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Our ingredients aren’t like those in typical sunscreens, which contain inexpensive, mass-produced chemicals derived from petroleum. The human body wasn’t made to interact with these man-made compounds, which do several really bad things to our bodies and don’t protect us nearly as well from sun damage. Their advantage is lower cost, which allows big brand sunscreens to sell for significantly less.

Our sunscreens contain only ultra-quality components, including active-ingredient non-nano zinc oxide, plus certified organic oils, natural extracts, beeswax, plant-based vitamins, and artesian spring water. Every one of these was chosen carefully through a holistic bio-chemistry development process, and every one of them is more expensive than their big brand, industrially-produced counterparts.

And while those big brand sunscreens are produced by massive companies who enjoy substantial cost advantages from economies-of-scale and big-org efficiencies, we are a small company that makes our products in small batches with a crafted attitude. This approach, while significantly better for the end product and our end customers, costs more than those bigger methodologies.

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.

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.

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.

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.