So you’re heading south for a vacation with your family—or you’re just really organized and already thinking about buying sunscreen for the summer—but you’re stuck. There are so many brands and so many ingredients and you’re confused. Maybe you’re like me (until very recently), and you still have a lot of misconceptions about natural sun care and sun care in general. Well, I’m here to debunk those myths, once and for all.
MYTH NO. 1: If you have darker skin, you don’t need to wear sunscreen.
BUSTED: Everyone should wear sunscreen. Those with darker skin may not get visibly sunburned as quickly, but we’re all still at risk for burns, skin damage, and even skin cancer with too much sun exposure…so it’s important to stay protected.
MYTH NO. 2: If my natural sunscreen sits on my skin rather than being absorbed into it, won’t I look white and won’t it just rub right off, especially when I jump in the water?
BUSTED: Recent formulations of natural sunscreens rub in more easily and adhere better, and their thick consistency means they won’t sweat into your eyes (yay!). It’s actually reassuring to some people to see it physically on their skin, especially on those kids of ours. And even more reassuring to most is that it’s not absorbing into their skin and bloodstream—again, especially with those kidlets. Natural sunscreens are just as water-resistant as chemical ones if used properly; in fact, you’ll notice that water “beads” off, and they won’t harm oceans and reefs the way that many of the ingredients in chemical brands will.
MYTH NO. 3: You don’t need to wear sunscreen on an overcast day.
BUSTED: Sun exposure doesn’t just happen on cloudless summer days. If it’s daytime and the sun is out, you can be exposed to UVA and UVB rays (even under some cloud cover). These harmful rays aren’t dependent on the weather, the temperature, or the season (which is why you should wear sunscreen year-round).
MYTH NO. 4: Natural sunscreens cost a lot more.
BUSTED…SORT OF: It takes a lot of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to get an SPF 30. That’s what makes natural sunscreens expensive. They also tend to include a few naturally sourced antioxidant and moisturizing ingredients such as mango and cocoa butter, vitamin E, and green tea to combat the effects of the sun. Try to think of it this way: if the product works, has less harmful ingredients for the skin and the environment, and actually requires being put on less often, it’s probably worth it.
MYTH NO. 5: You only need to apply sunscreen once for the day.
BUSTED: If you want to stay protected from sun exposure, reapplying your sunscreen is crucial. Experts suggest reapplying every 2 hours. If you’re going to be sweating or spending time in the water, you should apply more often. Even water-resistant sunscreens are only water-resistant up to about 80 minutes, so once you’re past that mark you should be reapplying. Of course, this also depends on the type of sunscreen you’re using. More zinc oxide means fewer applications as a general rule, because it doesn’t wipe off as easily.
MYTH NO. 6: We used zinc as kids in the ‘70s, and then the explosion of chemical sunscreen products happened in the ‘80s. Surely these products must be an improvement.
BUSTED: Zinc oxide is considered a more-than-adequate full spectrum UV filter, has a long history of safe use as diaper cream and calamine lotion, sits on the skin rather than being absorbed into it (and therefore into the bloodstream), is naturally water-resistant, and actually has properties that benefit the skin. The synthetic ingredients added to chemical sunscreens cause irritation, allergic reactions, and breakouts and we are only recently finding out the effects of absorption—including things like DNA deviation and hormonal disruptions.
MYTH NO. 7: Having a base tan will help protect your skin from sunburns.
BUSTED: If you have a tan from sun exposure, it’s because your skin already has some amount of sun damage. It definitely doesn’t protect you from further damage. If you want a golden glow safely, try a self-tanner or bronzer.
MYTH NO. 8: I’ve read about nanoparticles being a concern in natural sunscreens.
BUSTED: Many of the improvements to natural sunscreen have come from nanotechnology, breaking zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particles into 1/20th the size of a strand of hair to allow them to go on clear rather than white. There was some concern that this allowed the particles to be absorbed by the skin and into the bloodstream; however, current evidence indicates that this does not happen. You’ll often read “non-nano” on the labels of natural sunscreens, or see particle size listed on product information, or notice that most natural sunscreens come in cream form vs. sprays, to ensure they are not inhaled. Chemical sunscreen ingredients, on the other hand, are always molecular in size and even smaller than nanoparticles, designed to be absorbed into the skin and into the blood.
MYTH NO. 9: I heard natural “sunblocks” like zinc weren’t even allowed anymore.
BUSTED: The term “sunblock” is no longer used as a promotional statement but “blocking” is still used to differentiate between natural sunscreens and chemical ones, which are “absorbing.” That is, natural sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide sit on the skin and block harmful UVA and UVB rays, whereas chemical sunscreens contain compounds like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone, which absorb into the skin.
MYTH NO. 10: Natural sunscreens aren’t regulated as closely as chemical ones put out by big companies.
BUSTED: All-natural sunscreens must be reviewed by Health Canada. For safety, efficacy and manufacturing standards to acquire an 8-digit NPN (Natural Product Number). Which you can find on the label before they are licensed for sale in Canada. This is actually why some US-based natural products are not yet eligible for sale in Canada (sunscreen and otherwise!). Similarly, chemical sunscreens are reviewed by Health Canada and must acquire an 8-digit DIN (Drug Information Number).
MYTH NO. 11: You can use last summer’s sunscreen again this summer.
BUSTED: Sunscreen has an expiry date. And over time, the active ingredients that help protect you from UVA/UVB rays become less effective. So if you’ve had your sunscreen for a year, you should toss it! Buy a new one to make sure that you’re getting the sun protection you need.
Ready to stock up on sunscreen to keep you and your family safe this season? Shop sun care here!