Summer’s in full swing, and you need a sunscreen that will protect your family without unwanted chemicals. We got the scoop on sun safety from Environmental Defence Canada’s Toxic Program Manager, Maggie MacDonald, who gave us these tips to help your family stay healthy while enjoying the sun.
keep it mineral and minimal:
Zinc oxide is an effective and safe mineral that your skin won’t absorb, and it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Also, wearing a hat and staying out of the sun during peak hours (11 am – 2 pm) are two chemical free ways to get some added protection!
what to avoid:
Stay away from sunscreen sprays and powders since they pose a potential inhalation hazard. And check your ingredients and steer clear of oxybenzone and vitamin A. “Oxybenzone is a hormone-disrupting chemical, which gets absorbed by your skin. And while eating Vitamin A is healthy, research indicates that applying this chemical (which can be listed on labels as ‘retinyl palmitate’ or ‘retinol palmitate’) on your skin might promote the growth of cancer,” Maggie explains.
forget “fragrance”
When “fragrance” or “parfum” appears on a label, you don’t know what hidden chemicals are in that nice smell. Fragrance ingredients are currently considered a trade secret under Canadian law, which means they don’t have to be disclosed. But they should be: artificial musks and phthalates are common fragrance ingredients that are linked to scary side effects, like hormone disruption, sensitivities, and cancer – plus, they contribute to harmful environmental pollution.
get smart about spf
Sunscreens with high SPF can give us a false sense of security – no sunscreen offers complete protection, and there’s no proof that sunscreens advertising an SPF over 50 is any better than one with a lower SPF. So instead of looking for a high SPF, work instead on avoiding sun over-exposure, especially for young kids. Choose a sun block that lists broad-spectrum protection, make sure it’s free of toxic ingredients, and be sure to reapply often – especially after swimming.
be resourceful
You can visit Environmental Defence’s for resources on avoiding harmful chemicals, and to find out more about their work to change Canada’s cosmetics laws. EWG is a U.S. based group that provides helpful information as well.
make your own
This recipe from Environmental Defence makes a safe DIY sunscreen that you can whip up at home. You can get all of the ingredients listed below from a compounding pharmacy like Finlandia (1111 West Broadway, 604 733 5323) (and p.s., Finlandia ships anywhere in Canada!).
Homemade Sunscreen
6 tbsp (84 grams) coconut oil
2 tbsp (28 grams) almond or grapeseed oil
2 tbsp finely powdered zinc oxide
3 tsp Shea butter
2 tsp beeswax pellets
Combine the ingredients in the order listed in a thick glass measuring cup. Create a bain marie by putting your measuring cup into a pot of slowly warmed shallow water, being careful the water doesn’t get into your ingredients. Let the water simmer until the ingredients melt together. Mix thoroughly with a hand blender to ensure the zinc oxide is distributed evenly throughout. Let cool, apply, and go have fun in the sun!