Sun, sea and pesky UV’s


Mia Warren

Sustainability 101

June 28, 2021

Now that Summer is fast approaching many of us will be eagerly reaching for our swimming costumes, sunglasses and sunscreen to at last get some much-needed vitamin D after a year cooped-up indoors. But while it’s essential to stay safe in the sunshine we should also consider what’s really in our sunscreen.

There is a huge over-saturation of sun lotions and sprays with incomprehensible ingredients lists so the choice can at times can feel overwhelming. But fear not! We have a number of handy tips and insights to make the choice much more straightforward.

So which ingredients should we steer clear of? Well the main culprits are Oxybenzone, Homosalate and Octinoxate.

Beginning with Oxybenzone, this ingredient is found in a lot of over-the counter sunscreens because of its UV-blocking properties. But Oxybenzone has been linked with coral reef bleaching, for this reason Hawaii introduced legislation in 2018 banning the ingredient altogether. Beyond its harmful effects to marine life there is actually some evidence to suggest that Oxybenzone can cause a number of health complications for humans including hormone disruption.

Homosalate presents similar risks to the environment as it does not break down easily and potentially increases absorption of pesticides like bug sprays. To make matters worse, Homosolate only protects against UVB rays, not UVA’s. While there isn’t conclusive evidence linking Homosolate to coral bleaching this does not mean to say it’s totally off the hook either! Brands often take advantage of these under-researched ‘grey areas’ and slap meaningless qualifications like “reef safe” on their products in a desperate attempt to appear environmentally conscious, but in reality this certification is not regulated by the FDA which leaves companies plenty of wriggle room for a generous serving of greenwashing.

Last but certainly not least, Octinoxate has also been linked to a host of associated health risks and much like Oxybenzone evidence would suggest it is harmful to coral larval.

But it’s not all bad news! Brands like Goddess Garden have substituted these pesky chemicals with safer alternatives, opting for a titanium dioxide and zinc-oxide based formula thats free of harmful nano-particles. Both of these ingredients are naturally occurring; however zinc oxide is generally preferable as it protects against both UVB and UVA rays (double whammy).

So next time you’re in the drugstore shopping isle browsing the seemingly endless options of sunscreens and SPF values just remember harmful ingredients like Oxybenzone don’t only pose a risk to you but also our precious coastlines! Your best bet is to keep it natural with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Happy sunbathing! 

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