With the Summer heat upon us, many are eager to protect their skin from sun damage linked to skin cancer, age spots, skin peeling and a host of other harmful side effects.
Whether it’s skin irritation or full-on sunburn, warmer weather can be cause for more pain than partying if the proper safety precautions aren’t followed. This includes staying hydrated, avoiding exposure to direct sunlight and, of course, remembering to put on sunscreen.
However, according to the FDA, many sunscreen brands have been found to contain carcinogens, specifically substances that cause cancer in liver tissue.
According to the CDC, “high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.”
While traditional sunscreen brands may be unreliable due to possible contamination or the risk of harmful parabens (such as octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate), there are safer alternatives.
Mineral sun protectants used with natural plant-based ingredients—such as aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter, murula oil, and most antioxidant oils like vitamin C and E—can optimize coverage without harmful chemicals.
Some people have found ways to make their own natural sunscreens. For those not quite sure about turning their kitchen into a sunscreen laboratory, there are some natural products packed with all of the UV protection needed for some fun in the sun.
Knowing Your Sunscreens
Many commercialized chemical sunscreens are made with an ingredient called oxybenzone, which can alter hormones and trigger allergies for humans.
Oxxybenzone is commonly found in hairspray, nail polish, plastics and other commonly manufactured items.
While it does offer sun protection by absorbing UV light, it does so by creating a chemical reaction when absorbed into the skin.
In addition to being harmful to humans, chemical sunscreens also harm sea life, often killing off coral reefs.
Alternatively, there are mineral sunscreens, also called “physical sunscreens,” that consist of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which sit on top of the skin like a shield rather than absorbing into the skin.
Zinc is found within both human and plant cells and helps build healthy immune systems. Zinc oxide also naturally dissolves inside the body. Zinc only becomes dangerous when it is added to the body in high concentrations.
While these sunscreens are gentler and safer than chemical ones, while also providing better protection, there are still natural ways that boost sun damage prevention even more.
While herbal medicine is sometimes disregarded, many herbs and oils are very effective when it comes to resisting UV rays.
The key is being able to identify the right herbs, oils and plant-based ingredients and using them in conjunction with mineral sunscreens.
Natural sun protectants
It’s important to know how to utilize natural ingredients with your sunscreen for the best coverage.
Antioxidants like vitamin C, E, B2 and others are some of the strongest sun protection powerhouses that are also very easy to access.
They contain anti-inflammatory properties that reduce photo-aging and sunburn.
Mineral sunscreens that include antioxidant-filled plant oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil and shea butter provide the skin-natural sun protection along with skin brightening, acne clearing and overall complexion boosting properties.
“Antioxidants protect the skin by limiting free radical production, which can damage the skin. With daily use, they can reduce lentigines (sun spots), help combat visible signs of aging and calm skin inflammations. Several antioxidants provide the skin with hydration and increase moisture retention to help revitalize dull-looking skin. In short, antioxidants are damage defenders that help slow skin aging—and they deserve a place in your routine.”
With that said, it’s important to find the right antioxidants to fit into your unique routine. It can be tempting to buy several plant-based goodies and start lathering them on with your sunscreen, but thoughtful consideration should go into everything that interacts with the body.
Selecting Personalized Natural Sunscreen Boosters
When choosing a natural booster to compliment sunscreen, it’s important to evaluate your mineral sunscreen SPF, skin type and allergens.
Each natural ingredient has its own SPF level. For example, jojoba oil is SPF 4 and avocado oil can be as high as SPF 15.
It’s important not to add too much or too little when it comes to SPF protection. The American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests getting a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, which blocks about 97 percent of the sun’s UVB.
Many people are tempted to go up to the highest SPF possible, but that’s actually almost as dangerous as not wearing any at all.
SPF’s higher than 50 may seem like the ultimate sun shields, but they may cause more exposure to UV (ultraviolet that causes radiation) damage while only protecting against UVB damage (ultraviolet that causes sunburns).
The bottom line is that merely applying sunscreen, no matter the SPF level, is not full sun protection.
There are mineral sunscreens that can help with the safest options, but adding plant-based can tip the scale in safer odds.
For dry skin types, sun protection and moisture are key to prevent inflamed and peeling skin. Products from the Arbonne’s BrightenUp line, particularly the Illuminating cream with mineral broad spectrum spf 12 sunscreen are particularly helpful.
The cream uses natural herbs, like Japanese Pagoda Tree Flower extract, which is derived from a traditional Japanese and Chinese herbal remedy for inflamed and damaged skin.
It also uses J Olive Squalane, which is made using olives and other plant sources. Squalane is another powerful antioxidant that provides hydration, anti-aging benefits and even SPF.
For more oil prone skin, it’s best to go with something lightweight, yet hydrating. Sky Organics is a plant-based brand with natural products packed with marula oil, which is lightweight, with vitamin C and E and works as a natural sunscreen.
The list of plant-based products could go on forever. It’s truly a matter of pairing them wisely with a chemical-free sunscreen. As always, try a patch test before applying elsewhere and contact a dermatologist for further recommendations for the most protection for a Summer full of sun.