What Are The Best Sunscreen Alternatives?

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Beach Umbrella for UV Protection

Sunscreen plays a vital role in sun protection. There are many occasions and activities that demand the type of protection that only sunscreen can provide. For instance, you may have a required uniform or dress code that leaves your skin vulnerable and exposed. Or perhaps you need or prefer the portability of a tube of sunscreen. But is sunscreen always your best option? To be clear, we aren’t advising against the use of sunscreen. However, sunscreen is not without its disadvantages, and in many circumstances there are better alternatives. Continue below as we highlight the best (and worst) sunscreen alternatives, featuring everything from shade to UV clothing.

First, a Few of the Worst Sunscreen Alternatives

A few minutes surfing the internet and you’ll come across dozens of so-called sunscreen alternatives. The problem however, is that most of these don’t meet the minimum protection recommended by dermatologists. Therefore, to alternate your sunscreen for any of the following would be ill-advised, and potentially dangerous. Despite what less-informed sources might tell you, the following are NOT safe alternatives to sunscreen:

  • Non-UPF Clothing: Many shirts offer UV protection equivalent to SPF 10 or less, which is to say they do not offer sufficient protection. Worse yet, their protective qualities typically drop when wet. Therefore, don’t consider standard clothing as an alternative to sunscreen unless you see a UPF rating proving otherwise.
  • Natural Oils (Sesame, Coconut, Olive, Almond, etc): There are several natural oils that do provide minimal UV protection, but the keyword here is “minimal” (think in the range of SPF 4-10). You may feel reassured knowing you smell better with some of these oils, but you should not count on them for safe sun protection.
  • Shea Butter: With an estimated SPF between 3 and 10, shea butter offers such minimal protection that we would never fool ourselves into thinking we were significantly safer for having applied it. You may receive other benefits from applying shea butter, but this should not be used in place of sunscreen.
  • Aloe Vera: While aloe vera is a tried-and-true natural remedy to soothe a sunburn, it will not help you prevent one. Unless mixed with other agents, aloe vera alone offers insignificant UV protection. As with all of the previously reviewed sunscreen alternatives, aloe vera should only be used as a last resort, and only while on your way to get proper sun protection.

What Are Safe Sunscreen Alternatives to Prevent UV Damage?

Shaded Hammock in Caribbean

Shade

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how much skin damage you’d avoid by spending more time in the shade. Whether it’s from a tree, umbrella, canopy or awning, use your shade! Scan your environment for opportunities to give your skin a break from the sun (but do NOT use clouds!).

Sun-blocking or UV Cosmetics

This one comes with a mighty disclaimer. That being that your cosmetic either states its UV protection, or it comes recommended by dermatologists specifically for sun protection. That being said, there are cosmetics that provide a protective barrier for your skin. Please consult the product label and your doctor before relying on cosmetics as your sole form of UV protection.

UV Clothing

The absolute best sunscreen alternative is performance UV clothing. The combination of a UPF sun hoodie and UV protective hat, for instance, protects your face, neck, torso and arms. UV clothing protects you immediately and doesn’t require reapplying every 1-2 hours. Additionally, UV apparel doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy, it’s reef-friendly, and it’s less expensive in the long run. For more about how UV clothing works, check out this short video from the Mayo Clinic:

Rayward Apparel’s Sun Bound collection, for instance, is lightweight, breathable, stylish and—most importantly—effective at preventing UV damage. Through a blend of viscose from bamboo and natural cotton, we’ve achieved the highest possible fabric UV protection rating, UPF 50+. This means that not only does our UV clothing avoid the application issues of sunscreen, but it also blocks more than 98% of UV rays. 

In conclusion, when you look back at the best safe alternatives to sunscreen, you are left with few options. Unless you wear UV-blocking cosmetics, stay in the shade and/or avoid the sun altogether, then we think the choice is clear: trust UPF 50+ UV clothing if you want a safe alternative to sunscreen.To learn more about Rayward Apparel’s UV clothing, and to shop our Sun Bound collection of UPF 50+ apparel, visit our shop today!

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