Practice Safe Sun: 5 Easy Steps

While small amounts of sun exposure can help to boost Vitamin D levels, the reality is that the sun damages skin. This damage can present itself immediately as a sunburn or later as hyperpigmentation, wrinkles or skin cancer. 

Choosing a healthy sunscreen and taking steps to minimize your sun exposure can help keep your skin happy, while still being able to enjoy time outdoors.

1. Choose a clean sunscreen

Avoid chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone (a known endocrine disruptor) and octinoxate (octylmethoxycinnamate). These are toxins that can linger in the body long after you have used them on your skin.

Instead, opt for physical mineral-only sunblocks containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide with at least an SPF 30. These act as a physical shield against the sun by deflecting the sun's rays away from the skin, without the irritation and general creepiness that chemical sunscreens can bring. Zinc oxide is actually quite soothing and protective for skin.

And, Great Merlin's Beard, don't forget your lips! Lips should also be protected with a physical sunscreen lip product. 

Not sure which products to use? Check out the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Sunscreen for recommendations and reviews of the best and most effective products.

2. Apply properly

Using a physical sunscreen means that you have to have skin adequately covered in order for it to work. Take care to apply the product evenly and carefully. Mineral sunscreens can be thicker and a bit more difficult to apply, but this is by design. This allows them to stay on the skin and provide enough of a barrier of protection. 

Some mineral sunscreen formulas can leave a white cast on the skin, especially if they are designed to be worn while swimming, although many formulas entering the market minimize this effect. 

3. Remember to Reapply

When using a physical sunscreen, you must reapply it every 90-120 minutes and/or when you have been swimming or sweating a lot for them to work effectively. 

4. Watch the Time

Enjoy time in the sun earlier in the day or in the afternoon, avoiding the peak UV ray times of about 10am to 3pm. This decreased intensity can also decrease your risk of sunburn and sun damage.

5. Cover Up

Although being in the shade does not completely protect you from the sun's rays, finding a shady spot can offer some protection. Wearing a hat, sunglasses and a beach wrap can also provide some extra protection for the face and body, while keeping you super-fancy and stylish to boot. 

5 Botanical Sunburn Soothers & A Cooling Body Mask

You applied your sunblock. You even reapplied. But, somewhere during the day, you got a little more sun than you expected. It happens. Here are 5 plant allies that can help a mild burn - sooth the pain, cool the heat, provide moisture and promote swifter healing.

Please note that these soothers are not recommended for severe sunburns. In case of a severe burn, please consult a medical professional.


Aloe is a well-known sunburn soother and for good reason. It cools, soothes, moisturizes and heals, working to minimize not only the discomfort of sunburn, but to also accelerate healing and minimize dryness and peeling. Apply fresh aloe gel, directly from the plant, a few times daily. Alternatively, you can purchase pure aloe gel or juice. But take care to look closely at the ingredient label. Many off-the-shelf aloe gels are not pure aloe, but include undesirable fillers and preservatives.


Cucumber offers cooling relief to sunburns, while also reducing swelling. Apply chilled cucumber hydrosol throughout the day for relief. Alternatively, you can also blend cucumber in a blender, strain the juice, pour into a spray bottle, chill and use within a few days.


Calendula not only reduces inflammation and soothes skin tissues, but actually encourages the regeneration of new cells and can speed up healing. You can purchase an off-the shelf calendula cream at your local natural food store or create your own calendula infused oil, applying a few times daily. Find out more about how to create an infused oil here.


Rose is excellent at soothing inflamed tissues and can be a wonderful ally for providing sunburn relief. Spray chilled rose hydrosol to the area as needed during the day. It is also lovely combined with cucumber hydrosol.

Colloidal Oats

Colloidal Oats, ground oat hulls that are finely ground and able to be dispersed into a bath, help to soothe a sunburn and are also great for the post-sunburn dry, tight and itchy period. You can easily find them at your local corner store.

You can also combine the above ingredients for more soothing relief. Try this cooling body mask to cool and comfort your oversunned skin.


1 small cucumber

1/4 cup aloe gel

Combine ingredients well in a blender. Apply to damp skin and let sit for 15 minutes. Follow with a spray of cucumber or rose hydrosol and an application of aloe gel.






The Botanical Beach Bag

It is beach time again, gals!

Actually, there was a time not too long ago when I avoided going to the beach entirely. I have fair skin that burns in a heartbeat, which can make it hard to stay out for an afternoon in the sun without turning red, crispy and miserable by the end of the day.

Once when I was 11 years old, I was burnt beyond belief while on a family beach vacation. This was back when no one really used sunscreen. They were the days of slathering on baby oil while laying on those weird, space-age reflective blankets (do any of you remember that?). I think the highest SPF available back then was around 4 or 6 and everything was marketed "for a dark, dark tan" - AKA sun damage.

I burned so bad on this vacation that I could hardly sit and peeled three times after we returned home. I think that was just about one of my last real trips to the beach. After that, I spent all of my summer days wandering the shaded woods or brooding in my bedroom listening to The Cure.

Then I had my daughters (and removed my black eyeliner - well, most of it anyway) and discovered that the beach is a blast again. But I knew that we needed to be a LOT safer in the sun than I had been growing up.

Even for those with gorgeous skin that tans easily, it is important to still protect yourself for a day in the sun. The suns rays still damage any skin below the surface, which shows up later as wrinkles and sun damaged skin. It is easier to prevent sun damage than it is to fix it down the road.

So what is a beach lover to do? Here is my go-to list of what I carry in our botanical beach bag (in addition to swimsuit, towel, snacks and trashy novel) to protect us - safely and naturally - from a day in the sun:


Two of our favorite natural sunblocks are Goddess Garden and 3rd Rock Sunblock. Both of these sunblocks protect skin effectively with zinc oxide, while also helping skin to repair itself with ingredients such as aloe, green tea and shea butter. They are great for those with super sensitive skin that might have issues (rashes, etc.) with other types of sun protection. Goddess Garden also makes a great formula just for the face.


Lips are a spot often forgotten on a day at the beach. Delicate lip tissues can be burnt faster than other areas of skin and they need to be protected. Choose a zinc-oxide based natural lip balm to give lips the protection they need. Check out healthy, non-toxic recommendations HERE.


To cool yourself down, mix 1 part strong peppermint tea to 1 part aloe juice (available at your local natural foods store). Place in a spray bottle and chill before going to the beach (or if you have a cooler, keep it chilled on ice). Periodically mist your face and body to stay chill in the heat. This will also help to keep your skin from becoming too surface-dry from the sun. Just remember to mix a fresh batch each time you go to the beach since there are no preservatives. Alternatively, you can fill a 2 ounce bottle with 5 drops peppermint essential oil and top off with distilled water.


Opt for the largest specs you can find with wraparound sides to give your peepers and the delicate skin around the eyes maximum protection. This thin-skinned area is often one of the first to show sun damage. On that topic, be sure to use sunscreen in this area. Along with the ears and lips, it is a body part that is often forgotten when applying sunscreen. Just don't get it in your eyeball.


To help keep the sun off of your face and bean. Many skin cancers happen on the scalp since it often goes unprotected from the sun. If you've ever had a part sunburn on your head, you know how bad that sucks, too.


Having a large scarf in your bag can come in handy in a beach situation. You can use it as a wrap to protect your head, shoulders or any part of your body. You can use it as a beach blanket. You can also drape it between sticks from the beach stuck in the sand to fashion a makeshift cabana tent over your towel. Or you can wear it as a superhero cape, should you find that necessary.


We all know how important it is to stay continuously hydrated when out in the heat. Sip water throughout the day. If you are thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated.

A few miscellaneous tips:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 20-30 minutes BEFORE you go to the beach for maximum protection (although physical sunblocks with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide do provide immediate protection right when they are applied).
  • Hit the beach in the early morning or late afternoon, before or after the peak sun hours (10AM to 3PM).
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen products every 90 minutes or when you have been swimming or sweating heavily.
  • Don't rely on shady areas to provide complete protection - the sun will still find you.

Check out these other inspiring, handmade beach accessories to add to your beach bag - starfish barefoot sandals, round mandala beach towel and personalized floppy beach hat

Have a fun time at the beach! <3

What's in your beach bag?