Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vegan SPF and Green Sun Safety

(Top photo taken at Sapphire Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, bottom photo taken at Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands)

It's not easy picking the right sunscreen, whether you spend every day at the beach, or just a week here and there on vacation. Spending a lot of time in the sun can be really bad for your skin. On the one hand, you need some sun exposure so that your body can produce vitamin D, on the other, UV rays are known carcinogens. In addition to the scary possibility of skin cancer, too much sun can make your skin age faster than it should. I'm super picky about my sun protection since skin cancer runs in my family, and I've done almost ridiculous levels of research on choosing the best sun protection.

Needless to say, I love the beach, and I spend a lot of time in the sun. It's not always easy to find a high SPF (SPF 50 or more) vegan sunscreen, especially one that has mostly natural ingredients, little or no petrochemical-derived ingredients, and is considered safe by the Environmental Working Group (see the Cosmetic Safety Database). Generally, I look for physical UVA and UVB blockers that sit on the skin rather than getting absorbed into it. The two big ones are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Most zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particles are micronized, so they sit on the skin but allow the lotion to sort of "disappear". If they weren't micronized, you'd likely end up with a white film all over you.
Nature's Gate Aquablock SPF 50 is 100% vegan, and the best sunscreen I've tried. You can generally find it at Whole Foods or natural food stores. It goes on white since its active ingredients include zinc oxide, but once you rub it in, it's clear. While it's water resistant, it's always best to reapply any sunscreen after swimming/snorkeling/surfing/whatever. Reapply often. Even if you don't get that wet, and you're just chillin' on the sand. That's really the key to effective sunscreen use.

While I love Aquablock, I've read really good things about Mexitan 100% biodegradable, all natural (and vegan) sunscreens, and they make an SPF 50 version. It's more expensive than Aquablock, and not as readily available, but it has a lot more attractive qualities in that it's all natural, 100% petrochemical free, and has a better rating on the Cosmetic Safety Database. Mexitan uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and unlike Nature's Gate and many other "natural" sunscreens, Mexitan does not include oxybenzone. Oxybenzone, also known as benzophenone-3, is a chemical sun screen that can get absorbed by the skin and has been known to mimic estrogen. I haven't actually tried Mexitan, so I can't personally recommend it (yet).

California Baby products also got high ratings for safety from the Cosmetic Safety Database, are all natural, and most of their products are vegan (their diaper rash cream contains lanolin and sunblock sticks contain beeswax). I've tried their bubble bath and love it, but I've never tried their sunscreens, so I can't vouch for them (yet!).

In addition to the SPF 50 Aquablock, I love Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 30, which is labelled animal cruelty free. I can't speak for all of the Peter Thomas Roth products, but I can say that this mineral-based powder rocks it! It has really simple ingredients. Basically, it contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, mica, silica, corn starch, vitamins A, C, and E (antioxidants), and willow bark extract to help with inflammation. It just adds extra sun protection to my face, and it makes it feel less lotion-y at the beach. You can also try Eminence Organics Sun Defense SPF 30 powder, which has the added benefit of being organic, but it's way more expensive. Jane Iredale Powder Me SPF 30 is also similiar but a bit more expensive than the Peter Thomas Roth product.
If I'm going to be swimming, surfing, or snorkeling for a good amount of time (which is almost always the case), I also put on a high SPF rashguard. It's like a T-shirt for the water. Just another assurance that you won't burn your shoulders or back. Patagonia makes some good ones that are made out of recycled polyester. Of course, there's cheaper ones at places like or your favorite surf shop.

Back on the beach, I always wear sunglasses and a baseball hat (less squinting and more sun protection for the face). Also, don't forget your lips! Lavera is an organic, vegan cosmetics and skincare line from Germany that makes an SPF 15 lip balm. Arbonne makes an SPF 30 lip balm and is vegan as well.

If you're going to be traveling and want to bring your vegan sunscreens with you, you can put them into little travel sized containers like these from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Even better, use The Urban Vegan's idea and reuse your old airline approved bottles.

Enjoy the summer sun and stay safe!

(Photo taken at the Jersey Shore!)


Bianca said...

I love Nature's Gate! It's awesome and cheaper than most other organic, all-natural brands!

kree said...

Wow! I haven't seen the nature's gate sunblock at any stores around me. I've been looking for a good, reasonably priced vegan sunscreen with no real luck. I'll have to check into the Aquablock!

The Lazy Vegan said...

I go with Nature's Gate, but I find the Aqua block really difficult to rub in (that's probably how the "aqua" part works), and I don't like the way it feels on my skin. But their mineral sportblock feels wonderful. I especially love that their sunblock is fragrance free, so I don't have to spend summer smelling like a coconut.

I use lip balm from The Merry Hempsters. The SPF is only 18, but it's the only vegan lipbalm that my local stores carry.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas. I saved my airplane-approved travel bottles from my last trip. I'll definitely be using some of this advice when I'm surfing in California in 12 days!!

Anonymous said...

Also, want to blog-roll each other?