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Do ‘natural’ sunscreens really work?

The dog days of summer are upon us. Many people will be spending more time outdoors, and with substantially less clothing. Protection against a stronger blast of UV rays is more important than ever. As a sun worshipper myself, I have come to appreciate sunscreen even more as the signs of sun exposure have started to show.

There are two types of sunscreens available on the market. They are known as “chemical” and “physical,” or mineral sunblock. Mineral sunscreens typically contain titanium dioxide or zinc, or a combination of both. Many of the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.


While the conventional chemical barrier may seem like the best choice due to its availability and price point, there are a few things to take into consideration when choosing what type of sun care to use.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the ultra-violet radiation and the sunscreen slowly breaks down converting to heat. Some studies show this can cause skin irritation to those with skin conditions like rosacea. According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzone has the ability to enter the body and may cause hormone and endocrine disruption.

In addition to possible health hazards, there have been studies showing oxybenzone damaging the coral reefs. “Researchers testing the effects of sunscreen on corals explain that chemicals in sunscreen can awaken coral viruses. The coral then becomes sick and expel their life-giving algae. Without these algae, the coral ‘bleaches’ (turns white), and often dies.”

Due to these concerns, I have turned exclusively to using physical sunscreens. These work by acting as a barrier on the skin and reflecting the sun’s rays. Mineral sun care protects against UVA and UVB rays. While many may turn your skin white or have a learning curve as to how often to reapply, I felt that the safety of the product outweighed the inconveniences.


As always, if you have any concerns regarding sun protection, please consult your doctor. Help save your skin and the environment by diving into the world of mineral sunscreens. 

I put four different ‘natural’ brands of sunscreen to the test and here’s what I found out.


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