It's summer again! Lots of time spent outside under that beautiful fiery globe in the sky, and that means it's also time to talk about sunscreen. Most of us know we shouldn't let ourselves burn out there, so we thought it'd be a good idea to point out the why, where, when and how when it comes to sunscreens and sun exposure.
First of all, we love having some fun in the sun. We know how important the sun is to the health of our bodies — we actually need it — so we usually only wear sunblock when we know we'll be spending a good chunk of time outside, say going to the pool or working on an all-day homesteading project. This allows us to take advantage of those shorter trips outside so we can still get all those important body benefits from a healthy amount of sun exposure.
Skin is the Largest Organ of the Body
We can't forget that the skin is the largest organ of the body, and it absorbs nearly everything put on it. After all, medications have been delivered this way for decades! Just a small stick-on skin patch is all that's needed to get a full dose of medicine. This is especially important to remember when it comes to kids and babies because their young skin is even more permeable than adult skin which means they're potential exposure to toxic chemicals is much greater when it comes to sunscreen, lotion, soap or anything else that's applied to the skin.
For this reason, we highly recommend choosing a sunscreen with organic ingredients for both kids and adults. We've learned over the years how toxic pesticides contaminate everything they touch — sometimes even becoming concentrated during the production process (i.e. essential oils) — so we prefer to avoid concentrated pesticides when we have a choice.
It's Okay to be Choosy
We're pretty picky about our sunscreen, so there are only a handful of brands we feel comfortable recommending. We look for known ingredients and those we can actually comprehend, and we often stick with trustworthy companies. In general, the longer the ingredients list, the more likely we'll reject it. It's the same with most things — simpler is almost always better.
We long for the day that a certified organic sunscreen becomes available, but we're just not there yet so we have to choose from what's available. But hey, you could always make your own!
Here's what we want in a sunscreen, and what we avoid.
Good Sunscreen Basics
- Non-nano zinc and/or titanium dioxides (active ingredients)
- Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX (acceptable active ingredients according to EWG)
- Organic inactive ingredients
- Broad-spectrum protection under SPF 50
- Choose cream over continuous spray (propellant chemicals can be hazardous)
Things to Avoid
- Oxybenzone and octinoxate (active ingredients)
- Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate)
- Other ingredients including sodium benzoate, dimethicone, phenoxyethanol, polysorbate 60, polysorbate 80, and quaternium-18 (contains formaldehyde)
- Added insect repellent
NOTE: Each product in every brand we recommend may not reach our desired level of superiority — there may be one here or there that has an inferior ingredient, but we're making these recommendations because the products are really good over all. Just make the decision that's best for you and your family, and most importantly, READ THOSE LABELS!
How to Choose Safe Sunscreen Infographic
To make things a little easier, here's a handy infographic with all the stuff you need to know when shopping for sunscreen. And below you'll find each of the 15 TSL-recommended brands, all scoring very well on EWG's 2016 Guide to Sunscreens.