Natural vs. Traditional Sunscreens: What's the Difference?
Are you confused by all the news about sunscreen?
If you were born before the mid-80s, you probably didn’t grow up wearing sunscreen. It just wasn’t a “thing” that was around. But if you were born in the later 80s or after, you probably heard your mom shouts, "Don't forget to put on sunscreen," as you ran outside to play as a kid.
It was sometime in the late 80s when all the talk about the depletion of the ozone layer really started to take hold. That’s when we discovered the horrible truth of what it meant to go out into the sun without sunscreen: permanently damaged skin or even the possibility of skin cancer.
For 20+ years, reaching for the SPF became the norm.
Then things started to get more complicated. There started to be more talk of Vitamin D, which we get from the sun and that our bodies really need. Strong chemical sunscreens can block that Vitamin D, which can lead to unhealthy inefficiencies.
And then, studies started to come up about the negative repercussions of putting chemical sunscreens on your skin. Traditional chemical sunscreens can act as an irritant, clog up your pores, cause hormonal disruption, or worse. What if the sunscreen itself could even cause cancer?
Could it be any more confusing?
So, what's the alternative to traditional sunscreen?
But is natural sunscreen effective?
Let's find out…
How Do Chemical Sunscreens Work?
You're probably most familiar with chemical sunscreens. They’re the ones you've been able to pick up on pharmacy shelves for decades with their SPF formulas that come in creams, lotions, and gels.
Chemical sunscreens use substances, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, or avobenzone, that go through a chemical reaction when exposed to UV rays. They change the UV into heat energy, which is then released off your skin. They come in a variety of strengths (measured by SPF) and formulations.
One seeming advantage of chemical sunscreens is that they are absorbed into your skin, making them reasonably invisible and waterproof. If you’re planning on heading into the water during a day at the beach, then a waterproof chemical sunscreen might be the best choice.
Unfortunately, there have been reports that chemical sunscreens can cause some significant health risks. Oxybenzone has been linked to hormone disruption and even cancer (which entirely defeats the purpose of putting on sunscreen). And if you already have sensitive skin or allergies, then the last thing you want is for your skin to be absorbing the potentially irritating chemicals.
Thankfully, there is an alternative to traditional, chemical sunscreens.
How Do Natural Sunscreens Work?
Natural sunscreens offer many advantages over their chemical counterparts. Rather than be loaded with chemical ingredients formulated in a lab, the main ingredients are physical blockers, usually zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These natural substances act as a mirror, creating a natural barrier on your skin to reflect the UV rays away. Just like with chemical sunscreens, they come in different strengths, again measured by SPF.
The biggest advantage of natural sunscreen is the elimination of skin irritants and allergens. Often augmented with natural moisturizers, natural sunscreens actually last longer than chemical sunscreens, as your body doesn't absorb them over time. This does mean that they’re much more easily washed away by water, making them a less practical choice for swimming.
When purchasing a natural sunscreen, you need to be careful about which one you choose. Some of the cheaper ones can be very thick and feel heavy on your skin. Even worse, their reflective nature can make your skin look white and pale, which may not be the look you want on the beach.
Our Recommendations for Best Natural Sunscreen
If you want the best of both worlds, we would recommend purchasing an excellent-quality natural sunscreen. At Thair Hair Boutique, we thoroughly research every product and brand we carry to ensure we’re partnering with the best and safest companies that only use all natural ingredients. We use only the highest quality, natural and organic products.
We offer two fantastic products in our boutique. Elements by Graydon is a medium-weight moisturizing zinc oxide cream that offers SPF 15 protection without any harmful chemicals.
If you want something a little stronger, Cocoon Apothecary Reflector provides SPF 30 protection with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in a non-greasy, non-whitening formula. Both provide long-lasting and effective protection from the sun in the summertime, making them a worthwhile investment for your skin's health.
Should You Forego Sunscreen Altogether?
Regardless of if you prefer chemical or natural sunscreen, what matters is that you're protecting your skin. Though we far prefer and recommend natural sunscreen, if you’re going to be out in the sun and you don’t have a natural option, it’s better to either cover up or wear a traditional chemical sunscreen than to wear nothing at all.
Even if you do have a minor sensitivity to chemical sunscreen, the effects will likely be much less severe than the long-term effects of the sun on your skin. Try to find sunscreens that are broad-spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, as well as are fragrance-, oil-, and paraben-free, and noncomedogenic.
Other Methods of Sun Protection
There are lots of other ways you can naturally protect yourself from sun exposure. One of the most effective is to wear a big hat! This can completely protect your face, neck, and shoulders from the sun's rays. If you’re looking for a great hat store, check out Lilliput on College Street near Bathurst. If you’re ever paying a visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Beau Chapeau is definitely worth a visit.
You might also want to consider wearing light and breathable cotton clothing to cover up and protect your skin, while still keeping yourself nice and cool. If you want to get more serious with brands that specifically offer SPF sun protective clothing, we’re partial to No Zone Clothing from Victoria, BC. In addition to clothing for women and men, they also offer great options for kids. Coolibar is another great option.
Never underestimate the power of a great beach umbrella either!
Planning the times of day that you spend outside can also be strategic. Try to limit your sun exposure during the peak hours of the day, between 11am and 4pm.
But even if you take these precautions, there is no replacing sunscreen! Remember that light does reflect and it’s possible to get a sunburn even in the shade.
We highly recommend either of our natural sunscreen products, Elements or Reflector, which will ensure that you not only have a lovely and fun summer outside, but also a safe one!
If you’d like to learn more about sun protection, our products, or to explore any of our natural and organic facials, we invite you to book an appointment today!