Going Sunscreen-LESS

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of the ocean
— Kahlil Gibran 

 Ahh summertime, and the living is easy. Summer is a time to unwind, get outdoors, and soak up the sun.  That, of course, means it’s time for sunscreen.  I am lucky enough to be heading to my “Yia Yia’s” village in Greece with my entire extended family, which means we will be needing buckets of sunscreen.  While soaking up the sun will undoubtedly be relaxing for us, the sunscreen we use could turn out to be very stressful for our health and the health of the planet, especially the health of our oceans. Why?  Because many sunscreens contain toxic ingredients and the abundance of such sunscreens entering the waterways in the summer can produce catastrophic results to marine life.  Thankfully, there is an easy way we can protect our skin, our health, and our ocean inhabitants.  We can simply use sunscreens without harmful toxins.  So, this July, I invite you to adopt the Everyday Eco-Habit of Going Sunscreen-LESS! 


Sunscreen.  It’s something you probably don’t think too much about until you’re running out the door to enjoy a day outdoors.  Unfortunately, this simple cosmetic product, multiplied by billions of people, can cause detrimental harm to the ocean.  It is estimated 4,000-6,000 tons of sunscreen end up on coral reefs every year!  Scientists have recently discovered the ingredients in many sunscreens are destroying our coral reefs, our algae and many ocean inhabitants. How, you ask?  Certain chemicals used to protect people from the harmful UVA and UVB rays are toxic to these tiny corals and other ocean animals, even when diluted in water.  Some of the chemicals in sunscreens that are harmful include: Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Benzophenone-1 and 2, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, and nano-Zinc oxide.  These chemicals can cause some nasty things to happen to many different types of species. A few animals affected by these chemicals include: 

  • Green Algae: Can impair growth and photosynthesis 

  • Coral: Accumulates in tissues. Can induce bleaching, damage DNA, deform young, and even kill 

  • Mussels: Can induce defects in young  

  • Sea Urchins: Can damage immune and reproductive systems, and deform young 

  • Fish: Can decrease fertility and reproduction, and cause female characteristics in male fish 

  • Dolphins: Can accumulate in tissue and be transferred to young.  Dolphins people!!!


It’s not just ocean life that is affected. These same harmful chemicals in sunscreens can also affect humans.  Not only do many conventional sunscreens contain known skin irritants, but the chemicals in sunscreen absorb into our skin and gets into our bloodstream.  A recent FDA report found 4 sunscreens exceeded the acceptable limits for chemicals absorbed into the blood.  The FDA only has adequate safety data on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – in other words, it has not studied the myriad of other chemicals in sunscreens, leaving big fat question marks about their safety.  This is particularly true of Oxybenzone, which may affect hormone levels and even human embryos!  A study shows babies born with high levels of Oxybenzone may develop Hirschsprung’s Disease.  These harmful chemicals can also cause low sperm count in men and endometriosis in women. So, not only are the corals and dolphin’s affected, but you, your significant other, and your babies could be negatively impacted by the chemicals in sunscreens too! 


Luckily, there is a SIMPLE and EASY solution!  Adopt the Everyday Eco-Habit of Going Sunscreen-LESS.  Here are a few easy ways to Go Sunscreen-LESS:

  • Choose mineral-based sunscreens that do not have harmful chemicals in them. Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are a great choice.  Here is a list from Mamavation to help you find a safe sunscreen.  Another resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, which gives safety information on many sunscreens and other beauty products.

  • Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate.  These cause the most damage.

  • Look for sunscreens with good water-resistance. The more water-resistant, the less likely it is to rub off in the ocean.

  • Wear protective clothing like hats, UV t-shirts, rash guards and even a cute beach cover-up, like these eco-friendly ones from Everlane.

  • Invest in a nice beach umbrella or beach tent, like these from REI.

  • Put on sunscreen 15-30 min before you enter the water so it is more likely to stay on.

  • Do not use sunscreen spray.  It is not as effective and, no matter what type, it is very unsafe if inhaled.

  • Look at your labels!  Make sure your sunscreen (make-up & lotion too!) are free of these same harmful chemicals.


Just by being more mindful of this simple, Everyday Eco-Habit of Going Sunscreen-LESS, you can help protect your health and the health of our oceans and its inhabitants!  Many governments are taking up the cause too.  Hawaii passed a law in 2018 banning toxic chemicals in sunscreen and Key West is doing the same.  It’s a good thing too because bleaching is a serious threat to our coral reefs, which are extremely important to life on our planet.  Coral reefs provide us with species diversity (up to 4,000 different species live in coral reefs), new medicines, and are imperative to helping with erosion, to name a few of their benefits.  They also generate a ton of money, providing billions of dollars in food production, research, coastal protection and tourism! It is essential we keep our coral reefs healthy.  Since many coral reefs are dying due to temperature increase, don’t forget to continue your Everyday Eco-Habits of Going Emissions-LESSIdle-LESSMeat-LESS, and Food Waste-LESS to reduce our impact on Global Warming. 


Let’s protect our health and the health of our oceans by Pledging to Go Sunscreen-LESS this summer!  As a bonus, you will be entered into a raffle to win clean sunscreen from My Green Friend Desiree at Beautycounter!  This awesome company promotes safe, sustainable beauty products with recyclable packaging.  Want to learn more fun, useful facts on how to Go Sunscreen-LESS?  Follow me this month on social: 


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