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I just got back from a 3 day trip to Florida. After spending the winter in New England, which lacks sun intensity, protecting my pasty pale skin from the central Florida sun in April was a priority.
For years, I thought that I just burned through sunscreen quickly. I used to use kid’s or baby’s sunscreen (everything else itched on contact with my skin), SPF 30-50, and would be red within 15 minutes of going out in the sun. Last summer I read that coconut oil has a natural SPF of about 4. I had switched my daily moisturizer to coconut oil, since it was natural and did not irritate my skin, and was happy that it gave me minimal sun protection as well. One day last August I forgot to put on sunscreen. I spent about 2 hours outside in the mid-late afternoon, and instead of burning badly, I only turned light pink. At that point, I realized that I was not burning through my old sunscreens, but instead was having some sort of allergic reaction. Since then I have avoided standard commercially available sunscreen and have been searching for an alternative – a natural sunscreen that is safe for me and the environment.
About a month later, I wandered into EMS and happened upon a long sleeve collared button down Columbia shirt like this one. I was pretty psyched to find a lightweight shirt roughly equivalent to SPF 40 sunscreen. It’s my new favorite shirt for those “light sweater” kind of days. When I was buying this shirt, I started talking to the sales person at EMS. I told her that I was really excited to find this SPF shirt, because I have so much trouble finding sunscreen that doesn’t irritate my skin. She recommended Raw Elements. About 6 months later, and a few weeks before my trip to Orlando, I realized that I really needed sunscreen to keep my pale skin pasty-white. I searched Amazon for Raw Elements sunscreen, and other natural sunscreens. Aside from Raw Elements, all of the “natural” sunscreens had chemicals or ingredients that I didn’t feel safe putting on my skin. I bought the Raw Elements SPF 30 sunscreen.
Ingredients are all simple, natural, things I know won’t irritate my skin, AND safe for the environment (this sunscreen got the best possible EWG rating of 1!):
Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 23%
Inactive Ingredients: Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Green Tea, Organic Black Tea, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, All Natural Mango Butter, Organic Beeswax, All Natural Rosemary Oil Extract, All Natural Vitamin E
This natural sunscreen works. I highly recommend it. I used this on my entire body – everything that was not covered my by t-shirt, shorts, or sneakers. It was gentle enough to use on my face, and I had no skin irritation. I was outside in the sun for the better part of 10 hours on Day 1, and the parts of me that were not covered by my awesome SPF shirt (with this sunscreen underneath) only got lightly burned, and faded to a very light tan within 48 hours. My fault for not reapplying. Day 2, I covered myself in this sunscreen again, and today reapplied halfway through the day. After Day 2 I was no more burned than after Day 1.
This sunscreen is THICK. It feels very oily. Makes sense, almost all of the ingredients are oils. If you get it in your eyes, be prepared to be uncomfortable for a couple hours. Even flushing out with mt saline contact solution and applying contact lens safe rewetting drops, I could not stop the mild burning sensation. And expect to go through this tube of sunscreen quickly. Applying to my whole body 3 times, I used about 1.5 to 2 ounces of my 3 ounce bottle.
I will keep using Raw Elements natural sunscreen until I can make my own sunscreen that is as effective and less expensive. I’ll post again if I have success with a DIY sunscreen recipe!
Update March 2, 2017: I created a homemade natural sunscreen recipe that (based on my use) seems as effective as Raw Elements and has a similar feel. If you’re looking for a lighter feeling sunscreen and do not need it to be sweatproof/waterproof, check out my lighter sunscreen recipe.