I take my sun protection seriously. Very, very seriously. After all, what else is a red-headed island-dweller supposed to do? I didn't used to think very much about my sunscreen, as long as I didn't end up with a horrible sunburn. But after I learned the nasty truth about chemical sunscreens, I was a woman on a mission to find a sunscreen that not only kept me safe from the sun but that also had environmental benefits beyond simply being reef-safe. MANDA Organic Sun Paste ticks all of those boxes.
There are quite a few things that set MANDA apart from traditional sunscreen, one of which is its use of simple, natural ingredients. That means that it doesn't include harmful chemicals like oxybenzone and avobenzone, which have been proven to kill coral and have other detrimental environmental impacts. Instead, MANDA uses non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient, along with thanaka, and six other natural ingredients that are so safe, you could eat them. "It was extremely important for us to have a chemical-free solution - where you can pronounce all the ingredients in it," explains MANDA co-founder Reis Paluso. "We also wanted to create an 'organic' solution. Our formula includes over 70% organic ingredients; according to the FDA, you can’t get organic zinc oxide."
Before trying MANDA, I had never heard of thanaka, a plant-derived ingredient used in Myanmar for its high antioxidants, sun protective properties, and moisturizing effects. To be honest, I was a little bit skeptical. So I asked Reis just what it was about thanaka that intrigued them. "One of our co-founders spent a year in China," he says. "While he was there, he was doing weekend surf trips around Southeast Asia and came across Thanaka in his travels.... We researched it a bit more and added it to our formula. In fact, we are the first sun care product in the US to use it." By using thanaka, MANDA is also creating a more sustainable sunscreen. As Reis explains, "By supplementing our formula with Thanaka, we've been able to maintain the highest possible SPF rating, 50, while reducing the amount of mined minerals used - zinc oxide - which are obviously pretty detrimental to the environment via the mining process." There has not been much research done on thanaka, but MANDA is determined to test it and find out exactly what this special ingredient is capable of. MANDA also has plans in the new year to build a relationship with a local farmer in Myanmar to source their thanaka.
As I quickly discovered, a little of MANDA goes quite a long way. It really is like a paste, and it take a bit of getting used to, but it goes on nice and thick, so I know I'm covered. Literally. It's also refreshing to have a sun paste that is similar to my skin tone and not pure white. But when it finally does run out, I don't have to lament over what do with the packaging. That's because MANDA comes in a cute little wooden container that can be reused to store little trinkets later on and reduces the amount of plastic in our landfills and oceans.
But let's get down to the big question: How does this stuff actually perform? I've worn it on my face and neck during long boat days in the Maui sun, I've worn it while running errands, and I've worn it on many an outdoor adventure. It's a little sticky, but unlike most sun creams, this stuff really stays put. It may need a bit of reapplication here and there, but it is refreshing to consistently see it still on after a taxing day of sweat and saltwater. And I have no sunburn to speak of and no irritations to my sensitive skin.
The final consensus? MANDA's got me hooked.
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.