what we look for in a sunscreen

Sunscreen is a crucial part of any skincare routine - however, not all formulas are created equal. When we choose a sunscreen, there are a lot of questions we ask ourselves. What are the safest, most effective sunscreen ingredients? Which ingredients do we want to avoid? What level of SPF is necessary? 

Here’s what we know. 

chemical vs. physical

Sunscreens come in two main varieties - physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens work by reflecting or scattering UV rays, with the help of active minerals like titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, use ingredients like avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, and the like to actually absorb UV rays.

Either type can be highly effective if formulated properly and used as instructed. But at cocokind, we believe in striking a balance between not just efficacy, but safety and sustainability, too!

Although chemical sunscreens are effective, they aren’t always safe, and they definitely aren’t always sustainable (more on that later). Recent studies referenced by the EWG have shown that chemical sunscreens, which often contain potentially harmful compounds like oxybenzone, can enter the bloodstream after only one day of use. This has led the FDA to pressure chemical sunscreen manufacturers into doing further research before deeming ingredients safe for use on humans.

In the meantime, chemical sunscreens continue to be freely produced and sold in the US, even though we don’t yet know the medical implications of these ingredients being absorbed into our bodies. For now, we’d rather be safe than sorry, and stick with physical sunscreens!

what level of spf do I need? 

We recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30, and reapplying as often as suggested by the manufacturer. SPF 30 is a good starting point for most skin types and tones; additionally, the average person tends to apply less sunscreen than recommended, so a value of at least 30 ensures better protection, even without the recommended usage. 

And make sure not to let high SPF fool you into over-exposing yourself to the sun! Though sunscreens can help protect against immediate sunburns, you should still be wary of long-term sun damage.

A study conducted by Philippe Autier, who formerly worked as a scientist at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, found that sunbathers given an SPF 30 sunscreen stayed in the sun for significantly longer periods of time than sunbathers given an SPF 10 sunscreen. Interestingly enough, sunscreen products with higher SPF levels tended to cause users to remain in the sun for longer periods of time, and as a result, they risked just as much sun damage as the users with lower SPF products. 

Sunscreen can help protect you from the effects of harmful UV rays, but it doesn’t make you impervious to them, especially if you’re in the sun for long periods of time. So yes, lather up - but also make sure to not overdo your time in the sun and always reapply when recommended!

what are some good, safe sunscreen ingredients?

The FDA characterizes ingredients that are “generally recognized as safe and effective” as GRASE.

Titanium oxide and zinc oxide, which are naturally-occurring minerals, are the star ingredients of many physical sunscreens. And yes, they’re GRASE. Instead of absorbing into the skin, titanium oxide and zinc oxide sit on top of it, where they protect your skin by scattering and reflecting UV rays.

The downside is that these minerals naturally create a white cast that can appear chalky when applied onto skin. To combat this, many sunscreen manufacturers have developed nano-sized versions of these minerals, which help them appear more transparent.

what ingredients should I avoid?

Oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are commonly found in chemical sunscreens, can be absorbed by the skin and remain in the body for an unknown amount of time. In some cases, they’ve both been known to affect hormone levels in humans, and oxybenzone especially has been linked to early puberty, low sperm count, male infertility, and more. Yikes! 

Additionally, many islands and coastal cities have begun the process of banning or attempting to reduce the use of sunscreens containing these ingredients. The state of Hawaii for example, has plans to specifically ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate; when beachgoers wear sunscreens containing these chemicals into the ocean, they’ve been known to damage and even kill coral reefs and other sea life.

Do Shamu (and yourself!) a favor, and try to avoid bringing these harsh ingredients into the ocean.

what brands does cocokind recommend? 

We’d love to carry our own sunscreen in the future, when we can offer something we feel wholly confident in, from an efficacy, safety, and sustainability perspective. But for now, we’re happy to offer our recommendations. We always recommend sunscreens from Goddess Garden, Suntegrity, COOLA, or Badger, which in our opinion, is the cleanest of them all, but with a slightly heavier feel.

Final reminder: stay safe in the sun this summer! If you have further questions, always feel free to email info@cocokind or DM us on Instagram :)