Low-Tox Summer

Living a Low-Tox Summer

When the sun comes out and it gets warmer, we often spend more time outside (which is great for Vitamin D and air quality) but brings up the question of toxicities when it comes to some of the products we turn to- like sunscreens, insect repellents and chlorinated pools. Here are some suggestions for lower toxin products/things you can do to have a fun + safe summer while still living a low-tox lifestyle!

If you’re just looking what products I recommend, scroll to the bottom to see my top picks or click the button to go directly to the section that you’re interested in:

Sunscreens: Ingredients to Avoid

Not all sunscreens are created equal. Here is a breakdown of these chemicals and the risks that each may pose:

Oxybenzone
  • In ⅔ of all sunscreens on the market

  • Risks: endocrine (hormone) disruptor, skin allergies/ sensitivities, causes oxidative damage to our cells, and a congenital birth defect known as Hirschsprung’s Disease that prevents babies from passing stool
Octinoxate
  • Often found in more “natural” sunscreens

  • Risks: Thyroid hormone disruption in children, reproductive issues, contact dermatitis, increased risk for growth of breast cancer cells
Avobenzone
  • Risks: acts as an obesogen (aka making us fatter!), when combined with chlorine during swimming it can become even more toxic
Homosalate
  • Risks: Endocrine disruptor with estrogen-like properties

My Top Picks for Sunscreens

For chemical protection, the best two ingredients to use are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Both are minerals that will sit on the top layer of your skin and will reflect/scatter both UVA and UVB rays. The downside is that they tend to be the more pasty/white looking sunscreens.

In general, look for products with at least 15-20% zinc oxide as the one and ONLY active sunscreen ingredient. It’s estimated that for every % of zinc oxide it provides 1 SPF. So a product with 5% zinc oxide will be comparable to SPF 5.

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Insect Repellent Ingredients + Options

Depending on where you live, you may have a higher need for stronger formulas of insect repellent than not. For example, you may need to weigh your cons of contracting pathogens like Lyme/co-infections, Zika, West Nile, etc. compared to the potential impact of the chemical repellent.

There are different types of repellent available that cover different types of bugs and are more/less effective than others. Here is a quick summary:

DEET
  • There are varying opinions on DEET. The EPA considers it relatively safe when used properly. 
  • However, there is some research linking it to neurotoxicity in children and has been found to cause skin/eye irritation, dizziness + headaches.
  • In heavy/high insect areas you may want to use DEET products. 
  • Look for products AT or BELOW 30% DEET which offers 10 hours of protection
Picaridin
  • Has been found to be effective against the largest number of different insects.

  • Look for products with 20% OR LESS picaridin which offers 12 hours of protection

  • Perks to Picaridin is that there are no side effects, no odor to and doesn’t damage plastics or other products like DEET can.

IR3535
  • Has been found to be as effective or slightly less effective than DEET or Picardin (based on the study).

  • Look for products with 20% OR LESS concentration of IR3535 which provides coverage for 12 hours.

  • Has been found to cause eye irritation.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
  • NOT to be confused with lemon eucalyptus essential oil- they are different!

  • Look for products with 30-40% oil of lemon eucalyptus which provides coverage for 6 hours.

  • Has been linked to respiratory irritation and potential allergens.

  • NOT safe for kids.

Essential Oil Based Repellents
  • Found to have mixed results with efficacy

  • May be a good choice in areas where your risk of insect bite disease is lower

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Chlorine in Pools/Support

Let’s face it- who isn’t going to swim at some point in a chlorinated pool or go to a splash pad or waterpark? This is one area where total avoidance may not be an option so the way I like to approach this is bodily support both before and after swimming. 

Chlorine depletes the body of sulfur, which is important for liver detoxification. Thus, the more frequently you are exposed, the more work your liver has to do. Chlorine also depletes the body of iodine, a crucial mineral for thyroid function + hormone balance.

Using a cream or skin spray like the items below you can create a barrier between the chlorine and/or have nutrient on the skin that can neutralize chlorine.