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Safe Sunscreen? - Santos Organics

Safe Sunscreen?

At Santos Organics, we only stock natural, mineral based sunscreens with UV reflective ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, providing strong sun protection without the use of harmful chemicals. We avoid commercial sunscreens containing chemical UV blockers and absorbers, synthetic chemicals, preservatives, parabens, petrochemicals and artificial fragrances and colours, which have the potential to penetrate the skin causing allergic reactions and other health problems.

Although mineral based sunscreens are reportedly the most effective sunscreens available, some have been found to contain nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. So, what are nanoparticles? Recently, there has been much debate about what constitutes a “nanoparticle” as there is no regulatory definition of these and there is also no legal requirement for sunscreen manufacturers to disclose the quality, size and varying properties of the particles used in their sunscreens.

The best way to describe what non-nanoparticle zinc oxide looks like is by recalling the zinc oxide sunscreens from years ago (often seen on lifeguards’ noses), which was famously thick and bright white. Today, manufacturers are formulating their sunscreens using nanoparticles of zinc oxide to avoid that white, chalky look. In these sunscreens, nano-technology has been used to shrink the size of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles in mineral sunscreens so that the particles are less than 100nm (a sheet of paper is 100,000 nm thick) or one twentieth the thickness of human hair and therefore cannot be seen on the skin when applied.

Some research shows that the particles are so small that they are more chemically reactive and may also be easily absorbed into the body. This raises significant concerns about potential health risks when these nano-scale particles are inhaled or absorbed through the skin or gut, however much research is still needed to ascertain the full effect that these nano-particles have on our health. In response to these concerns, some mineral sunscreen manufacturers have been able to source larger, non-nanoparticle zinc oxide to use in their sunscreens and are happy to disclose this. Zinc oxide is the Environmental Working Group’s first choice for sun protection. It is stable in sunlight and can provide greater protection from UVA rays than titanium oxide or any other sunscreen chemical approved in the U.S.

The majority of the mineral sunscreens that we currently stock at Santos Organics are formulated using non-nanoparticle zinc oxide. These brands include Sun & Earth, People of the Earth, MiEssence Outdoor Balm and Surfpaste. We also currently stock Wotnot’s range of sunscreens, however, this brand does not make any claims that the zinc oxide used is nanoparticle free. We have also recently had some changes to our sunscreen range as part of becoming a Palm Oil Investigations Approved business. As part of this process, we are removing all products containing unsustainable and untraceable palm oil and ingredients derived from palm oil. This means that we will no longer stock UV Natural, Soleo and Eco Sunscreen as they contain ingredients derived from palm oil.

As with all of our products, Santos Organics sources the most ethical products possible and keeps abreast of the latest developments. Our changing product range is a reflection of this. If you have any questions about our sunscreen range or palm oil free policy, please contact our Ethics Researcher on