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WELLNESS

What MOTHER SPF Founder Tandia Walsh Wants You To Know About Sunscreen

Tandia Walsh is founder of MOTHER SPF, an Australian-made all-natural sunscreen, and has expert tips on staying safe in the sun plus an exclusive 20% discount code.

Motorbike rides through the bush, skurfing behind dinghies along Cable Beach, and camping against the shadow of Cape Leveque’s magnificent red cliffs. Growing up in Broome, Western Australia, Tandia Walsh had an extraordinary childhood, completely immersed in nature.

Her parents owned a local pearl farm, where Tandia spent endless summers mud-crabbing – an experience that inspired her choice to study science, majoring in marine biology.

“My dad worked hard and taught me the importance of taking risks in life to grow,” Tandia tells The Inarra. “He also reminded me of adventure and spirit. I have memories of my father and I swimming between creeks in crocodile-infested waters. He instilled a sense of fearlessness in me, which gave me the strength to start my own business.”

In late 2019, Tandia founded MOTHER SPF, an all-natural mineral sunscreen brand. The idea came about four years earlier, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, having previously battled melanoma. 

During her mother’s treatment, Tandia cleared any harmful skincare products from the bathroom shelf, leading to the life-changing discovery that many SPF brands contain questionable ingredients.

“To learn that the personal care industry, which is supposed to protect us, allows potentially harmful ingredients in our everyday products felt like the ultimate betrayal,” Tandia recalls. “Skincare and beauty companies are aware that these chemical ingredients have inadequate long term safety data available on humans and animal studies have shown them to be  associated with numerous health issues, from infertility to cancer, and out of all skincare items, SPF is one of the worst offenders.”

“Mineral sunscreens, however, have been approved,” she continues. “After struggling to find a mineral sunscreen that used safe, sustainable ingredients that nourish the skin and don’t compromise on aesthetics, I decided to investigate making my own.” 

Tandia drew upon her background in science to develop ideas for her sunscreen brand. With the guidance of a cosmetic scientist, she began investigating competitors on the market and playing around with different mineral formulas at home. 

“I worked out which ingredients are needed to make an SPF, and more importantly, which aren’t necessary,” she says. “The way I see it, skincare should be exclusively about caring for the skin – its hydration, structural integrity, safety, and protection.”

“Just because a sunscreen is labelled a ‘kids’ sunscreen’ doesn’t necessarily mean its ingredients are suitable for sensitive skin. The formulation isn’t any different to an ‘adult sunscreen’.”
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MOTHER Face and Body SPF

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MOTHER Face Barrier SPF

But Australia is renowned for its strict sunscreen regulations, which makes the process time-consuming – stability testing alone can take up to nine months. After four years of rigorous research and testing, MOTHER SPF launched with one game-changing product: Face and Body SPF 30

Now, the brand sells a range of products, from Tinted Touch Up SPF and Skin Tint Primer to The Mother Of Pearl, anti-pollution peptide drops designed to mix with your moisturiser before sunscreen for a sun-kissed glow.    

MOTHER SPF is Australia’s first sunscreen brand to offer tinted solutions in 100% recyclable, refillable packaging, and the company has also been certified carbon neutral since 2021 by Trace, an achievement Tandia is particularly proud of.  

“A lot of time and effort was invested to achieve this certification. It’s just me on team MOTHER SPF. I wanted to bring out lots of new products, but I decided to forgo launching them sooner so that I could put cash flow towards being certified carbon neutral instead. Expanding the MOTHER SPF range can wait, but mother nature can’t.” 

One of the only natural SPF brands on the Australian market, the brand ensures all ingredients are ethically sourced, biodegradable, and organic where possible. As part of this mission, MOTHER SPF steers clear of silicones – often added to beauty and skincare products for texture enhancement – GMO and palm-derived products. 

It’s interesting to note that zinc oxide, the UV active in mineral sunscreens such as MOTHER SPF, is a natural anti-inflammatory and is the main ingredient in nappy rash cream.   

“All our formulations are suitable for the whole family. We only use ingredients with long-term safety data available and have not been shown to absorb into the bloodstream,” Tandia explains. 

“Common skincare ingredients, including some of the chemical actives used in suncare, have been found in breast milk and umbilical cords, so if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, I’d recommend using natural skincare and mineral sunscreens where possible.”

But with a wide breadth of sunscreens on the market competing for a place in our shopping basket, what should families look for in the ingredients list?  

“Just because a sunscreen is labelled a ‘kids’ sunscreen’ doesn’t necessarily mean its ingredients are suitable for sensitive skin,” Tandia explains. “The formulation isn’t any different to an ‘adult sunscreen’.”

“Every sunscreen in Australia must state the active ingredients on the bottle and you want to ensure that the only active ingredient listed is zinc oxide if you have sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens work by being absorbed into the skin and undergoing a chemical reaction,” she continues. 

“It’s during this chemical reaction that skin irritation can occur and may cause heat within the skin – an issue for children with rosacea or heat-sensitive skin conditions.”

Unlike chemical sunscreens, mineral SPF doesn’t absorb into the skin and instead sits safely on its surface. As with any sunscreen, Cancer Council recommends reapplication every two hours – sooner if you have been sweating or swimming. Tandia also advises a UV app such as SunSmart, which determines UV level and sun protection times.

“Remember that SPF is only one part of the equation and should not be your only form of protection. It’s illegal in Australia to call your SPF a sunblock as no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays,” she says. “Rashes, hats, shade, and sunglasses are also important.”

After a busy few years, MOTHER SPF has risen to meteoric success, all thanks to its commitment to health, the environment, and incredibly chic – refillable, may we add – packaging. MOTHER SPF is now widely known as one of Australia’s leading all-natural sunscreens. So, what can we expect next from the brand? 

“For four years, Face and Body SPF 30 was the only product we sold whilst continuing to work hard behind the scenes to complete extensive SPF testing on all future formulations,” Tandia says. “These new, exciting formulations have finally completed testing and will gradually roll out over the coming year.”

 We can’t wait. 

MOTHER SPF is offering THE INARRA readers 20% off sitewide until 31st April 2024. Use discount MOTHERLOVESINARRA20 at checkout. Visit the Mother SPF website or follow @motherSPF on Instagram for updates.  

Words by Danielle Fowler

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