Sun Protection Dilemmas - My Experiences with Natural vs Conventional Sunscreen and the Much Less Gunky Third Option! PS Lipstick DOES Protect Your Lips from the Sun!



Oh the sun.  I have such a love/hate relationship with the sun.... on the one hand, gorgeous blue skies, sunny days, walks and hikes, meals on patios... on the other hand, all kinds of skin damage, including early aging and skin cancer.  *gulp*

As a very fair-skinned child, my mama raised me right to wear sunscreen!  And wear it I did, when I went to the pool or beach, or when I knew I was going to be outside for a while... I was the annoying kid at summer camp, pestering her cabin-mates to put sunscreen on her back.  By the time I was twenty, I was wearing sunscreen almost daily.  All good, right??  Go me.

BUT WAIT.... it's not so simple!  Over the past ten years or so, sunscreen has become so incredibly complicated and controversial, it's almost seems like a bad joke.  In fact, that sunscreen I was wearing so carefully through my childhood and adolescence contained almost no protection against UVA rays -- the most damaging rays -- at all.  Some sunscreens on the shelves of our bathrooms and stores still don't.  Additionally...


Did you know that many of the ingredients in drugstore sunscreen have been flagged as containing likely carcinogens?  And did you know that sunscreen tends to wear off way more easily than we tend to think, and should be reapplied every 2 hours?  That means reapplying twice in an afternoon, when water is NOT involved.  We all totally do that, right?  *rolls eyes*  And furthermore, did you know that you are supposed to use a whole shot glass worth of sunscreen on your body when you're going to the beach?  And a whole teaspoon just on your face and neck?  In other words, a 4 oz bottle of sunscreen should only last four applications... maybe just one day if you're wearing something skimpy and reapplying as directed.  And oh goodie, even when you're covered in sunscreen, there's still your scalp, lips, ears, and eyes to worry about.

Oh man.  It's enough to make anybody feel a little crazy.

I switched to using all-natural sunscreens (with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredient) several years ago, which at least removes the "am I giving myself cancer while preventing cancer??" conundrum!  However, if you've used natural sunscreens before, you probably already know what I'm about to say next.....  That gunk don't breath!  If you have ever walked by me and bumped into me on a sidewalk while I was wearing a natural sunscreen, I apologize profusely, because it probably felt like brushing up against a slime monster.  Not only is the sunscreen gunky in and of itself, it also traps your perspiration under that layer, making your skin gradually take on the consistency of a wet sponge, if a sponge was smooth and slick.  Ugh!

The other perk of natural sunscreen is that it tends to leave you ghostly white.  Even if you thought you were already pretty spookishly pale already, let me assure you, there's nothing like a nice natural SPF to bring out your inner ghoul.  For those folks lucky enough to NOT to have skin the shade of a piece of paper to begin with, I imagine that applying this type of sunscreen might look a lot like wearing mayonnaise.  Blurg.

Here's an embarrassing story to finish illustrating the point...  Back when I used to drive my car wearing natural sunscreen, the inside of the poor vehicle was polka-dotted.  Because every time a knee or an elbow, an arm or a leg, came in contact with the interior of the car, it would leave a smear of sunscreen as a souvenir.  May I recommend natural sunscreen as a stand-in for paint?  It works more or less the same way.

So what's the solution?  Most drugstore brands are right out, because hello! the whole point is to avoid cancer!, and natural sunscreens turn the wearer into the Creature from the Pasty-White Lagoon...   What do we do????

Don't despair!  We can all heave a big, collective sigh of relief, because there is a third option... clothing with built-in SPF!  And no, this isn't the sun-protection equivalent of a burka... and no, this isn't your grandma's rash-guard either!  You really can look good and be protected from the sun at the same time, I promise.   Check out my post about UPF clothing, and the stylish sun-protected brand Summerskin, here!

A quick few quick notes about sunscreen and sun damage from someone who does too much research:
  • I still recommend a natural sunscreen, slime and all, over a standard chemical sunscreen.  There's scary stuff in those innocuous looking bottles, pictures of adorable half-naked-babies not withstanding.  To lessen the goop factor, you can look for a product formulated with nano-particles of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, but be aware that some people are worried these can be more easily absorbed into the body.  So far the evidence I have seen is tending to disprove that concern, but I mention it to be fair.

  • Environmental Working Group does an awesome yearly guide to sunscreens, so be sure to check that out for information on the best and the worst of sun protection.  See how your sunscreen compares! 

  • Some people worry about sunscreen blocking vitamin D, but in general even people who religiously apply sunscreen aren't applying enough to cause a problem.  One teaspoon for face and neck, one teaspoon for every other major body part (2 arms roughly count as one body part) is one respected guideline, but most people apply considerably less and so have no need to worry about a vitamin D deficiency.  This of course might not be the case for you, so ask your doctor if you're concerned.

  • YES, you DO need protection from the sun even if it is cloudy out.  In fact, you are still being bombarded by UVA rays even when you are standing in the rain.  A quick review - UVB gives you a sunburn and UVA is the sunlight that penetrates the deepest into your skin, causing aging and cancer.  It isn't blocked by clouds or by glass, so you also need to be aware of windows.  I know, it sucks.

  • As I mentioned above, don't forget scalp, lips, ears, and eyes when it comes to sun protection!  UV exposure leads to cataracts and other awful eye problems, so be sure to wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection.  Hats are the easiest way to protect the scalp and ears, but you will still want a good lip balm with SPF since it takes a HUGE hat to keep the sun from hitting the lower half of your face.  This is my favorite -- Cotz Lip Spf 45-- it goes on smoothly and doesn't turn your lips white.




32 comments

  1. I know the pain of thinking you can't possibly get any whiter and then putting on sun screen and realizing you were wrong! ha But it is so important - and I appreciate the other tips! I've still been using store bought and it never even really crossed my mind that all those ingredients may be just as bad for me. Ugh.

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    1. Yeessssssss you know my pasty-pain!! ;P

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news about conventional sunscreen.... I hate that common things can be so bad for us without us even knowing (*gulp*). At least it's a fairly easy toxin source to eliminate!

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  2. I HATE sunscreen! Clothes are such a great idea! Who's time has finally come! I can't wait till I can get some!! For now, I just pretend I'm a vampire, and try to only go out after dark! lol
    Hint- it doesn't work like that. For some reason, dr offices, etc refuse to stay open late for me. How rude!

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    1. Haha you're hilarious, as always! I had people teasingly ask me if I was a vampire at my last job (kindergarten teacher), because if there was a tiny dot of shade on the playground I would be standing in it. Vampires of the world, unite!!

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  3. I know I should use sunscreen and usually I do. Thanks for the reminder though!

    Momfever

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    1. Way to go on the "usually"! That's still pretty good in my book. :)

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  4. Sarah, thanks for this excellent post of sun screen and UV. Very thorough and helpful, thanks for bringing all this great info to Fridays Blog Booster Party #24
    Kathleen

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    1. Thanks, I appreciate the kind words! And I enjoyed the Blog Booster party too!

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  5. I usually tend to the natural, except in this one area. As the busy mom of 8 kids still at home (10 altogether), I love the clear, continuous spray sunscreens. Love love love them. Because I can literally go: Pshht, pssht! Pshhhht, pshhht! "Next!" and move on to another kid. Otherwise, I'm spending half the time we're at the pool applying sunscreen, and the last kid to get slathered up gets half as much swim time as the first.

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    1. Wow! Ten kids total! Supermom in the house!! *applause* I completely understand the appeal of the spray sunscreens based on time and convenience. Another option would be rashguard swim suits - sun protection with no application time at all! And with so many kids I bet they could be handed down and pay for themselves in no time! There are tons of companies selling kids rashguards now and I noticed some at a discount on zulily last time I was there. I'd be happy to give you some names / links if you were interested. :)

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  6. I am fair skinned and came from a boating family and we had a pool, so I am soo freckled now! My daughter who I drowned in sunscreen has the beautiful skin I was supposed to have I am so jealous of her! Great story! Thanks for linking on Merry Monday! Sharing your post today on my Twitter. Come back next Monday for another great party share! Party opens Sunday night! Have a great week!
    Best,
    Kim

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    1. Thanks Kim! I'm sure your daughter is thankful for the good habits, just like I am to my mom! ;)

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  7. What a great idea! I didn't know they made clothing with built-in SPF! Thanks for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday this week. Hope to see you link up again this Sunday :)

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    1. I was so glad to discover it myself a few years back... it definitely has made my life easier!

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  8. I hate the chemicals in sunscreen, I try to opt for natural...or the shade! :)

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    1. Smart lady! I always try to stay in the shade too... we can be healthy-skinned vampires together!! ;P

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  9. Thank you for this informative post!

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  10. I've run across these same issues as well. My big deal was moisturizer for my face. I find that those that contain UV protection break my skin out as well. I'm still trying to find just the right one. Thanks for sharing your post at the #AnythingGoes Link Party.

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    1. I had found an AWESOME natural sunscreen that was tinted, and worked really well as a base for makeup... and then I found out a couple of months ago that they're discontinuing it. CRUEL UNIVERSE!! :( So I didn't bother mentioning it at all... working on trying out some new ones and then hopefully I'll post again soon with some good findings!

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  11. Hi Sara,
    Your experiences and insights are so helpful! I spent weeks searching for a non-irritating natural sunscreen that actually worked. I also use coconut butter! Thank you so much for sharing your "Sun Protection Dilemmas - My Experiences with Natural vs Conventional Sunscreen and the Much Less Gunky Third Option!" with us at the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I'm so delighted that you are partying with us! I'm pinning and sharing.

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    1. Omg, coconut is AMAZING! I swear, it can do everything except change a flat tire. ;P Is coconut butter different than coconut oil? Thank you for letting me know your experiences -- I'll definitely add it to my list of natural options next time!

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  12. thanks for this! Hilarious about "nothing like sunscreen to bring out your inner ghost" hahah. Been there so many times! My favorite sunscreens (natural) are by COOLA, Moss Skincare, and Graydon Luxury. I talk about them here if you're curious: http://storybookapothecary.com/the-best-natural-sunscreens-2/

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    1. Oooh thanks for the recommendations! I will definitely check out your review. I actually had found a natural sunscreen that I didn't hate using on my face (still hated it for the rest of me ;P) -- it was tinted and the consistency was decent, and what did they do? DISCONTINUED it on me. =/ So definitely on the market for a new one!

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  13. Great tips. I just stay in the shade as much as possible. Thanks for sharing with us at Throwback Thursday link party. Please join us again next week and invite your friends to join. Have a great weekend! Quinn

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    1. Vampirin' it up, I know how that goes... ;P

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  14. I think you may have just given me a great alternative to the equally disgusting face paints out there. Now if my kids want to be ghosts for Halloween, I just need to pull out the natural sunscreen! So easy. Thanks for the tips. :)

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    1. Ahahaha that is hilarious and brilliant. It would totally work too! ;P

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  15. Thanks for sharing with us over at country fair blog party! I work in dermatology for many years, and I can say Melanoma is very deadly. Once it spreads.... well.. I am happy to have you posting about all the different ways people can find and use sun protection! I don't care what they use as long as they do! (and get a skin exam every year!) Thanks for sharing!

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  16. I am very allergic to chemical sunscreen, so I have to use natural. It is so gloppy! I've been avoiding the sun and wearing lots of hats.

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