Summer is around the corner and most families are looking forward to visiting a beach anywhere close to them. We all can’t wait to spend days getting some vitamin D. So, it is time to pack. Swimsuits, sandals and sunblock are a must. Today, I would like to invite you to think about the sunscreen you are buying. You can protect your skin and make an eco-friendly choice at the same time.
Recent studies have found that sunscreen chemicals in many popular products actually hurt coral. The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which convert sunburn-causing UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. That is exactly what we want right? But once these chemicals are in the water, they actually decrease corals’ defenses against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hurting their development. It’s almost as though sunscreen for humans has the opposite effect for coral! This damage, along with harm from other stressors including ocean acidification, water pollution, rising sea temperatures, and coral disease, prevents coral from successfully reproducing and surviving in our current marine environments.
When humans wear sunscreen and then go swimming, they carry and leave behind these chemicals in the ocean. Research shows that coral reefs in different beaches are exposed to over 6,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year.
Ok, so we need to change. So what should we do? How can I help? Here are some tips to help you out.
- You are taking the first step: READ and stay informed.
- Read the ingredients in your sunscreen and avoid oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.. (Read more about the ingredients and research here). If your sunscreen contains that DO NOT THROW it away. Keep it and use it for pool time, hiking or walking.
- If you are buying a brand new sunblock, choose mineral sunscreens, especially lotions containing non-nano zinc dioxide as the primary active ingredient. Here are lists of eco friendly options:
- Avoid aerosol sunscreen. The spray leaves a residue on the sand which is then washed back into the ocean. Your lungs will be healthier too, as aerosol sunscreens are easily inhaled.
- Apply less personal care products before you go swimming at the beach. The fewer chemicals you bring into the ocean, the better.
- When possible, use UV clothing and hats.
- Avoid going to the beach during the midday sun and/or spend time in the shade.
I hope that these tips help you keep in mind the treasured corals as well as your skin. Please spread the word and raise awareness to keep our coral reefs alive. Stay healthy, safe and protected next time you visit the beach. I can do it, you can do it, we all can do it!