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Sunscreen: The Good and the Bad

Not all sunscreens are created equal. In this post, I'll tell you what to avoid and which sunscreens are a better choice for you and the environment.

Summer is officially here, and so are sunburns. Going full lobster mode can be avoided though by the mild inconvenience of just applying sunblock. I get it though, a lot of sunscreens are thick, gooey, smell awful and leave you feeling like an oil slick. So what can you do about it without compromising the safety of your skin?

Believe it or not, there are sunscreens on the market, both for your body and your face that will protect your skin without leaving you feeling sticky and gross. As a freckle-faced, red-haired ginger woman, I can confirm these products exist.

Keep reading to learn about the best sunblocks on the market and why they're so good. There's an array of ingredients that are often put in sunblocks that just aren't necessary for you or the planet. In fact, there are some ingredients that are often placed in sunblocks that actively harm the environment. That's a big no-no!

Sooo...What should you avoid in a sunblock??

There are several chemicals that are bottled into sunblock that really don't need to be there. These include:

  • Oxybenzone

  • Octinoxate

  • Homosalate

  • Avobenzone

  • Octocrylene

There are more and the list is evolving as more research is done regarding the impact of these ingredients on both marine environments and humans. I pulled the listed ingredients above from a few helpful sites that I'll link here and here.

It's a good idea to check these sites, and others, when considering purchasing a new sunblock. While it's uber important to protect our skin from the sun's harmful rays, it's also important to protect our environment and the animals that live in it. Just because we haven't evolved past the need for sunblock, doesn't mean we should punish the other creatures that have!

What the heck are all those long ingredient names and what's so bad about them?

Let me break it down for you.

  • Oxybenzone- As of 2019, says it could possibly disrupt the endocrine system of the body, especially in young children. This needs to be studied more, but in a rat study where high doses of Oxybenzone were exposed to the rats, it was shown to block vital hormone processes in the body relating to growth and development, thyroid, sexual development, and metabolism. says in a quote from Jamie Alan, Ph.D., “We don't know if it's clinically significant.” regarding hormone-blocking via Oxybenzone. Really though, why take the risk? Oxybenzone also is more likely to irritate the skin and leave you with a rash or burning sensation. Not the feeling you want when you're trying to reduce the feeling of a burn! Overall, this is potentially harmful to humans and marine life alike and should probably be avoided.

  • Octinoxate- This is right up there with Oxybenzone when it comes to potentially harming the endocrine system and marine life. Did you know several countries have already banned this ingredient from being put into sunblocks? What are we waiting for?!

  • Homosalate- According to EWG (which is just a great resource in general), Homosalate, similar to Oxybenzone, could potentially disrupt hormones within the body. However, there is insufficient data to sway the FDA from changing its stance on it. The European Commission has warned against it in high doses though. They suggest anything above 1.4% could be potentially harmful.

  • Avobenzone- This is a commonly used organic filter that provides protection from UVA rays but beware, Avobenzone is less stable than your ex and needs stabilizers to work properly. It's those stabilizers that can cause issues.

  • Octocrylene- This absorbs into the skin at a rate of about 14 times higher than the FDA cutoff for systemic exposure! Wild, right? The FDA still states it isn't enough to determine whether or not it's classified as safe and effective though. Seems fishy to me. Speaking of fish, this is another ingredient that is harmful to coral reefs and marine life. Be mindful if you do have this in your bottle of block and leave it at home if you're going to the ocean. Look for something that is actually 'reef safe' instead.

In addition to these chemicals, there's another thing you should consider, especially if you live in or are traveling to a place where there are reefs that you may come into contact with while swimming, snorkeling, or while doing any other water-based activity.

I visited Hawaii earlier this year, and one thing they don't tell you when you visit is that there are ingredients banned in Hawaii that are proven to harm the marine life there; Avobenzone, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, and Octinoxate. They don't tell you this on the plane and they don't tell you this when you go to the store. Sunblocks are regularly mislabeled as 'reef safe' when in fact they still include those harmful ingredients. Be sure to do your research wherever you go to see what chemicals are banned in your location and double-check the ingredient list before you buy something!

Save the fishies!!!

What products can you use then?

Here are the best sunscreens you can use. Don't worry, I double-checked and they do not have any potentially harmful ingredients in them.

Protecting yourself from the sun is important in the coming summers. Climate change is radically altering the planet's temperatures and increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters around the world. The west coast just this year of 2021, experienced record-breaking temperatures reaching 110+ degrees just after the first days of summer. It's not boding well that things will cool down anytime soon.

Protect your skin and the planet with conscious choices you can make every day.


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