“Life’s a beach and then you die. Let’s blow the roof of this mother.
It’s Summa Summa Summa Time! Time to sit back and unwind.
With an US Magazine in one hand, ice cold kombucha in the other and covered from head to toe in a mineral based, non-nano sunscreen. Safe sunscreen is #maj. Extremely #maj. Unless your #lifegoals include morphing into Magda from There’s Something About Mary during your so-called golden years.
Today I’m going to share my personal tips for beating the heat so you can be the most badass babe/dude on the beach this summer!
I can just see it now…with the wind blowing through your perfectly tussled beach waves and the smell of saltwater and coconut emanating from your sun-kissed tan, you paddle out effortlessly into the glassy waters of the Northshore and begin charging massive barrels like a Bodhi-loving, Blue Crush boss…
Or in my case, you’ll settle for barely keeping your sh*t together at the community pool, with a wild banshee toddler swinging from one arm while attempting to keep your other two future MMA fighters from drowning each other with their glow-in-the-dark My Little Pony kickboards.
Dare to dream.
Similar to deodorants, it is freaking tough to find a safe sunscreen that doesn’t leave you white as sh*t or fry you up like a paleo piece of turkey bacon. See my review of the top 5 natural deodorant brands here. http://essentiallivingmadesimple.com/choosing-natural-deodorant/.
I’ve tested out every single natural sunscreen brand under the sun (no pun intended) and the results were less than “beachy-keen.” Most of the brands I tried fell into one of two categories; (a) they managed to protect my white a** Irish skin from the sun, but stuck to me like drywall and I ended up cruising the shoreline looking like a cross between Casper and Herman Munster or (b) they were completely ineffective and I ended up fried as f*ck. And since “mummy beach chic” is so NOT hot right now and there are only so many ice packs, zucchini sticks and vodka shots that can relieve the pain and embarrassment of a bad burn, I felt it was time to look for a new brand. And I thought it would be fun to take you along for the ride…
SAFE SUNSCREEN OR BUST!
Here are my tips, tricks and trade secrets for selecting a natural sunscreen brand that is safe and effective and won’t leave you feeling like you just sat in a vat of Elmer’s glue.
The Skinny On Sunscreen:
When selecting a sunscreen, you have two types to choose from, either chemical or mineral based.
Guess which one I hate more than sinkholes, snakes and lice?
Chemical based sunscreen is usually (and by usually I mean 99.9% of the time) loaded with harmful chemicals. These chemicals are associated with a whole host of icky things you want to avoid like skin irritation, hormone disruption and even cancer. Now this is usually about the time people put on their noise cancellation headphones and decide to “tune-out” this depressing PSA about dangerous chemicals, which they figure will usually lead to an even more depressing discussion about global warming and other horrendous acts against humanity like wearing shoes in my house and using my decorative towels. You know the ones that have our initials on them, look like they should be displayed at the Lourve and are perfectly hung on the shower rack? Yeah those. For the love of god, don’t use those. And don’t touch them.
They close this page and google happy things like “Taylor Swifts New Man,” “Epic Gym Fails” or reach for the Xanax and wash it down with glass of Sauv Blanc. Don’t do any of that. Not for another 8 minutes. I’m going to make this super easy for you and provide a short list of ingredients to avoid, as well as show you a simple way to check the safety of your current sunscreen.
I know. I’m pretty awesome.
- Ingredients to Avoid
If any of these ingredients are in your sunscreen, then it’s time to pick a new brand:
- Vitamin A (aka retinyl palmitate)
I will spare you the dirty details regarding the laundry list of human health consequences of using products that contain these ingredients, but suffice to say (in my humble opinion), it would be best to avoid them.
- Check out the EWG (www.ewg.org/skindeep.)
If you are still confused about the safety of your sunscreen or want a bit more information, I highly recommend that you visit the EWG or Environmental Working Group’s homepage. You can also download the app, Skin Deep on your phone for convenient, on-the-go insight! I love it because it’s quick, easy and well-researched. At times, you’ll catch me at Target literally hunched over my phone in the baby aisle checking the safety of products that I’m looking to purchase. And then I proceed to buy 175 things that were not on my list.
It’s first-world problems at its finest.
With the help of lead academics and scientists in the field, the EWG has compiled a list of criteria with which to analyze both the safety and effectiveness of the ingredients in common cleaning and beauty products (which includes sunscreen.) All you need to do is type the name of your product into the search engine and up pops a rating from 1-10 (10 being the worst). Usually 1-4 is considered “safe” while a 5-10 is toss city. Also, if you need to start from scratch, they have a list of their top recommended sunscreens, which is where I found my current diamond in the rough. It’s truly magic.
- Get rid of the chemical based, aerosol spray sunscreens (for the love of god!)
If you decide to go with a chemical based sunscreen, I highly recommend that you avoid any and all spray sunscreens. Now nothing can turn a gorgeous day at the beach into a sh*t show faster than standing downwind of an aggressive sunscreen sprayer. Watching my kids cover their eyes in a vain attempt to thwart the toxic fumes (the smell of which resembles lawn fertilizer) from invading their little lungs, makes me want to dry heave into the sand. Or beat the heck out of that person with my kids’ plastic shovel.
Besides my personal feelings on the issue, both the FDA and Consumer Reports have issued warnings on the use of spray sunscreen as it contains ingredients that are toxic when accidentally inhaled. And to be honest, these harmful ingredients are also probably just as toxic when applied to the skin (the largest organ of your body), but the FDA hasn’t reached a “definitive” stance on this subject. I smell some shit from a bull.
In addition, many spray sunscreens also contain alcohol and people (even kids!) have been injured as a result of mistakenly using these sunscreens too close to an open flame. Most importantly, while the official jury is still out, spray sunscreens are less effective than lotion based sunscreens. As evidenced by the way in which my family gets doused with the stuff every single summer (and I can actually see the fumes vaporize into the sky) while little seems to actually land on the skin of the intended user.
So bottom line, find yourself a safe, non-aerosol spray sunscreen or stay the hell away from me. And anyone else that would like the opportunity to breathe like a normal person.
Mineral based sunscreen
Mineral based sunscreens rely on two active ingredients—titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. While mineral based sunscreens usually contain safer ingredients than chemical-based sunscreens, there are exceptions!
Here’s how to quick check the safety of your mineral based sunscreen:
- Does your sunscreen contain the “Dirty 6” I discussed above?
Flip that bottle over and read the label on your sunscreen to determine whether it contains any of the 6 chemicals I listed above.
- Does it contain non-nano particles?
What are non-nano particles?
Well I’m not sure exactly—this is not a science based article after all. But what I do know is that non-nano particles are not fully absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin, but rather sit on top of your skin and shield it from harmful UVA/UVB rays. Because non-nano particles are not fully absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin and do not mess with the your internal parts, they are safer for you than regular nano particles.
So now that you are armed and dangerous with your non-nano mineral based sunscreen, I’m going to give you some tips for staying healthy in the summer sun!
- Put your sunscreen on naked
Yep that’s right folks, it’s Nudie Magazine Day! Take that tube of yours into the bathroom (or if you’re really feeling yourself out onto your front porch) and apply that sunscreen buck naked. When you apply sunscreen with your bathing suit on, you tend to miss those “sweet spots” which include the tiggle bitties, bikini line and bum bum. And if you’ve ever been burned in any of these sweet spots you know there is nothing “sweet” about it. And walking around like you just got off a horse is both awkward and unbecoming.
So…birthday suit only.
- Let your sunscreen absorb for at least 20 minutes before hitting the sun.
So if you followed Rule number 1, you’re naked right about now. Brush you hair and teeth, sing the National Anthem (good news is that you’ll be better than Mariah Carey), chase your toddler around the house (who may or may not have a maxi pad stuck to his hand) and do whatever you need to do to kill 20 minutes. Then suit up and hit the pool! Does this sound like too much? Well so is trying to bust out your signature dance move at the neighborhood BBQ looking like Snookie from the Jersey Shore.
- Reapply at least every hour
You should reapply your sunscreen at least every two hours and this is especially important with natural sunscreens that tend to rub off more quickly than chemical based options. If you are in the water for long periods of time or extremely active (aka saving damsels’ in distress like David Hasselhoff) then I recommend reapplying every hour.
- If you do get burned, use a gentle aftersun lotion without alcohol.
Try to avoid any after sun lotions or gels that contain alcohol, as this will dry out your skin and make matters worse. Instead, look for 100% aloe vera gel and even add a couple drops of lavender and peppermint to really cool that burn.
And just because I really like you (strictly for your personality), I’m going to share my recipe for an incredible post sun cooling gel!
I’m not feeling like a “Pinterest DIY Goddess” lately, but truly, this recipe rules and takes about five minutes to make. And I have yet to find a store bought brand that can even come close to cooling a burn as quickly and efficiently as my cooling gel. I bring it on every single vacation because even when I follow all my sun safety rules, there are other little people in my family that don’t. Like my husband.
DIY Soothing “Miracle-working” After Sun Lotion:
And a brief description of each ingredient and what it does, along with a link to my favorite brands!
- 2 tablespoons witch hazel: Ultra healing skin soother that helps avoid peeling
- ¼ cup aloe vera: Moisturizes skin and reduces inflammation associated with sunburns
- ¼ teaspoon Vitamin E: A miracle antioxidant that fights premature aging
**I also dig the Trader Joe’s brand!
- 2 tablespoons fractionated coconut oil: Excellent pain reliever, reduces inflammation
- 8-10 drops lavender essential oil: Also incredible pain reliever and skin soother
- 2 drops peppermint (make sure it’s only two drops!): Turns down the temperature on hot skin.
- Add each of these ingredients to a measuring cup (you can also use a bowl) and stir gently.
- Add all ingredients to a glass bottle with lotion pump.
**Note it is important to use glass whenever you are working with essential oils, as they will eat away at plastic.
- Get that Vitamin D!
The final rule for staying healthy while in the sun is similar to the cardinal rule of sex education—abstinence is best! The only way to avoid getting burned is to stay out of the sun. However, we all know that this is not completely realistic. And it is worth mentioning that we have a serious Vitamin D deficiency epidemic happening in this country. This is due to the fact that people are lathering up with sunscreens and not taking advantage of the healthy aspects that the sun has to offer. The sun is a double-edged sword—too much and your risk of skin cancer skyrockets; too little and you can experience all the negative effects of a Vitamin D deficiency, which include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness and brain fog.
How do I attempt to solve this conundrum?
Well, my kids and I try to go out in the sun for at least 10-20 minutes a day without sunscreen. I try to do it in the morning before 10 or in the afternoon after 3 when the rays are not as strong. And I never go without sunscreen on my face. Like never. Ever. Remember Magda that I referenced at the beginning of this article?
Alright, so that’s the skinny on safe sunscreen and sun safety!
Please stay tuned for the next segment in my Summer Essentials Series—I’ll let you take a peek into my beach bag and show you all the top natural products that will help you stay healthy this summer.
Do you still have burning questions about your sunscreen or need advice? Message me or post a comment!
So what are my favorite recipes, health and lifestyle tips, products and kid-related stuff?
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Okay friends, I went LIVE for the first time in weeks! It was time to start talking about something else besides myself. And I’m truly sick of crying. I mean I love crying, but I need a break 🙂