Best Sun Protection for the Côte d’Azur

One of the most frequent questions I get asked when people find out about my safe cosmetics campaign, We can all be Natural Beauties, is regarding sunscreen, SPF and safe alternatives.  I left this post until now, July, hoping that most of you will have finished your previous bottles and can now buy cleaner, safer brands for you and your family!

I recently took part in the amazing annual event, The Holistic Garden Party, and Leigh of Fit Nutrition, caterer for the event, kindly gave me a lift home at the end of the day! She asked me about sunscreen and specifically which brands available here in the region.  There are so many fabulous brands in the UK and US but living in a very sunny climate, we need those that are easily accessible.  I trolled the stores near me, in Grasse, Mouans-Sartoux, Cannes & Antibes to find the best products, how they protect and how they look on your skin.

But before all that, I want you all to understand why standard sunscreens a have such a bad rep and to review the importance of sun safety.  I urge you to read the article found on the Environmental Working Group’s site, here.  EWG is a website that provides information on environmental toxins, research  and how to reduce exposure.  They also provide the Skin deep Cosmetics Database for safer cosmetics.  This article is fabulous for not only listing, and rating the toxic ingredients found in standard sunscreens but also for providing the research available.  It will educate you on the difference between minerals sunscreens, such as Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide, chemical sunscreens such as oxybenzone and finally why you have to avoid the nanoparticle hype! This article is an essential read!! I thinking this is coming across as lazy on my part! But the information provided is so in-depth, and thorough, I wouldn’t do the subject justice.  Plus, I’m here to tell you about the great, safe, non-toxic brands available in our region 🙂

SUN SAFETY was all the rage when I was a teenager but it’s not so much discussed now and when I bring up the topic, most people say straight away “oh I wear sunscreen!” Thats not what I’m talking about!! You see, SPF noted on the bottle of sunscreen is talking about UVB.  The suns rays can be broken down into UVA, UVB and UVC.  UVB affects the outer layers or epidermis, and is the cause of redness from sunburn and in terms of skin cancer, was thought to be the major cause.  Nowadays, UVA, which affects the deeper, inner layers, or dermis is showing to also be a major factor in the cause of melanoma.  Did you know that, by law, SPF of a product only has to provide 1/3 of the number stated as protection against UVA? And that UV rays can be reflected, sometimes through glass!? It can be reflected from water, snow, even concrete!  What I have noticed with the use of sunscreens is the false sense of security it provides against the sun, and so people spend longer in the full-blown midday heat.  It is stated on packages that no sunscreen protects you 100% from too much exposure and the effects it has.

Now, you noticed I have said too much exposure, because as you all know and thank God doctors are coping on, that vitamin D deficiency is rampant.  Vitamin D, was previously thought to only provide a function in bone formation and health.   Nowadays, it has been shown to have a much more global effect on our health.  It acts more like a hormone than a vitamin and although not yet 100% understood how, is has an important function in cancer prevention.  You see the sun provides life to the planet, and us with good health.  It’s not our enemy, out to get us but provides us with energy.  One of the theories as to why we are so deficient, is our lack of sun exposure for one of two reasons.  Firstly, our lifestyle is not conducive to obtain the optimum levels of vitamin D required.  These days, our routines goes a bit like this: home, into our car, then into school or work, back into our car and home.  It leaves little time to stay any amount of time in the sun, especially in countries further north of the equator.  Secondly, our over use of sunscreens may be blocking the nutrient process.  People are now too afraid to get any sun on their skin. To protect yourself yet make the most of the sun, here are my tips for sun health:

  • 1. Build up your tolerance to the sun gradually for maximum Vitamin D dose.  Being Irish, I had the tendency to dive in at the deep end on holiday.  We burn straight away, with a full 10hrs exposure.  Which always works out the same, burnt and stuck in doors for the rest of the week.  Although more research is needed, its said that we need about 15-20mins daily exposure to obtain an adequate level of vitamin D. Use this time to adjust your skin to the sun and then apply generously your sun protection if exposing your skin for longer.
  • 2. STAY OUT OF FULL SUN!! This is the most important and logical tip to avoid problems with sun exposure.  The sun rays are at their strongest between 12h and 16h but especially 12h and 14h.  So make sure you are well shaded or indoors for this time. I would also include covering up in this point.  Carry hats, long sleeve tops, loose trousers, to not over heat.  These should be essential in your summer beach kit!
  • 3.  Reapply regularly.  As I mentioned, people can have a real false sense of protection after applying sun screen.  Creams, from swimming, rough towel drying and, many may not know this, sweating, wear off easily. So reapply every 2 hours.

Now onto what brands to buy. If you have never looked into non-toxic sunscreen, you’d think it would be easy to just pick one off the shelf and off you would go! You obviously have never encountered zinc oxide! I put it to you this way, with some sunscreens, come Halloween, if you have run out of ghost paint, you could use this instead and it would still be in place 3 days later! But zinc oxide is the best protection against UVB and UVA and the particles are too large to be absorbed through our skin. So brands have had to come up with formulas which provide the best protection and also are easy to apply! This review will talk about ingredients, whiteness and efficacy. Basically if it can work on my pale irish skin, IT WORKS!!

1. Lavera – high sun protection, perfect for prolonged exposure and great value for money.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 23.52.45Lavera products can be found in Antibes at Panier Vert, Naturalia and Biocoop in Juan-les-Pins and Mouan-Sartoux.  There are a few products in the range.  Lavera as a brand is AWESOME.  It’s a German company and even makes great non-toxic make-up! In their sun protection range there is the cream, spray and kids range.  I own the cream and in the whiteness factor, it’s up there alright! Personally, I like that. I really want to be protected and protected I was.  It is a tad difficult to spread, so I help  with some carrot oil, which has been shown to contain natural UV absorbing properties.

It terms of efficacy, this baby works! I used it recently while landscaping my garden.  I was pretty much out all day (obviously don’t listen to my own sun safety advice) and where I would normally turn very red the same evening, there was no sign I was in the sun on this occasion.  If you are thinking about Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 23.53.00tanning, first I ask you to embrace your beautiful pale skin, but if not, I did tan. However it was a very slow,  gradually over the week. The only redness I had, was on the back of my neck, where I forgot to apply sunscreen! It has a listing on Skin deep toxicity scale as 3.

I would highly recommend this if you are working a lot outdoors, hiking and serious beach sport.  It will give the best protection and the effects of the application will last.  It is not easily rubbed off.  If however, the application sounds off-putting or the whiteness, there is a spray factor 20, in their range.  This goes on much easier and the whiteness is not nearly marked at with the cream.  It leaves a tad be of a blueish white hue.  It terms of protection, although SPF 20 does not sound much, it is interesting to know that, research has found SPF 50 only gives 2% more protection that factor 20-30. Therefore it will provide protection for peace of mind, reapply the spray regularly and follow sun safety.


2. ECO-cosmetics – sensitive skin, tinted SPF, high SPF and transparent.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 23.55.23Ecocometics is available at Biocoop in Mouans-Sartoux and caught my eye as they have a transparent gel and spray up to factor 30.  Their range also included a tinted protection facial cream in factor 50, lotions and creams without perfume for the super sensitive.  I’ll be honest I was wary of the transparent consistency and made sure I researched each ingredient to confirm their non-toxic status.  After hours of research, the brand checks out! Here is a list of ingredient:  Pongamia Glabra Seed Oil, Trihydroxystearin, Titanium Dioxide, Punica Granatum Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Peach Extract, Tocopherol

I havent tried this product for a long time in the sun yet but so far its very good and there has been not redness or burning.  I havent tried a full day gardening, so will up date this post once I have! the only drawback for me in this range is the quantity.  With the gel I have, a little goes a very long way and maybe they have larger quantities available online, just not stocked by Biocoop.


3.  Naturado – Local product, high SPF, easy to apply.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 23.56.24Straight away I will say that I havent personally tried this product yet but wanted to include it here as I have seen in it Le Marchand Bio in Antibes and Naturmarche in Grasse. The SPF ranges from 20 to 50, so a wider range that the Lavera, without the strong white side-effect.

Ingredients wise, it’s a great product.  Here are the ingredients on the high factor SPF 50, you can see why I wanted to check them out as one or two look far from natural.  However, all checks out on Skindeep database and has gotten the green thumbs up. Ingredients list: Titanium dioxyde, Aluminium hydroxide, Stearic acid, Caprylic / capric triglycerides, Polyglyceryl-2 dipolyhydroxystearate, Polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate, Zinc oxide, Ribes nigrum leaf water, Coco caprylate / caprate, Cocos nucifera oil, Alcohol, Glycerin, Butyrospermum parkii, Mauritia flexuosa fruit oil, Helianthus annuus seed oil, Sodium chloride, Tocopherol, Citric acid.

The bottles also come in a good quantity for the price, making it good value for money.  Regarding the white residue, it’s on par with Lavera’s factor 20 spray, although as mentioned, with a wider range of SPF available.


So for my South of France followers, these are the brands I would recommend.  Please let me know how you get on with them, leave a comment if you find others and I’ll update the post regularly.  Finally share with your friends! Lets clean up everyone’s sun protection for healthier holidays 🙂






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