It was Saturday afternoon. The sun was blazing, I was sweating hot and it was time for the beach.
As every woman (and man?) in Australia knows, 1pm on a Summer’s day is not the time to be going to the beach, unless of course, you want to arrive home looking like a par-cooked lobster.
That sun is an intense man. Like hot volcanic larva blazing directly onto you. But the beach, the beach, so nice!
So, as responsible adults (maybe not that responsible going to the beach at midday, but hey at least I own up to it) we have the “slip, slop, slap” message well and truly drilled into us.
On the drive in, I commenced my usual sunscreen routine, turning my brown face and back-of-hands into a decidedly white – face, as I use zinc.
My daughters think this look is hilarious (bless them).
My husband says he needs sunnies on to look at me (reflection!)
Arriving at the beach, with hat, sunnies, white-zinc-face and perfectly unflattering rashie on, I saw her.
A good friend, who always looks, well, so wonderful.
No comparison, no jealousy – I just always admire her for always looking so fresh.
We got to talking and she rather sweetly asked me “What sunscreen are you wearing?”
I mean, it must not have been obvious that I had just put almost an entire tub of zinc sunscreen all over my face!
When I explained my predicament – of wanting to avoid (at all costs!) sun damage and also being the all-natural, organic kinda-gal I am, always veered toward the natural (zinc-based) sunscreens.
Anyway, what followed was an in-depth conversation about the pro’s and con’s of sunscreens – which to use, which to avoid, and why. She goes for the light, slip-in ones (which is why she looked normal, and I looked like a ghost!)
And being the official calendar start to Summer, sunscreen is even more on my mind.
Truth be told, I’m a little confused with sunscreens.
So, after that day at the beach, I spent three hours going down a long rabbit hole to try and get to the bottom of the question “which sunscreen should I use?”
I’ve naturally got dark skin that doesn’t burn easily, but like every other woman I know, sun damage and “premature ageing” as they call it, is on my mind.
Most days, I actually don’t wear any sunscreen or makeup – just some morning cream and that’s me done.
But, I’ve got to thinking, and I’m wondering if I really should be wearing sunscreen daily… and which is the best choice.
There are arguments for and against for both scenarios, which this blog post is not about.
Rather, I’d love to share what my research about actual sunscreens turned up (rather than the pros and cons of wearing sunscreen.)
Especially in this glorious sun-baked island, we call home.
My kids have the most gorgeous skin, but, since they are outdoors for a lot of their days (preschool, primary school and just being outside a lot) I’ve noticed lots of freckles on their nose and cheeks. The chemical sunscreen with fragrances really bother them (and me too!) so I always have a tub of natural sunscreen (zinc oxide) in their bags for them.
Turns out, I’m not the only one confused about sunscreens – most of my friends are too…… so I put together this guide and some brands that I use* to shine a little light (see what I did there!) on the topic.
Turns out, there are two main types of sunscreens on the market:
PHYSICAL and CHEMICAL.
Physical sunscreens are made from Zinc Oxide and sometimes Titanium Dioxide and they literally create a physical barrier between the suns rays and your skin. These are generally the white sheen type sunscreens that can be visible sitting on the skin. Which is annoying – but they don’t contain the potentially harmful chemical ingredients. There is some caution around nano-particles in these sunscreens too – it particles smaller than your cells.
The chemical sunscreens are lighter and spread and generally, you can’t “see” them sitting on the skin. They work by absorbing or “scattering” UV rays.
They rely on chemicals like :
- OxyBenzone, and others.
The concern is that some of these chemicals can generate free radical damage and possibly be endocrine disruptors (not something we need to be adding to our already toxic load!).
Also, as I avoid adding to my toxic load, so I never use any of these chemicals on my skin .
I always do my best to avoid any chemical exposure, especially knowing that what we put on our skin (which is our largest sunscreen) is directly absorbed into our bloodstream.
These chemical sunscreens also break down by the suns rays, which is why we are told to reapply all the time.
The way I see it is I either have to be ok with having a white sheen on my face (from the zinc sunscreen) or being prepared to have potentially harmful hormone-disrupting ingredients going directly into my bloodstream.
Here is the line up of some sunscreens I bought and tested last week:
You can see from my arm how the chemical sunscreen seeped into my skin, but the physical rather sat on top.
Here are my blow-by-blow reviews! Hope it helps you!
This is a chemical sunscreen and contains OxyBenzone and other chemicals that I would usually never add to my skin!
However, it did slip on nicely and didn’t leave white marks.
I’d probably only use this on the rare occasion that I needed to be outdoors at an event, like a wedding etc and didn’t want to show up all cakey and reflective.
But for me, definitely not an everyday use, because of the chemicals.
This surf mud is amazing and only contains 7 ingredients: zinc, beeswax, mineral oil, natural lanolin, coconut oil, clay and iron oxide.
We take it on all our surfing adventures and put it on the girls’ nose and cheeks at the beach.
True story: we dropped it on the bottom of the reef in Fiji, picked it up a day later when the tide was low, and it was still intact, ready to be used!
It’s sticky and thick and provides amazing protection in rough conditions (like the surf) – but definitely not for everyday use!
I’ve been using Invisible Zinc ever since it was launched…. And although I stopped using it for a while there, I’ll go back to using it after doing this research.
It seems to slip on a lot easier than the others, and isn’t as “white” – I think it’s a great daily use option. Plus, it’s SPF 50+! WOW!
It does leave a sheen/shine, but I’m ok to have that.
This product is pretty special! It’s SPF 30 and has green tea extracts and other nourishing oils…. Plus certified organic ingredients! Say what!
It also seems to be less thick, less white, best for everyday use. I really like it!
No PEG’s/parabens etc.
I’ve been using Natural instinct for years – for my daughters and myself, but mostly just for when we’re going out in the sun for the day.
It’s thicker than the other zinc products, so offers great protection, (and has no nasties!) but seems to be thicker and not that comfortable sitting on the skin….. even though its tinted, it still does have a sheen/shine.
But still a fantastic product, just not for daily use for me because of the thickness.
This product was recommended to me by a friend and is SPF 50+.
This is one of the chemical sunscreens – and although it’s not perfumed, it’s got the above chemicals I’d try and avoid.
Again, it doesn’t look white, so I would only use it if I was at an outdoor event and wanted a sunscreen that blended into my skin.
My 5-year-old has MOO GOO on her little nose and cheeks every day at preschool. Its thick and rather white, but is SPF 40, so I’m very comfortable having her use it every day.
Its totally toxin free so won’t mess with her hormones.
Probably too thick for me for everyday use, but for my daughter it’s great.
Hope that helps!
These views are just my own personal discoveries over the last few months. I don’t proclaim to be an expert on sunscreens, just an insight into my recent research.
Hope it helps you make an informed decision this Summer!
My conclusion is that I’ll be sticking to physical sunscreens, and my favourite are for everyday use (i.e. to the office and school runs etc) are:
There are plenty of other amazing companies out there, and all the physical sunscreens are fantastic, just these three are my favourites for now – there may be others I haven’t tried yet.
For lots of swimming, and surfing (my husband and daughters) we always use Surf Mud.
You can buy most of these products from the links above and also Nourished Life.
Because they are physical, so don’t contain the potentially damaging chemicals, and they were the brands that were easier to glide on and didn’t look so “reflective!”, which is why I’ve highlighted them.
This is my no means an exhaustive list, I know there are loads of others our there that I haven’t tried.
I’d love to hear from you – what is your favourite sunscreen brand?
And if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends!
Thank you for hanging out with me and I’ll catch you next time!
*Not in any way sponsored – I buy all these products and use them. I just thought it would be helpful to share with you.
This blog is based purely on my personal experience. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or treatment. I am neither a medical nor health professional and I cannot guarantee that the information in this blog post is accurate, reliable or complete. If you use this information, you do so at your own risk and should consult a qualified medical or health practitioner before relying on any information contained in this blog.