Seek Shade or Embrace the Sun? What to Look for in a Safe Sunscreen (HPC: E38)

Did you start to question the products you put on your kids’ skin once you were a mom? Meet Tatyana Cerullo, attorney and formulator of Kokua Suncare, who came to that realization as she saw the legal system behind the marketing.

We get so much conflicting information these days about whether the sun is something to hide from or embrace, what’s safe to apply on our skin, and how to manage it all. Now as a mom of 2, Tatyana brings a nice balance to the conversation.

Sunscreen is easy to buy, excruciatingly simple to spray on, but deadly hard to understand. Our family has personally tested over 100 kinds of mineral sunscreen, and Kokua is far and away one of the best! We’ll share our quick 2-minute “what to remember” for parents who want the best, healthy experience of life for their kids AND be able to run to the beach!

No time to watch the whole video? Here are the notes!

Embrace the Sun Video Time Stamps

  • 0:56: Tatyana Cerullo is an attorney from Hawaii, a former triathlete, a sunscreen formulator and most importantly, mom of 2 lovely children. She and her husband, an adventurous sailing/outdoor type, founded Kokua Suncare in 2017 and are fervent advocates of reef safety and human health when it comes to what we put on our skin to protect from the sun.
  • 1:53: Tatyana’s journey to being a sunscreen formulator began when she realized that the chemical sunscreens she grew up with just weren’t working, but she didn’t know of any alternatives.

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  • 2:48: When she went to law school she realized that the big sunscreen companies were motivated by profit. Human health and the environment are not their primary concerns. There are very few regulations about what can and can’t be in sunscreen and skincare products.

[The sunscreen] out there is not necessarily good for me. -Tatyana Cerullo

  • 4:13: This all culminated in Tatyana getting interested in healthier food, cleaning products and personal care products.
  • 4:38: After moving to Hawaii, Tatyana was training for triathlons and started trying all the natural sunscreens the local natural food store stocked. She couldn’t find anything she was happy with.
  • 5:54: When she met her husband, he was sailing around the world. He complained to her about how he kept getting burned using chemical sunscreens. Tatyana introduced him to natural sunscreens, but he also wasn’t pleased with the consistency and feel of the products.
  • 6:57: Once they started experimenting with their own sunscreen formulation, they quickly realized that sunscreen isn’t something you can just mix up at home. It’s classified as an over the counter drug and has certain rules required to claim SPF and effectiveness.
  • 8:21: Tatyana’s husband worked on boats when he first came to Hawaii. They actually had a rule that you couldn’t wear spray sunscreens because it could damage the plexiglass on the boat! 😮

I can’t believe that the very thing we’re supposed to be putting on our skin to protect us from the sun warps hard plastic. There must be some disconnect here. -Tatyana Cerullo

Chemical vs Natural Sunscreen

  • 9:25: There is a lot of conflicting information out there about sunscreens. Brands market to us in a way that sounds like strong scientific information in favor of the chemical sunscreens. How do we know what’s safe?

Within 20-30 minutes [chemicals from sunscreen] are in your blood and urine. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that that’s a scary thought. -Tatyana Cerullo

  • 10:36: A mineral based sunscreen creates a layer on your skin and deflects the sun off your skin rather than absorbing.
  • 11:14: Some people say we don’t need sunscreen at all because we need sun exposure. Others say that even if you wear sunscreen all sun exposure is bad. Tatyana talks about finding a balance for their family.

We embrace the sun, we don't hid from it. We just are smart about it. -Tatyana Cerullo

  • 12:05: Sun protective clothing is a great way to stay safe. Sunscreen can be used on smaller areas of the body.
  • 13:47: Do your kids complain that sunscreen stings their eyes? This all depends on which sunscreen you use, and most mineral sunscreens won’t sting. Tatyana specifically wanted to create a sunscreen that didn’t sting or burn.

Top Tips for Choosing a Sunscreen

  • 15:33: Tatyana shares her quick cheat sheet of things to look for and things to avoid when looking at sunscreen. You don’t want to miss this clip!
  • 16:24: Keep in mind that while a good quality natural sunscreen is more expensive, you will need to use less if you wear sun protective clothing and aren’t applying it to huge portions of your body.
  • 18:29: It’s smart to go out earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon to avoid the harsher midday sun.

Just because something says “natural” or “mineral” on the front doesn’t mean you don’t need to read the ingredients! A lot of companies are putting in just a little bit of zinc with all those other chemicals. -Katie Kimball

  • 19:28: There are more and more quality sunscreens coming on the market now. Kokua sunscreen was formulated over the course of 5 years to achieve the smooth, consistent feel of a moisturizing lotion. This is very difficult to find in a sunscreen containing 25% zinc oxide. They also don’t use beeswax which can be heavy on the skin.
  • 21:02: I can attest to the quality of Kokua. Our family has tested over 100 natural sunscreens and Kokua is one of the only ones we’ve finished in a summer because we keep reaching for that tube over the other options.

Little steps make a big difference. -Tatyana Cerulllo

  • 21:35: Chemical sunscreens are recommended to be reapplied every 2 hours. Mineral sunscreens often don’t need to be applied this frequently.

Oxidative Stress?

  • 23:22: The chemicals in conventional sunscreen create free radicals as they break down in your body. Even zinc oxide can create some free radicals when exposed to the sun. Kokua has included 23 antioxidant ingredients in their formula to pre-treat the skin and neutralize the free radicals before they can damage the skin.

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  • 25:00: Tatyana shares a bit about choosing to include Hawaiian based antioxidants in their sunscreen.
  • 25:48: We end with a message of hope for parents.

By using a good quality sunscreen you can make a huge difference in the health of your skin and your environment. -Tatyana Cerullo

Resources We Mention About Natural Sunscreen

Find all the Kitchen Stewardship sunscreen reviews.

Use the promo code KS for 15% off regular prices at

Also read our sun protective clothing reviews.

I talked to Tatyana about recent sunscreen legislation in this video.

Should You Stay in the Shade or Embrace the Sun?

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