The sun's high in the sky, the mosquitoes are on the prowl and consumers are coming to your store, looking for ways to ward off burns and bites. Beyond simple efficacy, there are a variety of reasons to direct customers toward natural options. For one, conventional chemical sunscreens offer weak protection from skin-cancer-causing UVA rays. Many products also contain potentially harmful toxins, such as oxybenzone (benzophenone-3)—a suspected hormone disruptor linked to skin rashes. Bug stuff isn't much better: The omnipresent pesticide DEET is a neurotoxin that may trigger allergic reactions. It's also toxic to birds and aquatic life. Use this cheat sheet to help steer customers toward natural products.
Mirror with minerals
As opposed to chemical blocks, which soak into skin and disperse UV light, mineral-based physical blocks sit on top of skin and reflect rays, offering protection from both UVB and UVA rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the most common active ingredients in physical blocks, and research from the Environmental Working Group, an investigative consumer-advocacy nonprofit in Washington, D.C., shows that even nano-size particles do not absorb into the skin. The organization warns against powdered or spray products that contain the minerals, however, due to concerns surrounding zinc and titanium inhalation.
Go essentially bug free
Especially important for customers who plan to venture into the outdoors, repellents that feature bug-fighting essential oils are safe for waterways and animals. Plus, they often smell better than DEET-based solutions. Though nontoxic and safe for topical use, essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil or lotion before applying to skin to prevent irritation and burns. Some top essential oils to look for on ingredient lists include citronella, cedar oil, lemongrass, mint and linseed. For a list of safe, low-risk pesticide ingredients, direct customers to epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/regtools/25b_list.htm.
Try these picks:
Burt’s Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 What’s in it: titanium dioxide, witch hazel, and hemp and sunflower-seed oils Delivery method: lotion
Jason Quit Bugging Me! Insect Repellent What’s in it: geranium, soybean and coconut oils Delivery method: spray
Greenerways Organic Bug-it-Off Insect Repellent What’s in it: organic citronella and cedarwood oils Delivery method: spray
Badger Anti-Bug Balm What’s in it: citronella, cedar, lemongrass, rosemary, geranium Delivery method: stick or ointment
Aubrey Organics Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea Protective Sunscreen What’s in it: titanium dioxide, shea butter, aloe vera, jojoba oil Delivery method: lotion
Sanitas Solar Block What’s in it: zinc oxide, antioxidant vitamins A, C and E Delivery method: lotion