If you’ve traveled to a tropical beach destination, slathered yourself in sunscreen and gone snorkeling, you’re probably not aware your sunscreen could be harming you AND the coral reef!
There are two types of sunscreen, physical (mineral) sunscreens that form a protective barrier and reflect and scatter away harmful UV rays, and chemical sunscreens that absorb the UV light before it can damage the skin.
For decades the message has been clear is that sunscreen is essential to protect from the sun’s harmful UV rays and ward off skin cancer, and the literally tons of sunscreen slathered on, make their way in to the ocean and waterways at an estimated 14,000 tons per year!
Studies have identified these chemical sunscreen filters such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and ethlhexyl salicylate in water sources all around the world. These filters are not easily removed by wastewater treatment techniques and have been proven to be literally bleaching coral reefs, in danger of eradication.
Worse, UV filters have been found in fish species worldwide, with devastating consequences for the food chain. The issue is grave, and to date seven countries and territories have taken action and banned chemical sunscreens, Hawaii, Key West, Palau, Mexico, Bon Aire, Aruba and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If that’s the damage to the environment, can you imagine the damage these chemicals are doing to your body?
Typically, chemical sunscreens contain a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
According to the Environmental Working Group, a proposal is in the works to update the rules in the US governing safe ingredients in cosmetics and sunscreens which is what overdue. In the late 1970’s when the FDA began to consider sunscreen safety, it grandfathered in active ingredients without reviewing evidence of their potential hazards!
According to the agency, “Nearly all of these sunscreen active ingredients … have limited or no data characterizing their absorption.” In 2019 and 2020, FDA published two studies showing that the ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after a single use (Matta 2019, Matta 2020). The FDA also found that the sunscreen ingredients could be detected on the skin and in blood weeks after application ended (Matta 2020).
These findings are troubling, because they show that sunscreen chemicals are circulating in the blood, and the FDA has indicated that the agency does not have enough information to determine whether the chemicals are causing harm.’
ALL of these ingredients have been linked in studies to hormone disruption, thyroid problems and behavioral issues. Compelling evidence to ditch the chemicals and switch to safer options!
Safer Sun Care
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the better option is the category of physical (mineral) sunscreen, which deflects and scatters the sun’s rays with the help of zinc oxide.
Zinc oxide has no evidence of causing hormone distruption, however, many brands contain mineral nano particles, so small that they make their way into the bloodstream!
This is why my top pick for a mineral sunscreen is the Beautycounter brand, they say no to nano particles which could enter the body through the skin or inhalation. Plus, the products are fabulous, and work without leaving you looking pale and streaky! (they even have a tinted sunscreen).
A couple of other notable brands are :
Why it’s important to GO BARE!
I’ve spent this whole article convincing you to wear safer sunscreen, and now I’m going to tell you to go without it…. For a short period of time anyways!
Hear me out!
I once had the good fortune to hear a brilliant scientist, Dr Stephanie Seneff, speak on the relationship between the sun and our Vitamin D levels.
It turns out that Vitamin D, produced in response to UVB exposure, kills melanoma cells! Yes, the very sun we have been told to avoid at all costs, may, in conservative amounts, actually be beneficial to our health.
This study suggests that moderate amounts of sun exposure has beneficial, anti-cancer properties. The trick is to get a good dose of midday sun, which is when you receive good levels of UVB.
It is key is not to sunburn, and to begin in very small doses. If you’re still not convinced, this article provides great further reading.
- Start slow, begin with small increments of time outdoors, at midday, when your body will be exposed to Vitamin D producing UVB rays
- Don’t shower immediately! Your skin produces cholesterol sulfate which converts to Vitamin D
- Wear safe sunscreen for prolonged exposure