With the half term holidays on our doorstep, those of us lucky enough to be escaping to somewhere warm will be on the lookout for a sun cream to pack. You might have found that there aren’t many natural options. And – although I stand to be corrected - there are currently no sun screen products certified by the Soil Association. Why so few?
The reasons are quite technical, so I will try not to bamboozle. Firstly, to create a really natural sun screen (i.e. no synthetic chemical filters like PABAs or oxybenzonone) there are very few options. The only choice really is to use Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide which provide a physical barrier on the skin to reflects the sun’s rays.
Both of these minerals are allowed under organic standards, but the problem with their use in sunscreens is that they have to be of very small particle size so as to be effective (large particles create gaps that the sunlight can get through and also the minerals show up as white on the skin). Many zinc oxide and titanium dioxides used in sunscreen thus are at ‘nanoparticle’ size and all nanoparticles are banned under organic standards because the health risks associated with them are unclear.
Another problem in producing an organic sun cream is the cost of testing, which is prohibitive for most natural cosmetics brands who - like us – tend to be small. Testing to establish the SPF factor – and now also the UVA value - is a legal requirement which needs to be done in a clinical trial costing many thousands of pounds. There are some precursor tests that can be done more cheaply to establish whether or not the formulation is likely to produce a high SPF, but unfortunately, these aren’t suited to the mineral sunscreens, only the synthetic ones!
Some of you will remember we did launch a sun cream a few years ago, but unfortunately had to stop making it. - The key (non-nano size) mineral sun screen ingredient was delisted by our supplier!
So where from here, and when will Essential Care be launching a certified organic sun screen?
More research is being done into the potential risks associated with nano-size zinc and titanium particles, particularly in Australia where skin cancer is huge issue. The evidence, according to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) is that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells. It is likely that organic certification bodies like the Soil Association and Ecocert will consider this kind of assessment to potentially make an exception to the nanoparticle rule.
So hopefully there should be more truly natural and organic sun screens available soon. It’s also worth remembering that if you’re in cooler climates like the UK, even in the summer, you don’t need to apply an SPF cream every day. It’s much more important to use a high antioxidant moisturiser – like our Rose Moisturiser, or Avocado Replenishing Cream which contain wonderfully antioxidant-rich botanicals! – to help prevent free radical generation by sunlight.