The memory of my summer vacation as a 15 year old is literally burned into my memory. With my new found know-it-all teenage wisdom, my best friend and I rushed to the beach with our “scandinavian-more blue than white” skin and tried to get a tan. Scoffing at our parents’ suggestions of sunscreen and dreaming of our brilliantly smooth tan figures, we gleefully enjoyed the beach and the water. Eight hours later our cherry red skin turned washcloths full of ice into steam. We melted a pile of hotel machine ice the size of the Titanic’s iceberg but it wasn’t enough to save our skin from blisters and more than a few rounds of peeling. All the aloe and cocoa butter we could buy only took the edge off the pain–enough we could tolerate the pressure of our clothes. It was the last time I went near the water without sunscreen.
As a mom of three similarly complected girls, sunscreen in the summer is an essential! However, after cleansing our entire house of toxic chemicals in skin care routines, I wasn’t about to start slathering sunscreen without knowing what was in it.
A Toxic Cocktail
What I found was one of the ugliest toxic cocktails I could have imagined. There are 16 different chemicals used to block UV rays. I’m only going to take a look at the most common three in this blog.
Oxybenzone: The most commonly used UV inhibitor in sunscreens, this chemical is known to cause hormone disruption, organ toxicity, birth defects, low sperm counts and contact allergies. There are also links that suggest it contributes to cancer. And according to this article by ScienceDirect, oxybenzone is a prime suspect for causing coral reef bleaching. Coral reef bleaching is a stress state that leads to mass die off of vital coal reef habitats. In the past 20 years we have lost around 30% of the worlds coral reefs to bleaching. This chemical has been deemed so harmful to aquatic life, collecting in the tissues of dolphins and fish and destroying reef eco-systems, that it has been banned by Hawaii.
Octinoxate: This chemical has a long data trail of hormone disruption and infertility Like oxybenzone, this chemical causes harm to aquatic environments and has also been banned by Hawaii.
Homosalate: Another hormone disruptor and cancer contributor–this one also INCREASES the body’s absorption of PESTICIDES and other toxins! Meaning it acts as the Taxi to transport MORE toxins into the bloodstream!
These products are bad enough absorbing through our skin a washing off in our oceans but more data has surfaced suggesting that the wide-spread use of these chemicals has lead to contamination of rivers, lakes and they’ve even been found in our drinking water!
Sunscreens were never tested for safety–until this year! (2020)
WHATTTT??? You heard me… sunscreens have been around so long that they got dumped into the FDA’s “generally considered safe” loop hole WITHOUT EVER TESTING THEM! Concerns were raised in recent years and in response THIS YEAR (January 2020), the FDA completed and published a study on sunscreen that reads like a nightmare!
They found the chemicals in sunscreen get into the bloodstream at 180 times higher than “concerning” levels after just ONE application! Read that again–how many of us do one application of sunscreen at the beach? Um… none. Even the directions say to re-apply every couple hours! The FDA found that with “real life usage” (4 applications a day) the blood levels of these toxins were OVER 500 TIMES higher than concerning levels!!
To make matters worse, they found these chemicals were present in blood samples taken 3 weeks after a SINGLE application! They didn’t test beyond three weeks so we really don’t know how long it actually hangs out in the bloodstream!
But what about skin Cancer
The sun’s radiation hits our skin which causes free-radicals and cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. This is a well proven scientific fact. What you may be shocked to learn is that there are NO STUDIES showing sunscreen use prevents skin cancer. Reference 1. Reference 2
As a matter of fact there is a current argument that it may have contributed to the rise in skin cancer by altering our habits. Prior to the invention of sunscreen in the late 1930’s if one didn’t want to end up in my 15 year-old-vacation condition, certain precautions were taken. You didn’t stay in the sun as long, you wore sun blocking clothing, you avoided the hottest hours of the day. Along came sunscreen and we began thinking we could stay out all day without a wide brimmed hat or parasol and never feel the effects. The result? Skin cancer rates soared to epidemic levels.
Clearly there’s a huge dilemma here. I’m not about to go slathering my kids with chemicals that are shown to negatively impact my chances of having grandchildren! Nor do I want them to ever experience the kind of pain I subjected myself to with the sun–or heaven forbid, have to fight skin cancer.
What’s the answer? Take a page out of history and physically block the sun. Now before you laugh me off the beach with my hoop skirt and parasol– let me introduce a sunscreen that works completely different.
Caribbean Sol sunscreen uses zinc oxide as an active ingredient. Unlike the deep penetrating chemicals, zinc is a naturally occurring mineral (one your skin actually needs) that sits on the surface of your skin and creates a physical barrier between you an the sun–a much less awkward version of the parasols and hats of yesteryear.
Now wait a minute: how do I know that zinc is safe? A quick search will show you that not only is it safe, but even rumored to aid in healing wounded skin (common in diaper rash creams, etc.)
That’s wonderful news but this is just the active ingredient… what else did they hide in it?
LOTS OF GREAT STUFF!
Aloe Leaf Juice–long known for it’s moisturizing, and deep penetrating healing action and powerful antioxidant properties. Remember anti-oxidants are what we want to stop those free-radicals from causing cell damage.
Lots of moisturizing oils: Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerine, Castor Oil, Shea butter, Rose Hip Oil, Olive Oil, Vitamin E, Passion Fruit Oil, Pomegranate Oil, Strawberry Seed Oil.
Skin Loving Herbal Extracts: Green Tea Leaf, Matricaria, Calendula, and Arnica Extracts.
Beneficial Fatty Acids to Smooth the Skin: Lauric Acid, Caprylic Acid, and Cetyl Esters.
Preservatives: Yes, they’re still here. As a liquid lotion using water (or in this case aloe juice) it requires preserving/emulsifying. It wouldn’t be safe to use if it didn’t have a preservative (as we discussed in this article.) What I love about this company is they’ve chosen to use the least concerning options on the market. Potassium Sorbate, Cetyl Alcohol, Polyamide-3, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, and Propanediol. Most of these are naturally derived, all of them score very low (1-2 out of 10 on the Skin Deep Database for concerning ingredients and likelihood of causing harm.
Better for the Environment
As a naturally occurring ground mineral, Zinc and the natural fruit oils that comprise this sunscreen are biodegradable and don’t pose the same kind of danger to the reef. There is some concern about zinc nano-particles causing damage to the coral reefs, however the zinc in sunscreens is usually comprised of larger particles to help block out the sun rather than the smaller nano-particles that cause the most concern.
I am also impressed to find that this company is packaging their products in sugar cane derived tubes. A much more sustainable packaging option to help eliminate the need for fossil fuel derived plastics.
Does it work?
Well who better to test it than four pale girls fresh out of winter hibernation? We slathered on our sample sunscreen, peeled out of our long winter clothes and set out for… well not quite the beach… more like the back pasture to fix goat fence. (sigh…not the vacation I’d hope for-just one of several homesteading realities) It’s definitely noticeable that it’s a physical barrier style lotion. It takes a little extra rubbing to get it smoothed on, but there wasn’t a sunburn on us. We only applied once, we worked and sweat all day and not a single pink line appeared on any of us. I’m THRILLED! Even my eczema-prone child had no reaction. If anything our skin felt smoother and well hydrated. As a mom who’s looking for safe options for my family and the environment (but still doesn’t want to turn into a human toaster stick or wear a hoop skirt) this company really impressed me with their values and their product performance. I consider this a must have for the summer season! Check it out here.