12 toxin-free sun lotions that won’t harm the oceans (or you!)
In the chemical crackdown over the last few years, pioneered by the clean everything brigade, suncare is one of the areas that’s caused most confusion. Sun damage causes ageing and can lead to skin skin cancer, so naturally we should wear SPF everyday when the sun is out to play. OK fine.
Or is it? What if it’s not fine at all. Now we’re being told that the creams, blocs, oils and sprays we’ve be slavishly slathering on all these years might actually be causing harm not just to our own bodies, but to coral reefs too. So what’s a sun-worshipper supposed to do?
With nearly seven million search results for ‘is suncream toxic?’ — up from just over half a million three years ago — now appearing on Google, it’s clearly a topic we want to know more about.
We asked the experts how bad it really is.
The issue with these sunblocks, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, is they tend to be thicker and more visible. Legit if you’re a surfer, understandably less so if you’re aiming for poolside cool. Not just that, it has real impact on marine ecosystems. Particularly concerning are oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, explains consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, which are absorbed into the skin, rather than sitting on the surface and deflecting the sun, and have been suggested to generate free radicals and disrupt hormone levels.
Oxybenzone is also one of the sunscreen ingredients (together with Octinoxate) that have just been banned by Hawaii after scientists confirmed they can kill young coral polyps and exacerbate the reef bleaching effects of climate change.
Fragrances, preservatives and lanolin are also known to cause dermatological irritations.
We’ve rounded up the best natural, organic, chemical-free sunscreens to keep you safe in the sun with minimal impact on your health and the environment… (Though it goes without saying: the best sun protection is not being in it, so be sensible, people.)
Upsides: Suitable for sensible skin, it's 100% reef-safe and 30p is donated to the Marine Conservation Society
Downsides: It isn't a fake, chemical fragrance, but there's definitely a scent, and it's quite a thick consistency
Upsides: Genuinely suitable for face and body, plus Jurlique harvest most of their own ingredients and are eco-conscious when it comes to processes and packaging
Downsides: You'd get through a bottle pretty quickly if you used it as your main body SPF
Upsides: Vegan, ethical, three-in-one (making it a holidayer's dream) AND the packaging is made from sugarcane plastic making it 100% recyclable
Downsides: It requires a shake to avoid the natural ingredients separating and it leaves a slight white film
Upsides: It’s high protection and contains UBV protection, though it’s nearly totally natural
Downsides: With a 40ml bottle costing nearly £15, it's not much bang for your buck (but it's ideal as an on-the-go product for easily-burnable areas)
Upsides: It’s the first ever sun screen that is both approved by the Fairtrade Foundation and organically certified, plus it's vegan
Downsides: It's a little too greasy for use on the face and it's got that no-fragrance fragrance (but you've got to pick your battles, people!)
Upsides: 100% natural, certified organic, vegan... Check, check, check. AND it’s not damaging to marine life. Check.
Downsides: It properly blocks — which isn’t a downside, just a warning in case you want a product you’ll tan through