Plastic-free and reef-safe sunscreens
When it comes to ditch plastic and find a zero waste alternative there is ALWAYS a solution.
In the process of decluttering and simplify my beauty routine I came across an absolute must for me: sunscreen.
I have used the same brand of sunscreen for years but now, as I become more aware of the impact of plastic on the planet and I am more selective on what I put on my skin I am looking for safer, non-toxic and preferably plastic-free sunscreen alternatives.
It goes without saying that there isn’t better sunscreen than a hat, shade and a long sleeves shirt especially under the fierce Australian sun ( and the Ozone hole right above my head) but when I go back in Italy where the sun is not as strong I can sunbathe for hours and I love to stay outside under the sun. What I don’t like is getting sunburned…not sexy at all. So I wondered, is there a way to protect me from the sun without all the chemicals… or the packaging? The answer is yes.
Chemical Blockers versus Physical Blockers
There are two catergories of sunscreens:
The physical blockers used in sun cream are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Zinc oxide blocks both UVA rays (these are the deep-penetrating rays that cause skin cancer) and UVB rays (these are the ones that cause redness and sunburn, and are the ones that SPFs are rated against). They work by creating a layer on your skin ( they don’t get absorbed) that blocks the sunrays.
A quick note on the size of the particles: zinc and titanium oxide NANO particles can be consumed or absorbed by marine life and disrupt the growth of coral reefs. Titanium dioxide is most toxic in powder form (so should be ok in lotions) and has been linked to health issues. I would personally just rather avoid it all together ans stick to non-nano zinc oxide.
Conventional sunscreens use instead chemical blockers among a staggering amount of ingredients I can’t even read. The most common chemical blockers are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate ( go ahed, check yours, I am sure they are in that one as well) . Not only we are exposing ourselves to this chemicals that are believed to be hormons distruptors and so affect our hormonal balance, but unfortunatelly, when we enter the water we release this toxic mix in the sea contributing to coral bleanching. Have you heard of Hawaii’s ban on sunscreens? They are not banning all sunscreens per se, but only those containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate.
Of course there are better sunscreens out there . Alternatives that use only few certified organic ingredients and non-nano zinc oxide as the only active ingredient . Zinc oxide is a mineral that does not absorb into the skin ( non-nano is the key ) instead providing a physical barrier that sits on top of it and creates a layer. This can mean a slightly white film appearing on the skin, but nothing stops you from apply make up on top of it during the day or just leave it as is when at the beach.
When I first started to look in to alternatives to my normal sunscreen, I began by sorting the options available by selecting those reef-safe. I looked for creams without OXYBENZONE & OCTINOXATE and I found this from We Are All Feel Good. . Made in Australia and TGA approved ( = produced according to Government strict regulations) the formula is preservative, paba and parabene free and as a plus they do not test on animals. The formulation feels no different from any other sunscreen I used before because it still used a fare share of chemicals blockers and fragrance ( which is a sort of escamotage ) and despite beign reef- friendly it was not as low-tox as I wanted and came in a plastic bottle.
So I tried this other much simpler formulation from Little Urchin . Is still in a plastic tube but free of any dangerous chemicals. It does not contain any parabens, synthetic preservatives or synthetic fragrances and Zinc Oxide is the only active ingredient. I was pretty satisfied whit this alternative. The consistency is great, definitelly thicker than the previous one (but that means is doing its job) and with a list of ingredients short enough . But I wanted more.
Not only I learned the difference between nano and non-nano zinc oxyde but I also wanted something that was not packaged in plastic.
And turns out is plenty of options out there.
This is what I use everyday . It is from Sun & Earth and is a mineral sunscreen made on non-nano Zinc Oxide that comes in a metal tin I can then fully recicle or most likely reuse, is handmade using 100% solar power and very few organic ingredients ( non-nano zinc-oxide, Beeswax,Coconut oil,Olive oil, cacao butter, Iron oxide yello and brown to make it tinted).
This cream is tinted, meaning that I can use it everyday as a BB cream and it will give me that nice and healthy glow I naturally lack :(
This brand ships in Europe and USA as well but I though I’ll give a couple more options for plastic-free and reef-safe alternatives to conventional sunscreens.
OTHER BRANDS you can find online and ship world-wide
The best option for a plastic free and zero waste sunscreen alternative will be the homemade version following the recipe below. But this is only if you can source the ingredients package free and localy, otherwise you may as well buy one already made and save money and time.
2 tablespoons of Shea Butter: 3-6 SPF
1/4 cup of Coconut or Olive Oil: 2-8 SPF **
1/2 cup of Carrot Seed Oil : 30-40 SPF when used with a carrier oil ( coconut or olive)
2 teaspoon of Vitamin E Oil: Natural Preservative helps prevent UV Damage
2 tbsp non-nano zinc oxide powder: 20+ SPF (the bigger the particles the whiter the residues on the skin)
1/4 cup beeswax: SPF 15 **
EO of choice ( but watch out! not all EO are ok to use, some are phototoxic = react under the sun and break down in toxic components)
*Optional. Use the beeswax to keep a thick consistency and to increase the SPF 15.
Hope this short post was informativ and helpfull and somehow inspired you to look around for an alternative to conventional sunscreen that is good for you and the environment.