At this time of year my thoughts turn to planning weekends away, holidays and booking festival tickets for the impending warmer weather. I frequently get asked what I use for suncream; I am a pale red head, and friends know I use natural products. They are surprised that natural (mineral) suncream even exists. Its not usually sold in mainstream pharmacies but if you have a health food, or natural shop near you they should stock it. You can also get it online from Ethical Superstore or Big Green Smile. I use Jason’s face suncream and Green People suncream for my body, they smell good and work for me. A friend of mine with very sensitive skin, who used to react badly to chemical suncream, and avoided the sun, found no irritation with mineral suncream.
The most common sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters. These products typically include a combination of two to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Mineral suncreams use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters. For a lot more detail on the issues with these chemicals and human health see The Environmental Working Group (EWG) website (this is a US organisation). Chemical suncreams are more likely to be absorbed by the skin. This is not ideal for adults, but when children’s skin can be up to 10x thinner than adults, it becomes even more of a worrying issue.
As with most sustainability issues things are complicated. The Ethical Consumer report on suncream noted that mineral suncream ingredients can occur as nano-particles – microscopic particles about 1/50,000 the width of a human hair. Safety concerns regarding the use of nano-particles are as yet unresolved, and the regulatory framework for assessing there use continues to lag far behind developments in the cosmetics sector. The EWG found that consumers using sunscreens without zinc oxide and titanium dioxide were being exposed to an average of 20% more UVA radiation, with associated health impacts. They were also being exposed to a greater number of hazardous ingredients through the use of chemical sunscreens. My interpretation of this is that mineral suncream is worth the current known level of risk to reduce the likelihood of skin cancer.
The other natural product people don’t expect to exist is mosquito spray. We found out about Incognito when it was featured in our saving banks newsletter (p14). They received Triodos investment to fund expansion of the business after a period of rapid growth. Inspired by one of the founders contracting malaria, and tested by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, this product has great credentials. My husband is a mosquito’s favourite food so Incognito has been revolutionary for us. It is scary to discover that DEET (the main chemical in synthetic products) is not only toxic to fish birds and bees, it also exposes around 4 million people a year to pesticide poisoning. Luckily there now is a viable alternative available online, or see the Incognito web site for the high street stockists.
Happy summer planning!