Here are the most frequently asked sunscreen questions we get from customers and friends. Check them out, the answers might help you too!
Yes, all Waxhead products are safe for marine environments, reefs and fish. Our products are biodegradable and contain none of the petrochemicals known to have feminizing effects on fish, coral toxicity or bioaccumulation issues.
Most popular sunscreens (even ones labeled “all natural” or “healthy”) contain unsafe ingredients, including petrochemicals as active ingredients, along with several other toxic inactive ingredients. Such products, while fairly good at preventing sunburn, protect poorly against long term tissue damage, produce significant hormonal changes within the body, and harm natural water habitats.
Waxhead sunscreens use only zinc oxide (the only ingredient FDA approved for use on babies younger than 6 months) along with other certified organic and otherwise completely safe inactive ingredients.
EWG, the world’s leading agnostic consumer/environmental watchdog, ranks each of Waxhead’s products as the healthiest possible sunscreen choice.
Our ingredients aren’t like those in typical sunscreens, which contain inexpensive, mass-produced chemicals derived from petroleum. The human body wasn’t made to interact with these man-made compounds, which do several really bad things to our bodies and don’t protect us nearly as well from sun damage. Their advantage is lower cost, which allows big brand sunscreens to sell for significantly less.
Our sunscreens contain only ultra-quality components, including active-ingredient non-nano zinc oxide, plus certified organic oils, natural extracts, beeswax, plant-based vitamins, and artesian spring water. Every one of these was chosen carefully through a holistic bio-chemistry development process, and every one of them is more expensive than their big brand, industrially-produced counterparts.
And while those big brand sunscreens are produced by massive companies who enjoy substantial cost advantages from economies-of-scale and big-org efficiencies, we are a small company that makes our products in small batches with a crafted attitude. This approach, while significantly better for the end product and our end customers, costs more than those bigger methodologies.
First, please note that NO sunscreen stays on perfectly in water over time, and so telling consumers it does is misleading.
Our sunscreens have been tested, using approved FDA protocol, to be water resistant for 80 minutes, the highest measure allowed to be listed.
Several terms used to describe sunscreens were outlawed by the FDA in 1999, since they provided consumers a false sense of security. Sunscreen manufacturers who make any of the claims below are violating FDA laws meant to protect consumers.
“Waterproof” or Sweat-proof”
No sunscreen can possibly be fully waterproof. All will wash off eventually.
No sunscreen blocks the sun entirely, and only provides a relative measure of screening, which always results in some UV exposure.
“All day protection”
No sunscreen performs throughout the entire day, either washing away or photo-degrading (in the case of petrochemicals) to become less and less functional as a protection against UV rays.
Besides violating labeling laws, use of these terms tends to increase rates of skin cancer and other sun related health issues, since consumers assuming greater protection than actually received expose themselves to longer periods of UV damage.
In practice, the useful life of our sunscreens has no practical limit, since our active ingredient zinc oxide is a mineral and does not lose its sunscreen capabilities over time. The FDA requires sunscreen products to list a 2-year shelf life, mainly because petrochemical active ingredients degrade over time.
Our primary inactive ingredients, coconut oil and olive oil, are very resistant to oxidation, as they contain significant levels of natural antioxidants, and any of our products with Vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) have further defense against spoilage. Plus, zinc oxide acts as both an antimicrobial and antifungal preservative.
Yes, all our sunscreens are safe for children. As a matter of fact, zinc oxide is the ONLY active ingredient FDA approved as safe for use on babies younger than 6 months.
Yes, Waxhead absolutely does NOT use any animal testing. We test our sunscreens on humans using the federally mandated FDA sunscreen testing protocol in order to calculate our respective products’ SPFs for labeling.
Unlike USDA organic labeling criteria, there are no current regulations governing proper labeling of “natural” or “organic” in skincare products. Manufacturers can legally claim natural or organic products while still using petrochemical ingredients, and some companies attempt to argue that petroleum is natural because of its ground-based origin. Regardless, Waxhead adheres closely to a strict (yet voluntary) industry wide standard (NSF / ANSI 305), and our manufacturing facilities are both USDA NOP and NSF 305 certified compliant.
In the absence of binding regulation, the best way consumers can determine product safety is to read ingredient labels and learn the ingredients to avoid (see our handy Safe Sunscreen Guide for a quick reference on good and bad sunscreen ingredients).
We also adhere to a very strict definition of what “natural” implies in our skin care products. In order for an ingredient to be deemed natural within our internal, rigorous standards, it must either be 1) derived directly from a living organism (via a sustainable process) and free of petrochemicals, or 2) a mineral proven safe for use on and in the human body.
Yes, we disclose each and every one of our ingredients anywhere our products are offered for sale, including our labels, our website, and 3rd party vendors such as Amazon. We are proud of our ingredients, and we want our customers to know exactly what they’re buying from us.
Physical sunscreens utilize minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. These sit on top of the skin where they absorb UV rays, convert them into infrared heat energy, then dispose of the heat away from the skin. They work immediately and do not seep into the skin like petrochemical products.
Chemical sunscreens protect skin by absorbing the sun’s rays. They do this by seeping into your skin. This is why chemical sunscreens apply smoothly, without leaving a thick film, using active ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, which are created by extracting and processing various chemicals from crude oil. Such derived substances are known collectively as petrochemicals. The problem is that many petrochemicals disrupt endocrine and hormone activity, and what’s worse, they actually encourage UVA damage, deeper in the skin.
The simple truth – petrochemicals weren’t meant to interact directly with humans or animals. The list of reasons is long and growing. Here are just a few of the most obvious.
Petrochemicals penetrate skin, causing bioaccumulation and systemic exposure, building up in the blood and fat deposits. Toxic in themselves, they damage DNA over time.
Many petrochemicals mimic estrogen in the human body. This is linked with numerous diseases, including cancer and early female puberty.
Many petrochemicals do not biodegrade, accumulating in water supplies and ocean sediments, feminizing fish and damaging coral. Most tropical aquatic parks have banned petrochemical sunscreens.
Petrochemical sunscreens exchange UV damage for toxic chemical damage. Unable to convert UV rays into harmless energy as well as mineral sunscreens, active petrochemical ingredients are actually photo-degraded by UV energy, breaking chemical bonds, disabling UV absorption capacity, and creating reactive free radicals in the body.
These free radicals are not only linked to the development of cancer, such irreversible chemical changes can produce severe inflammatory skin reactions – in essence, chemical burns.
Petrochemicals absorb UV in diverse finite wavelength ranges. In other words, no single petrochemical is broad spectrum, and so petrochemical sunscreens must use a cobbled amalgamation of compounds, all with various abilities to do harm.
Compared to environmental contaminants in our air, food and water, sunscreen based petrochemicals produce exposure levels thousands to millions of times higher.
Zinc oxide doesn’t have any of the issues petrochemicals do.
- Zinc oxide (by itself) has the most effective absorption capabilities across the entire UVA/UVB spectrums.
- Zinc oxide is made from the critical mineral nutrient zinc. Like all the ingredients in our sunscreens, zinc oxide is biochemically identical to the building blocks used by human and animal systems.
- Zinc oxide holds tight to its electrons when absorbing UV energy, limiting free radical production.
- Zinc oxide does not damage or adversely affect wildlife or water habitats or the animals that use them. It is completely reef safe.
- Zinc oxide is the only sunscreen active ingredient FDA-approved for use on children.
Waxhead sunscreens use only non-nano, non-micronized zinc oxide.
Zinc oxide can turn skin white depending upon the amount applied and the natural skin tone of the user. At our products’ rated SPFs and application of 2 evenly-spread milligrams per square centimeter (the FDA recommended density), our sunscreens are more or less clear, but in practice, some users can experience a white hue on the skin when using our products.
We also offer tinted versions of our sunscreens that use either certified organic cocoa or iron oxide to provide a skin-colored hue. (Iron oxide makes blood look red and is the primary tint used in mineral based cosmetics.)
Not necessarily, for two basic reasons.
First, SPF suffers from diminishing returns. For example, consider 2 sunscreens, version 1 with 30 SPF and version 2 with 50 SPF. Version 1 will remove 29/30 = 96.7% of UV rays, while version 2 will remove 49/50 = 98% of UV rays. Skin exposed to 4 hours = 240 minutes will receive the equivalent of 8 minutes of UV rays while using version 1 and a little less than 5 minutes while wearing version 2. That’s not much difference.
Next, while zinc oxide screens rays from across the entire UV spectrum, petrochemical based sunscreens achieve broad spectrum coverage by combining multiple different chemical compounds. In a sense, they cobble together a sort of jigsaw puzzle of petrochemical coverage. And for petrochemical sunscreens to increase SPF from 30 to 50 requires significant addition of more such chemical compounds. Adding these additional compounds, which do increased damage to the human body with every use, is rarely worth the small decrease in absorbed UV rays.
At Waxhead, we recommend using a good zinc oxide sunscreen with 30-40 SPF, and that choosing higher SPFs (although they seem “better”) is actually not as safe, since achieving such higher ratings requires significant use of dangerous petrochemicals. Plus in order to achieve higher SPF with zinc oxide simply requires a thicker layer of sunscreen that is reapplied every 2 hours. It may cause skin to appear with a slightly whitish hue, but that skin will have optimum protection.
In practical terms, this is more or less true, since each additional SPF unit provides a diminishing return of greater UV protection, and when using petrochemical sunscreens, the increased risk of chemical exposure is not typically worth the marginal benefit.
For instance, SPF 15 provides 93.3% UV absorption, which means applying an SPF 15 product will prevent absorption of 93.3% of the UV rays unprotected skin would otherwise absorb. Doubling SPF to 30 provides 96.7% UV absorption, or only 3.4% more protection, at a health cost of possibly double the exposure to petrochemicals.
Non-nano Zinc Oxide has the broadest UV absorptive spectrum and cannot be absorbed into the blood, unlike all petroleum-based sunscreen chemicals.
Zinc Oxide is, however, fairly misunderstood within the skincare industry. Most manufacturers, dermatologists and popular media outlets report that zinc oxide reflects and scatters UV radiation, an understandably common sense assumption due to its white color. However, although zinc oxide LOOKS white because it does indeed reflect and scatter VISIBLE light, it behaves entirely differently in the UV spectrum of light, which is NOT visible to humans. In fact, zinc oxide absorbs UV radiation via a process called band-gap absorption, then converting it into comparably harmless infrared energy, which it disposes of as heat.
In contrast, while titanium dioxide absorbs UV, it cannot convert it as easily into heat, instead dumping the absorbed energy on nearby electrons and creating free radicals that cause oxidative damage throughout the body.
Make no mistake. Zinc Oxide is a much safer and more effective sunscreen than titanium dioxide. Waxhead uses only zinc oxide, since its UV absorption spectrum is broader than that of titanium dioxide, resulting in more effective, safer coverage, and titanium dioxide produces more free radicals that do oxidative damage to the body and skin cells.
Zinc Oxide is the only sunscreen active ingredient tested and approved by the FDA for use on children, including babies less than 6 months of age. Titanium dioxide contains titanium, a heavy metal that’s toxic within human bio-systems, while zinc is a critical mineral nutrient.
No, we do not use nanoparticles in our products. We use non-nano zinc oxide.
Note an important difference between “micronized” and “micron-sized.” Micronized means a process that grinds larger zinc oxide particles into smaller ones, producing a significant number of nanoparticles.
Waxhead zinc oxide is not micronized; it is micron-sized, with its particles produced via a special process to be that size directly with absolutely no grinding.
This is important because Waxhead zinc oxide particles will not enter your bloodstream or interfere with fragile marine environments (because the particles are too big). They also leave a bit of a white covering on your skin to better protect you from UVA and UVB rays.
The answer is complex.
Nanoparticles are defined as particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter or smaller than 0.1 micron. (A micron is one millionth of a meter.) Nanoparticles may be hazardous for humans (see last paragraph in this section), since they’re tiny enough to enter the bloodstream through the skin. Most nanoparticle sunscreens contain particles of only 15 nanometers, or about 85% SMALLER than the limit.
Micronized sunscreens are created by grinding larger particles into smaller ones. Typical micronized particles are larger than the 100 nanometer limit, but the grinding process creates a significant amount of nanoparticles.
Waxhead uses neither nanoparticle zinc oxide nor micronized zinc oxide. Instead we use particles created via a non-grind process that produces an average particle size of 0.26 microns +/- a standard deviation of 0.012 microns. Given this tight size distribution (the 0.1 micron lower limit is over 13 standard deviations below the mean), our zinc oxide contains statistically zero nanoparticles. This particle size range has been used for decades and is considered completely safe.
All mineral sunscreens on the market are either micron-sized (like Waxhead), micronized or nano. Some companies advertise use of micronized particles but may still be using nanoparticles because nanoparticles are technically a finer version of the micronized form. The only way to ensure non-nano is if the company explicitly states particle size average and standard deviation, as noted above.
The main concern regarding nanoparticle ingredients is if they can pass through the skin into the bloodstream. We know of no well-controlled empirical experiments with evidence either way, but there hasn’t been a large amount of research, and so the issue remains undetermined. However, our stance is to ultimately rely on common sense, and as the use of nanoparticles does not increase sunscreen effectiveness significantly, we avoid nanoparticles in our products because there’s little reason to accept increased risks without corresponding benefits.
The short answer is that the CR review was not comprehensive at all, since it included only poor varieties of zinc oxide sunscreens, ones that overstated their respective SPF ratings, without including any good zinc oxide choices. We can’t speak to CR’s motivations for this glaring oversight. What we do know is that properly formulated non-nano zinc oxide is the very best sunscreen in existence, and in a fair fight, zinc oxide bests petrochemicals (as well as titanium dioxide) in any objective measurement of effectiveness, and by a wide margin. In essence, CR’s review was akin to comparing oranges to rotten apples.