Summer is just around the corner and sun safety is critical for skin health. Unfortunately, one of the most toxic products on drugstore shelves is Sunscreen!
Today we're here to help you learn more about the importance of the ingredients in your sunscreen, how it affects your health and the planet's too.
What's harmful about the Sun?
Summer means we're outdoors having fun in the sun and naturally getting an extra dose of Vitamin D. That's a good thing and our bodies benefit from it, however, we also know that "over exposure" isn't good and it's important to protect our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. These ultraviolet rays damage our skin, causing sunburn and even leading to skin cancer. Sun exposure also ages the appearance of our skin because it affects elasticity, which is why it's also important to keep ourselves hydrated and our skin moisturized during the summer months.
One question to ask: Does it help or harm?
When it comes to sunscreen there are two types of "active" ingredients: chemical and mineral.
So, go ahead and grab your sunscreen...seriously, get up and find it so we can check it out together. We'll wait right here, no worries.
Got it? OK, let's do this - it's simple.
It's important to read the label on every product in your skincare routine because it's the easiest way to remind yourself that the power truly IS in your hands - flip the container over and let's have a look at what's inside. If you've never done this before, looking at all those ingredients may be overwhelming, but don't worry, "you've got this" and we're here to help!
The bottom line is, knowledge is power and there are more options for truly natural and healthy products on the market today than ever before. And Neitra is proud to be leading the way for a healthier world through the products we've created.
Most sunscreen ingredients absorb the ultraviolet rays from the sun and one of the most commonly found is the chemical oxybenzone. Like anything you put on your skin, it's also absorbed by your body. Oxybenzone is suspected to be in most individuals in the US, it's been found in mother's milk and unfortunately it's got a high toxicity rating too. Oxybenzone is associated with human hormone disruption and can cause reactions to sensitive skin. And concerns run deeper because oxybenzone also damages the DNA of coral cells...but more on that later.
Next on the list is a chemical called octinoxate. Again, it absorbs UV rays and is also absorbed by the skin. It can irritate and cause skin allergies, has been found in mother's milk and has also been shown to negatively impact human thyroid and reproductive systems of both males and females.
Another common ingredient to avoid is retinyl palmitate - it may also be listed as retinol or vitamin A. This chemical is a micronutrient vitamin A but two specific derivatives - retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid - should be avoided in personal care products and cosmetics. Both chemicals pose photocarcinogenic concerns, meaning when combined with sunlight they may actually increase skin cancer risks. You'll often find this chemical in sunscreens, lip balms and even moisturizers.
One last thing to be aware of is the fact that many sunscreens and other skincare products sold in North America are actually banned in Europe due to stricter health laws set by European commissions. Unfortunately the United States' and Canada's current personal care product laws still allow the addition of many ingredients including chemicals known to trigger allergic reactions, cause skin damage and even those that may alter or disrupt your body's hormones.
Are there effective natural options?
Mother Nature provides us with alternatives to chemical ingredients and in the case of sun protection she's given us minerals. The two most widely used are Zinc Oxide (that's what you'll find in our Neitra Sunscreen) and Titanium Oxide.
You already know that chemicals are absorbed by your skin, however, minerals stay on top of your skin and protect it by reflecting the sun's harmful rays. Mineral sunscreens are gentler compounds and often recommended for younger children and people with sensitive skin because they're less likely to cause irritation.
It's not just about you - it's about Your Momma too!
As with anything you put on your body, what's inside that product has an extended effect on where it actually ends up. And, just like the food you eat, what's inside the products you use on your skin affect your health AND the health of Mother Earth.
(SIDE ALERT: While some sunscreens can be "water-resistant" there's not a single sunscreen proven to be "water-proof" (or sweat-proof) so you always need to reapply throughout the day.)
Now, let's get in the water.
When we're enjoying the beautiful waters of the sea the ingredients in our sunscreens are washing off our bodies. How do chemicals affect water systems and the creatures of the sea? Oxybenzone and octinoxate cause coral polyps to release hormones and trigger them to encase themselves in skeleton...that's not natural and it's not good.
Reefs bleach white because the nutrients have been leached out of these incredibly important habitats. Sadly, these two chemicals are found in over 3,500 different sunscreens and researchers estimate nearly 15,000 tons of sunscreen ends up annually in the world's reefs; impacting corals, sea urchins, algae and algae eaters and even decreasing fish populations.
While no sunscreen is completely "reef-friendly" sunscreens made from mineral based ingredients have not been proven to be harmful to coral and sea life.
Starting in 2021, Hawaii will ban sunscreens containing these ingredients to help save this vital ecosystem. Though this action may sound extreme to some, bans are already in effect at several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "Eco-Parks" in Mexico and other natural resource agencies in parts of Asia have also banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone.
Through Nature we're all connected - we can and should "do better" for the health of ourselves and our oceans and mineral based sunscreens do just that.
What's the best advice?
The best choices we can make come down to common sense and some of the most effective things you can do to protect yourself from sunburn are also the easiest like:
- Reducing time in the sun; especially the most intense hours of 10am - 2pm.
- Cover up; block UV rays by wearing long sleeves and large brimmed hats. If you're in the water, rash guards and swim/snorkel tights are effective too.
- Minimize your need for sunscreen stay in the shade when possible.
If you choose to use sunscreen remember the ingredients inside DO matter; they affect your health as well as our planet's health. And when using sunscreen, reapply appropriately - sun safety is important and it's your responsibility to treat your "one and only earth suit" with care.
At Neitra, we're creating truly natural, non-toxic skincare for the whole family and you'll find the same healthy goodness you've come to expect from all our products in our Sunscreen too.
We start with the natural SPF protection in our base ingredients and to that we add just one active ingredient - the natural mineral zinc oxide. You'll be able to pronounce all the ingredients in our Neitra Sunscreen; nothing toxic at all here. Our organic coconut oil has a natural SPF8, sweet almond oil is not only high in vitamin E, which protects and rejuvenates your skin, it also has a natural SPF6. And of course, olive oil has been used for centuries because it's incredibly moisturizing and did you know it also has a natural SPF8 too?
ANOTHER SIDE ALERT - Three reasons to avoid Sunscreen Sprays:
- Sprays can accidentally be inhaled taking chemicals directly into your lungs.
- Sprays often don't provide adequate coverage for maximum protection.
- Over-spray lands on sand which is usually washed up into the ocean too.
We want you to enjoy one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Get outside, connect with Nature, spend time appreciating her and the benefits that being outdoors will have on your body and your state of mind.