The Real Deal About Organic Sunscreen

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about sun protection. Did you know that not all sunscreens were created equal? I didn’t! I for one, stopped using block altogether when I moved to Miami in hopes of absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible. Not the brightest idea I ever had.



My Outfit: Blouse, Spike Ear Cuff

Myth #1 debunked: sun block does not prevent you from getting all the benefits from the sun, including the all-important Vitamin D. Lucky for me I got to sit down with Chris Birchby, the CEO and founder of COOLA Suncare to get this and many more of my sun protection questions answered. I couldn’t wait to share the info with you, so you too could start implementing his skin cancer preventing techniques.

FW:I know that you have an interesting background, you were an English and Art major, what made you come up with the concept for COOLA?

CB: Both of my parents had melanoma around 2004. They caught it in time, they’re okay now. But they never wore much sunscreen and neither did my brother and I. Our sunscreens were always like 2’s, 4′ s and 6’s. After my parents had the melanoma removed and I realized that I was spending a lot of time on the beach, I started doing some research. I found out that one bad sunburn with blistering before the age of 18 will double your chances of melanoma. So, I thought I would do this as a side thing by designing a surfer sunscreen.


FW: When you started doing your research were there many organic sunscreen lines out there?

CB: No, there weren’t any organic lines. I found out the reason why after we had met with a lot of different labs and chemists. One lab and I made this really great formula because natural is the direction I wanted to go in; the price point after they’d made it was so high that as a surfer I knew I couldn’t sell it to surfers. This is where the idea of being carried by resorts and spas came about. It was the best piece of advice I was ever given.

FW: How many products did you start with?

CB: Six months later we launched 6 products in our classic collection: face, body and sport and we did a scented and an unscented version. And since then we still have all of them but we’ve reformulated each of them about 4 times. What we do differently is we reformulate often with sunscreens to try to get better formulas…

FW: When you say better, do you mean better protection or better more natural ingredients?

CB: Exactly, 2 things that we try to do is use more organic ingredients and fewer active ingredients. We want to achieve a high SPF while using less active ingredients because none of them are good for the skin, they’re all potentially irritating and none of them are good for the environment. The sun protection part is great but besides that, either the chemicals or the minerals don’t do anything else for the skin.


FW: So what percentage of your ingredients are active vs. natural?

CB: We are at 4.1% active ingredients in our classic face SPF 30 which is our chemical sunscreen line, and for our mineral SPF 30 for the face we’re at a total of combine 5% active. Most other sunscreens out there are going to be much, much higher. One of the brands I just looked at over here is at 27% which is good for protection and nothing else.

FW: If you have less chemicals do you have to reapply more often?

CB: No, because we use a blend of natural plant based protection boosters that are vitamin rich and that naturally offer a high SPF value with less active ingredients. Everybody has to use the same third party tester, which gets very pricey. It’s about $5,300 each time you want to test a formula for SPF strength alone. As far as the reapplication, you should always reapply after 2 hours. It’s what the Skin Cancer Foundation and FDA say, and we agree. But I think that it also depends if it’s a water resistant formula.


FW: Do you offer water resistant formulas?

CB: Most of our formulas are water resistant, some of them are not. Mineral sunscreens don’t break down in the sun, chemical sunscreens do.

*For those of you reading this thinking ‘well, obviously mineral is the way to go because it sounds more natural’, consider this: minerals have to be mined, they are tiny rocks and they are not meant be inhaled. The process of mining is not good for the environment or your lungs, which is why this formula often comes in a cream form. Some people don’t mind applying cream, but a lot of people like a spray.

FW: That was my question. What is really the difference between a chemical and mineral sunscreen, why have all the options?

CB: The best sunscreen is the one that’s worn. We want to make the healthiest sunscreen; some people want mineral, some prefer chemical and we want to make the healthiest version of each. With our sprays, it’s really difficult to make a mineral spray because you don’t want to aerosolize the particles because minerals are just little pieces of rock and you don’t want to inhale those. If you opt for the spray, our healthiest spray version has a 100% natural scent, and the base of the overall formula is 97% organic. (Active ingredients and minerals can never be organic). We make all the other ingredients organic and that’s the COOLA difference. No one else has a 70%+ organic chemical sunscreen.

Regardless of your preference when it comes to sun protection, be sure to read the label. Know why you are opting for the spray over the cream and remember, your skin is the largest organ in your body, so take care of it and don’t introduce any unnecessary chemicals you don’t have to. For kids, COOLA makes an all natural baby SPF 50 block that can be used by adults. It is a thicker formula and probably a bit harder to spread all over an adult body but is definitely an option for those of you trying to go the all natural route. And then there are my favorites that you can buy online or find at your nearest Ulta!

COOLA SPF 30 Matte Finish Cucumber for Face, $36


COOLA Liplux SPF 15 – Peppermint + Vanilla, $12

     COOLA SPF 30 Sport Spray for Body – Citrus Mimosa, $32

I think their slogan says it all:At COOLA, we’re passionate about making healthy sunscreens people love to wear!”