Conventional vs. Natural Sunscreens


For weeks now I’ve been trying to compare conventional (chemical) sunscreens to natural sunscreens but I’ve come up against a bit of a barrier.

Certain manufacturers of conventional sunscreens won’t provide me with a full list of the ingredients in their product, for example Coles. It seems they don’t have to either, because sunscreens with a SPF of 30 or more are classed as a medicine (a Therapeutic Good) – they legally only need to label the product with the active ingredients and preservatives. Is this not madness?!

If the product was deemed to be a cosmetic, they would be required by law to list ALL of the ingredients.

The most common active ingredient used in conventional sunscreen is Oxybenzone – which is quick to penetrate the skin and known as a hormone disrupter that acts like oestrogen in the body. Oxybenzone has been linked to endocrine disruption, organ toxicity and endometriosis. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database (EWG) gives this chemical an 8 out of 10

Some other ingredients you want to AVOID are:

  • 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor: 7 out of 10
  • Octinoxate: 6 out of 10 
  • Octyl Methoxycinnamate (another name for Octinoxate): 6 out of 10
  • Benzyl Alcohol: 5 out of 10
  • Octisalate: 4 out of 10
  • Phenoxyethanol: 4 out of 10
  • Homosalate: 4 out of 10
  • Hydroxybenzoates: many of the sunscreens include this ingredient without stipulating which form they are using. It could be up to a 7 out of 10.
  • Titanium Dioxide: ranges between 2 and 6. There is some evidence to suggest that nanoparticles of titanium dioxide react with the sun and cause DNA damage. 

Now the list above isn’t great is it?! AND that’s only looking at the active ingredients. What about the inactive ingredients?? A common one used is:

Retinyl Palmitate – a form of vitamin A that can expedite the growth of skin tumours and lesions. EWG gives this chemical a 9 out of 10!

I’d like to be able to investigate the rest of the ingredients used in chemical sunscreens, but it seems companies, like Coles, don’t want us to know. And that to me is not right.

What About Natural Sunscreens? How Do They Differ?

Natural sunscreens generally use zinc oxide (a mineral) that reflects the suns UV rays, whereas the chemicals in conventional sunscreens absorb the UV rays.

By nature, natural sunscreens are quite thick (and a little whitening). If you haven’t used a natural sunscreen before you might find it harder to apply than conventional sunscreen – that’s because it doesn’t contain toxic emulsifiers and chemicals which make it easier to apply. 

To aid with the application of natural sunscreens, ensure that your skin is well moisturised first as this will help to spread the lotion in.

What Did I Find At My Local Coles?

Having browsed through the sunscreens on offer at my local Coles, there wasn’t a single natural sunscreen to choose from. Every single one that I picked up contained 1 or more of the above ingredients. The brands I looked at were:

Banana Boat, Cancer Council, Nivea, Neutrogena, Coles & LeTan

When looking at the Coles brand, it says on the front of the bottle “lightly fragranced” however there’s no mention of any fragrance listed under the ingredients, nor any of the inactive ingredients. When buying the product online, neither the active or inactive ingredients are shown, so you really are buying blindly.

After several phone calls and emails to Coles requesting a full list of the ingredients in their sunscreens I received the following response:

“We are unable to disclose the full ingredients list as this is business sensitive. All active ingredients are declared on the back of the product”.

I eventually was able to get my hands on the Material Safety Data Sheet but again that only listed the active ingredients. I find this very disappointing.

What Can We Do About It?

Help me by signing this petition on, asking Coles to release the full ingredients of their sunscreens, so that we can decide if we want to use that product on our skin or our children’s skin.

Where Can You Buy Natural Sunscreens?

There’s some great online shops selling a range of natural sunscreens: Shop Naturally, Biome and Nourished Life are great places to start. If ordering online isn’t for you, pop into your local organic shop or health food store.

If you’re not sure which brand to start with maybe look at Simple As That or Little Innoscents.

Also it’s worth considering the time of day you’re going out in the sun and the length of time – you might be able to skip the sunscreen by using some lightweight clothing, hats and beach umbrellas to prevent excessive sun exposure.

If that sounds too risky and you’d prefer to use sunscreen, consider avoiding the conventional sunscreens and choose a natural sunscreen, without all the nasty chemicals.



Kali Wellington

Kali is passionate about health and wellness and believes strongly in the power of food as medicine. You could say she is obsessed with living the organic life but who better to be obsessed than the founder of Guide To Organics.
Not only an online directory for all things organic, but a source of information for recipes, upcoming events and of course the blog section with articles from various natural health practitioners. Kali is a big advocate of certified organic, therapeutic grade essential oils which are available to purchase via Guide To Organics website. Kali’s ultimate mission is to connect you to local organic businesses that you can trust. She would also like to inspire you to lead a healthier, happier life, full of passion, love and joy.

Read more

25 November 2016

This content comes from a hidden element on this page.

The inline option preserves bound JavaScript events and changes, and it puts the content back where it came from when it is closed.

Click me, it will be preserved!

If you try to open a new Colorbox while it is already open, it will update itself with the new content.

Updating Content Example:
Click here to load new content


Thank You
Almost Finished. Please check your inbox to complete the subscription process.
© 2019 Guide To Organics. All Rights Reserved.
Skip to toolbar