Do you want the benefits of an everyday sunscreen, but you’re over chemical additives? You might be wondering, “What is a natural sunscreen, exactly?” What’s in it, and how does it work?
Or maybe you’ve scanned the ingredient lists of so many products that claimed to be natural, but weren’t, that you’re skeptical about whether a fully natural option even exists.
I’ve been there, and many of my clients have, too.
In this post, I’ve outlined the three natural sun-protective products I recommend most to my clients, along with the ingredients that make each one effective (don’t miss the special bundle pricing at the end!). And I’ll answer that all-important question, “What is a natural sunscreen?”
Sun Protection 101: UVA, UVB, and Full-Spectrum Coverage
A full-spectrum sunscreen protects against two kinds of ultraviolet (UV) light: UVA rays, which can bring premature wrinkles and age spots; and UVB rays, which can lead to sunburns.
I recommend products that protect against both UVA and UVB for a couple of reasons. While UVB rays impact the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, UVA rays can penetrate through the epidermis, damaging the “living tissue” of the dermis. In addition, overexposure to either type of UV light can contribute to skin cancer. A full-spectrum option offers the widest range of benefits.
What Is a Natural Sunscreen?
Sunscreens work in one of two ways: chemically or physically. Chemical sunscreens protect the skin by absorbing and neutralizing the sun’s rays. Physical or “mineral” sunscreens employ minerals, like zinc oxide, that reflect UV light and create a barrier for the skin.
Chemical sunscreens may contain — you guessed it — chemicals that you don’t want on your skin, or in your bloodstream. At the top of this list is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone has been reported to cause allergic reactions, both on contact with skin or upon exposure to light. Additionally, it is a suspected endocrine disruptor. In the environment, oxybenzone has been linked to the bleaching of coral reefs. The FDA has proposed removing oxybenzone and several other compounds from its list of sunscreen ingredients generally recognized as safe and effective, but a final decision has not been made.
Chemical sunscreens can also irritate the skin, increasing inflammation and exacerbating skin disorders, like acne and rosacea.
Finally, other chemicals added to some sunscreens can increase the toll on the body. These include parabens and phthalates, which are both endocrine disruptors; and propylene glycol, which can enhance the absorption of other chemicals.
So, what is a natural sunscreen and how do they work?
Mineral sunscreens, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, reflect UV rays away from the skin instead of absorbing and altering the rays. Because they work this way, mineral sunscreens keep skin cooler while offering full-spectrum protection.
Mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide may have additional advantages, since zinc serves as a cofactor in the body’s production of collagen and is believed to benefit acne-prone complexions.
Last but not least, mineral sunscreens may be kinder to coral reefs than their chemical counterparts.
In addition to the physical mineral barrier, other natural compounds can play a supporting role in protecting the skin from sun damage.
Antioxidants for Sun Exposure
Sun exposure plays a role in oxidative stress to the skin by stimulating the body’s production of free radicals. Free radicals are natural byproducts of oxygen metabolism, but when the body produces them faster than they can be neutralized, free radicals build up, causing inflammation and DNA damage to the cells. This contributes to photoaging (the loss of collagen and elastin) and hyperpigmentation, not to mention skin cancer.
Antioxidants, which are found in vitamins C + E, raspberry seed oil, leafy greens, and lilikoi, among other things, give a missing electron to the free radical, helping the body neutralize and reverse the damage.
Paired with sunscreen, antioxidants give your skin the upper hand against sun damage. While sunscreen prevents skin damage as the first line of defense, antioxidants act as backup, helping the body neutralize free radicals and repair any damage that does occur.
Research suggests that Vitamin C specifically can help combat oxidative stress and photodamage. It has been shown to stabilize messenger RNA in collagen production, helping the body make more collagen protein to repair damaged skin. Vitamin C also increases the production of connective tissue cells called fibroblasts, which the body typically makes less of with age. Further research suggests that vitamin C stimulates DNA repair. Studies have shown that vitamin C applied topically for at least 12 weeks can decrease wrinkling and tissue damage, and give skin a softer, more youthful appearance.
Combined with Vitamin E, Vitamin C is even more effective in preventing photodamage. Together, the two are more protective than either vitamin alone, and this is true whether taken orally or applied topically. That’s evidence of the kind of research behind Eminence Organics products, like Citrus & Kale Potent C + E Serum, that make this line a powerhouse for keeping skin healthy and youthful. (Get special pricing on the serum when you purchase as part of our Sun Defense Collection, below.)
Read more from our blog archives: How to Harness Vitamin C Benefits for the Skin.
Lilikoi is a member of the passion fruit genus (Passiflora spp.) Oil extracted from the seeds contains naturally-occurring Vitamin C and antioxidants that can help reduce visible signs of aging. This is one of the unique ingredients in the Eminence Organics sunscreen products (keep reading for details).
Botanical Skincare Products for Sun Protection
These are the three natural sun-protective products I recommend most to my clients. They’re all from the Eminence Organics line, which employs cutting-edge botanical findings to create formulas that protect your skin from everyday stress.
This mineral sunscreen by Eminence Organics was formulated for daily use to protect and improve the appearance of skin exposed to UV light, blue light stress, and pollution. Its active sunblock is zinc oxide, with the added benefits of lilikoi seed oil and cocoa seed extract, making this our go-to for protection from blue light. Satsuma mandarin peel extract minimizes the effects of aging due to pollution, while larch tree moisturizes and protects dry skin from dehydration and environmental stress.
Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer is suitable for all skin types. To use, apply liberally 15 minutes before sun or blue light exposure and reapply at least every 2 hours. This is a fabulous natural product for anyone who works in front of a computer or attends lots of Zoom meetings!
Formulated for the face and body, this SPF 30 sport sunscreen from Eminence Organics is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. With sun protection from zinc oxide, Lilikoi Mineral Sport Sunscreen also contains lilikoi seed oil and raspberry seed oil — both rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants to slow the appearance of aging. Finally, aloe vera soothes, moisturizes, and softens the skin. What is a natural sunscreen? You’re looking at it!
Apply a liberal layer over the face and body 15 minutes before sun exposure and leave on. Reapply at least every 2 hours. Reapply after 40 minutes of swimming or sweating and immediately after towel drying.
In this unique formula by Eminence Organics, stabilized Vitamin C from lemon and grapefruit reduces redness and soothes inflammation. Meanwhile, Vitamin C salt (sodium ascorbyl phosphate) turns into Vitamin C on contact with the skin, minimizing degradation of antioxidants before use. Finally, botanically-derived ferulic acid stabilizes the antioxidant benefits of Vitamin C, an extra measure to keep the formula potent.
Vitamin E is sourced from avocado to nourish the skin, while kale, spinach, and broccoli sprouts bring high antioxidant content to help improve the appearance of skin elasticity and hydration. Citrus fruit oils of lemon and grapefruit tone and refresh the skin while helping to balance oil production. Finally, hydrolyzed botanical hyaluronic acid, from grass extract, hydrates deeply to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
To use, apply 4-5 drops directly on the skin and pat on. Follow with a moisturizer like the Eminence Organics Rosehip Whip Moisturizer, and then layer with the Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40.
Save by purchasing all three of these Eminence Organics products together in the Sun Defense Collection!
Begin your morning face-care routine with the Citrus & Kale Potent C + E Serum, then protect with Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40. On days when your body will be exposed to the sun, add the water-resistant Lilikoi Mineral Sport Sunscreen SPF 30.
Use the following link to purchase these three items for $173 (savings of $57)!
In addition to natural skincare products, you may also want to consider simple preventative measures to decrease your exposure to direct sunlight, such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved shirt and avoiding long amounts of time in direct sunlight. However, keep in mind that researchers actually recommend 10-30 minutes of sunlight daily, depending on your skin’s sensitivity, for adequate Vitamin D production. Like most things, it’s all about moderation.
In today’s world, our skin is exposed to stress and damage both outdoors and in — whether from the sun, pollution, or artificial blue light. Complicating matters, conventional sunscreens may exacerbate skin disorders, disrupt hormonal balance, and negatively affect the natural world.
Fortunately, there are mineral and plant-based formulas that protect the skin and increase resilience to skin damage. These solutions slow aging and may reduce the risk of some skin cancers.
To learn more about your skin type, or develop a specialized routine specifically for your skin and lifestyle, schedule a virtual skincare consultation.