We’re thoughtful about what we put in our bodies. We choose organic wholesome foods. We’re thoughtful about how we shop and do our best to bring reusable bags and containers and minimize our plastic use, for the sake of the environment and for our health (leaching plastics!).
What about the things that we put ON our bodies? Like our sunscreen and bug spray. We imagine that since we’re not ingesting it and it can be washed off, that perhaps it has less of an impact on us. But think again! Our skin is our largest organ and it absorbs much of what we put on it directly into our bloodstream. Which is scary when you look at the ingredient list of sunscreen and bug spray and have no idea what any of it means.
Here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe through the summer months when we’re practically living outdoors and use sunscreen and bug spray on a daily basis!
Remember that sunscreen can be chemical or mineral. Mineral-based sunscreens create a physical barrier between your skin and the sun and are likely to have fewer toxic components so we recommend these if available!
If you do choose a chemical sunscreen, avoid oxybenzone or octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate), which are highly toxic, as well as homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene, which are moderately toxic, according to the Environmental Working Group.
And some general sun safety tips: try to avoid peak sun hours, wear hats and protective clothing, seek shade whenever possible, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Bug Spray 101
Citronella, cedar and essential oils such as rosemary, peppermint, and lemongrass, are excellent natural options for keeping bugs away.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is effective and safe for anyone over the age of 3 (remember that bug spray in general is unsafe for infants!).
If the natural alternatives are failing and you or your children are being eaten alive, the following chemicals have been proven to have low toxicity and high levels of protection according to the EWG: Picaridin (less than 10%), DEET (less than 10%), or IR3535 (20%).
If you are headed somewhere with West Nile, Lyme, Zika, or another insect-borne illness as a concern, you should consult local information centers for which active ingredient works best.
Be careful out there!