Green beauty: Let’s get physical (sunblocks)

Photography by Kira Crugnale
Photography by Kira Crugnale

I’ve been a sunscreen zealot for many years now. It’s even caused familial strife—heated arguments with my mom and brother about the importance of wearing it are not uncommon. But at a Burt’s Bees event over a year ago, a gaggle of beauty editors were sent into a tizzy (myself included) when we were apprised of the issues surrounding chemical sunscreen ingredients (such as oxybenzone). Among the concerns: Some studies suggest they produce free radicals (eek!) and mimic estrogen. Chemical sunscreens have to be absorbed into your skin to work, which means those ingredients are going in as well. I didn’t need to know any more–I was done with them.

When I read an interview with Dr. Nicholas Perricone (—he of the best selling books and eponymous skincare line—advocating natural (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) sunscreens over chemical, I knew then it wasn’t just an eco-conscious movement. Over email, he told me he recommends them because “they act as reflectors like tiny mirrors, and therefore all spectrums of radiation are deflected” and that chemical ones “are more likely to cause allergic reactions or irritate the skin.” He also advises his patients to soak up 15 minutes of sun unprotected for vitamin D production.

The only downside to physical blocks? They don’t have the transparency of chemical ones, and I find they can sometimes pill or ball up on the face. That said, I love that they’re effective immediately upon application. Many of my recent favourites aren’t available here because it takes companies a long time to pass Health Canada regulations, but you can buy them online. They’re all paraben-free, too.

Pure & Simple All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 (from $15, is from this Toronto spa’s own line. I like that they make a version with sage for oily skin and one for sensitive skin, with soothing chamomile.

Josie Maran Protect Daily Sun Protection Argan Oil Infused SPF 40+ ($36, is hands down the most amazing smelling sunscreen my nose has ever had the pleasure of inhaling. It is seriously the scent of an expensive beach vacation. Argan oil disarms free radicals, and the absorption level is astounding.

LaVanila Laboratories The Healthy Sun Screen SPF 40 for Face ($33, has a refined texture and uses green tea in its formula for antioxidant backup.

John Masters Organics SPF 30 Natural Mineral Sunscreen ($42, includes organic aloe and shea butter. I don’t think there’s anything this man makes that I don’t love.

For more eco-friendly beauty picks, check out our Green Beauty Guide.