Product Review – Vivesana Solar to Polar Sunscreen

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Use sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Photo: © Lucky Dragon –

The most important function of a sunscreen is, of course, to protect your skin against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. But that’s not the only element to consider when choosing what to slather on your skin this summer. Most sunscreens are made with synthetic substances, as well as water and alcohol. But wouldn’t you rather use a sunscreen made with natural and organic ingredients?

Recently, I received two sample tubes of Vivesana Solar to Polar sunscreen to review. The packaging looked interesting, promising “70% Organic, 100% Natural” ingredients with a high SPF of 40 on the Ultra formula and 42 on the Baby product. But I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I pretty much forgot about it for several days. The sunscreen tubes sat on my desk until this past weekend, when Joe and I were invited for a boat ride with friends.

Putting It to the Test

Vivesana Solar to Polar Baby and Ultra Sunscreen formulas. Photo Courtesy: Vivesana

Saturday bright and sunny, with a temperature of about 80 F. As we set out from the dock, I used the cap to puncture the seal on the metal tube (Note: Metal, not plastic — there are no BHAs in this container), which was sealed as tightly as a tube of medicine. When I started to squeeze, I was disappointed when it appeared, at first glance, to be much like pure zinc oxide. I’m not a fan of a thick layer of white goop on my nose or other body parts, though I understand that some people feel they need that much protection from the sun. I squeezed it onto my palm and started to liberally slather Solar to Polar Ultra on my bare skin. I was surprised when the Vivesana sunscreen did not stick in a goopy blob; it blended into my skin rather quickly, and didn’t leave much of a white coating. Don’t get me wrong; it didn’t slide with the ease of Coppertone or one of the other thin liquid sunscreens. Vivesana is a thick cream, and though I didn’t go into the water that day, I am confident it won’t wash away like a thin liquid will. And that’s good news.

Our friend Rob slathered the Vivesana generously on his ears and nose, and didn’t rub it all the way in. For an hour or so, he had white streaks showing exactly where he had used the cream. If he’d had a mirror available, he might have chosen to rub it in all the way. But it didn’t matter. By the time we got to our lunch spot across the lake, there were no traces of the sunscreen left. It had soaked in nicely.

Did it protect us? Yes. Ordinarily, I’d have had sunburn on my nose and shoulders, but that day, I had no sunburn at all. Despite not wearing a hat, Joe had no redness on the top of his shaved head — an area that is usually highly susceptible to sunburn. Rob, too, reported himself sunburn free. Mark, our host, already has a deep tan, so he used a sunscreen that didn’t have as high an SPF, with no ill effects. So, Polar to Solar was a success for us, as far as protection.

But Rob wasn’t crazy about the feel of the Ultra cream on his skin. He reported that it felt “sticky.” Joe said, “It was kind of thick. But since it was my first time out in the sun, I wanted that extra protection. I liked that it didn’t have much of a scent. And it turned invisible and dried right away.” As for me, I had doubts at first. I don’t really care for thick topical ointments like zinc oxide, but Vivesana won me over.

Value Added

I found another benefit last night, while working on this article. I rubbed some Ultra on one of my heels, which tend to be rough and cracked all summer. This morning, when I woke up, my Vivesana-coated heel was significantly softer than the one that hadn’t been coated. This isn’t the main selling point for the product, of course, but it is a wonderful added value. I also liberally rubbed the Ultra cream on my left arm last night, checking the way it felt, how long I thought it remained slightly sticky, and so on. This morning, even after showering, I was very surprised to note that my Vivesana-coated arm was soft and supple, compared to my un-coated arm. That was a very nice surprise.

Another friend, Shanti, who has lovely, dark, soft skin, tried both products on different hands. After a few minutes, I asked her what she thought. She pointed out that the Solar to Polar Baby sunscreen left her skin feeling even softer. The Solar to Polar Ultra was soft, too, but didn’t seem to have soaked in quite as much as the Baby formula. Once she pointed that out, I realized that I could also perceive a difference between the two.


Both the Vivesana Solar to Polar Ultra and Baby formulas have gentle scents, with the Baby sunscreen being the lighter of the two. As a person whose asthma is triggered by certain fragrances, I was grateful that these two caused no reaction. However, I definitely prefer unscented products, as do many people I know. This afternoon, Blue Planet Green Living’s new university intern, Megan, applied the Ultra to her arm and echoed my wish that the product be unscented. You may feel differently, of course — after all, there’s a thriving perfume industry, so my preference for no scent can’t be universal.

What’s Inside?

So, we know Solar to Polar works as a sunscreen, and that it even has side benefits in making skin softer. But what about the ingredients? Since the packaging says “70% Organic, 100% Natural,” I’d expect to see real plants listed, not a bunch of chemicals that I can hardly pronounce, let alone understand. And that’s exactly what shows up on the label.

The tube lists an impressive array of inactive natural ingredients that look like part of a recipe for something you might want to snack on (once you get past the Latin names):

* Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil
* Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oil
* Cera Alba (Beeswax)
* Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil
* Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil
* Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil
* Alumina (Natural Mineral)
* Stearic Acid (Natural Fatty Acid)
* Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil
* Glycerin
* Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E)
* Helianthus Anuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil
* Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract
* Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract
* Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract
* Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile)
* Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil
* Green Tea Fragrance (Natural)

The Active Ingredients can hardly be called appetizing:

* Titanium Dioxide — 8.5%
* Zinc Oxide — 3.5%

Checking the Database

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to check out ingredients in sunscreen. I couldn’t find Vivesana Solar to Polar in the EWG database, so I looked up the active ingredients, which I already knew EWG had rated as effective.

Here’s what the database’s has to say about zinc oxide and titanium dioxide:

Zinc has a long history of use in sunscreen and other skin care products; little absorption and no adverse health effects are reported. Some sunscreens with zinc contain nanoparticles which do not penetrate skin but may pose toxicity concerns if inhaled or in the environment….

Titanium dioxide has a long history of use in sunscreen and other products. It appears safe for use on skin, due to low penetration but inhalation is a concern. Some titanium sunscreens containing nano-size particles may have greater toxicity to body tissues and environment.

The last sentence concerned me a bit, until I did some more research on the EWG site. As it happens, nanoparticles haven’t been shown to penetrate healthy skin. Still, I don’t like the idea of nanoparticles in cosmetics, as it’s a bit early in the game to know their long-term results.

But it’s a moot point, according to the package the Vivesana sunscreen arrived in. The box label reads, “No Parabens. No Phthalates. No BPA. No Nanotechnology.” The website confirms all this, though I have to admit it’s a little disconcerting that I can’t find the same assurance on the tube itself. “No Nanotechnology” is conspicuously absent, though “No Parabens. No Phthalates. No BPA.” are all clearly marked.

According to the EWG, both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide run another risk, one that I hadn’t even considered: “Persistent and/or bioaccumulative, resisting normal chemical breakdown in the environment; building up in wildlife, the food chain, and in people; and lingering in body tissues for years, or even decades, after exposure.” Now that’s a scary warning. On the flip side, if these two chemicals are the best we have available, and they prevent skin cancer, it’s a trade-off we may have little choice but to make.

A Company with Soul

Business is business, and we all need to earn a living. But some companies come across in their advertising and their websites as being about much more than just making a buck. This is especially true, Joe and I find, with the ecopreneurs that we meet. By and large, they are as passionate about the planet and its inhabitants as they are about their own well-being. Vivesana seems to be no exception. Although we haven’t yet met the owner, Dan Signorelli, we are very impressed by his philosophy and his business. We’ll be chatting with Dan in the near future, and will share with you what we learn about his company, but I want to give you a taste of what you can find on the Vivesana website:

“Vivesana means “live healthy”. We began with doctors, teachers, artists, farmers, chefs, athletes, lawyers, moms, dads and little kids who take that motto to heart. We wanted safe, natural and effective products. We wanted labels we could trust. We wanted companies to have broader goals than the bottom line. [Read More]

Chemistry Without Chemicals

Starting from scratch is liberating. It’s where innovation is born.
We use photo-protective organic botanicals to triple the SPF provided by our natural minerals while providing deep moisturization. We use potent antioxidants to aid skin before, during and after sun exposure. We removed water, fillers and all synthetics. We were left with the first 70% organic high performance and baby sunscreen on the market, which also happen to be…

  • Stronger, with higher SPFs – by far – than all other all-natural sunscreens.
  • Greener, being the first high performance and baby sunscreen with over 70% organic, sustainably-farmed ingredients, and using domestic, BPA-free packaging
  • Clearer, due to relatively low mineral content and a high level of photo-protective organic botanicals
  • Safer, without synthetics, phthalates, parabens, nanotechnology, plastic tubes, or anything at all from China

A Discount for Blue Planet Green Living Readers

Vivesana is actively promoting their sunscreens among readers of certain eco-friendly blogs. They picked Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) to be one of the first sites to review their products. Even better, they’re offering a 25% discount for BPGL readers through June 30, 2009. Go to to learn more about their sunscreen products. Select the items you want, then at checkout, enter PROMO CODE: BPGL&vive25 to get your discount. Now, go enjoy the summer sun!

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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