CAP Classroom: Natural Suncare


The products we love the most are typically the ones born from a need; a gap in the market that the creator found and set out to fill. Which is exactly the case with our favorite suncare line, ZOCA Lotion, created by sun-loving, beach living Emily Seager. After spending a summer on a boat in Rockaway she noticed that although she felt great in her new home, her skin wasn't in the best shape, and she set out to find a reef-safe, effective range for her new life at the beach. And when she came up empty handed, she decided to make it herself. Combining ingredients that feed your skin while protecting your outer layer, ZOCA, has quickly become the tube we reach for both at the beach and post waves. Her discoveries about the importance of natural, not chemical based sunscreen, motivated her to create a line that is good for the body and the spirit.

What inspired you to create ZOCA

I noticed a lot of sun damage on my skin while staying on a boat in Rockaway, NY and began looking for a great sunscreen to use but couldn't really find what I was looking for. I wanted to create something that was safe for people and safe for our waterways. Often I would find mineral sunscreens with not-so-great base ingredients or an undesirable texture. I felt like I could create something that I could feel really good about wearing. I also wanted to focus on minimizing wasteful packaging. 


Many still rely on conventional suncare, what would you say to bring them around to the benefits of natural suncare? 

So many conventional sunscreens separate sun protection from skin care. I remember wondering why sunscreens didn't have the same nutrient-rich ingredients as our favorite natural moisturizers or skin healing products. If you use sunscreen with a safe and effective active ingredient as well as really good quality base ingredients you are getting more out of your SPF. Sunscreens with chemical actives can mess with our hormones, contribute to ocean acidification and expedite coral bleaching. There are much better options out there. In the last few years I've seen such a rise in awareness around sun protection and so many products popping up, I really feel more and more like there is a good natural sunscreen for everyone out there if they look for it.


What is the difference between a natural mineral and chemical sunscreen? 

Mineral sunscreens use minerals (primarily zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) to physically block the sun from our skin by creating a barrier. Chemical sunscreens use chemicals that absorb sun rays and prevent them from burning our skin. While mineral sunscreens are not biodegradable, they do not pose harm in the way that chemical sunscreens do. Chemical sunscreens like octinoxate, homosalate, oxybenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, or avobenzone can be absorbed into the skin and mess with our hormone function. These chemical sunscreens also negatively contribute to environmental issues, so much so that many chemical sunscreens are banned in many parts of the world. Sometimes I will see companies say that sunscreens using avobenzone are reef-safe but avobenzone is really unstable and requires a stabilizing co-ingredient like octinoxate or homosalate to maintain efficacy. There is a lot of misleading advertising and it's helpful to do your own research if you are not sure.

Tell us a bit about zinc and how it works as sun protection. 

Zinc Oxide is my preferred sunscreen active available, specifically non-nanoparticle zinc oxide. Titanium dioxide is a better option than chemical sunscreens but it still has the potential to break down and leave free radicals. Zinc Oxide is the most stable and it provides reliable broad spectrum protection. Non-nanoparticle means that the particles are larger than 100 nanometers. This is important because it helps to ensure that the zinc oxide particles are not so small that they can be absorbed by our skin or by other animals. Many companies will use smaller particle zinc because it makes it possible for the sunscreen to rub on sheer. While I would love to have a completely sheer product, I felt better using the safer option. The key to zinc oxide sunscreens is dispersion; it is essential that the zinc is evenly dispersed throughout the product so that it creates an even barrier on the skin. 


How often should we apply it? 

I like to be extra safe so I reapply pretty often. FDA guidelines advise to reapply at least every couple of hours and after swimming, sweating, and towel drying. If you are going to be in intense sun all day I would be very generous with the amount you use because it's important to maintain a nice barrier. Sunscreens are never going to block 100% of the sun's rays but they will help a lot in mitigating sun damage. Even with sunscreen I still wear a hat and bring an umbrella to the beach.


We’ve created a culture of sun avoidance, but the sun is also a mighty source of health. Why should we still seek the sun despite all of the fears? 

I'm glad I get to answer this because I really love the sun. The benefits of the sun are endless and include helping you sleep better with the absorption of melatonin, being a natural antidepressant, helping your body to metabolize vitamin D, boosting your metabolism in general and even maintaining healthy skin. There is definitely a balance to keep when it comes to sun exposure and depriving yourself of it completely would not be a sustainable way to live. Water and sunshine are essential. In the previous answer I mentioned that sunscreen still allows the absorption of some sun rays which is why sometimes when we wear sunscreen we will get a tan instead of a burn. I don't think that you should feel like you are depriving yourself of sufficient sun if you are wearing sunscreen. 


Thoughts on sunscreen sprays? 

I completely understand why people love sunscreen sprays. They are so convenient and easy to apply. There are even spray-on natural mineral sunscreens which sound like the ultimate solution. But aerosols can be problematic for a few reasons; regardless of what is in your aerosol spray (even just water), aerosols release volatile organic compounds as a result of the pressurized spray interacting with metal. Additionally, we are likely to inhale aerosols during application which can be dangerous. It's important to avoid inhaling airborne zinc or titanium dioxide because it can get into our lungs and sit. Inhaling chemical sunscreens can be even more harmful. Some spray on sunscreens are in a non-aerosol plastic squirt bottles and those can be a little better but I haven't yet seen one that has good base ingredients, I've always found alcohols and palmitates in these products. But I am open-minded :) 


Why was it important to you to create a reef safe sunscreen? What exactly does “reef safe” mean? 

Our coral reefs around the world are experiencing a mass extinction due to our oceans warming up and acidifying. This extinction is also called 'coral bleaching' because when the coral dies it turns white. Incredibly vast and diverse ecosystems rely on coral reefs as hosts. When coral dies, those ecosystems fall apart and many of the animals and organisms that rely on it die as well. This has a great impact on the health of our oceans overall. Oftentimes I will hear people say something like "well, I don't live anywhere near reefs so this doesn't seem like much of a concern to me." But what we wear on our skin will often find its way to our oceans. The small choices we make daily will often reach further than we realize.  


Any tips on application? 

A little goes a long way with our spf lotion. Start with a pea sized amount for your face and spread it out, you can add more from there. It takes about 10-15 minutes for the sunscreen to set so I like to apply it about 15 minutes before leaving the house or applying make up. You will notice the difference once it sets because it mattifies and doesn't stick or shine. I definitely recommend the stick if you are going in the water or surfing for hours, you can lay it on thick and won't have to worry. Don't forget your neck, ears, and chest! I always feel like these are our most vulnerable spots.


What is your favorite way to recover post-sun?

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is so important! If you do happen to forget to reapply your spf and get a burn, running a cool bath and adding a little vinegar to the water will help to alleviate and minimize the burning. I use our Sun-Soothing Salve after every shower during the summertime just to cool and lock in moisture. The geranium in the salve helps to soothe and reduce sun spotting. I also like to break an off an aloe leaf from my plant and use the gel on all kinds of burns. 

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