Anna Soref

April 24, 2008

6 Min Read
Save Your Hide With Sunscreen

New ingredients and formulations make natural sun protection products even more effective

Let?s face it. Gone are the days of carelessly sunbathing for hours on end, slathering on baby oil to attract the sun?s rays and literally fry oneself. In fact, most consumers now take care to protect themselves from potentially harmful sunshine.

With summer around the corner, it?s time for retailers to take a look at the latest in natural sun protection.

Dangerous rays
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. More than half of all Americans age 65 and over have had skin cancer at least once. The good news is that cancer of the skin is also easily preventable.

?Sunscreens are very effective at preventing skin cancer and photoaging,? says Victor Neel, M.D., director of Massachusetts General Hospital?s Dermatological Unit in Boston. Neel recommends his patients wear sunscreen every day. ?Ultraviolet rays are present throughout the year, so on a day when you don?t see lots of sun, you can still be getting UV rays,? he says.

Very few people are aware that for ultimate protection, sunscreen really needs to be slathered on. ?Most people don?t use enough sunscreen. You should be using an ounce or an ounce and a half if you?re covering your body,? Neel says. ?If you?re going through a tube in a few weeks or longer, you?re not using enough.?

A slew of screens
Fortunately, gone along with careless sunbathing days are the days of thick, goopy sunscreens that apply like toothpaste. Many naturals manufacturers offer a wide variety of skin-friendly screens that go on silky-smooth and smell good. In fact, so many are on the market that consumers often don?t know what to put in their carts. Will it be waterproof, sweatproof, kid-safe, for the face, for the lips, for the nose, scented, unscented, with insect repellent and at which sun-protection-factor level?

Newton, Mass.-based All Terrain has found its niche with Z-Cote, a patented, time-released transparent iron zinc oxide. ?The sunscreen is encapsulated in chambers of beeswax that are suspended in emulsion. When the beeswax melts, you get a new release of sunscreen,? says David Kulow, company president.

The company?s TerraSport formula, for dry land activities, is water- and sweat-resistant, whereas its AquaSport formula is water- and sweat-proof for the ultimate protection. The company?s Herbal Armor, in addition to having an SPF of 15, contains an insect repellent with essential oils of citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass and geranium. ?[With] the large spectrum of [essential oil] repellents, you keep everything away—mosquitoes, ticks, flies, etc.,? Kulow says.

All of the company?s formulas contain vitamin E, comfrey, aloe and rosehip seed oil. The company?s children?s formula is much lighter than its adult formulations. ?You don?t need a lot of heavy oils with children; they produce a lot of oils themselves,? Kulow says.

Jason Natural Products adds a wide variety of botanicals to its SunBrellas sunscreen line, says Angella Green, marketing and media coordinator for the Culver City, Calif.-based company. ?Green tea extract, vitamin C and Ester-C work to keep the skin safe from sun damage, while shea butter and marigold extract make skin softer and smoother,? she says. Evening primrose oil is added to protect skin elasticity and prevent inflammation and wrinkles.

For after-sun care, Green recommends aloe vera products. ?Although it seems as if skin care is in a constant state of flux,? aloe products are a sun-protection industry constant, Green says. ?Aloe vera contains over 22 amino acids and minerals, like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. It penetrates injured tissue and relieves pain and inflammation,? making it ideal for sunburn, she says.

Borlind of Germany?s sunscreen line features an emphasis on antiaging ingredients, says Linda Upton, vice president of training for the New London, N.H.-based company. The sunscreens are formulated with microionized earth pigments. ?Zinc oxide in its regular form creates a yucky, thick preparation, like the stuff lifeguards put on their noses. We use a technique that pulverizes the zinc oxide so that it?s very, very fine. When you put it in an emulsion, it feels nice,? Upton says.

The company?s sun milks are for people who want a lot of hydration. They contain panthenol and sea buckthorn, which are effective at preventing sun damage, Upton says. ?Sea buckthorn is what they used at Chernobyl to treat burns.?

Chatsworth, Calif.-based Nature?s Gate also adds a heavy dose of botanicals to its sunscreen line. Wild pansy, coffee extract and shea butter actually help absorb ultraviolet rays, says Ywe Matamorow, marketing coordinator for the company. Grapeseed oil, kola nut and suma are added to the formulas for their free radical scavenging benefits. ?By combining the FDA [approved] active sunscreen ingredients, herbal extracts and other natural ingredients in each formula, the products have more of a synergistic [sunscreen] effect,? Matamorrow says.

The research and development team at Alba Botanica, a division of Avalon Natural Products, has found Parsol 1789 to be highly effective as a sunscreen, because it has large molecules and doesn?t penetrate the skin as much as other screens. ?A lot of dermatologists recommend it; it?s a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB screen,? says Laura Genoway, Avalon product consultant. Alba Botanica?s formulas combine Parsol with other chemical and physical sunscreens.

Alba Botanica also makes a natural sunless tanning cream. The three active ingredients—carrot oil, walnut extract and dihydroxyacetone (derived from sugar beets and sugar cane)—stain the skin for color. ?Because the cream stains the first layer of the skin, the cells that are basically dead, it?s important to exfoliate [before applying the product],? Genoway says.

Although the best defense against ultraviolet rays is to avoid the sun completely, not many people are willing to do that—especially natural products consumers who often have an active lifestyle that puts them in the sun?s way. That?s just one more reason for naturals retailers to give extra attention to their sun displays this year.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 3/p. 96, 98

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