Waking up to sunrays streaming through the window is absolutely glorious. It brings on thoughts of a lazy brunch catching up with friends or an afternoon on the beach. As much as it is important for us to soak up those golden rays, too much of a good thing ends up being not so great for our skin.
That’s where sunscreen comes in; a way to enjoy those long summer days without suffering any of the consequences. As it turns out however, our beloved SPF might not be as safe as we think it is. It might not only be harming our health but may be negatively affecting marine life as well.
The problem with most sunscreens is that they contain a whole bunch of chemicals including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, avobenzone, parabens, phthalates, cocomide DEA…well, you get the point. The skin is the largest organ that we have. That means that all the sunscreen we slather onto our bodies doesn’t only affect use externally, but internally as well as it is absorbed into our bodies. These chemicals, and oxybenzone in particular, have been found to adversely affect the body. They disrupt hormones, contain carcinogens, allergens and other substances that irritate the skin. Sunscreen also disrupts the body’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D leading to deficiencies.
Another problem presents itself once we toss off our beach towels and head into the water to cool off. Some of the sunscreen we have applied inevitable washes off into the ocean. Statistics suggest that between 6,000 – 14,000 tons of sunscreen is coming into contact with coral reefs every year, leading to coral bleaching, deformity and even death of coral. This of course then affects the multitude of marine life that call these coral reefs home. In an effort to protect this aquatic ecosystem, sunscreen use has been banned in places like Hawaii, Key West and Palau.
Some brands have removed two of the most harmful chemicals in their sunscreens (oxybenzone and octinoxate) and have re-labelled them as reef safe. Although that is definitely a step in the right direction, there are still a lot of questionable products left in these sunscreens.
When looking for a safe sunscreen options to use, it’s advisable to ditch those that use chemicals to get the job done and instead turn to mineral-based alternatives. They use titanium dioxide as the main active ingredient set in a natural base. Because they provide a physical barrier to UV rays and not a chemical one, they are considered safer. Brands that are stepping up to the plate and providing healthier and more sustainable alternatives include, Soular Organics, Goddess Garden, Aina Love Essentials and Koa organics.
The best option however would be to cover up. Remember that basking in the sun in itself isn’t bad for you, and is actually necessary to get that Vitamin D production going. The problem is in over-exposure. So pack your natural mineral sunscreen, grab a hat, secure a position in the shade and don’t stay out there for too long.