The simple beauty switch that benefits you and the planet
All day, every day – it’s our #1 non-negotiable summer rule. One thing that's totally up for debate though is the type of sunscreen you apply, and no, we’re not talking about spray vs. cream…
We’re talking about natural sunscreens. You’ve probably heard of them, but like us initially, are a bit confused about the difference and what it all means for your skin. Thankfully, help is at hand – below we breakdown everything you need to know so you can make an informed decision about your health and the planet next time you’re browsing the aisles.
First things first - The reality of Kiwi summer
BBQs, beach and few cheeky bevys in the sunshine - what’s not to love about the New Zealand summer, right?! Well, it turns out our favourite thing about summer is equally the worst: the sun. In New Zealand, the UV levels are around 40 percent higher than similar latitudes in North America. This is due to a number of environmental factors including a depleted ozone layer, lower levels of air pollution and the sun being closer to the earth in December and January (AKA we are physically nearer to the sun than other parts of the world). Prolonged exposure to the sun and UV radiation is responsible for 90 percent of skin cancer. Unfortunately, due to the harsh sun, that means we are more vulnerable than other countries to skin cancer (and premature ageing) – in fact we have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.
How natural sunscreens work
Natural sunscreens, also referred to as physical or mineral, both offer protection from the sun but the main difference lies in the way they do it. Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays whereas physical sunscreen acts as a barrier and reflects the UV rays altogether. The most common ingredient used in physical sunscreens is zinc oxide – but wait, before you pass it off, natural formulas have come a looong way from that chalky, white nose vibe.
Why go chemical-free?
There are a host of reasons to make the switch to natural:
- Natural formulas are broad spectrum blocking both UVA and UVB rays
- They shield the skin immediately upon application whereas chemical sunscreens take around 20 minutes to work
- They are less irritating making them ideal for sensitive skin types
- They don’t clog pores like chemical sunscreens as they just sit on the surface of the skin (great if you’re blemish prone!)
- No chemicals absorbed into the bloodstream
For the planet:
Lesser talked about is the monumental effect chemical sunscreens are having on the environment, specifically our reefs.
Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems. They support more than 25% of all marine life and are considered to be the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world - surpassing even that of a tropical rainforest. . When we enter the ocean, a large majority of the sunscreen we’re wearing wash off and pose a risk to marine life and fragile coral reefs. Naturally, it’s easy to dismiss the flow-on effect of sunscreen on the ocean; how could a few weeks of swimming in the sea each summer really damage the ocean’s ecosystem?
According to Lonely Planet, more than 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen are washed off swimmers, surfers, snorkelers and the like, each year. The coral-harming culprits? Two well-studied chemicals called oxybenzone and octinoxate which have been proven to devastate marine life by disrupting coral's reproduction and growth cycles, ultimately leading to bleaching.
It’s no surprise chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned in Hawaii, Florida, and the Western Micronesian island of Palau. With the rise in skin cancer and in turn SPF application, the impact of sunscreen on our oceans is only getting worse so it’s more important than ever to consider this when purchasing sunscreen.
But, back to our skin…
If these two chemicals can disrupt an entire ecosystem, it does beg the question: what on earth are they doing to our skin? Ironically, all your efforts to be sun safe could actually be harmful in the long run.
Common active ingredients in traditional sunscreens such as homosalate, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and coral-harming oxybenzone and octinoxate - not to mention parabens and phthalates - make for one hormone-disrupting, skin irritating, coral-harming cocktail.
While there’s still more research to be done, we'd prefer to err on the side of caution!
The reef-friendly, sun-safe alternative
We'll be the first to admit we've tried our fair share of natural zinc- and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens only to find they suffocate the skin and leave a sticky, white film. Finally, after years in development, there’s a 100 percent naturally derived, lightweight option free from harmful reef chemicals.
Sukin Naturals, Australia's number one natural skincare brand, have formulated a range of SPF30 facial sunscreens – tinted and untinted - that harness the powers of natural zinc oxide to protect the skin without compromising on look or feel.
As the name suggests, Sukin Natural's Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen feels weightless on the skin, serving as both the perfect base for makeup or a base on its own. The skin-friendly, antioxidant rich blend of Rosehip Oil, Green Tea and Cucumber, also nourishes and nurtures the skin. Double win.
Adhering to Sukin Natural's strict NO List, the SPF30 Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen is completely free from synthetic fragrances, harsh detergents, sulphates, parabens, mineral oils and animal derivatives.
In addition to being 100 percent certified vegan and cruelty-free, Sukin are making it their mission to support our precious marine life. At a time when Australia’s flora and fauna is more fragile than ever, Sukin Naturals have partnered with Reef Aid, an initiative dedicated to saving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Through working to conserve the reef, Sukin and Reef Aid are also working to save the six marine turtle species and 1,700 species of fish who all call the Great Barrier Reef home.
Foregoing sun protection altogether to help coral reefs is not an option, so choosing a reef-friendly sunscreen is the next best thing. We’ll be waiting with bated breath for some serious policy changes in Australia and New Zealand…but in the meantime? We’ll be protecting our skin and oceans with natural options like Sukin Naturals.
Images: Supplied/Miss FQ
For more information on Sukin’s sun care range or Reef Aid work visit https://sukinnaturals.com.au/
Will you consider making the switch to natural sunscreen?