“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die” (Coach Carter, Mean Girls: 2004).
Being told to wear sun cream/screen/block is synonymous with wearing condoms for safe sex. We are told again and again that if we don’t use it/them then there will be very negative consequences i.e. cancer (and death according to mean girls).
Obviously, these are very extreme consequences, however, whether you are a sun seeker or a shadow hunter, sunscreen is very important to protect our delicate skin against UV rays.
There are two general types of sun-screen:
- Chemical – absorbs UV rays
- Mineral – reflects UV rays
So the first and most common on the list is chemical sunscreen. The chemicals used for SPF protection in chemical sunscreen are typically:
The second type of sunscreen is mineral sunscreen. The ingredients that provide SPF protection in mineral sun screens are:
- Zinc Oxide
- Titanium Oxide
Sunscreen and our body:
The FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) has raised concerns about the penetrating factors of these chemicals. A recent randomised clinical trial published on 06/05/2019 showed that every chemical tested (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule) absorbed into the bloodstream at a significantly higher rate than the FDA requires for safety regulations (0.5 ng/ml)1.
Oxybenzone has attracted the highest investigative interest and appears to be the most harmful to our health. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) the chemical oxybenzone is harmful to our bodies and they have labelled the chemical ‘highly hazardous’2. Oxybenzone can alter our bodies on a biochemical and cellular level as well as causing endocrine disruption.
Avobenzone is another common chemical ingredient in sunscreen. Despite being a relatively safe ingredient in regards to toxicity, avobenzone does not last long when expose to the UV. For this reason, sun screen manufacturers often combine avobenzone with octocrylene, in order for the product to be effective for a longer time period3. Numerous studies have shown octocrylene to be an endocrine disruptor4 5.
Titanium and zinc oxide are the only two active ingredients in sunscreen deemed to be “generally recognized as safe and effective” by the FDA6. Mineral sunscreens tend to lay on the skin and have been known to have a visibly white ‘cast’ look. Although titanium and zinc oxide are safe ingredients, make sure to look at other ingredients within the sunscreen, just in case any nasties are hiding!
Sunscreen and the Ocean:
Between 4000 and 6000 tons of sunscreen enters coral reefs every year. If you go into the ocean whilst wearing sunscreen, a certain amount will wash off your body and into the ocean.
A study published in February 2016 by Downs et al7, illuminates the harmful effects that sun screen can have on coral. The study found signs of distress and bleaching* emanating from coral that had been exposed to oxybenzone and octinoxate. Research has shown that the cause of the detrimental effects of these chemicals on marine life including coral and fish, is exactly the same as for humans; the disruption to the endocrine system8.
Interesting fact: In July 2018, Governor Ige passed Act 104 prohibiting the sale, offer of sale, and distribution of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate9. The bill was passed to protect Hawaiian marine life from the damaging properties of these chemicals.
There is insufficient data on mineral sunscreen’s effects on the oceanic eco-system and therefore I cannot comprehensively discuss its effects. Nevertheless, due to zinc and titanium oxide having far lower levels of toxicity is it unlikely that they would cause anywhere near as much harm as the chemicals previous discussed.
Another important factor to consider when purchasing sunscreen is the packaging it comes in. We all know that plastic is not good for the environment as a large proportion ends up in our oceans. Try and opt for sunscreen in non-plastic packaging if possible and always dispose of the packaging in the appropriate manner. NEVER leave plastic on the beach and if that beach bin is overflowing please** make a conscious effort to carry any plastic to the next bin.
Despite being effective protection against UV Rays, chemical sunscreen can harm our bodies, animals and the oceanic eco system. At present there appears to be insufficient knowledge and/or evidence to restrict these damaging chemicals from our sunscreen.
Nonetheless there does appear to be progress in regards to acknowledgement of the harmful effects of these chemicals. Examples being that the state of Hawaii has banned production and sale of these harmful chemicals, the increase in academic research into the subject as well as the recognition by the FDA that more.
On the grounds of the evidence discussed, we believe mineral sunscreen to be the logical choice of sunscreen. The ingredients are safe to our bodies and will most likely cause less harm to our oceans.
We highly recommend SHADETM sunscreen as it is a mineral sunscreen comprised of 4 ingredients:
- Coconut Oil
- Shea Butter
- Non-Nano Zinc Oxide
This sunscreen has an SPF of 25, is highly moisturising and is packaged in either a 100ml or 15ml aluminium tin. The product is also not tested on animals and is 72% organic.
We will be selling this sunscreen very soon! Pre-order on our website today and receive the item as soon as we have it in stock!
* “When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white”10.
** pretty please
References that have been numbered throughout the article also appear here.