KNOW THIS: Most sunscreens are very toxic.
WHY? The toxic chemicals commonly used penetrate into our bloodstream.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Choose a non-toxic mineral sunscreen.
Sunscreens vs Miss Macadamia
Standard sunscreens are considered so toxic by some, that I once read that an Australian doctor thought it was safer not to wear them at all! Now, in no way do I endorse that, but it’s important to know how harmful the chemicals found in most sunscreens are, as there are non-toxic alternatives.
In their 2014 guide to safe sunscreens, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that more than 75% of the sunscreens contained toxic chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer and other health issues. Not good.
UK and US governing bodies have yet to establish rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients, and sunscreens haven’t been regulated since 1978 in the USA.
Here is a full list of the unsafe, toxic chemicals in sunscreen
- Oxybenzone (or benzophenone)
- Octinoxate / Octyl Methoxycinnamate
- Octyl salicyclate
- Dioxybenzone / oxybenzone
- Methyl anthranilate
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
Oxybenzone is the most lethal chemical, and was given a hazard score of 8 by the EWG. It penetrates the skin easily and once in the body, mimics oestrogen, which over a long term, can lead to reproductive issues and thyroid problems, and autism researchers suspect it’s also neurotoxic.
The reason these chemicals are harmful, is because they can penetrate the skin, absorb into the blood and have toxic effects. Some of these chemicals are even linked to cancer. The good news is there are sunscreens that aren’t toxic – mineral sunscreens. These use zinc oxide or titanium oxide, which don’t breakdown in sunlight and are not easily absorbed into the skin. They are also more effective in blocking UVA rays than non-minerals. For these reasons, mineral sunscreens are the best choice for children, and according to EWG have the best safety profiles.
Most mineral sunscreens don’t go lower that SPF 15 (which is probably for a good reason) but I do like a tan, and with an SPF 15 I hardly tan, especially in the UK. I spent weeks and weeks trying to find a natural sunscreen with an SPF 6 but with no avail. But then I came across a few natural sunscreen home remedies using natural oils. At first I thought these people must be crazy thinking that natural oils could act as a sunscreen, but after fully researching it, it seemed to be true.
Here’s what I found:
SPF 5: Almond oil
SPF 6: Macadamia nut oil
SPF 2-8: Olive Oil
SPF 4-8: Coconut oil
SPF 10: Soya bean oil
SPF 19 – 40: Carrot oil (research varies, so take the lowest number)
SPF 20: Wheat germ oil
SPF 30 – 50: Raspberry Oil (**NOTE** the only one with UVA as well as UVB protection)
Ah ha! Macadamia oil seemed to be just what I was looking for! But did I have the guts to go out into the blazing sun wearing nothing but macadamia oil? Hell no! Not first at least. I thought the best way to try it was to mix it with some Hawaiian Tropic SPF 6 I had lying around, so I bought a travel bottle from Muji and mixed approximately half and half. I decided to try it out in Cannes. I already had a base tan from a holiday in Thailand a few months previous, so I felt confident I could be in the sun with a SPF6 (I usually start on a SPF10 with fresh skin).
The first day was a success – a nice golden colour with no burning. With each day that passed I topped up the solution with macadamia nut oil, until it was almost pure, and I didn’t burn once. The only downside is, macadamia nut oil smells exactly like macadamia nuts (no surprises there), so rather than smelling like a coconutty tropical dream like everyone else, I probably smelt like a bag of nuts. Everyone reassured me I didn’t, but maybe they were just being polite?!
Now I must stress that this test was with a base tan, and with skin that I know could take a very low protection. I would never recommend going out into the sun with ‘virgin’ skin without a certified sun protection. My advice is to switch to a non-toxic sunscreen (I use Green People) for every day use.
However, the great thing about using natural oils as an SPF when you know that your skin can take it, is that they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants that repair cell damage. The downside is that they don’t protect against UVA, and also haven’t been tested, so ultimately you’re putting faith in the quality of the oil you’re using – risky!
But if you’re like me and you want to experiment with natural oils, remember that it’s difficult to know the exact SPF, especially given that they lose some of their medicinal properties over time and when exposed to light (oils kept in a clear travel container must be thrown out after a few weeks). Test your chosen oil(s) carefully by introducing them slowly alongside non-toxic mineral sunscreen, and start with a higher SPF than you would usually use and work your way down. I also try to stay out of the midday sun when wearing only a natural SPF as it’s so strong and I don’t want too much UVA exposure. For good quality oils, I’d recommend Fushi.
I’ve not used oil on my face as a sunscreen, because I want the protection of both UVA and UVB. I would try raspberry oil, but it has a SPF of around 40, and as I go down to a SPF6 on my body, I don’t want to end up looking like a pint of Guinness!
Whatever you decide to use, remember that the skin is the largest organ of the body, so keep it protected and chemical-free!