Product Review: The Safest Sunscreen

Photo: Trish Snyder
Sun safety starts with Canada’s first certified organic all-natural sunscreen

Items Tested: Certified Organic SPF 30 sunscreen ($20), Certified Organic SPF 30 Kids sunscreen ($20) and Certified Organic SPF 15 Lip Balm ($7)
Company: The Green Beaver Company 
Available: At health food stores and Greenbeaver.com 

The claim

This Canadian manufacturer introduced the first certified organic, 100 per cent natural sunscreens in Canada. Most lotions rely on chemical sunscreens, but these formulations include mineral zinc oxide that is not chemically altered. Mineral zinc oxide doesn’t enter the bloodstream: it coats the skin to offer broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

What’s great:

Natural ingredients
Biochemist Karen Clark and microbiologist Alain Menard, husband-and-wife founders of the Hawkesbury, ON-based company, formulated the products using extracts from non-GMO plants and without synthetic ingredients. The ingredient list reveals antioxidant-packed raspberry seed oil, naturally derived jojoba and nutrient-rich wax extracted from the candelilla plant, and no chemical preservatives, petrolatum, synthetic fragrances, dyes or phthalates. Some ingredients sound like they came from a chemistry lab because Health Canada requires approved products to specify the ingredient extracted. Legally, Green Beaver is required to list caprylic/capric triglyceride and polyhydroxystearic acid, not coconut extract and vegetable oil.

Waterproof and water-safe
Formulas are biodegradable and waterproof, so they are safe to use while swimming in lakes or oceans since no harmful chemicals will pollute fragile marine environments.

Approved
The products carry Natural Product Numbers issued by Health Canada, which means they’ve been found safe and effective in clinical trials. The sunscreens also received the highest rating achieved by sunscreens analyzed by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. That’s a major accomplishment considering how many contain chemicals that penetrate into the bloodstream and present health hazards, and how few sunscreens were found safe and effective in 2010

Non-whitening
Unlike other zinc oxide sunblocks that leave the skin looking chalky white, these sunscreens use a fine powdered zinc oxide that disappears completely. The lip balm leaves a pleasantly light transparent sheen on the lips.

Nourishing and non-greasy
Sunscreens rub in quickly and easily, which helps when applying the lotion to fidgety kids. Light oils used in the sunscreens leave the skin feeling soft and moisturized but not greasy.

Certified Organic
Plant extracts are derived without the use of chemicals and following ecological and certified organic–approved methods such as cold pressing and fermentation.

No nanoparticles
Some other natural sunscreens use zinc oxide ground into ultra-fine nanoparticles, which eliminates the chalky look. One study shows these nano-sized particles are toxic to colon cells when ingested. Green Beaver sunscreens don’t contain nanoparticles.

What’s not so great:

Value
You’ll pay $20 for 90 ml, which is smaller than some toothpaste tubes. If applied as generously as recommended by sun safety experts, this small tube won’t last long. Your safest bet is still to avoid the sun during peak hours (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) by seeking shade and wearing protective clothing such as a hat and long sleeves.

Availability
Apologies to our international friends: the company website says this product is not available to U.S. residents.