Nearly all sun lotions sold in supermarkets and chemists contain ingredients that harm aquatic life. They are also not good for your health. Chemical sunscreens contain toxins, so natural sunscreens are used made with titanium oxide or zinc oxide. But these cause ‘white cricketer’s nose’, so most companies use nano-particles to blend them down to be invisible. But just like microplastics, these then wash off (in the sea or down the sink) and cause harm (just a few drops can cause untold damage to square miles of ocean). The alternative is to use a purely natural sunscreen that does not use nano-particles.
NHS has tips to keep babies safe in the sun. Keep babies out of direct sunlight and use a sunshade and apply a safe baby sunscreen, and use a sunhat with a wide brim or long flap on the back, to protect heads and necks. Inside or outside, remove extra hats and clothing when going into warm places (even if it means waking babies) to help prevent risk of crib death. And use a room thermometer to check for safe temperatures.
Never expose babies to direct sun. Ensure shady areas for pets (older pets and sun-loving cats can get heatstroke). See below for tips to protect pets:
- Stay out of the sun from 10am to 4pm. If your shadow is shorter than you, find some shade.
- Drink water (don’t drink beer, and fall asleep!)
- Use a sunhat that covers your head and ears.
- Use wraparound sunglasses, with 99% plus absorption
- Some medications can make you more sensitive.
- Take care at high altitudes (and sunny, like skiing).
- Wear long shirts and trousers (ideally in dark colours), like they do in hot countries. Sun-protective clothing is mostly made with chemicals and synthetic fibres (if you use it, wash in a microfiber catch bag).
A trustworthy sunscreen will always say reef-safe and no nano particles. Never use sun lotions with oxybenzone (banned in Florida and Hawaii) that mimics human hormones (just one drop in the ocean is toxic to a huge area of coral reef and remains in your urine, so pollutes the ocean. Two good sunscreens are Sun Tribe (Sweden, which also offers a child’s sunblock). It does not offer above SPF30 saying the difference in protection to SPF50 is just 1%, and requires more chemicals. Amazinc! is a Czech brand sold in cardboard and aluminium packaging, made with zinc oxide and shea butter (all items are vegan, bar Mineral Shield).
Sun Protection for Dogs
Never use human sunscreens on dog’s noses and paws as zinc oxide (used in most natural sunscreens) is very toxic. Don’t let dogs near your skin until after you’ve showered.
This vet says the perfect safe sunscreen for pets does not yet exist, but he says ones with titanium dioxide are best to vulnerable white ear flaps etc for now (some pets are at higher rates of tumours in the sun, just like redheads with pale skin for humans).
Moo Goo Zinc-Free Dog Sunscreen says although spent hops (and hops in tea) are toxic to pets, the tiny amount they use (1/10 of one percent, the last ingredient) is the least troublesome preservative, to avoid zinc. From them ‘even if the whole tube was eaten in one gulp, this would not be enough to be toxic, whereas zinc would harm’. Obviously keep them away from the tube, and contact them or your vet with any questions.
Although sunglasses made from recycled plastic are a great idea for pottering around town or the garden, they are not such a good idea if you are at the beach or a sailor. Because if you accidentally lost them, they obviously don’t biodegrade in the sea, and could harm marine life. So here are some biodegradable frames (obviously the lenses are not yet biodegradable, but let’s start where we are). Ecocult has a good post on issues with ‘recycled plastic sunglasses’.
It can be confusing buying sunglasses. In a nutshell, look for ones that carry the European Standard CE Mark, UV 400 or British Standard Mark, for a safe level of protection. Ensuring sunglasses for driving are in the 0 to 3 filter category (4 is too dark) and don’t use ones with scratches, keep glasses in their protective case. It’s important to measure your pupillary distance before you buy, to avoid eyestrain.
These sunglasses are made with biodegradable materials. These will compost at landfill under the right conditions (not in your home compost bin). There are several things going on around the world – in Ukraine, someone has even invented sunglasses made from waste coffee grounds!
Bird has become the first to be certified as environmentally-sustainable with B-Corp. All their materials are sustainable and cruelty-free, and they give back by providing solar light to people in developing countries. The sunglasses are sold in beautiful cork (no trees cut down) cases, and the cleaning cloths are made from recycled plastic bottles. Even the mailing bags are made from sugar cane.
The frames are made from bamboo and wood and built to last, and then will biodegrade, while the laminated wood aluminium frames can be separated and recycled. You can alternatively send frames back for recycling, and get a 50% discount on the next pair. The site has a face shape guide and virtual try-on service.
BioSunnies offers affordable sunglasses made from wheat straw (burning wheat straw that’s left over after harvesting causes air pollution, so this helps use it up and gives extra income to farmers to look after their land). The polarised lenses offer full UVA and UVB protection to eliminate harmful glare from water and snow. The glasses are sold in Kraft cases that fold flat, when not in use. There is also a range for children.
Uunique Unisex Sunglasses have bamboo frames and polarised thermal cures lenses, for clear vision and to protect against glare and UV radiation. They feature an eco case made from bamboo wood and an anti-reflective coating to withstand accidental impact. Each pair has stunning wood grain and is available in several colours: blue, beige, black/beige, black, red or yellow. 1% of proceeds go to eco charities.
Wooden Unisex Lenos Sunglasses are made with polarised thermal cured lenses and an anti-reflective coating, sold in a bamboo case. In beige or tan.