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Here are the most frequently asked sunscreen questions we get from customers and friends. Check them out, the answers might help you too!
Absolutely. Our products are biodegradable and contain none of the petrochemicals known to have feminizing effects on fish, coral toxicity, or bio-accumulation issues. Most brands that claim to be reef safe are absolutely NOT safe for reefs or any marine life since they contain several petrochemicals, just not the few currently banned.
Waxhead sunscreens are all water-resistant. Our sport stick and field tin formulations are rated via FDA protocols for up to 80 minutes, the highest legally allowed, and our other sunscreens are designed to be as water-resistant. We will not market such ratings until we have official testing results.
No, we do not use nano or micronized zinc oxide. We only use non-nano zinc oxide, and the particles will not enter your bloodstream or interfere with fragile marine environments (because the particles are too big).
Yes, all our sunscreens are safe for children and babies. Zinc oxide is the ONLY active ingredient FDA approved as safe for use on babies younger than 6 months.
Yes, Waxhead uses absolutely NO animal testing. We test our sunscreens on humans using federally mandated FDA sunscreen testing protocol in order to accurately calculate our products’ SPFs for labeling.
The useful life of our sunscreens has no practical limit, since our active ingredient zinc oxide is a mineral and does not lose its sunscreen capabilities over time, but the FDA requires sunscreen products to list a 3-year shelf life, mainly because petrochemical active ingredients degrade over time. Our inactive ingredients are relatively resistant to oxidation, and zinc oxide acts as both an antimicrobial and anti-fungal preservative. However, if you ever feel a Waxhead product has spoiled, just let us know, and we'll send you a replacement.
Zinc oxide is simply THE best active sunscreen ingredient, and by a wide margin. Covering the entire UVA/UVB spectrum by itself, it has the most consistently effective absorption capabilities, which never degrade. In contrast, petrochemical sunscreens need multiple active ingredients for complete coverage, which degrades quickly on the shelf, and even titanium dioxide needs significant help (from zinc oxide) to cover a large portion of the UVA spectrum range.
Zinc oxide can give skin a whitish hue depending upon the amount applied and the natural skin tone of the user. We offer tinted versions that use either certified organic cocoa or iron oxides to provide a more skin-colored hue.
We use the same 4-ingredient formulations in our field tins and sport sticks, in either white or tinted. Here are the ingredients, each described in how they relate to acne prone skin:
1) Non-nano ZINC OXIDE – We use 25% (the most allowed by law), which covers the entire UVA/UVB/UVC spectrum by itself. ZnO has antibacterial/antimicrobial properties, which can reduce the bacterial growth that factors in producing acne.
2) Certified organic BEESWAX – Contrary to popular belief, beeswax does NOT clog pores (quite the opposite), and it has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
3) Certified organic COCONUT OIL – This is partly good for acne, in that it’s high in lauric acid, which kills acne causing bacteria, and it retains moisture, which helps sooth and alleviate acne scarring. However, coconut oil can sometimes clog pores, which for those with very oily skin can be an issue.
4) Certified organic VANILLA EXTRACT – A great source of B vitamins and rich in antioxidants, its antibacterial properties make it beneficial for the treatment of acne. (Instead of vanilla, our tinted version uses certified organic cocoa, which is rich in antioxidants called flavonols that are very good for skin.)
As for our ingredients in all our products, you can find more info here.
Yes, we disclose each and every one of our ingredients anywhere our products are offered for sale, including our labels, our website, and 3rd party vendors such as Amazon. We are proud of our ingredients, and we want our customers to know exactly what they’re buying from us.
All our sunscreens use zinc oxide. If it stains your dark clothing or bathing suit, use the following method to remove:
1. Apply a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol directly to the stain, then dab gently to lift the stain.
2. Apply a dish soap (blue Dawn is good) directly to the stain (because laundry detergent doesn’t remove oil very well), then wash as normal, but do NOT dry until stain is removed completely.
Our Tinted Tube uses natural iron oxides as a tint. If it stains your clothing or bathing suit, use one of the following methods (make sure to treat the stain BEFORE rubbing):
1. Lemon juice and table salt. Mix equal parts juice and salt into a paste, then apply directly to spot. Refresh lemon juice to keep the spot damp. Don’t let it dry. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. White fabrics can also be placed into direct sunlight to minimize discoloration.
2. White vinegar. Saturate stain completely with vinegar, cover in a layer of table salt, then gently rub in the salt. Let stain soak for a few hours, then rinse stain away with cold water.
3. Liquid dish soap. Mix 1 teaspoon soap (blue Dawn is good) with 1 cup cold water. Thoroughly saturate the stain and allow solution to react for at least five minutes, then rub and rinse with cold water.
4. Some stains require more effort to remove. If stain remnants are present after first attempt, repeat process before drying. Drying (especially with direct heat) will set stains, so avoid drying until stain is completely gone.
Our Tinted Stick uses natural cocoa as a tint. If it stains your clothing or bathing suit, use the following method to remove:
1. Treat stains quickly. Delay can make stains harder to remove. Scrape off extra sunscreen, but avoid rubbing spot until AFTER treating, since this may further grind stain into fabric.
2. Treat spot with lemon juice or white vinegar to break down the stain. Allow it to work for several minutes, then lightly scrape spot with a small brush or toothbrush. Rinse with cold water to make sure acid doesn’t damage the garment. In most cases, the treatment will loosen the stain, allowing for gentle removal. Do NOT use hot water, which can set stain.
3. Stain’s underside can also be flushed with solution of 1 teaspoon grease-dissolving dish soap (blue Dawn is good) and 1 cup cold water. Machine wash as usual (in cold water), but do not dry unless stain is completely removed.
4. Stubborn stains can be further treated by blotting with hydrogen peroxide or applying a thick mixture of borax and water, about the consistency of toothpaste, leaving for 10 minutes, then washing/rinsing with cold water.
Most sunscreens (even ones labeled “all-natural” or "healthy") contain unsafe ingredients, including petrochemicals, along with other questionable or even toxic ingredients. Waxhead sunscreens use only non-nano zinc oxide along with other certified organic and completely safe inactive ingredients. Each of Waxhead's products are top-rated by EWG.
Our prices represent a true cost to the world. We source our top-grade ingredients only from reputable, fair-trade, cruelty-free companies that are almost entirely US-based. We don’t purchase ingredients from countries with questionable labor or production practices. Learn more <a href="/pages/why-do-waxhead-sunscreens-cost-more" target="“_blank"">here</a>.
Non-nano Zinc Oxide has the broadest UV absorptive spectrum and cannot be absorbed into the blood, unlike all petroleum-based sunscreen chemicals.
Zinc Oxide is, however, fairly misunderstood within the skincare industry. Most manufacturers, dermatologists and popular media outlets report that zinc oxide reflects and scatters UV radiation, an understandably common sense assumption due to its white color. However, although zinc oxide LOOKS white because it does indeed reflect and scatter VISIBLE light, it behaves entirely differently in the UV spectrum of light, which is NOT visible to humans. In fact, zinc oxide absorbs UV radiation via a process called band-gap absorption, then converting it into comparably harmless infrared energy, which it disposes of as heat.
In contrast, while titanium dioxide absorbs UV, it cannot convert it as easily into heat, instead dumping the absorbed energy on nearby electrons and creating free radicals that cause oxidative damage throughout the body.
The answer depends on what areas you're covering. If face only, our sticks will deliver about 100 applications.
All our sunscreens and skincare products are tear-free. We use only non-nano uncoated zinc oxide along with other edible grade, certified organic inactive ingredients.
Because we use certified organic beeswax, our sunscreens are not technically vegan. However, they are certified organic and cruelty-free.
They are significantly thicker and less greasy than common petrochemical sunscreens. About 10-15% of our customers consider our sunscreens “greasy” – compared to 60-80% of common sunscreen customers.
The main function of our certified organic vanilla is for aroma, which is akin to vanilla cupcakes. It also increases the ease of spreading (just a bit).
Yes. All our sunscreens use only top-grade non-nano zinc oxide and certified organic, edible grade inactive ingredients. For our vanilla sport stick, this includes vanilla extract, beeswax, and coconut oil. Just like our lip balms, our sunscreens are thick and tough and take a bit of time to spread and rub in on the lips, but once on, it would deliver the safest, toughest, most eco-friendly lip protection you'll find anywhere.
Yes, our sport sticks and tubes currently use #4 recyclable plastic. We are working to source a more eco-friendly container, and in our search have found that both compostable and biodegradable plastics may actually have a higher carbon footprint than high-grade conventional plastics. Once we find a definitively improved material, we will make the shift to the new material. Also note that our 0.5 oz field tins, in both vanilla and cocoa tinted, contain the same formulations as our sport sticks, but contained in a reusable, pocket-friendly tin.
Yes, our tube sunscreens contain certified organic extra virgin olive oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, and vegetable vitamin E. Our sticks and tins contain certified organic coconut oil and beeswax.
Our tinted tube sunscreen tends to dry with a dewey feel, not greasy, but not quite flat or matte. If you need a drier finish, please consider using a facial powder.
Beeswax is actually fairly non-clogging, a 2 of 5 (with 5 being BAD for clogging) on the comedogenic rating system. Beeswax is very good at helping skin retain moisture and allows our sunscreens to stay effective longer once applied. The most clogging ingredient in our sunscreens is coconut oil, which is a bit more clogging than jojoba oil and olive oil, but we include it for its antioxidant and other properties that support healthy skin, especially in the sun.
Unlike USDA organic labeling criteria, there are no current regulations governing proper labeling of “natural” or “organic” in skincare products. Manufacturers can legally claim natural or organic products while still using petrochemical ingredients, and some companies attempt to argue that petroleum is natural because of its ground-based origin. Regardless, Waxhead adheres closely to a strict (yet voluntary) industry wide standard (NSF / ANSI 305), and our manufacturing facilities are both USDA NOP and NSF 305 certified compliant.
In the absence of binding regulation, the best way consumers can determine product safety is to read ingredient labels and learn the ingredients to avoid (see our handy Safe Sunscreen Guide for a quick reference on good and bad sunscreen ingredients).
We also adhere to a very strict definition of what “natural” implies in our skin care products. In order for an ingredient to be deemed natural within our internal, rigorous standards, it must either be 1) derived directly from a living organism (via a sustainable process) and free of petrochemicals, or 2) a mineral proven safe for use on and in the human body.
Physical sunscreens utilize minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. These sit on top of the skin where they absorb UV rays, convert them into infrared heat energy, then dispose of the heat away from the skin. They work immediately and do not seep into the skin like petrochemical products.
Chemical sunscreens protect skin by absorbing the sun’s rays. They do this by seeping into your skin. This is why chemical sunscreens apply smoothly, without leaving a thick film, using active ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, which are created by extracting and processing various chemicals from crude oil. Such derived substances are known collectively as petrochemicals. The problem is that many petrochemicals disrupt endocrine and hormone activity, and what’s worse, they actually encourage UVA damage, deeper in the skin.
The simple truth – petrochemicals weren’t meant to interact directly with humans or animals. The list of reasons is long and growing. Here are just a few of the most obvious.
Petrochemicals penetrate skin, causing bioaccumulation and systemic exposure, building up in the blood and fat deposits. Toxic in themselves, they damage DNA over time.
Many petrochemicals mimic estrogen in the human body. This is linked with numerous diseases, including cancer and early female puberty.
Many petrochemicals do not biodegrade, accumulating in water supplies and ocean sediments, feminizing fish and damaging coral. Most tropical aquatic parks have banned petrochemical sunscreens.
Petrochemical sunscreens exchange UV damage for toxic chemical damage. Unable to convert UV rays into harmless energy as well as mineral sunscreens, active petrochemical ingredients are actually photo-degraded by UV energy, breaking chemical bonds, disabling UV absorption capacity, and creating reactive free radicals in the body.
These free radicals are not only linked to the development of cancer, such irreversible chemical changes can produce severe inflammatory skin reactions – in essence, chemical burns.
Petrochemicals absorb UV in diverse finite wavelength ranges. In other words, no single petrochemical is broad spectrum, and so petrochemical sunscreens must use a cobbled amalgamation of compounds, all with various abilities to do harm.
Compared to environmental contaminants in our air, food and water, sunscreen based petrochemicals produce exposure levels thousands to millions of times higher.
Zinc oxide doesn’t have any of the issues petrochemicals do.
Zinc oxide (by itself) has the most effective absorption capabilities across the entire UVA/UVB spectrums.Zinc oxide is made from the critical mineral nutrient zinc. Like all the ingredients in our sunscreens, zinc oxide is biochemically identical to the building blocks used by human and animal systems.Zinc oxide holds tight to its electrons when absorbing UV energy, limiting free radical production.Zinc oxide does not damage or adversely affect wildlife or water habitats or the animals that use them. It is completely reef safe.Zinc oxide is the only sunscreen active ingredient FDA-approved for use on children.
Waxhead sunscreens use only non-nano, non-micronized zinc oxide.
Not necessarily, for two basic reasons.
First, SPF suffers from diminishing returns. For example, consider 2 sunscreens, version 1 with 30 SPF and version 2 with 50 SPF. Version 1 will remove 29/30 = 96.7% of UV rays, while version 2 will remove 49/50 = 98% of UV rays. Skin exposed to 4 hours = 240 minutes will receive the equivalent of 8 minutes of UV rays while using version 1 and a little less than 5 minutes while wearing version 2. That’s not much difference.
Next, while zinc oxide screens rays from across the entire UV spectrum, petrochemical based sunscreens achieve broad spectrum coverage by combining multiple different chemical compounds. In a sense, they cobble together a sort of jigsaw puzzle of petrochemical coverage. And for petrochemical sunscreens to increase SPF from 30 to 50 requires significant addition of more such chemical compounds. Adding these additional compounds, which do increased damage to the human body with every use, is rarely worth the small decrease in absorbed UV rays.
At Waxhead, we recommend using a good zinc oxide sunscreen with 30-40 SPF, and that choosing higher SPFs (although they seem “better”) is actually not as safe, since achieving such higher ratings requires significant use of dangerous petrochemicals. Plus in order to achieve higher SPF with zinc oxide simply requires a thicker layer of sunscreen that is reapplied every 2 hours. It may cause skin to appear with a slightly whitish hue, but that skin will have optimum protection.
In practical terms, this is more or less true, since each additional SPF unit provides a diminishing return of greater UV protection, and when using petrochemical sunscreens, the increased risk of chemical exposure is not typically worth the marginal benefit.
For instance, SPF 15 provides 93.3% UV absorption, which means applying an SPF 15 product will prevent absorption of 93.3% of the UV rays unprotected skin would otherwise absorb. Doubling SPF to 30 provides 96.7% UV absorption, or only 3.4% more protection, at a health cost of possibly double the exposure to petrochemicals.
Make no mistake. Zinc Oxide is a much safer and more effective sunscreen than titanium dioxide. Waxhead uses only zinc oxide, since its UV absorption spectrum is broader than that of titanium dioxide, resulting in more effective, safer coverage, and titanium dioxide produces more free radicals that do oxidative damage to the body and skin cells.
Zinc Oxide is the only sunscreen active ingredient tested and approved by the FDA for use on children, including babies less than 6 months of age. Titanium dioxide contains titanium, a heavy metal that’s toxic within human bio-systems, while zinc is a critical mineral nutrient.
The answer is complex.
Nanoparticles are defined as particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter or smaller than 0.1 micron. (A micron is one millionth of a meter.) Nanoparticles may be hazardous for humans (see last paragraph in this section), since they’re tiny enough to enter the bloodstream through the skin. Most nanoparticle sunscreens contain particles of only 15 nanometers, or about 85% SMALLER than the limit.
Micronized sunscreens are created by grinding larger particles into smaller ones. Typical micronized particles are larger than the 100 nanometer limit, but the grinding process creates a significant amount of nanoparticles.
Waxhead uses neither nanoparticle zinc oxide nor micronized zinc oxide. Instead we use particles created via a non-grind process that produces an average particle size of 0.26 microns +/- a standard deviation of 0.012 microns. Given this tight size distribution (the 0.1 micron lower limit is over 13 standard deviations below the mean), our zinc oxide contains statistically zero nanoparticles. This particle size range has been used for decades and is considered completely safe.
All mineral sunscreens on the market are either micron-sized (like Waxhead), micronized or nano. Some companies advertise use of micronized particles but may still be using nanoparticles because nanoparticles are technically a finer version of the micronized form. The only way to ensure non-nano is if the company explicitly states particle size average and standard deviation, as noted above.
The main concern regarding nanoparticle ingredients is if they can pass through the skin into the bloodstream. We know of no well-controlled empirical experiments with evidence either way, but there hasn’t been a large amount of research, and so the issue remains undetermined. However, our stance is to ultimately rely on common sense, and as the use of nanoparticles does not increase sunscreen effectiveness significantly, we avoid nanoparticles in our products because there’s little reason to accept increased risks without corresponding benefits.
The short answer is that the CR review was not comprehensive at all, since it included only poor varieties of zinc oxide sunscreens, ones that overstated their respective SPF ratings, without including any good zinc oxide choices. We can’t speak to CR’s motivations for this glaring oversight. What we do know is that properly formulated non-nano zinc oxide is the very best sunscreen in existence, and in a fair fight, zinc oxide bests petrochemicals (as well as titanium dioxide) in any objective measurement of effectiveness, and by a wide margin. In essence, CR’s review was akin to comparing oranges to rotten apples.