Summer is time for fun in the sun! Being a native Floridian, this means beaches, surfing, snorkeling, springs, kayaking, and more. Also, being a naturally pale girl who likes to live on the spooky side of fashion, I tend to burn in less than 10 minutes of direct sunlight. Eek! In the past, I have been known to wear copious amounts of SPF 50+. However, in recent years, I've tried to dial back my dependence on chemicals based products. Making my own skin care products, shampoos, household cleaners, etc. This has translated to my SPF usage as well. And bonus! It's better for our environment.
So I started to watch my personal chemical consumption before I ever read a thing about the impact of SPF chemicals on coral and other, fragile, ecosystems. But the more I read, the more resolved I am to stick to all natural methods. Not only are there quite a few common chemicals found in sunscreen that are easily absorbed into the human body, that can potentially cause problems. But there are also a number of these chemicals that cause some serious damage to coral, fish, and other marine life. Quite often, they are the same chemicals. A number of these harmful chemicals have had minimal testing done because the FDA grandfathered them in without testing in the 1970's, because they had already been in use. Of these, Oxybenzone is one of the most concerning as it has been shown to cause problems in the endocrine system,not only in humans, but also in coral, sea urchins, fish, and several marine mammals.
So how do you know if a sunscreen is safe? Even mineral sunscreens can contain harmful substances, and the term “reef friendly” is not regulated, so the best thing to do is to read the label. Avoid products that include the following ingredients:
- ethylhexyl salicylate
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if the label doesn't say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
- Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”
It's also a good idea to stick to lotions, especially avoid sprays as some of the natural ingredients can still be harmful if inhaled. Of course, one of the better options is to make your own sunscreen so you know exactly what goes in it. Wellness Mama has a great recipe here, check it out!
There are other measures you can take to help keep your skin from getting burnt. Wearing protective clothing and hats can do a world of good for helping to keep you safe from the harsh sun. Stay in the shade during the brightest/hottest part of the day, or avoiding being outside at that time is another strategy. But my favorite strategy is to optimize your diet. Avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as processed vegetable oils, processed grains, and excessive amounts of sugar. Focus on consuming foods that support healthy skin, such as:
- Foods High in Vitamin D3 (mushrooms, fish, egg yolks)
- Foods High in Vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, chili peppers)
- Coconut Oil
- Omega-3's (healthy seeds and nuts, brussels sprouts, fish)
I hope I have raised your awareness about sunscreen, and given you a few strategies to help you during this summer. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below. If you have anything you'd like to see me write about, please let me know! Also, find my YouTube channel and check out my videos. And Become a Patron!
Reef Safe Sunscreen, Our Guide to Ocean-Friendly Sun Protection: Oceanic Society: https://www.oceanicsociety.org/blog/2140/reef-safe-sunscreen-our-guide-to-ocean-friendly-sun-protection?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYBCAAEgLKnPD_BwE
Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs: National Ocean Service: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html
Sunscreen Safety: Wellnessmama: https://wellnessmama.com/55366/sunscreen-is-harmful/
Toxic Chemicals in Sunscreen & Safer Alternatives: Made Safe: https://www.madesafe.org/toxic-chemicals-in-sunscreen-safer-alternatives/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYAiAAEgJ6h_D_BwE
Why Mineral Sunscreen is Safer for Us and the Planet: Wellnessmama: https://wellnessmama.com/402998/mineral-sunscreen/
Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreen: Surfrider Foundation: https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/your-guide-to-reef-friendly-sunscreens?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYAyAAEgKF9PD_BwE