Natural sunscreens

As I promised you in my previous post, I’ve tried my best to provide you more practical informations about sun creams and which ones I recommend you this summer.
As we already know, the sun light is very important for our health, though is not good to exaggerate with the sun exposure, especially if we aren’t used to go out on the sun the most part of the year. Too much sun exposure can cause damage on the skin and cells. In every case we need a really good and safe sunscreen to protect our skin.
Many proofs and scientific results regarding the harmful properties of conventional chemical sun creams are emerging out more and more. First, let’s discover what is the difference between a conventional sunscreen and an organic one:

Chemical sunscreens: They are called so, because their active ingredients are chemicals, that prevent sunburns on the skin by absorbing mainly UVB rays. These are very popular among consumers, because they penetrate quick in the skin and feel quite light. But their ability to irritate the skin and cause allergies due to harsh chemicals, is very high. Usually, people blame the “harmful” sun for the allergies, without knowing that the main cause can be their chemical sunscreen. What is more, in many shops happened many times that they sold old sun creams from the previous season, which can be even more harmful. I can confirm this from my personal experience. Read what Dr. Barry Groves says about chemical sunscreens:

“A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 filters out approximately ninety-four percent of the UVB rays. Using one with a SPF of 30 does not double to protection – filtering out ninety-seven percent means that it only increases protection by about three percent. And this quoted SPF applies to UVB rays only. The protection provided against UVA rays in chemical sunscreens is much less at about ten percent of the UVB rating.”

Physical sunscreens: these are sunscreens with mineral origins and are mainly found in organic sunscreens. Julie Gabriel in her book The green beauty guide states about them:

” Wearing a mineral sunscreen is like wearing thousands of tiny mirrors on the skin that reflect the sun’s rays. They sit on top of the skin. Mineral sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Both minerals have a wider spectral range of activity than any synthetic sunscreen ingredient. While the entire range of UVA and UVB radiation is 280-400nm, titanium dioxide’s range of protection is 270-700nm, and zinc dioxide shields from rays ranging from 290-700nm.” 

Apart these two minerals, a high quality sunscreen has to contain also some herbal and plant extracts to soothe the skin with its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and calming effects. Among plants with an excellent function in a sunscreen, there are: aloe vera, shea butter, jojoba oil,… They don’t oxidize on the sun and they provide a lot of benefits for our skin.

Harmful ingredients in conventional sunscreens

PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid): causes allergic dermatitis, photosensitivity, produces free radicals that cause mutations, lead to cell death, may be implicated in cardiovascular diseases, causes changes in blood components.

Benzophenones (benzophenone-3, sulisobenzone and dioxybenzone) =UVA filters: strong photoallergen, endocrine disruptor, produces free radicals that increase skin aging, environmental toxicant

Cinnamates (octylmethoxycinnamate, cinoxate and methoxycinnamate) =UVB filter: lead to cell death, a penetration enhancer, cause skin irritation and contact allergies

Salicylates(octyl salicylate) =UVB filter: increase breast cancer cells

Dibenzoylmethanes(avobenzone) =commonly used UVA filter in EU: produces free radicals under UV light, which can lead to DNA damage, it’s unstable under UV light, breaking down into several chemicals, can cause contact allergies

Octocrylene = UVB filter: it is absorbed into the nucleated epidermal layers, can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis.

Camphor derivatives(4-methylbenzylidene or 4-MBC) = UVB filters: endocrine disruptor, lead to hypothyroidism, can cause photoallergic dermatitis, bioaccumulative in the environment.

There is another alarming fact concerning chemical sun creams and the environment

“Chemical constituents of sunscreens have reached detectable levels in fresh water and seawater systems, with experts estimating that around a quarter of the sunscreen ingredients applied to the skin are released in water over the course of a 20 minute submersion. Certain sunscreen and personal care ingredients have been found to cause coral bleaching, even at low concentration, promoting viral infection in coral reefs and threatening the survival of endangered tropical ecosystems.”

(from the book Toxic beauty by Dawn Mellowship)

Which sun creams are safe and good for the skin?

There are several organic sun creams on the market that are safe with its formulations, but don’t trust just to the words on the package. My favorite sunscreens are absolutely the Lavera Sun sensitive collection. They have a wide range of products from sprays to lotions:

Lavera Baby & Children Sun Screen SPF 20 contains precious organic ingredients such as beeswax, canola oil, shea butter, organic carotene and organic sunflower oil. This lotion is suitable even for the delicate baby skin. Due to its precious oils and plant extracts it protects the skin from moisture loss and the skin cells from damage.

Another very good brand is Petite Marie Organics from the above mentioned Julie Gabriel, with a totally safe product named Ounce of prevention. This is a mineral based sun cream with SPF 30+ with zinc and anti aging antioxidants like green tea, lycopene and precious oils like argan, starflower and black currant oils.

The Organic pharmacy has also a collection of sunscreens on a zinc oxide basis. They contain many natural beneficial ingredients like sweet almond, sweet orange, rose hip, honeysuckle, aloe vera and shea butter.

Green makeup tip: Don’t forget to protect even your lips with a lip balm with a SPF. Lavera has an excellent one!

Truly safe sunscreens contain only herbal ingredients and mineral filters that do NOT include nano particles. A safe sunscreen has to protect the skin in a safe way, without irritating it. Independent certifications such as Ecocert, Cosmebio (Cosmetique Bio), Soil Association, BDIH, Natrue,etc. forbid the use of nano particles and toxic chemicals and guarantee us more security than just a normal pretty advertising in the magazines. Though, for me the most important thing is still to read the labels with ingredients.

Enjoy your summer sunny days!

Top picture: Green makeup favorite selection of sunscreens

Check out more about the toxicity in sunscreens at:

Another very good article that I recently found concerning sunscreens at:

0 comment on Safe sun creams for a carefree summer!

  1. Melissa Jaynes
    July 18, 2011 at 8:20 pm (12 years ago)

    GREAT information! I would like to add another great facial sunscreen called Argan Oil Facial Moisturizer by 100% Pure. It is made with Zinc Oxide and packed FULL of antioxidants from all natural organic ingredients. It also helps with fine lines, wrinkles and dark spot. I would highly recommend it! You can check out the full list of ingredients (or order) it here: – Melissa

  2. Mary
    July 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm (12 years ago)

    I read your comments on Fig+Sage’s post about nanoparticles and I was so glad you voiced your opinion. I completely agreed with you. I think nano sized materials in personal care products are a huge concern, and I was disappointed to see a popular beauty blog telling its readers that they are probably okay.

    • green makeup
      July 25, 2011 at 9:51 am (12 years ago)

      Thank you Mary for your support and following:)
      I encountered that topic “casually” and I was really surprised. I know that is very hard for all of us to discover the truth about nano materials(if a company is safe or not). But since these things aren’t researched enough, no one can claim that are 100% sure, especially people who sells products are problematic, because their care is just to sell.


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