Reviewed by Nina

Well, I love the idea of the Raw Elements Eco Stick Sunscreen SPF 30+ more than I love the stick itself. Eco Stick offers fantastic sun protection and warms the cockles of my all-natural heart, but it’s a battle to apply and while you fight sun damage with this product, you don’t look good in it. So I recommend this product, but with fair warning.

I’ll start with the good: Raw Elements Eco Stick is a water- and sweat-resistant, mineral-based, “balanced broad spectrum” organic sunblock. It’s chemical-free and the zinc oxide that makes up 22.5% of this stick is non-nano, so it stays on your skin where it belongs. The Raw Elements website claims that its proprietary Organic Eco-Shield also “provides the skin with unparalleled levels of active antioxidants and vitamins, which boost biological resistance to UV damage.” This proprietary shield is cooked up with organic sunflower oil, organic green tea, organic black tea, organic hemp seed oil, organic cocoa butter, all-natural mango butter, organic beeswax, all-natural candelilla wax, all-natural rosemary oil extract and all-natural vitamin E. All ingredients marked organic are USDA certified, and some quick research revealed these ingredients do protect against UV rays, either by partially blocking them (like SPF 6), or by boosting your skin’s natural defenses against UV damage and oxidation. I do suffer from sensitive skin, but for 30 days straight Raw Elements took care of me: no zits, no unsightly pores, no eczema. I put the “very” water- and sweat-resistant claims to the test, and Raw Elements stuck strong through a nice foot bath and an intense two-hour ballet class. As promised, it applies underwater, so find a bikini with pockets and stay in the ocean till the sun goes down!

Raw Elements was founded by lifeguard captain Brian Guadagno, and he’s likewise the inventor of Organic Eco-Shield Performance Technology™.  He found chemical sunscreens ineffective in preventing damage; plus, they often include controversial retinyl palimitate, considered by many to be photocarcinogenic (meaning it causes cancer when exposed to sun – a pretty awkward design flaw). After years of sunburns, Guadagno decided to develop his own line of sun-protection products. Now it makes sense that sun protection would weigh heavy on the mind of a man whose office is the beach, but perhaps less obvious (at least to me) is the effect sunblocks have on the ocean – apparently it’s terrible: chemical UV absorbers have been linked to bleaching coral reefs and ecosystems, and chemical blockers don’t biodegrade, so once they hit the ocean, they pollute in perpetuity. Thus educated, I’m officially committed to wearing Raw Elements at the beach – you’re welcome, Hawaii.

That said, it’ll take some effort, and I won’t be looking so good while wearing it. Raw Elements, though solid sun protection, is no beautifier and you don’t just slap it on. In fact, it can be pretty hard to apply. The directions say to rub the stick wherever the sun will shine, and enjoy lasting protection. In theory, great; in practice, it’s like drawing on your skin with a crayon. Eco stick is quite dry and dense, and it’s difficult to get a sufficient, let alone even, coating. And while a stick doesn’t exactly lend itself to assessing the recommended “one shot glass” serving size, you’ll know whether you’re getting it on or not, and I promise you, you’re not. It applied well enough to harder areas, such as my shoulders, neck and forehead, but it just barely skidded across my softer, more malleable facial skin - and even yanked it in ways that I’m sure weren’t anti-aging. And if you like a product that moisturizes as it protects, Raw Elements can’t help you there. Like most zinc-based products, it leaves a whitish coating, which, if you’re lighter-skinned like me, is not terrible. I’ve had some horrible encounters with products that left me looking like the ghost of an albino who died of hypothermia; whereas, Eco Stick just dimmed my golden glow (which I recreated with pressed powder and a peachy blush).

For darker-skinned readers wondering what it will do to your complexion, I test-drove Eco Stick on my dad, a beautiful, South Asian Indian man with mahogany skin that shines like, yes, polished wood (and all I got were the eyebrows). He’s anti-sunblock because he doesn’t want to look chalky and he fears the contamination of chemical-based products. But when I told him it was organic and in the name of a “writing job,” he agreed to be my model. He was pleased to note that it wasn’t greasy and that it didn’t irritate his skin. Unfortunately, it did leave a dulling and more obvious haze of zinc, though not the conspicuous chalk storm that other products leave behind. Powder or foundation may lessen the whitening effect.

Ultimately, Raw Elements is not my cosmetic one and only, but I do think it has a place in my life. So instead of lamenting its flaws, I’m working around them. My biggest issue was the sticky application situation and I’ve discovered a couple of ways to finesse it. One is to scrape off pieces of Eco Stick and then warm them in your hands. You’ve got to warm them for a while, but doing so achieves a smoother (though by no means liquid) application and allows you to apply enough for adequate protection. I’ve also experimented with applying it on top of another product, including Oil of Olay and Neutrogena sunblocks (I know, this kind of defeats the purpose, but the layers were thin). Best was a light layer of coconut oil, which allowed it to glide smoothly across my face and neck, but I imagine this is hardly ideal for most users, especially men who likely won’t be cutting the shine with powder. While it is arguable that layering could dilute the sun protection, I think this lubricant-base-coat approach actually gets more of the Eco Stick on your skin; plus, 22.5% is a whole lot of zinc – there’s probably a bit of wiggle room.

I recommend this product for outdoor enthusiasts whose priority is healthy skincare. You may struggle a bit to figure out how to use it and you’ll likely require compensatory makeup, but once you find a method that works, you’ll get lasting protection that won’t irritate your skin or the environment. And if the philosophy, but not the stick, appeal to you, Raw Elements also offers lotions, which I fully intend to try.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 22.75%, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Green Tea, Organic Black Tea, Organic Hemp Seed Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, All Natural Mango Butter, Organic Beeswax, All Natural Candelilla Wax, All Natural Rosemary Oil Extract, All Natural Vitamin E

*All Ingredients marked organic are USDA Certified Organic