketed as being natural and it’s cheaper.
It’s called Natural Instinct but it has some questionable ingredients we wouldn’t put on our skin regularly. We’re particularly wary of the ingredient glyceryl isostearate which has dubious health credentials when used in skincare.
It has an adult and a kids’ range – the difference is that the adult range has glyceryl isostearate and polyhydroxystearic acid (which is not known to cause problems). Both products contain glycerin which can be petroleum derived.
It would be great to know why the adult range has these ingredients when the children’s range doesn’t (and do they make the sunscreen more or less ‘effective’?) but unfortunately the company hasn’t got back to us.
Anywho – try being kind to your skin this summer by covering up because natural or not it’s probably a good idea to use complex skincare products like sunscreen in moderation.
Long live summer!