This Florida "Essential" Kills Reefs and Probably Poisons Consumers. Are There Alternatives?
Have you ever wondered what's in sunscreen as you smear it on your skin? Sure, there's an ingredients list, but what do those long, complicated words mean for both you and the environment? Sun protection is absolutely essential in Florida, especially with the summer months upon us, but is sunscreen the protection we need? Is it safe?
This article looks at the impact of sunscreen on the environment and your health, plus takes a look at some alternatives.
Sunscreen is bad for the environment.
As more research goes into what we're putting on our skin and the world gets more sunscreen savvy, it's no secret that oxybenzone and octinoxate (two of the most common and accessible ingredients in sunscreen) cause a massive amount of damage to marine life and coral reefs.
In fact, Hawaii had already banned the use of those ingredients in sunscreen back in 2018. Since then, many sunscreen companies are trying to replace them, making their sunscreen free of that nasty duo. However, there are other chemicals in our favorite sunscreens that could potentially harm our planet.
Dr. Craig A. Downs, director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, speculates that other, less-researched chemicals in sunscreen can also cause harm to our reefs and waters.
“Even if you have something relatively safe, having 5,000 people getting into the water at a single beach, the oils from most sunscreen products can induce toxicity.”
This is compacted when people gather at popular beaches and swimming spots and layer on the sunscreen, creating areas more saturated than others as the chemicals leek off our skin and into the water.
Sunscreen chemicals linger in your blood.
In addition to the chemical toxicity of sunscreen on our beloved environment, I'm sure you've thought to yourself at least once, "I wonder what this is doing to my skin and body..."
Well, you're not the only one. Countless research has been done on most products we put on our skin, including sunscreen. In 2020, the FDA did some additional testing on sunscreen and found that six common ingredients in our lotions may linger in the body for days or even weeks.
Those six ingredients are:
In addition, the FDA testing showed that just one application of sunscreen increased those six lingering ingredients spiked in the blood beyond the limit the FDA deems already safe...and therefore requires additional testing. So basically, they can't say for certain if those heightened levels are safe or unsafe.
Dr. Vij, a dermatologist, commented on the study.
“It’s a little bit scary because we just don’t know what the biological effect of sunscreen in your blood is."
What are alternatives for sun protection?
Dr. Vij says that sunscreen is only one small step in sun protection. He offers several other tips, including avoiding sun exposure between eleven in the morning and four in the afternoon, as this is when UV radiation from the sun is at its strongest. Some of his tips, plus some others, are:
- Avoid sun exposure between 11 am and 4 pm.
- Limit sun exposure if you have a family history of melanoma or burn easily.
- Use clothing with a UPF factor for sun protection.
- Use mineral-based sunscreens when applicable.
Definitely protect your skin, especially in the Sunshine State! However, next time you buy sunscreen, consider the ingredients and implement some other protective measures too.