I’ve been using Sunumbra SPF 30 natural sunscreen for a few months now and am finally getting round to writing about it. I came across the Sunumbra brand when I was browsing through EWG’s guide to the best sunscreens which rates sunscreens based on health hazards and efficacy. After a dodgy patch of skin on my chin earlier this year which I swear came from using a particularly strong chemical sunscreen and that took about four months to clear, I was intent on finding a zinc oxide-based sunscreen that I could wear every day in place of moisturiser.
Whenever I write about sunscreens, it always turns into a rant about how rubbish they are in the US (apologies in advance). The whole industry seems really badly regulated, particularly when it comes to UVA protection, leaving consumers misinformed. As long as a product blocks some UVA rays, it can state that is it “broad spectrum”. but as a consumer there’s no way of knowing how much UVA is blocked. There’s no “star” rating like we have in the UK, or “PA” rating like in Asia. Aside from that, almost every sunscreen on the market contains oxybenzone, which is linked to negative effects on the body.
There are quite a lot of “natural” sunscreen brands available if you look for them, but they tend to be thick, white pastes which are difficult to apply (thanks to the high levels of zinc oxide). So when I saw that Sunumbra SPF30 was beige-tinted and claimed to be invisible on the skin, I ordered a tube to try.
The other big thing that drew me in was that Sunumbra has been rated 5 star for UVA protection. It blocks the UVA rays that cause deep level DNA damage, but lets enough UVB rays in to allow the body to produce Vitamin D (essential for immune system and bone health), without burning. The US sunscreen market seems to be obsessed with high SPF, but most of us don’t need SPF 70 or SPF 100 (the incremental protection after SPF 30 is minimal anyway). The higher the SPF, the less Vitamin D the body gets, and the more time people feel they can stay out in the sun, leaving them exposed to a load of UVA rays which penetrate much deeper into the skin and cause melanoma (and more superficially, wrinkles and age spots).
Sunumbra uses zinc oxide to protect skin from the sun. Zinc oxide is known as the safest and most effective sunscreen filter as it protects from both UVA and UVB rays and does not enter the body through the skin. It is a powdered mineral that works as a sunscreen by sitting on top of the skin, reflecting and scattering the UV rays. Zinc oxide is normally opaque and white but Sunumbra uses a micronized (not nano) particle size which is transparent on the skin. The zinc oxide is coated in dimethicone (a silicone derivative) to give it water resistance and to let the skin breathe – more about this can be found on the Sunumbra site here.
The entire list of ingredients is refreshingly short and readable. Helpfully, Sunumbra’s website has links to details of each ingredient, so I don’t have to write it all up.
The full list of ingredients of Sunumbra SPF 30 is:
caprylic capric triglycerides – Ecocert 100% Natural
zinc oxide dimethicone – a natural mineral sunscreen
sorbitan olivate – Ecocert 100% Organic
allantoin – is natural
kigelia extract – wild sourced
aloe ferox extract – wild sourced
green rooibos extract – Ecocert Organic + USDA NOP Organic product
black tea extract – Natural certificate, uncontaminated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides and is non-GMO
broccoli sprout extract – Natural certificate, uncontaminated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides and is non-GMO
Cape chamomile oil – organically grown
Anyway… onto the product itself. The formula is indeed beige and not white. Sometimes the product separates slightly in the tube and oil comes out first. When this happens, I soak the oil up with a tissue. I did ask Sunumbra about this, and apparently the separation is nothing to worry about, and you can try to squidge the product around inside the tube to minimise it.
While the formula isn’t as “stiff” and paste-like as some natural sunscreens I’ve tried, it is not as liquid as the mass-produced sunscreens in drugstores we’re used to. It has a very slight grainy feel when spread on the skin.
Although I can feel graininess when I initially apply the sunscreen on my face, I don’t see any grains on my skin (except perhaps a few in my eyebrows which I just brush out). I can feel the silicone even if it only makes up 2.5% of the zinc oxide particles. It feels almost slippery on the skin. Once rubbed in, there is no whiteness on the skin at all, it’s completely transparent.
People with oily skin will probably dislike the slightly slippery feel on the skin. I have dry skin, so I like that it leaves my skin feeling lubricated and moisturised without having to use a separate moisturiser. I do definitely have to powder over it though. I don’t notice getting any “flashback” in photos which I usually get from zinc oxide containing products.
I have been using Sunumbra on my face every day for the last three months and I like that I am protecting myself from UVA without putting loads of chemicals on my skin. Also, unlike chemical filters, zinc oxide doesn’t degrade and break down – it stays protective as long as it’s on the skin because it’s a physical filter. Which means I don’t worry so much if I’m not reapplying through the day. Zinc oxide is also known to be healing and antimicrobial (it’s often the main ingredient in nappy/diaper rash creams) so it’s nice knowing that too.
One downside of Sunumbra is that the slip makes it hard to wear some foundations over the top as it feels like the foundation’s just slipping all around and not adhering to the skin (especially silicone-based foundations). Thicker, drier foundations are fine though. I also wear the sunscreen on my eyelid area but it makes my eyeshadows crease earlier than normal because the oil breaks down even waterproof eyeshadows.
I’ve tried using Sunumbra on my body but it’s not quite as easy to use as it is on the face. The formula is more difficult to spread on large areas like the back which means it’s quite easy to miss patches. It’s easy enough to use on arms and calves though. Although I wouldn’t recommend using it at the beach as it attracts and sticks to sand unbelievably well! I did it once and thought I’d never get the sand off my legs.
Otherwise I would heartily recommend Sunumbra SPF30 for anyone looking to go natural with their sunscreen. I’ve now bought two tubes in total from the Organic Products online store. The usual price is $29.70 for a 100ml (3.5 oz) tube, but I’ve been using the coupon code, “sunumbra40special” for 40% off.
There is also a Sunumbra Sports SPF 40 version (which has a slightly more robust consistency than the SPF 30), and a Sunkids SPF 40 (which is more alkaline to align with the PH of children’s skin). More can be read about the differences between these products here.