It's that time of year! Beautiful weather, long summer days, and lots and lots of sunshine!! While the sun provides our bodies with necessary Vitamin D, and for many of us a happy mind, it also brings with it harmful UVA + UVB rays. With the number of sunscreens on the market today, varying SPF numbers and organic claims, it can be tough to discern what's truly good for us, and what's protecting us from one form of cancer while exposing us to another (aka, toxic chemicals that penetrate our skin).
According to The Environmental Working Group's 2018 Sunscreen report, almost 67% of sunscreens sold in the U.S. don't work. 67%!! Either because they failed to provide adequate protection from both UVB and UVA rays, or they contained toxic ingredients. Even worse, the report found that U.S. sunscreens allow almost three times the amount of UVA rays to transfer through our skin compared to those sold in Europe.
Why This Matters!
Not only are UVA rays more abundant than UVB rays, they are also more harmful to our health. While UVB rays are the ones that cause our skin to burn and damage our epidermis (the most superficial layer of our skin), UVA rays penetrate our skin deeply and can lead to premature skin aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer.
So to help you protect your health, I'm sharing some important do's and don'ts! At the end of the day, companies are going to market to us what they think we want, so it's always up to us to be educated consumers.
THE DON'TS 👎🏽
- No Sprays! Though convenient, spray sunscreens pose high inhalation risks, both for you and everyone around you. So not only are you feeding toxic ingredients to your skin, but you end up inhaling a lot more than you put on. Yuck!
- High SPF Doesn't = Better! SPF stands for "sun protection factor" against UVB radiation (aka sunburns). Unfortunately, SPF doesn't protect us from the sun's UVA rays (aka aging-skin and cancer). So while it may seem like you can stay out in the sun longer since high-SPF sunscreens reduce sunburns, remember these products aren't protecting the deeper layers of your skin. Resist the temptation to reach for anything higher than SPF 50, and reapply your sunscreen often if you're going to be exposed for long periods of time. P.S. SPF values are capped at 50 in Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan.
- Avoid Chemicals Sunscreens! Sadly, the list of toxic chemicals in sunscreens is often much longer than those that are good for our health. Here are the major culprits to watch out for:
- Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3): Endocrine disruptor that penetrates the skin causing hormone imbalance and allergic reactions in those with skin sensitivities. Recently banned in Hawaii due to its ability to kill coral reefs. Tip: Do you want Oxybenzone out of your sunscreen? Sign this petition!
- Avobenzone (Benzophenone): Often used to replace Oxybenzone. Penetration enhancer (meaning it helps whatever is in your sunscreen be absorbed into your skin and therefore your bloodstream), and breaks down when exposed to the sun, increasing free radicals in the skin and skin cancer risks.
- Methylisothiazolinone: Linked to allergies and listed as a pesticide by the EPA. Banned in the EU in leave-on cosmetic products though still allowed in the US. Also considered an ecotoxin and harmful to marine life.
- Vitamin A (Retinal Palmitate, Retinal Acetate, Retinal Linoleate, Retinol): Speeds up the development of skin tumors, especially when exposed to sunlight, so it definitely doesn't belong in the one product that claims to protect your skin from the sun!! According to the 2018 EWG Sunscreen Guide, the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to about 12 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 15 percent of moisturizers with SPF and 5 percent of all SPF-rated lip products.
- Octocrylene: A synthetic UV ray absorber that may cause allergic reactions in those with sensitive skin. Also shown to bio-accumulate in the body so best to steer clear!
- Octinoxate/Octylmethoxycinnamate: Commonly used as a UV filter. Easily absorbed through the skin (has been found in human urine, blood and breast milk) and a known endocrine disruptor. Also, an ecotoxin that is linked to coral bleaching.
- Say No to Nano Particles! Because they are so tiny, nano particles are easily absorbed into our bloodstream and can penetrate our cell walls. They are often used in sunscreens as they don't create a white layer on our skin, but have been shown to cause significant developmental disorders in sea life, even in small concentrations. Remember, when we wash products off of our bodies, they eventually end up in the ocean and can cause harm to the environment. Always look for non-nano mineral sunscreens as they are better for our skin (can't be absorbed) and the environment!
- Don't Leave Yourself Exposed! While wearing sunscreen is important, don't forget the importance and effectiveness of wearing UV filtering sunglasses, hats, and proper clothing, especially if you're going to be exposed to the sun during peak hours.
- Too Much of Anything is No Good! Don't make the mistake of thinking that because you've applied sunscreen that it makes it safe for your skin to be exposed to direct sunlight for hours upon hours. If you absolutely can't pull yourself away from lounging on the beach all summer, make sure to give your skin a break by taking a dip in water and alternating between sunshine and shade.
THE DO'S 👍🏽
- Check the UV Index for the Day! Learn to plan around the sun on extra hot days and try to limit your skin exposure during peak sunlight hours.
- Stay Clothed! As tempting as it can be, it's important to keep your clothes on if you're going to be out in the sun for extended periods of time, especially during peak hours. Wear layers to help keep you cool, yet protected.
- Reapply! Reapply! Reapply! Get in the habit of reapplying your sunscreen every few hours, and immediately after being exposed to water, to ensure adequate protection if you are going to be out all day.
- Opt for Shade. Learn to alternate between sunshine and shade to help give your skin a break. Remember, damage from UVA rays can't be seen on the surface level, so just because your skin's not burnt, doesn't mean it's not getting damaged!
- Water-Resistant is Your Friend! Always opt for a water-resistant sunscreen to help protect you while you're in the water. Natural sunscreens with beeswax (or candelilla wax if you're vegan) should do the trick ;)
- Be Mindful of Our Oceans. Many common sunscreen ingredients are not only toxic to humans, but they are also harmful to our oceans, the reefs, and marine life. Look for the reef-friendly labels now present on many sunscreens and non-nano zinc oxide, which is the most reef-friendly sunscreen option available in the US.
DIY SUNSCREEN - SPF 20+
Want to make your own sunscreen?! Here's our go-to recipe :) I recommend reapplying every 4 hours if prolonged duration in the sun, and/or after swimming. This recipe is safe for babies and children too. It's highly-moisturizing so feel free to use in place of your daily cream or lotion!
- Yields: 1 4oz jar
- Shelf-Life: 6 months
- Time: 25-30 minutes
- Fill a small saucepan 1/4 of the way with cold water.
- Add all ingredients except zinc oxide into a glass bowl, and place the bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler.
- Turn gas onto lowest flame setting and mix frequently to help incorporate ingredients.
- Once melted, remove from stove and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Slowly add in the zinc oxide stirring continuously until well mixed. IMPORTANT NOTE: Zinc oxide can be harmful to the lungs if the tiny particles are inhaled so always wear a mask to protect yourself!!
- Cover and store in a cool, dark place, or refrigerate when possible.
- To Use: Apply liberally over face + body, reapplying every 4 hours and after exposure to water.
Tip: This sunscreen will liquify in the heat, but is still fine to use. Simply apply like an oil if it melts. I recommend keeping the sunscreen in your bag and out of direct sunlight to best preserve its healing properties, and to refrigerate when not using.
Not up to making your own? Here are a few safe options! Notice how every ingredient is recognizable and there are less than 10 ;)
- All Good
- Water-Resistant Sunscreen Butter
- Kid's Sunscreen Butter Stick
- Tip: As with most brands, just because some products are free of chemicals and synthetic preservatives, doesn't mean they all are! Notice the difference of ingredients in their other versions.
- Badger Balm
- Unscented Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide
- Baby Sunscreen Cream: If I it were me, I'd opt for the baby version no matter what your age! Both of these sunscreens offer the same level of protection, however, the baby formula contains chamomile and calendula, two of the most soothing and inflammation reducing flowers out there!
- Tip: Again, some of their other versions contain some questionable ingredients, so always (always!!) read the labels carefully.
Love + Light,
Looking for a natural bug repellent? Check out our 5-minute DIY recipe!
Don't let the name fool you! Our Nipple + Belly Balm is multipurpose and a best-seller, even for men. Yup, men! So what makes this balm so fantastic?! Let's take a look at its repairing ingredients :)
Organic Fair-Trade Unrefined Raw Shea Butter: Moisturizes, nourishes, and heals dry skin. Shea butter is loaded with vitamins and fatty acids that help give it its nourishing, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, including:
- Vitamin A: Rich antioxidant that heals and prevents scars by strengthening our skin’s outer layer
- Vitamin E: Moisturizing antioxidant that heals and soothes irritated skin
- Oleic Acid: Soothing fatty acid that softens skin and repairs damaged cells present in skin conditions like eczema
- Stearic Acid: Essential fatty acid that creates a protective barrier on the skin and helps lock in moisture
- Cinnamic Acid: Unique acid with highly anti-inflammatory and gentle UV protection qualities that assist with healing
Organic Olive Oil Infused with Organic Calendula Flowers: Soothing, healing oil with natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Gentle enough for babies, yet strong enough to heal skin irritations such as rashes, cuts, eczema and chapped skin.
Organic Olive Oil Infused with Organic Chamomile Flowers: Gentle, calming oil with natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that soothe inflamed, irritated, tender, and broken skin.
Our Favorite Uses + Tips
Soothe Sore, Cracked Nipples or Skin: Our calendula and chamomile infused oils are the perfect remedy to soothe sore nipples and cracked skin. Not only is it edible (so no need to wipe off before nursing!), it's also super moisturizing.
Tip: A little goes a long way! Apply half of what you would normal creams or lotions.
Repair Broken or Inflamed Skin: Our soothing chamomile infused olive oil is perfect for repairing and soothing broken and inflamed skin. It works so well that many mechanics have been using our Nipple + Belly Balm to help repair their working hands from coolant burns! Simply apply as needed.
Belly Massage: Nothing beats a massage with organic healing ingredients! The soothing sweet scents of chamomile and calendula will not only help relax you as you massage your belly, but they will also work their magic to heal and lighten those stretch marks. Simply rub onto belly and gently massage in soft, circular motions.
Tip: Warm a small amount between your fingertips before massaging.
Lighten Stretch Marks + Scars: This balm is great for lightning stretch marks and scars, thanks to the raw shea butter and calendula combination. Simply massage a small amount onto affected areas twice a day. Continue daily application until stretch marks and scars are barely visible.
Tip: This will take time and consistent, daily application. You should notice improvement within a few months ;)
Heal Minor Cuts + Scrapes: Noy only will our Nipple + Belly Balm heal minor cuts and scrapes, it's also super soothing and can help take reduce that initial sting! While the raw shea butter creates a nourishing and protective barrier on the skin, the calendula and chamomile infused olive oils work to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria growth.
Tip: Wash cuts and scrapes with cold water and apply a small amount 2-3 times a day.
Moisturize Dry, Winter Skin: I love using this balm at night as a daily body butter to nourish and hydrate my thirsty skin in Chicago's drying winter months. The sweet smell of chamomile and calendula is also super relaxing before going to bed ;)
Tip: Works best when applied after bathing while skin is still moist.
HOW DO YOU USE OUR NIPPLE + BELLY BALM? SHARE YOUR FAVORITE USES AND TIPS BELOW!
I've been getting asked this question so often lately that I felt it was time I write a post on it! While everyone's skin is different and will respond to the same routines in unique ways, below are my top recommendations for acne-prone skin. Tip: Play around with different routines until you find the right one for you. What works for me or someone you know, might not work for you, even if they have a similar skin type. Take the time to learn your skin; and know, that as the seasons change, so will you and so should your skincare regime ;)
What is Acne?
Acne is the result of clogged pores and excessive sebum production. Our skin cells typically die and shed every 3-4 weeks; however, with acne-prone skin, instead of shedding, dead cells get clogged in our pores, trapping in dirt, oil, and bacteria.
What to Avoid
- Mineral Oils + Petroleum: Both of these are pore-clogging, which will only lead to more breakouts! They are also super drying.
- Alcohol-based Ingredients + Other Harsh Chemicals: These will only dry you out, which is not the goal, even with oily skin. Think about it: if your skin is too dry, it will cause your skin cells to produce more oil, which will result in more clogged pores and acne, and the never-ending cycle will continue.
- Hydration: Contrary to popular belief, if you have oily/acne-prone skin, you still want to avoid cleansers and moisturizers that will dry you out. And, it's still just as important to keep your skin hydrated (remember: excessive oil doesn't necessarily equal hydration!) The key is to use a moisturizer that causes sebum-producing cells to shut down.
- Plant-based Oils: I recommend organic Argan oil as it tricks your skin into making less sebum and helps clean out your pores. It also helps reduce the appearance of acne-related scars. Simply apply as you would your normal moisturizer. This absorbs quickly so you won't even notice a trace of oil ;) Tip: Make sure to exfoliate your skin with a natural soap or face scrub before moisturizing to cleanse your pores and remove excess dirt and oils. I recommend this one.
- Note: It can take a few weeks for your skin to adjust to new products so it's normal to notice breakouts, bumps, etc., initially. This is the argan oil doing its job (aka: all that clogged gunk is finally being released!). So while it may seem like your skin is getting worse, it will actually start to improve once you get through this phase.
- Change Your Pillowcases Often: This helps decrease the spread of acne-causing bacteria and excess oils.
- Diet: Skin health is affected by inner health. I always say you are what you put onto your skin, but you are also what you eat so be sure to avoid processed sugars and foods that can trigger more breakouts.
- Sleep: Increased stress can cause our hormones to fluctuate, which can result in oil imbalances and thus more breakouts. Make time to destress daily and catch those zzz’s!
- Herbal Steam: This is great for those of you with mild cases of acne or occasional outbreaks. Steaming helps open up our pores allowing clogged dirt and oils to be released. Plus it's super relaxing! I recommend this one.
What are your favorite acne remedies? Share them in the comments below!
Love + Light,
As promised in our last post on consumer education, I’ve put together a list of 10 must-swap grocery store items, both for the betterment of your health and also for the world and the environment. You’ll notice I've listed “Honorable Mentions” for some items. These are brands that are better than the majority, however, still have room for improvement in terms of ingredients. All of the honorable mentions are brands we're currently using in our home, either due to a lack of better options or because we believe in their mission to do better and support the world. In the words of my wise husband, the key takeaway here, as with all of our consumer education-related posts, is to “Do what you gotta do, but just know what you’re doing" ;).
Love + Light,
Here are 10 Grocery Store Swaps You Need to Make Today!
- What You’re Getting: Most frozen waffles are filled with GMOs (soy lecithin, soybean oil), enriched wheat flours that convert to fat in our bodies, and palm oil, one of the leading causes of deforestation in the world, as well as increased global warming emissions.
- Honorable Mention: Nature’s Path. Available at Target and Whole Foods.
- Why It’s Better: The reasons why I love these waffles and this company go on and on.
- Not only are these waffles organic and NON-GMO Project Verified, they are also vegan with some gluten-free options, and they taste better than any other frozen waffle we’ve ever eaten.
- They are a family-owned company that’s rooted in sustainability (they are zero-waste) and giving back to communities in need.
- They donate over 2 million dollars of food a year to the hungry and they've raised over $3 million to help endangered species.
- However, (I know, there had to be something right?!) they do contain “organic flavor,” which is why I’ve given them an honorable mention because what exactly are organic flavors anyway?!
2. Cotton Balls/Cotton Rounds
- What You’re Getting: Most cotton rounds are not only bleached and laden with pesticides, but they are often mixed with synthetic fibers that can cause irritation for people with sensitive skin.
- Our Go-To Brand: Organyc Cotton Rounds. Available at a variety of stores including Costco, Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc.
- Why It’s Better: Other than being super soft and non-irritating to my sensitive skin, these cotton rounds are 100% certified organic, which means they are free of bleach, pesticides and other chemicals. Their packaging is also made with renewable raw materials and is completely compostable. Better for you and the Earth :)
3. Protein Powder
- What You’re Getting: Protein powders are highly processed and filled with preservatives, GMOs, and artificial flavors. And, even worse, they’re not regulated by the FDA. Consumer report studies have even found many protein powders to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals.
- Honorable Mention: Garden of Life.
- Why It’s Better:
- The protein is derived from 13 different organic grains, seeds and legumes.
- They are also organic, vegan, gluten-free, NON-GMO Project Verified and free of added sugars.
- They only reason they are an honorable mention is they contain organic vanilla flavor (which again, what does that mean?).
- We drink this regularly after our workouts and just love it. It also contains probiotics, which is a plus!
- UPDATE 5/4/18: Unfortunately, I just learned of Garden of Life's sale to Nestle in December of 2017. While the ingredients in the product remain the same as of now, consciously, I can't buy or recommend a product that supports a company as unethical as Nestle. Therefore, our search continues. We will provide alternative options as soon as we find them in this post. Stay tuned!
- UPDATE 6/20/18: Our new go-to for protein powders is Vega. Learn more about them here!
- What You’re Getting: Aside from added sugars, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors, it's also most likely made from child labor. Chocolate is one item we always buy fair-trade, no matter what. Studies have shown that over 1.8 million children work in hazardous conditions in cocoa farms throughout the Ivory Coast and Ghana. And, while companies like Nestle and Hershey have pledged to reduce child labor in their cocoa-producing communities, it’s still continuing and their workers who are of age continue to be underpaid. Not only is fair-trade chocolate better for the workers, but it’s also better for you as it’s typically higher in cocoa. How much cocoa do you think is actually present in a Hershey bar? A whopping 11%!
- Our Go-To Brand: Endangered Species Chocolate
- Why It’s Better: It’s Fair-Trade certified and 10% of net profits are donated to help protect endangered species. Be sure to read the labels though because some flavors contain "natural flavors." Aka: Never trust any brand blindly!
5. Hand Soap
- What You’re Getting: Hand Soaps are filled with tons of toxic chemicals that are probably worse for you than the germs on your hands! Just take a look at the ingredients in the popular Softsoap brand found at most stores.
- Popular Clean Brands That Aren’t So Clean: Method, Mrs. Meyers
- Our Go-To Brand: Alaffia. Available at Whole Foods and Fresh Thyme.
- Why It’s Better:
- Free of the toxins found in most hand soaps, Alaffia's soaps are made with less than 10 ingredients including ethically traded shea butter, neem leaf, coconut oil, and essential oils.
- They are a mission-driven company, with clean, fair-trade products, most of which are rated a 1/10 in terms of toxicity concerns by the EWG.
- To date, they’ve funded over 4,000 births in Africa, donated 8,000+ bikes, planted almost 60,000 trees to help mitigate the deforestation problem in West Africa, donated over 20,000 eyeglasses to people in Togo Africa, and the list goes on.
6. Granola/Protein Bars
- What You’re Getting: Most bars on the market are highly processed and loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients that make them more like junk food than healthy food. Not to mention, they contain way more ingredients than necessary. A general rule of thumb: If you don’t recognize an ingredient, don’t eat it. And, the less ingredients a product has the better!
- Popular Brands That Aren’t So Clean:
- Fiber One: Not only do they have way more ingredients necessary in a bar, a number of them also contain artificial colors, which are linked to hyperactivity in children.
- Nature Valley: While they may seem healthy, many of their bars contain highly fatty artificial sweeteners (corn syrup, fructose), palm oil (which as you now know is terrible for the environment), GMOs (soy lecithin, tocopherols, natural flavors), and rice flour (often linked to arsenic contamination when non-organic).
- Special K: Also contain artificial sugars (corn syrup, fructose, invert cane syrup, sugar), soy lecithin, and palm oil. Also, why do we need more than 3 kinds of sweeteners in one product?!
- Clif Bars: Clif bars are made to be eaten when burning a lot of energy (long hikes, marathons, etc.). They are high in sugar (over 20g) and terrible if you’re just looking for a quick breakfast or “healthy” snack. To see how eating Clif bars affects your body if you’re not utilizing them properly, click here.
- Our Go-To Brand: GoMacro Bars. Available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Fresh Thyme and most health food stores.
- Why It’s Better:
- Free of artificial flavors and GMOs and made with consciously sourced ingredients.
- Family-owned company that’s committed to sustainability and giving back.
- Note: There’s still a decent amount of sugar in these (up to 14g) so best when eaten after a workout or breakfast on the go so you have time to burn that sugar off!
7. Peanut Butter
- What You’re Getting: Popular brands like Jif and Skippy contain added sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oils since these oils don’t go rancid as quickly as organic oils. Hydrogenated oils are high in saturated fats, which raise our cholesterol levels and not the good kind!
- Our Go-To Brand: Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Peanut Butter. To be honest, I’ve tried all of the fancy organic brands and even making my own, but there’s something I love about this one. The texture is just dreamy.
- Why It’s Better: It contains one ingredient, which is all you really need in peanut butter: organic peanuts ;)
- What You’re Getting: Unfortunately many popular tea brands are not only tainted with cancer-causing pesticieds, they are also filled with preservatives and artificial flavors (aka: GMOs). Not to mention, many tea bags are bleached or treated with epichlorophydrin, which becomes cancerous when placed in hot water, while others are made out of plastics that leach chemicals into our tea.
- Our Go-To Brand: When I’m not making my own loose-leaf teas, our go-to brand is Choice Organic Teas. For high-quality loose-leaf teas, I also recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.
- Why It’s Better:
- Not only are they certified organic, fair-trade and NON-GMO Project Verified, they’re also more affordable than Numi, and the other pricey organic brands.
- They purchase renewable energy certificates to offset 100% of emissions from their electricity usage and to support clean energy development. They also offer employees alternative transportation incentives to promote greener lifestyles.
- They use unbleached, natural fiber, staple-free tea bags, and 100% recycled paperboard printed with plant-based ink, and much of their packaging is biodegradable.
- While the price may seem expensive at first glance, especially when you’re comparing to commercial brands such as Lipton, it still comes out to about 30 cents a tea bag, which is really not much if you think about the work that goes into cultivating truly organic and fair-trade teas. While Lipton may be cheaper, is it really worth the savings when you know the potential risks to your health, the environment and the lack of assurance of what the workers in the field are getting paid? Just something to steep on ;)
- Tip: Read the ingredients of your teas to make sure they are certified organic and free of natural flavors.
- What You’re Getting: You might be surprised to know that most feminine hygiene products are not made out of cotton, but contain mostly rayon and other synthetic materials. Not to mention, most also contain bleaching agents that can’t be good for our delicate skin down there. Remember if it touches our skin (let alone a highly delicate female crevice!) it’s most likely getting absorbed into our bloodstream; so this is one area where it’s definitely worth doling out the extra cash for a clean product if you're able to afford the extra expense.
- My Go-To Brand: Organyc. Available at a variety of stores including Costco, Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc.
- Why It’s Better:
- 100% certified organic cotton. Aka: no chemicals, no chlorine-containing bleach, no fragrances. Not to mention that organic farming is better for the soil, our health (no pesticides) and aims to work in harmony with nature.
- All of their feminine care products are biodegradable, including the applicators. Aka: No more plastic applicators floating in our oceans!
- The packaging is made with renewable raw materials that are compostable, compared to earth-polluting plastics, so the whole product is eco-friendly :)
10. Cleaning Supplies
- What You’re Getting: A bunch of toxic chemicals! Most cleaning products contain a number of ingredients on my ingredient watch list, including known carcinogens TEA, DEA, 1-4 dioxane, harmful fragrances, ammonia and chlorine bleach.
- Popular Clean Brands That Aren’t So Clean: Method, Babyganics