For the last two years, I’ve been trying to find the perfect sunblock. I wanted to find one that is fragrance-free, vegan, and healthy for me and the planet. It’s harder than you think to find one that meets all of these criteria!
You might have heard that some places, such as Hawaii, have banned sun protection products that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate because they endanger coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Over the last three years, one-fifth of the world’s reefs have died. Did you know that 6000-14000 tons of sun protection products end up in the water? When you’re looking for a sun protection product, look for sunblock instead of sunscreen (why?) and make sure the following ingredients aren’t in it:
- Any form of microplastic sphere or beads
- Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (the key word is “nano” here; non-nano is safe)
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
Also, look for the “reef safe” label on the product.
Sunblocks are safer than sunscreens because the former uses minerals that sit on top of your skin to protect you, while the latter uses harmful chemicals that absorb into your skin. There are many studies that have linked certain chemicals in sunscreen to cancer and other health concerns (some listed above), notably parabens.
However, there is little discussion about the hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic ingredient of synthetic fragrance (parfum). This ingredient is usually listed near the end of the ingredient list in personal care, beauty, and cleaning products and can contain up to 300 toxic chemicals. There is absolutely no government regulation as to what can be included in “fragrance (parfum/perfume)”. The team behind the documentary Stink! have been sending popular fragrances and even scented children’s clothes to the lab to reveal what lurks in synthetic fragrance, and it’s scary! It is definitely worth the time to watch this film and to follow them on Instagram to be more informed about what you put on you and your family’s body. The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners have also done some studies on the harmful effects of synthetic fragrances. In addition, the Guardian is working on a series that investigates “the risks of contamination in our food, water, cosmetics and the broader environment by toxic chemicals” and have focused on the dangers of synthetic fragrances in a recent article.
Be wary of green-washing companies like Live Clean that claim to be natural and safe for humans and the environment. There is absolutely nothing clean about their products. They don’t even list their ingredients on their website. I contacted them and they ignored my messages and emails when I asked them about synthetic fragrance being in their products. They also have a long history of dishonesty about being vegan (until they were caught and caught again).
Vegan + Cruelty-Free
There are a lot of vegan and cruelty-free sun protection products out there. However, most of them contain many toxic chemicals in them, such as parabens and synthetic fragrance. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean that it is reef safe or safe for you!
Popular vegan brands like Lush , Pacifica,and the Body Shop contain tons of harmful chemicals to your health and/or their sunscreens contain UNSAFE reef ingredients. Lush claims that their perfume (fragrance) is safe, but it’s not!
If you are looking for a vegan product, look for the certified vegan label. If you are looking for a cruelty-free product, look for the bunny symbol.
Most products, especially sunblocks and sunscreens, are highly scented with synthetic fragrances. As mentioned above, synthetic fragrances are very harmful to your health.
As someone who has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, especially to synthetic fragrances, it makes it impossible for me to be around anyone in the summer. For those who do not know about the symptoms that people like me suffer from, they include severe and long-lasting migraines, nausea, vomiting, tension headaches, rashes, trouble breathing, and dizziness. Synthetic fragrances are made to last and stick around, so it doesn’t matter that you applied it six hours ago – the fragrances continue to smell and spread.
Which sunblocks to buy
I highly recommend DeVita’s Solar moisturizers for body and face. This was the only product that I could find that satisfied all of my criteria. They are vegan/cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and safe for the you and the environment. Furthermore, it is non-greasy and doesn’t leave a white film on your skin. It applies well on its own or under make-up. It’s not drying either. It is simply amazing! I got mine from the Big Carrot.
I also tried Green Beaver’s Natural Sunscreen for the Face and was disappointed. It does not indicate that it contains synthetic fragrances, but I had a horrible allergic reaction to using this product (my throat started to close). I only react to synthetic fragrances and not essential oils, so I was naturally suspicious. I contacted them and they stated that they are EcoCert and do not use synthetics, so I’m puzzled. The texture is non-greasy and very nice, but the fragrance is overpowering and unpleasant. I had to scrub my face several times to get rid of the smell and my make-up brushes all smelled like it (which is strange because essential oils do not leave smells for very long, but synthetics do). It is vegan and reef safe.
Badger’s sunblocks are probably the safest products to use, but they contain beeswax, which means they aren’t vegan. (Sidenote: beeswax has a higher comedogenic rating than vegan waxes like candelilla wax, which means they clog pores more.). This sell tinted versions of the sunblock, which don’t leave your face white as a ghost. You can get fragrance-free or essential oil-based sunblocks from them (and I never reacted to their products). The other downside of their sunblocks is that they are heavier and greasier.
A really good resource for more information is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens 2019.
Avoid shopping at retail stores like Shoppers Drug Mart or Rexall; virtually none of their personal care and beauty products are safe. You will have a higher chance of getting a truly healthy product for you and our planet at a health store. Stores like the Big Carrot claim to not sell any personal care and beauty products that contain synthetic fragrances; however, I didn’t have the time read all of the ingredient labels for all of their products.
Please read the ingredient list of all products before you buy, so you know what you are putting in your body and help protect our planet!