Is Your Natural Sunscreen, 'Natural'?

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If you’ve been thinking of trying to reduce the amount of chemicals in your world, then this summer, you may be tempted to try a natural sunscreen. But is your ‘natural sunscreen’ really natural?

When it comes to the word natural, there isn’t a term in the skin care industry that is open to more misinterpretation. Applied to everything from hair care products to topical treatments for acne, dry and aging skin, natural may mean – well just about anything – depending on who is selling this natural product. The term natural, whether applied to skin care, supplements or food, is not one regulated by any authority. For this reason, manufacturers and marketers alike, use it create the impression of a product that is somehow safer and more pure. Yet in many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Ingredients in Natural Sunscreens

It always surprises me how deceptive companies can be when trying to sell a product. Pictures of plants and the inclusion of plant extracts, along with chemical sunscreens don’t make a sunscreen natural. Despite this, I’ve seen sunscreens formulated with various chemical sun filters such as avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone being labeled as natural. Some products will confuse the matter with the inclusion of physical sun filters such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. This makes them kind of natural. Others include just a straight up dose of chemical filters, without any physical blocker at all. I guess they assume that we don’t read labels.

How To Protect Yourself

I’m not trying to knock chemical sunscreens. Not all are bad – ones that include Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, Tinosorb in particular, tend to be very well tolerated and don’t come with side effects (hormone disruption, skin allergies, skin damage) that are associated with some of the older ones such as oxybenzone or octinoxate. As well, chemical sunscreens may not require application as frequently as those that are physical. However, if you really do want to stick to purely physical blocking sun filters, then read labels. Only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide should be listed as active ingredients. Any others are most likely chemical.

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