How to choose the best non toxic sunscreen, reef safe

Posted by tracy tse on

We can all agree that sun protection is non-negotiable, but all sunscreens are not created equal. Here is what to look for before you add to cart: 

  • Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Physical (or ‘natural’) sunscreen uses active mineral ingredients, like naturally broad spectrum zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which sits on top of the skin to shield it from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. It works from the moment it’s applied, without irritating the skin.

Chemical sunscreen most commonly employs controversial ingredients, like oxybenzone and avobenzone, to achieve broad spectrum coverage. The active ingredients penetrate the skin and absorb the sun’s rays and dissipate them via a chemical reaction, about 20 minutes post-application. 

What’s controversial about chemical sunscreen ingredients? For starters, a recent FDA study found that high levels can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Which is especially concerning during pregnancy and nursing. Also, oxybenzone and avobenzone can be irritating to sensitive skin— like that of babies and young children. And those same common ingredients (even in small concentrations) have been found to be harmful to our fragile marine and coral reef ecosystems. 

  • Non-nano + reef-safe

    Nanoparticles are so small that they are measured in nanometres—  1nm (nanometre)=1 billionth of a meter. In most countries, particle sizes over 100nm are considered to be non-nano. While still extremely small, non-nano particles will not enter the bloodstream and be absorbed by or harmful to marine life. 

    • Water resistant 

      Water intensifies the sun’s rays, which means there’s greater risk for sun damage. Sunscreen labeled ‘water resistant’ has been independently tested to confirm it retains its SPF while swimming or sweating. 

      • Full spectrum 

        UV (ultraviolet) rays are the most damaging to our skin. A full spectrum sunscreen protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are present when it’s daylight, no matter the weather, and can even pass through glass. They penetrate deepest into the skin and are responsible for long-term skin damage, like aging and wrinkles.

        UVB rays are strongest in the summer months and cause visible sun damage - sunburns and tans. Yes, tans are a sign of sun damage. Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ tan!

        Both are major contributors to skin cancer formation. 

        • SPF 30

          SPF stands for ‘sun protection factor’ and measures how effectively the sunscreen protects against UVB rays. 

          No sunscreen can block all of the sun’s rays. Generally, experts recommend the use of at least an SPF 30, which blocks 97% of UVB rays. Beyond SPF 30, the difference in protection is negligible. 

          Beyond sunscreen, here are some additional sun protective measures to keep in mind this summer:

          • Avoid direct sun exposure during peak hours, between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
          • Be mindful that water, snow, sand and concrete reflect light and can increase the risk of sunburn.
          • Wear sun protective clothing and hats
          • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and more often if you are swimming or sweating. 
          • Check your sunscreen’s expiration date!

          Shop our non-nano, reef-safe full-spectrum sunscreens below— customer-favorites

          Coola Classic Sport White Tea SPF 50

          Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen SPF 30 Organic Skincare



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