Sustainable Living Challenge

Week 18: Fun in the Sun With Eco-friendly Sunscreen

It’s that time of year again!  The sun is out, the beach is calling, and so is the sunburn!  If you’re like me, summer is a mixed bag.  I love being outside, but I don’t tan.  The sun says “bippity boppity boo”, and suddenly I look like a humanoid lobster.  But did you know that many sunscreens contains chemicals that can harm our coral reefs?  It’s time to make the switch to eco-friendly sunscreen!

Protecting Our Skin, But Not the Planet

Most of the sunscreen you find at your local drugstore contains chemicals like Oxybenzone.  Recent studies have linked Oxybenzone with the bleaching of our coral reefs and even fish mortality.  Oxybenzone essentially lowers the temperature at which corals will bleach, and in a changing climate, this could dramatically increase the rate at which we lose our corals.  And of course, many of us are using sunscreen at the beach, meaning we are directly exposing our oceans to this harmful chemical.  Bleached coral reefs affect tourism, access to food, as well as the intrinsic value of incredible wildlife.  Oxybenzone is also toxic to algae, sea urchins, fish, and mammals.  And uh…humans are mammals…So we need to start paying attention.

Nano-technology is Better in Sci-Fi Movies

Nanoparticles are another concern when it comes to sun protection.  Some “mineral-based” sunscreens claim to be better for the environment.  However, they contain nano-particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  At a large enough size, these particles are not toxic.  However, some sunscreen products contain these compounds as nano-particles that are less than 35 nanometers in diameter.  At this size, these compounds interact with cells, harm fish, and again cause coral bleaching.  So in this case, size really does matter.

The Marine SafeZone Solution

Saving our corals is going to have to be a multi-step approach.  One of those steps could be done immediately.  The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) has proposed Marine SafeZones as a viable solution for keep harmful chemicals away from our coral reefs.  These zones can be established in any marine area and anyone visiting these zones is asked to avoid using toxic sunscreen as well as single-use plastic.  These zones could focus on protecting coral reefs, nurseries, and other important ecosystems.  They can also be used to promote awareness of marine conservation.

Who’s Taking Action?

Some states and countries are already stepping up to the plate when it comes to toxic sunscreen products.  Mexico is working to ban non-biodegradable sunscreen from its marine parks.  Hawaii recently approved a ban on Oxybenzone and Octinoxate.  Europe is also working to enact bans against these chemicals.  Even the National Park Service is on board with their new campaign, “Protect Yourself, Protect the Reef”.  People around the world are stepping up and making the switch to safer sunscreen options.  And this week, you can join the movement!

Hippie Homeowner Habits

Nobody enjoys sunburn.  So what can you do to protect yourself without harming the reefs?  Check out your eco-friendly sunscreen options!  While we are still improving our eco-friendly sunscreen, there are plenty of options out there that are free from Oxybenzone and nano-particles.  As I mentioned last week, I just purchased new sunscreen from Alba Botanica.  I bought their Baby Mineral sunscreen, which is spf 50+ and is free from Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and synthetic fragrances.  It’s biodegradable and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.  It’s also free from nano-particles!

Goddess Garden is another great option that I’ve seen in natural food stores.  Their non-nano sunscreens are also free from Oxybenzone and Octinoxate.  Even if you don’t see these particular brands, just make sure to read your labels.  Often, eco-friendly sunscreens will advertise that they are biodegradable and are free from Oxybenzone.  If you see something that fits that description, give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

Going the Extra Mile

If you really want to go the extra mile this week, think about covering up more.  Find yourself a nice wide-brimmed hat and a loose, long-sleeved shirt.  The less skin you have exposed, the less sunscreen you will need in the first place!  This may not be ideal for the beach, but think about it the next time you go for a hike!  And as usual, it doesn’t hurt to write your local congresswoman/ man asking for better regulation of these harmful chemicals!  If enough of us write in, they’ll have to start listening!

Thanks for reading!  Have some sunburn stories to share?  Leave a comment below and maybe I’ll share one of mine!  And if you like my writing, think about buying me a coffee by clicking the blue button below!

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