Plastic Free July Challenge - Day 5: Safe Under The Sun

Summer vacation without toxins and without plastic!

It’s that time of the year where many of us spend more time outside, under the sun. Whether we are active, hiking or swimming, or enjoying a well deserved nap, it’s essential to protect our skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. 

UV Rays Facts

It is a widely accepted fact that the sun’s UV Rays are classified as photo carcinogenic energy: they have the ability to generate cancer through the sun.

Both UVA and UVB Rays are responsible causes of skin cancers, aging of the skin and eyes, immunosuppression and other damages. Unfortunately, UV damage is cumulative throughout our lifetime. Meaning, each occurrence piles on top of the previous.

Luckily for us, there are a few simple rules to follow before even thinking about using a sunscreen: 

  • UV protective clothing, including hats, sunglasses, etc.
  • Try to avoid peak hour sun between the hours of 10am and 4pm
  • Always stay hydrated and seek shade whenever available
  • Young children need even more protection from heat and sun
guide to sunscreens UV rays protection

How to choose a safe sunscreen

Now you know why it’s so important to make the right choice. But aren’t all sunscreens the same? Unfortunately no, it would be too easy. Here’s what a “regular” sunscreen looks like: 

  • It’s packaged in a plastic tube or a spray, both impossible to reuse and rarely recycled
  • It contains chemicals that are known for being toxic for us and aquatic ecosystems

Every year, EWG publishes its “Guide to Sunscreens”. As they say, “people might inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so ingredients must not be harmful to lungs or internal organs. Furthermore, sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” to help the product adhere to skin. As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.”

Common sunscreens use a combination of active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate, chemicals that act as UV filters. 

In February 2019, the FDA released its final draft sunscreens monograph, which contains insufficient health and safety data to designate 12 of the 16 sunscreen filters allowed for use in the U.S. as Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective (GRASE). Only two active sunscreen ingredients got this FDA designation: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are the only active ingredients you want in your sunscreen!

There’s another major reason why we should avoid chemical UV filters in our sunscreens: our corals are dying and a major cause of this decline is sunscreen pollution. Whether you swim in the ocean, in a pool, take a shower after sun exposure, your sunscreen washes off and ends up in our lakes, rivers and oceans. As little as 1 drop of oxybenzone in 6.5 olympic sized swimming pools is enough to cause an adverse effect in coral.

The damages on ecosystems pushed the state of Hawaii to pass in 2018 the first ever ban on reef harming sunscreens.


Choosing a mineral sunscreen is the solution to protect both yourself and the ocean. It’s even better when it’s packaged without plastic: you will also protect the ocean from plastic pollution! There are now a few brands who sell mineral sunscreens in metal tins or compostable tubes. We have chosen to offer Raw Elements because they are rated 1 by EWG, they have a plastic free collection, both for adults and kids, and they work!


One last tip: don’t try to make your own sunscreen! There are simple recipes online, using non nano zinc oxyde. But it takes professional equipments to mix ingredients and obtain a homogeneous product. And this is crucial to make sure that your family’s skin is protected.

zero waste plastic free natural sunscreen raw elements

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