Why use natural sunscreen?

As a Naturopathic doctor, I often get asked the question of whether or not to use sunscreen, and which kind is best for the skin. Should we really wear it? Is there a type of sunscreen that is better? Which sunscreens are safe? And what about vitamin D?

My advice is always this: if you are going to be in the sun for longer than 10 minutes, you should protect your face and body from the sun. The body can get over 10 000 IU of vitamin D in 10 minutes of sun exposure per day, and only your palms need to be in the sun to have this effect. As Canadians, we are often lacking this vitamin as our sun exposure is limited to a few months a year, and we often slather on sunscreens before leaving the house.  I suggest giving your body some natural sun for up to 10 minutes a day, and then protecting yourself with a mechanical blocking sunscreen or hat! Sunburns are not fun for anyone, and the damage from UVA and UVB rays can lead to premature skin aging, hyperpigmentation, and some cancers. 

Man wearing green bucket hat sitting on beach looking at sunset

So what’s the difference between sunscreens? 

When looking for sun protection, some of the active ingredients you should watch out for are part of a group called chemical filters. These include oxybenzone (most popular), avobenzone, octocrylene, and octisalate, to name a few. These chemicals are designed to penetrate the skin barrier and enter the bloodstream to scatter the rays and protect us from sun damage. The problem with these chemicals is that while they disrupt

Baltic Marché| salt & stone natural sunscreen

the sun’s UV rays, they also disrupt a lot of things in your bloodstream and body. For example, Oxybenzone, one of the most popular, but also one of the more harmful active ingredients, can act like estrogen in the body. It can alter sperm production in animals, and it is associated with endometriosis, acne, and polycystic ovarian disease in women. Homosalate, another chemical compound, can disrupt estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in men and women. These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors and new research on the safety of chemical sunscreen in children and adults is concerning. 

So are there better options? The answer is yes. 

There are some new sunscreen brands on the market that do not contain these chemicals, and that are safe and effective ways of blocking both UVA and UVB rays. What you want to look for are the active ingredients: zinc oxide and Titanium. Zinc and Titanium both have widespread UVA protection and very limited skin penetration, with no current evidence of hormone disruption. In the past, these sunscreens were not popular because they were difficult to rub in, and often left your skin with a thick white film. Many companies have now developed zinc and titanium based sunscreens for the face and body that do not have this problem. The benefit is that these minerals block the sun without chemicals because they create a mechanical barrier that is more protective than the chemical ones. What you need to remember with these is that they need to be applied a bit more evenly to the skin, and reapplied after sweating or swimming - as they can rub off more easily! One of my favourite natural sunscreen brand for the face and body is Salt and Stone. They make a 50 SPF tinted stick that I bring with me everywhere, and they have a beautiful sheer face sunscreen that is a daily MUST have. Other sunscreen brands I also trust are Alumier and Coola.

natural facial moisturizer and face stick laying on moss


Dr. Nastasia Irons, ND

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