Writing

Paddling Out to Catch a Bigger Wave: Why Avasol Sunscreen Goes Above and Beyond for the Common Good

Written for Starboard Blue, July 2019.

It’s hard to relate to inconvenient truths. Yet the ocean, my playground and spiritual home, has become a place defined by them. It needs little repeating that we are in the midst of a deep and severe ocean crisis, so widespread and complex that it’s difficult for anyone to truly grasp. That’s why, when we have the opportunity to make responsible, sustainable personal decisions, we must. One of the easiest things we can control is what sunscreen we use, not just for our own benefit, but for that of the sea. Thanks to years worth of intense scientific research surrounding sunscreen’s effects on marine ecosystems, we’ve learned two things: one, conventional sunscreen is terrible for marine life, and secondly, we know terrifyingly little about the long-term effects of the artificial chemicals we’ve been putting on our bodies for decades.

Conventional sunscreen is filled with chemicals like oxybenzone and a host of other risky ingredients that are known toxins and hormone disruptors. Now, with so called “natural” and “reef safe” sunscreens rushing to fill the void, we are discovering that these may be no better, since most use clear zinc oxide, an engineered nano particle that is mostly unregulated. Studies are showing that these sunscreen nano particles may damage the DNA, immune and reproductive systems, and cause deformations in algae, sea urchins, fish, and marine mammals. It is abundantly clear that if we intend to do anything about the degradation of our oceans, we must make the choice to transcend the profit-driven cosmetics industry and take responsibility for our own awareness and education about what we consume.

Avasol Suncare was founded in 2010 by Chris Wilkinson, an entrepreneurial waterman from Southern California, with the simple goal of making a sunscreen that didn’t exist. It had to be a product he could put on his kids, but that would live up to the demands of the ocean lifestyle. Ten years later, Avasol is a global phenomenon used by moms and professional water athletes alike. It’s made of cosmetics and food-grade ingredients, all of which are responsibly, sustainably sourced. Going beyond the concept of organic, many ingredients are wildcrafted, such as Tamanu from Madagascar, meaning it’s picked from wild sources by natives, helping fund local economies and preventing deforestation. Avasol’s two active ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are both truly non-nano, making them safer for sea life, and much better for us, too. Further, a lack of artificial preservatives means Avasol is parabens-free. As Avasol is a holistically sustainable brand, the stick’s plastic-free packaging reflects the love and care put into its contents and is made from recycled paper, making it biobased! The stick is meant to be refilled and reused—just send it back to California for more.

Avasol is truly a waterman’s sunscreen. It’s designed to go on your skin and stay there for your session, all without running into your eyes or getting your skin oily—and does so while smelling amazing. The sunscreen is officially certified to last 80 minutes in the water, but it’s lasted an entire day on my face while SUP paddling and kitesurfing. When prone foiling or surfing, I tend to reapply every few hours for good measure. As always, one of the most critical aspects of long-term sun protection is not relying on the sunscreen to do it all—use clothing too! In the water, the durability and effectiveness of your sunscreen comes down to your activity and skin type. Everyone has different skin with unique sensitivities, but because Avasol is free of toxins or synthetics, it’s unlikely to cause reactions across the spectrum. The shea butter and coconut oil even hydrate your skin, a bonus after a day in saltwater!

Avasol itself is a fantastic product, but the genuine passion, care, and love that’s driven Chris Wilkinson to constantly innovate for the last decade is perhaps more impactful, and he truly embodies the mentality of the brand’s global family. Not cutting corners or turning a blind eye for the sake of profit, voting with our dollars, skipping convenient solutions in pursuit of what’s most responsible/sustainable on a global scale, and listening to our instincts so that we might get back in touch with our bodies and the environment—this is the larger message for which Avasol is the microphone. I think that’s something to which we can all relate.

“The greatest gift I gave my children was teaching them to farm—to plant a seed. Every time I send out a package of Avasol, it feels like I’m planting a seed all over again—a seed of responsibility and sustainability. And that seed goes all the way back to the people who picked out the ingredients, to their families and the thousands of people who are affected every time someone wears Avasol. It doesn’t get old.” —Chris Wilkinson