Why we should be using natural sunscreens


Not all sunscreens are good for you or the planet; here’s why plus a few of our favourite alternatives


It’s getting a lot easier to find natural, plastic-free sunscreens these days - it’s great to see that more people are on the look out for them - but why should you be avoiding conventional sunscreens in the first place?

Many of us will have early childhood memories of being covered head to toe in sunscreen on holiday, most of us protesting and avoiding it whenever possible. Naturally, parents want to protect their children, but in actual fact using conventional, off the shelf sunscreens could be doing more harm than good.

The two biggest concerns are the effects they have on our health and the damage they do to the environment. 63% Of ingredients found in conventional sunscreens are harmful for humans or the environment. Luckily, there are healthier and greener alternatives.

Why are natural sunscreens better for us?

The things we choose to put on our skin don’t simply stay on the surface. Our skin is extremely absorbent, which means the long list of chemicals on most conventional sunscreens should be quite alarming. Traditional sunscreens contain a cocktail of toxic, synthetic chemicals that most of us wouldn’t go near if they were in anything we were going to eat. So why do we feel safe putting them on our skin?

The effects these chemicals can have on our health range from skin irritations and allergies to hormonal disturbances and even skin cancer. But it’s still important to have some protection, especially if you’re out in the midday sun, which is why we need to find natural alternatives that are better for us.

If we’re going to put effort into eating organic food and using natural skincare products, it makes sense to take the same care when it comes to sunscreen.

How do conventional sunscreens damage the environment?

Not only do conventional sunscreens present health risks to us as humans, they are also destroying the health of our coral reefs. Coral reefs are often referred to as ‘rainforests of the oceans’ - they are home to a wide variety of plant and animals species, they protect coastlines from erosion, and they could even be a store for carbon.

There is a chemical that is found in over 3500 conventional sunscreens called Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3). Oxybenzone has been found to disrupt coral reproduction, cause coral bleaching (10% Of coral reefs worldwide are threatened from bleaching from sunscreen chemicals.) , damage coral DNA and be fatal to baby coral. And this is just one of the chemicals found in traditional suncream.

What’s more, most traditional suncreams come in plastic bottles. If we’re doing our best to avoid buying plastic water bottles, it only makes sense to avoid plastic suncream containers too. 

What are the alternatives?

In the grand scheme of things, sunscreen as we know it hasn’t been around for very long at all, but humans have always found ways to protect themselves from the sun when necessary.

“Early civilizations used a variety of plant extracts to help protect the skin from the sun's harmful rays. For example, ancient Greeks used olive oil for this purpose and ancient Egyptians used extracts of rice, jasmine and lupine plants. Zinc oxide paste has also been popular for skin protection for thousands of years.” - Mary Bellis, ThoughtCo

Interestingly, since the early 1990s, melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have more than doubled (134%) in the UK. Rates in females have increased by two times (100%) and rates in males have almost tripled (181%). This could suggest that our use of conventional sunscreen is not protecting us from the sun as much as we think.

Whilst the best way to avoid burning without having to put anything on your skin is, of course, to stay out of the sun when it’s at its strongest, it’s not always possible and we need that extra protection to protect ourselves during those times. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite natural sunscreen brands to help you find a healthier and greener way to enjoy the summer sun:


All Good


Butter Bean Organics

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics

Rare Earth Skin Care

Raw Elements

Shade Cream

Suntribe Sunscreen

Whilst natural sunscreen is effective it’s important to understand the differences between your chosen brand and conventional sunscreens as usage recommendations can vary. This is a great response piece to a negative review from the founder of Not the Norm Ltd. who produce Shade Cream.

As always, if you have any questions about the information above or would like to know more about protecting yourself from the sun in a natural and environmentally friendly way, please feel free to comment below or email us.

Katherine Heath