Some people otherwise committed to natural skin care are reluctant to go green when it comes to sun protection. There’s a perception that the eco-friendly stuff either doesn’t work as well to shield skin from harmful rays or that you have to resort to a pasty white coating of goop to achieve protection. Not exactly a good look for the beach or pool, let alone daily wear.

It is a challenging feat to create a natural, organic, chemical-free sun care product that is both effective and pleasant to apply on the skin. There is often a bit of a compromise in one area or the other – perhaps a lower SPF or a hard to rub in consistency. However, natural sun care formulas have come a long way in the past few years, and fortunately Saffron Rouge has managed to source several brands that not only provide good broad spectrum coverage but also glide on smoothly and enrich the skin. In other words, they block and rock!

Before we get into an overview of some recommended products, here are a few factoids to put you in a not-so-sunny disposition:

  • 3.5 million incidents of skin cancers are diagnosed in the US annually, about 100,000 in Canada, and the number is growing by 3 to 5% each year
  • One in five Americans will get some form of skin cancer in their lifetime
  • 90% for the visible changes commonly attributed to ageing are caused by sun exposure
  • In 2011, FDA released tighter regulations on how manufacturers label sunscreen products, but has given them until December 2012 to comply
  • SPF rating only indicates protection from UVB rays – you need to find a broad spectrum product that protects against UVA rays too
  • There is no such thing as a “healthy tan” – any color change is a sign of skin damage

What really burns is all the conflicting information out there. Dermatologists implore us to slather on daily sunscreen while nutritionists encourage us get moderate exposure for a daily dose of Vitamin D. Studies warn that chemical agents in commercial sunscreen (like oxybenzone, retinyl palminate and methoxycinnamate) are hormone disruptors and potential carcinogens while others say not using them is like asking for melanoma. While mineral-based barrier blocks are widely considered the safer bet, we now have to be vigilant to avoid formulas with nanoparticles, which can create cell-damaging free radicals and wreak all sorts of health havoc. It’s enough to make you want to curl up in a dark room and never see the light of day.

The more reasonable approach to sun safety, of course, is to avoid exposure between the peak hours of 10am and 2pm, to stay in the shade as much as possible and to wear sun protective clothing, including wide brimmed hats and sun glasses. If you do spend time outdoors, cover up with nanoparticle-free zinc or titanium based sun blocks with a minimum SPF 15 and maximum SPF 50 (higher SPFs only provide minimal extra protection and make for misleading marketing hype). Reapply generously at least every two hours, more if you are particularly sweaty or in the water.

So instead of pursuing a sun-kissed glow, here are some Saffron Rouge-approved sun care products that provide the protection you and your family require but with pleasing textures and nourishing formulas that your skin deserves.

For effective daily protection, try Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 by John Masters Organics. Formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, it manages to shield the skin from both UVA and UVB rays but without that geisha-like white mask often associated with mineral sun blocks. This non-greasy, non-fragrant, light lotion applies on smoothly and absorbs readily, making it ideal for everyday use on the face and body. Ingredients like Shea butter, jojoba and green tea help hydrate, nourish and heal your skin as it shields against the sun.

For a kid-friendly formula that is equally great for grown-ups, try Erbaviva’s Sunscreen SPF 30. This all-natural, USDA certified organic brand specializes in gentle, eco-friendly children’s skin care that is free of pollutants, harsh chemicals and synthetic ingredients that can cause irritations and sensitivities. It’s a pure, nurturing, protective sunscreen that is ideal for delicate baby skin six months or older (younger babies should avoid sun exposure altogether) but this creamy lotion works well on skin of all ages making it a great pick for the whole family. Lavender, chamomile and olive oil gives it a fresh, pleasant scent.

Active bodies, water seekers and outdoor enthusiasts have a good option in Eco Formula 30+, a high-performance sun care product from Raw Elements that has earned a #1 rating from the Environmental Working Group watchdogs two years in a row. This chemical-free, broad spectrum, reef-safe sunscreen was developed by a 17 year ocean-rescue lifeguard, so you know water-resistance and sweat-proofing is this formula’s forte. Naturally, zinc oxide provides the main sun protection but it is also infused with organic hemp seed oil, cacao butter and beeswax. It’s a tad thick and viscous going on but it does its job well. This also comes in a handy solid stick form, which makes swiping it on prominent noses, ears, lips and cheekbones a breeze – a real asset when trying to prep squirmy kids for a day outdoors.

For light and effective face protection, try Damascus Rose SPF 16 Face Sunscreen Lotion by Badger. This anti-oxidant rich, broad spectrum, zinc oxide based lotion melts into the skin without that tell-tale white mask, so it’s ideal for everyday use with or without makeup. Enriched with roses, chamomile and lavender, its floral scent is divine too.