Choosing a quality family sunscreen in Australia

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I thought I would save this until Summer had seriously arrived in our spot of the world but it really feels like that might not be happening?! I apologise to so many people who have messaged, emailed and spoken to me asking for this information to be put up at the blog. I’m happy to share what is right for me and mine here today with a smile 🙂 Happy, sunny days to you and yours!

I choose chemical free sunscreen

In a way I think of sunscreen and all other cosmetic and body care products just like I do food; I’m scanning the ingredients lists and I want to see short lists, and I want to try to be aware of what is IN the products and what that means for my body and my children’s bodies. I acknowledge that in 2014 corporate greed affects the quality of our food and anything that is available for consumer purchase requires critical analysis before consumption or use.  I say this because I do not believe that all industries globally are appropriately or ethically motivated or regulated, and I have grown to accept that it is necessary in 2014 for me to consider whether a product was produced with similar ethics and values to what I would consider as my own high standards. I would like to see more people have access to information that might change their choices about body care products and improve their quality of health and life; so please do share this post.

What does this all mean? Whilst there will always be conjecture, after reading widely it makes sense to me that ingredients in conventional (chemical active) sunscreens may introduce toxicity or influence hormones in my body that could increase my likelihood of developing illnesses in the future and make it harder for my body to fight disease. My approach to life at this time is to reduce these exposures for my self and my family, at the same time as providing my children protection from prolonged exposure to UVA/UVB.

This means I am looking for a product that does not contain chemical UV-absorbers, titanium dioxide or synthetic preservatives, no parabens, PABA, petrochemicals, benzoates, SLS and artificial colours or fragrances but does offer water resistant UPF 30+ sun protection against both UVA and UVB.

I am grateful that there exist a raft of products that are able to meet this need both globally and in Australia. We have personally tried and tested a very wide variety of options over the past 10 years so that now, when we head out for a full day of beach living it is a relief to grab a product that we know is effective and ‘safe’ to the best of our consideration. We are not all knowing, there is never a guarantee of safety – but it feels better for us to be aware and we are very comfortable with our choices.

Resources that will help you find quality personal care products

Among other things we use and are ridiculously, enormously, we-donate-to-keep-them-running grateful for the Environmental Working Group or EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. The Environmental Working Group are a not for profit environmental organisation who have devised this tool that provides a hazard score for cosmetic products between 1-10 [10 being the high hazard]; you can learn more about how to use the database here. The tool is totally addictive as you learn more about the products you and your family are using. Knowledge feels like power.

You can use this tool to find ratings for your current sunscreen as well as to find an alternative that would represent more stable ingredients that were not as likely to impact your body function and health. My approach is pretty much similar to health management for our family which is that if an earth made product or ‘safe’ alternative exists that is equally effective it is my preference to choose those options ahead of man-made or questionable chemical ingredients.

Some of the products you may be shocked to see with a high hazard rating using the tool are the more ‘popular’ and ‘baby’ sunscreen choices in Australia and sadly some of those being marketed as eco options:

EWG Hazard Score 7/10 Arbonne Baby Care Sunscreen
EWG Hazard Score 7/10 Banana Boat Baby Faces Sunscreen Stick

As a rough rule I don’t think I would use a product with a rating higher than 3.

What to consider when choosing sunscreen in Australia

Clearly, slathering something all of our your body as we do with sunscreen provides a rarely paralleled opportunity to expose our skin and therefore our internal systems to a raft of chemicals. Our family value the opportunity to protect our skin and that of our children from the effects of prolonged exposure to the UVA and UVB that can promote ageing of the skin and trigger cellular damage and further harm. Remember that sun exposure has its benefits too, and that sun protection isn’t such a priority when the UV rating drops below 3 which you can check using the BOM website.We thought this handout from Sunsmart was a handy resource for a well rounded approach to sun care.

Here are our considerations:

If you choose to wear sunscreen, choose a UPF 30+

If you have ever travelled overseas and have something to compare it to, you may know that the Australian sun is a very harsh sun with high UV levels. Wear at least UPF30+ to provide adequate protection from strong Australian sun strength.

Lotion not spray

I could make this one really short: who wants to be ingesting those things anyways! Sprays promote ingestion of chemicals and are generally high on the hazard scale too. In the past it was suggested to avoid spray sunscreens because of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) but those were phased out in the 90’s. The point remains that I don’t want to breathe my sunscreen, but wear it.

Physical protection not chemical protection

Chemical sunscreens are typically short acting and contain a raft of active ingredients that are designed to penetrate the skin and can then disrupt the natural hormone production balance of our bodies. You can imagine how important this is when we are talking about growing babies and children as well as our selves. We typically apply sunscreen with our hands which are more permeable the other areas of our body, allowing chemicals to be absorbed through our skin and into the blood stream. Some of these ingredients include that common old villain oxybenzone [seems to be in ‘everything’ ;P], parabens, retinyl acetate, artificial fragrances and colours.

Physical sunscreens are typically thicker and take a little longer to apply, but with benefit of avoiding toxic chemicals, the payoff balances out for me. As long as it is doing the same job as the chemical version, I choose a physical sunscreen. The EWG determines that only 1 out of every 5 sunscreens on the market are BOTH safe AND effective. So what to buy?

Our Top 3 Natural Sunscreens in Australia

Eco Logical Sunscreen This is a newer to the market range of sunscreens for baby, face and body that all score well on the EWG skin deep tool. This range is made in Australia which is a big plus. I do like the more simple ingredients of the Soleo and Raw Elements but because it is local as well as having a great low rating, the Eco Logical get a big thumbs up.

Soleo Organic – A long time family favourite that has stood the test of time. You might have heard of it and then there were issues with supply for around a year or so that saw this drop of availability. However they’re back! Same awesome product, same fantastic effective sunscreen option. Australian, physical sunscreen protection, organic ingredients, no nasties.

Raw Elements – Love this one and trusted it as it was being recommended by a wealth of surfers and active people across the world who we knew were copping significant sun exposure in sand and surf. We asked for Australian distributorship which Raw Elements were happy to give us, but then the costs of having this sunscreen TGA approved here were too much for our small family business. This has happened to us A LOT over the past 7 years. It’s a hard knock to find something brilliant and not have the cash to put behind growing it. Nevertheless, we love Raw and we hope that have it available to you again here soon.

This post is about what we use but don’t be limited to that. Yes we sell the ones we love here but there are over 200 other great options: you can take a look at the EWG Best Sports Sunscreen Guide to help you out with further good choices.

Many people ask why I leave Wotnot off the list. It is on my list, we have used it especially when our now 5 year old son was a babe and loved it, but because this product is not water safe we just don’t feel like it is an economical option for most Aussie families and we want to be careful about making certain people are aware of that. We also don’t suggest UV Natural even though they get a good rating; we have heard a lot about it being high in silicones and just haven’t used it a lot ourselves. Isn’t it fantastic that we have some options which are great as well as some that are awesome?! There just isn’t a good reason for me to feel limited to chemical sunscreens, when we are so blessed with opportunity for ‘safe’ and effective choices instead.

Please remembered that sunscreen is only one element of sun protection and consider the sun measures in the Sunsmart guide along with a long sleeve rashi, hat and finding a delightfully shady spot to be in on your long summery beach or outdoor days. Enjoy every moment.

Smiles, Pip

Pippa Buxton Director at Little Eco Nest Eco Store

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