Suntegrity Skin Care, the mineral sun care line that is making headlines due to its unique formulation that is both safe and effective, started as founder Tricia Trimble’s thesis project. It has since burgeoned into a top-rated, Environmental Working Group-recommended company that produces products that are natural, healthy and holistic. I spoke to Tricia about the ingredients she uses in her line, her personal encounter with skin cancer and the future of Suntegrity.

What were you doing prior to creating Suntegrity? How did you make the transition to developing a mineral sun care line?

I started my career as a CPA and absolutely hated it. I went to see a recruiter who actually recruited me to be a recruiter in the field of finance and accounting. I did that for 9 years; I co-owned a company, and we were doing quite well.

I’ve always been big into personal development. So, I asked myself, “Am I living life with passion?” And I thought, “No, not really!” The people I was recruiting wanted jobs, but weren’t really passionate about finance or accounting. I felt like I wasn’t being of service anymore. I knew this was no longer what called to my heart to do as a career. But, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do instead. What I did know is that I liked spas and nurturing people. So, I sold my shares of the company, along with my condo, and I decided to go back to school. I got my esthetician license and a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology with an Emphasis in Consciousness, Health, and Healing from the University of Santa Monica.

Part of my Masters Degree final project, similar to a thesis, was to evaluate opening a spa to see if it was something I really wanted to pursue as a career and to start by opening an online beauty boutique (Beauty Intuition), which features eco-chic, indie brands that help you look good, feel good and are good for you.

In the third year of my Master’s program, my final project was to develop my own sun care line: Suntegrity Skincare. The line officially launched in September 2010.

What exactly sparked the idea for Suntegrity?

My mom passed away from skin cancer, which left me with a lot of grief that I didn’t know how to process at the time. She moved away to Canada when I was 12, so I didn’t see her much – maybe a couple of times a year. Part of the goal of my final project at school was really to heal the grief that stemmed from my mom’s passing.

When I began working on Suntegrity, I put the same quote on each product and signed it: “Suntegrity was made in honor of my Mom and all of those who lost their lives to skin cancer. May you use this product and smile in their memory.” The quote is meant to be like one of those wristbands that people wear for the awareness of different causes.The goal is to have much more awareness about skin cancer so it can be prevented. Also, every time you apply the sunscreen, you’ll remember someone you love. Every time I put it on, I think of my mom. Even if my consciousness is of a loving nature for only the 15 seconds that it takes to put on Suntegrity, I know I’m spreading love.

After you had the idea for Suntegrity, what was the process like in making it happen? How long did it take to go from concept to reality?

It has taken me about 4 years to take this from concept to reality. I’ve wanted to create a sunscreen for a while, but finding a chemist to make it was difficult. The concept arose in 2006, but I didn’t really pull it off until 2010.

Did you reach out to scientific authorities in order to begin developing Suntegrity?

I talked to many chemists about my ideas and got nowhere at first. All of them kept saying they couldn’t do it with the specific ingredients I wanted to incorporate. I then met a formulator who helped me with the Sun Defense Dietary Supplement, and then introduced me to a chemist he had used in the past. We worked with him to develop a sunscreen that only used ingredients with low toxicity ratings by the EWG. Because we use water in our formula, we had to use preservatives and he said essential oils wouldn’t be enough. We chose preservatives with the lowest toxicity ratings by the EWG – no parabens and no phenoxyethenol.

Where does the name “Suntegrity” come from?

Suntegrity has a double meaning: Sunscreen made with integrity & Sunscreen that maintains the integrity of your skin.

Suntegrity received top ratings for it’s sunscreens by the Environmental Working Group. What makes your company special and different from other companies that focus on sun care?

The main difference is that Suntegrity is a holistic line, meaning that it treats the body as a whole, from both the outside-in and the inside-out. From the outside-in, we have topical face and body sunscreens with safe formulations, and for the inside-out, we have a dietary supplement that provides the body with beneficial antioxidants that help protect against UV damage and photoaging, along withVitamin D3 that your body can’t make if you are wearing sunscreen.

Another thing that separates us from other sun care lines is the uplifting scent of our sunscreens. Our face and body sunscreens use select essential oils for a light citrus scent without using artificial fragrances. A lot of other sunscreens tend to smell bad, especially a lot of the natural ones.

Suntegrity also absorbs into the skin without leaving a white residue and it also contains several antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, so it not only helps block out the sun’s damaging rays, but it also hydrates the skin.

Personally, I love pretty packaging because it makes me feel good and makes me excited to use a product. I took a lot of time collaborating with an amazing designer and we chose colors that are appealing universally to women, men and children and opted for a sophisticated airless pump for the face sunscreen to prevent oxidation.

Another unique thing about Suntegrity is the personal quote on every bottle. It is my hope that people will connect with their heart every time they read the quote on the bottle and move into the consciousness of loving as I do when I apply Suntegrity and think of my Mom.

One of the most unique things about the company is the Suntegrity Sharing Circles. Developing Suntegrity surfaced years of ungrieved emotions over the loss of my Mom and through sharing my story, I have slowly been able to feel through the emotions and heal the loss. Through this experience, I realized just how important sharing is to the healing process and I was inspired to create Suntegrity Sharing Circles to provide a loving space where honest and open sharing and caring can occur. If you know anyone who has lost their Mom and could benefit from our sharing circles, please have them email us and/or check our website for the next sharing circle. We are starting locally in Marina del Rey, but hope to expand to other cities as the brand grows.

Have you gotten other press, besides Truth in Aging and backing from the EWG?

So far, we’ve been featured in Campus Circle Magazine and several online blogs. We’re also slated to be featured in the April issue of InStyle Magazine and the June issue of Women’s Health where we’ve been nominated for the Best of Beauty Awards.

On your website, it says that Suntegrity is a “natural, healthy and holistic mineral sun care line.” How do you accomplish this?

We accomplish this by using non-toxic ingredients, avoiding chemical UV absorbers and treating the body as a whole by having products that work from the inside-out and outside-in.

There's no legal definition for natural when applied to a cosmetic. Natural is a marketing term that means many different things to many different people. For me, natural means safe. That is my definition of the word. I think people buy natural products because they want something safe and non-toxic. Suntegrity sunscreens use ingredients originally derived from plants and minerals, in addition to using one of the safest preservatives on the planet (polyaminopropyl biguanide) which is used in eye wash solutions.

Why do you think there is so much controversy surrounding other sunscreens, especially in terms of ingredients? How have you been able to create a quality product with stellar ingredients, while other companies seem to be lagging behind?

Most of the well-known sunscreen brands use chemical UV absorbers because they’re cheaper and easier to formulate with. The companies using chemical UV absorbers also make a lot of high SPF claims. The controversy is about the toxicity of those types of ingredients, as well as the false sense of security that is given to the consumer when they are using high SPF sunscreens. No sunscreen protects you 100% which is why we recommend staying out of the sun during peak hours and wearing a hat and proper protective clothing when possible.

The sunscreen market is different than the regular skincare market because if a product makes an SPF claim like ours does, it is considered an over the counter drug (OTC) and regulated by the FDA. This involves a lot more work and costs due to special label and testing requirements. We work with an OTC certified lab and a very knowledgeable chemist and spend most of our money on the product and the packaging versus PR and marketing.

What ingredients will I find in Suntegrity that are particularly noteworthy?

In the Face Protection you’ll find red algae extract, which reduces irregular pigmentation and is rich in antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, phyto-hormones, and essential fatty acids. You’ll also find astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid found in algae and a powerful antioxidant with up to 500 times higher efficacy than vitamin E. In both the face and body sunscreens, you’ll find hyaluronic acid, pomegranate oil, tea oil, and cucumber extract which are all powerful antioxidants that are great for the skin.

Why did you choose zinc oxide as your active ingredient?

Zinc oxide has a reputation for being the best physical block ingredient that covers the full UVA/UVB spectrum, so it not only helps protect you from burning, but it also helps protect you from the sun’s damaging rays that cause wrinkles and skin cancer. I only wanted to use physical mineral block ingredients, not chemical UV absorbers, which made my only two choices zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. There is some research that shows that titanium dioxide may be photocatalytic and absorb UV radiation in its uncoated form. So I decided to go with zinc oxide, which is purely a physical block that reflects UV rays. Zinc oxide also covers a broader UV spectrum range, has anti-irritant properties and less opacity as compared to titanium dioxide.

What ingredients will I not find in Suntegrity products?

Chemical UV absorbers, nano-particles (under 100 nanometers), parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oils, synthetic dyes, and sulfates.

I find that a lot of sunscreens tend to be greasy or chalky, especially on darker skin tones. How does Suntegrity avoid this?

Some natural sunscreens use titanium dioxide or a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which leaves a whiter residue and more chalkiness than plain zinc oxide does. It also has to do with the size of the zinc particles being used. If you use particles that are smaller than 100 nanometers, then the consistency won’t be chalky at all, but it will be nano-sized, and there is some concern about nanoparticles being able to penetrate the blood stream. We use zinc oxide with a particle size of 220 nanometers so it’s small enough to blend into the skin, but it’s well above the 100 nanometer mark so it won’t penetrate the blood stream.

I assume that Suntegrity is your sunscreen of choice; what were you using before you created the line? Do you feel that any other sunscreens are on par with Suntegrity?

At first I used chemical sunscreens until I learned how bad they are for you. Then I tried a variety of natural sunscreens, but didn’t really love any of them. There always seems to be something off with either the consistency, the scent, or the use of nanotechnology. If I were going swimming, I’d probably use UV Natural Adult SPF 30 sunscreen since it is waterproof and uses a high zinc oxide content. With Suntegrity, I decided to create a sunscreen for everyday use, as opposed to a waterproof one. Most of the sunscreens that got top ratings from the EWG are waterproof because they are anhydrous (contain no water) and, therefore, don’t require preservatives. However, because they don’t use water in the formula, they often have a thick, greasy, and sticky consistency. I wanted to make something that people would feel comfortable wearing daily.

Tell me about the Sun Defense Dietary Supplement – how does the supplement work to keep people safe from the inside out?

I first got the idea for the Dietary Supplement when I was on vacation in Australia and saw a sun supplement with astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant with up to 500 times higher efficacy than vitamin E. I then met a formulator who had experience working with antioxidant formulas. I had done a lot of personal research on the ingredients known to aid in UV protection (polypodium extract, astaxanthin, lutein, beta carotene), so I combined my knowledge of these ingredients with his knowledge of antioxidants and Vitamin D3 and we came up with Suntegrity Sun Defense. It features a combination of ingredients that help strengthen the body’s ability to protect itself against sun damage and aging from harsh UV rays and it has 1000 IU’s of Vitamin D3 per capsule, so you get that critical vitamin you won’t be making if you are wearing sunscreen.

There are two main points of debate about wearing sunscreen. One is that most sunscreens contain harsh chemicals that do more harm than good. We’ve taken care of that issue with our zinc oxide based, non-toxic sunscreen formulas. The second issue is that if you wear sunscreen, it will prevent you from making Vitamin D3, which you normally make when you are in the sun. There is a significant amount of research showing a link between lack of vitamin D3 and increased cancer risk. So, it’s a catch 22. You need to go in the sun to make Vitamin D3, but then if you are in the sun, you risk getting skin cancer. When I found out you can take vitamin D3 internally, I decided to make a supplement with Vitamin D3 in addition to other UV protecting antioxidants to solve the whole dilemma.

What do you foresee as being the next big breakthrough in sun care?

I’ve read about new technologies that will allow you to detect skin cancer without having to have a doctor perform surgery to remove a sample of your skin. There’s also a laser on the market that can supposedly detect melanoma better than doctors can. And, most recently, they introduced an iPhone application that allows you to detect cancerous moles.

Certain ingredients that have been in the spotlight lately are watercress and tea tree oil that might have a role in protecting against skin cancer, but more research still needs to be done.

What does the future hold for Suntegrity? Any new products being introduced?

We are currently working on a lip balm that will hopefully be introduced sometime next year. We’re also thinking about making a tinted version of the face sunscreen, a self-tanner, and a powder sunscreen for the face, which would be great for reapplying throughout the day, particularly over makeup.

Find Suntegrity products in the TIA shop