Natural vs Synthetic Sunscreen

Irina talks us through the pros and cons of using a natural sunscreen product or a synthetic sunscreen product...

sunscreen advice

It’s summer! Shorts, skirts, t-shirts, bare feet… After a cold and long winter we all seem to long for the sun kissing our skin. While we love to enjoy the sun and warmth, we might be afraid to overdo it and end our day with a painful sunburn. 

Should we even use sunscreen products?

Of course, there are many synthetic sunscreen products widely available. But are they really good for us? Should we even use sunscreen products? If you were brought up like I was, using sunscreen lotion was an important routine during the summer days. It was said that if we didn’t use it, we would get skin cancer for sure. While it is definitely wise to be mindful of the risks sunbathing brings, it’s equally wise to consider the risks of using sunscreen products.


Most conventional sunscreen products contain a large number of chemicals that are or can be very harmful to our health. Examples are PABA and methylene bis-benzotiazolyl tetramethylbutyphenol, which are actually non-natural petrochemical ingredients that can be irritating to the skin. Most of those conventional sunscreen products also contain cancer-causing fragrance chemicals, parabens, harsh alcohols and toxic chemical solvents. Since your skin absorbs what you put on it, it’s not a good idea to put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat.

Fortunately, there are many natural brands these days that don’t contain those chemicals. Read the labels or check out websites such as EWG SkinDeep to find out which brand would be your best pick.


Another thing to consider is vitamin D. All sunscreen products (natural and synthetic) block your body’s ability to synthesise vitamin D from sun exposure. Since a large number of people have a vitamin D deficiency nowadays (70% of US citizens), exposure to sunlight is necessary. A chronic vitamin D deficiency promotes cancer, winter flu and infections, depression, osteoporosis and hormonal imbalances. By blocking the vitamin D production, sunscreen products actually contribute to cancer-promoting nutritional deficiencies.

If you eat a healthy, organic, vegetarian or vegan diet, your skin gets healthier as well. Therefore, you won’t burn as fast as you will eating junk food. 


Now, all of this doesn’t mean you should never use a sunscreen product, of course. If you’re planning a day out in the sun, it is wise to use it. Just make sure you use a natural one and choose a low SPF. The SPF rate tells you more about the extra length of time you can stay in the sun before burning.  For example, if a fair-skinned person who would usually burn in six to seven minutes uses an SPF15, they can safely be exposed to the sun for 90 minutes, or 15 times longer.  Higher SPF ratings are not actually proportional, as an SPF 15 sunscreen offers 93% absorption and filtering of UVA and UVB sunlight, which also allows for a daily dose of Vitamin D – the essential “sunshine vitamin” your body can synthesize from sun exposure, compared to an SPF 30 which offers 97%.

On days where you’re not exposed to direct sunlight for a longer period of time (say, you just walk to the organic grocery store and back to your garden where you sit in the shade), it might be best to use no sunscreen products at all – depending on how fast you burn and depending on how healthy you eat.

Now go out and enjoy the sun!

Irina Verwer

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Irina VerwerIrina Verwer is a yoga teacher, Somatic therapist, intimacy coach, Ayurvedic practitioner, vegan chef and writer of two yogic cookbooks. Very grateful for and inspired by all of her teachers, Irina has created a unique style of teaching that is both intense and gentle.