Going Sunscreen-LESS with Mamavation Founder, Leah Segedie

I am obsessed with Mamavation’s website. You have such informative, scientific information that is broken down so Everyday People can understand it. I know you recently did a study on the negative impacts of harmful ingredients in sunscreen. Since this month’s Everyday Eco-Habit is Going Sunscreen-LESS, can you share some of the information you found on why these sunscreens are harmful to the environment and our bodies?

The sunscreen investigation was one of my favorites this year. I worked very closely with the independent forensic ecotoxicologist, Dr. Craig Downs, who oversaw the latest research on chemical sunscreens. Long story short, the chemical oxybenzone has been flagged by the FDA as dangerous. This NEVER happens. And it's was surprising when they did, not because it's not true, but because they very seldom single out chemicals for restrictions after approving them in commerce. So the fact they are doing that should give everyone pause.

But what have the independent scientists discovered about chemical sunscreens? In trace amounts, oxybenzone, which is inside most chemical sunscreens, has been linked to degraded sperm quality in men, endometriosis in women, systemic toxicity in young children, and the birth defect Hirschsprung's Disease, which causes nerve damage in the large intestines preventing babies from having bowel movements.

Oxybenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, & octinoxate were also looked at and have various levels of toxicity as well.


And the damage doesn't stop at humans, what's really becoming a problem is the coral reefs dying off from oxybenzone exposure. The coral reefs are very important. They rival the amount of oxygen produced and carbon captured when compared to the Rain Forest. They also contain 25% of all marine life. And they are dying. 40% of the Great Barrier Reef has declined. 85% of the coral reefs in the Caribbean have declined. And 99% of the coral reefs in the Florida Keys have declined. When we swim in the ocean, oxybenzone comes off our skin and goes into the water and that travels to the coral reefs and causing massive die-offs. Hawaii just banned it's use and the Florida Keys as well.

Mamavation has some great recommendations for safer sunscreens here.

You have an extensive list of Bad Guys, Better Guys and Best Guys on your website regarding sunscreen brands. How do you evaluate the products?

I start by researching the topic, interviewing advisors & other experts, and writing the content so I can organize all the issues. Then we ask everyone in the Mamavation community what brands they want us to look at. That's when we create a spreadsheet and look at the products one by one. Once I see what all the ingredients are, that's when I figure out how I'm going to divide the brands into bad, better & best. In order to make those decisions, I need to see what is out there first to make those dividing lines fair. BUT the more brands that change, the stricter I get with those evaluations. So sometimes when I do updates of posts, I switch some brands around if the industry moved past them with better ingredients and they haven't changed. I'm always encouraging brands to be better.

What are your favorite non-toxic sunscreens you use?

Personally, I use Beautycounter, Goddess Garden Organics & Earth Mama. But what I do more is focus on clothing and staying in the shade. I'm freckled and pale so that's been what I've done my whole life.

Finally, as a person that cares about the environment, can you share with my Everyday Eco-Habits community your top 3 tips to help us on our journey to Go Sunscreen-LESS?

  1. Get a cute hat that you like that covers well.

  2. Parasols are back and they are adorable. Get a light stylish umbrella. There are plenty on Amazon. Don't hate it until you try it.

  3. Pick up a bottle of sunscreen that is NOT a chemical sunscreen here inside my investigation.