au naturel sunscreen swimming pool summer marly mcneil garance dore photos

Au Naturel

9 years ago by

It’s summer and hot as eff out, which means less clothes, which means more skin, which means side boob sunscreen. That’s right, it’s the mid-July obligatory sunscreen post.  
Many of you are already on the daily all year round sunscreen tip but, for those of us who are less diligent (guilty as charged), summer is the season we are forced to reckon with all things SPF-related. I usually just buy whatever sunscreen is on sale at CVS and call it a day, but lately, thanks to some super-aware people in my life, I’ve started to give the chemical content of the food I eat, the water I drink, and, now the sunscreen I wear a little extra thought. It’s kind of crazy that we slather the chemical loaded stuff allllllll over our bodies without a second thought (just like I never second guess adding those delicious little mochi balls to my frozen yogurt).
But we need sunscreen, it’s a good thing (a fact that Glamour’s annual mole test issue has indelibly burned into my hypochondriac brain).
The thing that’s tough about all-natural is that sometimes it feels subpar to those good old-fashioned chemicals (natural kitty litter, I’m looking at you). My one go at natural deodorant was less than effective and organic sunscreen has its own particular set of challenges: the more natural you get the more “natural” smelling it is and the less it rubs in, which means you end up looking like the pastiest version of yourself (in other words, the opposite of sexy) while everyone else’s brown skin gleams with tanning oil. Yes, I get it: taking care of yourself isn’t always about being sexy. It’s about being practical, especially when we’re talking about preventing skin cancer. That doesn’t mean that I’m still not looking for a product that does both.

Here are some natural sunscreens (they all meet the Environmental Working Group’s eco standards for a more natural alternative) that are the SPF equivalent of having your cake and eating it too:

Purple Prairie SunStuff: thick and creamy (maybe not necessarily the adjectives you want associated with your sunscreen) with a “distinctive” smell but will do in a pinch (and…no chemicals…so there’s that). 

Soleil Toujours Broad Spectrum SPF 30: the gateway mineral sunscreen for newbies: user-friendly (unlike that contouring kit you bought) it absorbs really well into your skin. Only drawback is that it’s  not as natural and detoxifying as other products on the market

Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunscreen: the word “botanica” is so pretty that it almost cancels out how thick this one rubs on. Happily no fragrance or parabens but water lovers beware: it’s only resistant for 40 minutes. 

Nature’s Gate Sport Vegan Sunscreen: calling all vegans—this mineral sunscreen rubs in real nice (for a mineral sunscreen) and is 80-minute water resistant, which means you can run in and out of the super cold surf pretending you like it as many times as you’d like.  Bonus: little to no fragrance. 

Jurlique Sun Specialist: good for face AND body (hello multitasking) and absorbs pretty quickly. P.S. sadly it doesn’t feel as moisturizing as some of the others but def not a deal-breaker. 

Safe Harbor Natural Suncare: rubs on thick (con). Contains natural anti-aging components (pro). Also: fragrant. 

au naturel sunscreen swimming pool summer marly mcneil garance dore photos
And on a more serious note, I have some questions about the efficacy of organic sunscreens: Is there a possible downside to going organic? Do they effectively prevent skin cancer? Are there any ingredients in the all-natural versions that could have weird side effects? I talked to Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC to get some answers:
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and why you believe sunscreen is so important?
The risk from the sun is cumulative, so it’s always a good idea to wear sunscreen (no matter how old you are or how much previous sun damage you have).
Are the chemicals in regular sunscreen really that bad for you? If so, what are they (what ingredients/names should we be looking out for?) and what are the negative effects?
The negative effects, if any, of sunscreen have been debated for years. There is no scientific proof that they are harmful.
What are the benefits of using organic sunscreen?
The organic sunscreens are usually less irritating.
Does organic sunscreen prevent skin cancer and sun damage as effectively as regular?
Yes, when used properly.
What is the potential downside of using organic? Is there one? 
It’s more expensive than regular sunscreen, therefore people might skimp on the amount they are using, which could lead to a lower SPF than what is on the bottle.
What ingredients (good and bad) should we be looking out for in organic sunscreen? 
Pure mineral zinc oxide is best.
For someone transitioning to natural sunscreen, what is your advice? 
If you have sensitive skin, even so-called “natural” sunscreens may irritate it, therefore you should start slowly.
Aside from sunscreen, what other measures should people be taking to protect themselves from the sun?
As the weather gets warmer, I would recommend transitioning to a foaming or glycolic cleanser in the summer to keep the pores clean, an antioxidant serum in the morning before SPF and at night, a glycolic or retinol to keep skin turning over. These ingredients will make skin a little more sun sensitive, so use an SPF of at least 30 and wear a hat.

There. Now you can all get back to figuring out whose rooftop/backyard/stoop/front porch (upstate peeps I’m looking at you) you’ll be hanging out on tonight.
Do any of you have any good organic/all-natural/chemical free sunscreen goodness tips to share? 

With special thanks to McCarren Hotel & Pool
160 N 12th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249 | + 1 (718) 218-7500

Karl wears swimsuit, J.Crew and sunglasses by Carrera

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Add yours
  • COOLA is also a nice organic brand!

  • What beautiful red swimsuit is that?

  • Francesca July, 16 2015, 10:25 / Reply

    Great interview, it’s always great to find organic ways to take care of our skin during the summer months!

  • Great products!
    Passa a trovarmi VeryFP

  • I have to try some of these this summer

    giveaway on my blog!

  • Thanks for the tips Lisa :)

  • eastvillagesiren July, 16 2015, 12:19 / Reply

    I find the physical blocks clog my skin and irritate my rosacea. I use European sunscreens by La Roche Posay, because I think Europe has better formulations and more effective sunscreens; e.g., Tinosorb.

    I also stopped using physical sunscreens as U.S. products don’t indicate if the Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide are nano; Zinc Oxide is not approved as a sunscreen ingredient in EU the last time I checked, and Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are non-biodegradable and may be toxic to fish and aquatic eco systems. So I prefer EU-approved chemical sunscreens.

    Caroline Hirons posted a good overview recently:

  • Orangeufnny July, 16 2015, 1:06 / Reply

    I am thrilled there are so many sunscreens for people to choose from. Now, there is absolutely no excuse for finding one that works well for you. Several years ago, my husband came to the discovery that he was allergic to chemical sunscreens on our honeymoon on a very sunny tropical island. He spent half the time with huge itchy welts all over his face and neck and arms. He had to have a cortisone shot to slow the process , and he sat on the beach with a big straw hat and serape while I swam in the waves. For him, there is no choice but to use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. He can’t even touch someone else in the family if we are wearing a different kind of sunscreen. That is why I am glad we have choices.

  • Lisa Walker July, 16 2015, 1:25 / Reply

    Enjoyed your writing-style! and great tips.

  • I’ve heard that zinc oxide is the one ingredient that your sunscreen should contain to prevent skin damage. Yet, if it is harmful to marine life, I will think twice about it….and will continue my search for the perfect one! This post is so important and serves as a good warning and reminder!


    adorn la femme

  • I agree with Kelly that COOLA is a good brand. I also like Bare Republic -it may smell a little coconuty but it absorbs well.





  • C’est une vraie question. Je suis contente que vous l’abordiez ici. Moi j’ai toujours utilisé de la crème solaire traditionnelle de pharmacie, ensuite je suis passée au bio ET je suis REVENUE à des marques de pharmacie non bio. Mon expérience avec le bio n’a pas été concluant. Trop apparent, trop “pégueu”. Cet été j’ai trouvé la perle avec Biotherme Aquafluide pour peaux sensibles (50+). C’est la moins présente des crèmes que j’ai trouvé. Mais ceci dit, malgré la qualité de cette crème ma peau n’aime pas la crème solaire. Elle est moins belle quand j’en mets. Ca me fait plus de comédons et ma peau est moins fraîche. Mais pas trop le choix ! J’en mets quand même tous les matins pour éviter un vieillissement prématuré.

  • Emmanuelle July, 16 2015, 5:15 / Reply

    Je suis étonnée de ne pas voir figurer COOLA dans cette liste ! Ceci dit d’est vraiment pas donné…

    Autrement en France on a UVBio (trouvable aux USA ?) et c’est très bien

  • Je suis étonnée qu’il n’y ait pas mention de la marque coréenne Innisfree qui est Paraben/Produits chimiques Free. Leur crème solaire “Eco Safety Daily Sunblock” est très légère tout en affichant un SPF35! Je l’utilise à l’année et comparé aux autres que j’achetais en grande surface, c’est beaucoup moins gras.
    Niveau prix ce n’est d’ailleurs pas parce que c’est Bio que ça devrait être très cher. Aux Etats Unis tu devrais pouvoir trouver Innisfree facilement, en France ce n’est pas encore arrivé.

  • The best I have used so far is Rationale Beautiful Skin Luminizing Serum SPF 50 (insert thumbs up emoji here).

    Not water proof but good for daily use especially here in Australia. You need sunblock even in winter because the sun is so harsh even if it’s cold. A little bit expensive but lasts for 3 months. And it doesn’t give me pimples. Been using Clinique City Block SPF 25 for years but it’s too obvious that you got something on your face even if it’s tinted so I switched to Rationale. :)
    It’s got 3 shades Chromatype 1-3. I hope they don’t increase the price when it becomes super popular.

  • Sympa cette interview et les produits proposés ont l’air pas mal du tout!
    Bizous, christelle

  • J’adore… Tout un post pour nous dire que les crèmes bio c’est mieux, les crèmes de supermarché bouh quelle horreur tous ces produits chimiques blablabla, et lorsque vous finissez par demander à une professionnelle elle répond qu’il n’y a aucun danger prouvé ! Arrêtez le bullshit et vivez…

    Love it : a whole post to warn us about the danger of basic “chemical” sunscreen, bio is so much better for your skin etc, but when you ask for a professional advice she clearly says there’s never been any danger proven so far ! Please stop the bullshit and just live…

  • Ahh these are wonderful. Cant wait to try them when its finally summer in Sydney

  • laurence July, 17 2015, 4:47 / Reply

    Asop sunscreen has changed y life … organic and user friendly (and glamorous !!)

  • C’est moi ou le post n’est pas fini? :/ il y a des points d’interrogation partout dans la première partie (qui est très intéressante par ailleurs)…

  • Moi j’ai opté pour un soin solaire recommandé par mon dermato : un soin anti-âge qui s’appelle Duolys. Non seulement il préserve ma peau du soleil mais aussi des taches, rides, etc… un combi miracle ;-)

  • Merci d’avoir si bien résumé les tenants et aboutissants du problème de la protection solaire. Soyons sérieuses, je suis une maman avec 3 enfants et j’ai beau lire et relire l’article je ne vois rien concernant la prévention pour les petits. Pouvons-nous utiliser les mêmes produits ?

    Bon week_end à la plage à toutes celles qui sont en vacances.

  • Have a look at this- by definition with SPF you WANT chemical on your face0 that is the stuff that protects you, and for brands to represent that their ‘natural’ products do not contain chemicals is at best naive and at worst highly misleading:

  • Clari__ July, 21 2015, 2:06 / Reply

    J’adorerais voir le même article adressées aux lectrices françaises et qui citerait des marques qu’on peut trouver chez nous!!

  • Hi Lisa,

    I hope it’s okay if I re-print your story for my blog – giving you credit & the blog of course. It’s just that your story is very precise on natural products for the sun. If not, please let me know. My blog is:

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