Protect More Than Your Skin With Sunscreen

Man and woman on beach wearing sunglasses.

I don’t have to tell you about the dangers of not using sunscreen.

For fun on how we used to know so little, watch this hysterical comparison bit of a 1980s mom vs a 2019 mom. I cried so hard from laughing my butt off watching this.

But there are dangers to the planet for using the common sunscreens we grew up with. Did you know that commonly bought sunscreens are actually hurting the planet, water systems, marine creatures, their ecosystems, and our bodies (and possibly, worse than the sun’s damage)?

Let’s break this down:

  1. Sunscreen contains nasty chemical ingredients that wash off of you when you swim and settle into the water. According to the National Geographic and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration common sunscreens contain crazy chemicals like Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc oxide that harm marine life.
  2. Sunscreen chemicals can affect marine life like:
    • 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.
  3. Sunscreen contains chemicals that the FDA (and many others) don’t accept as safe. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “sunscreen is a body care product that consumers are directed to apply a thick coat over large areas of the body and reapply frequently. Thus, ingredients in sunscreen should not be irritating or cause skin allergies, and should be able to withstand powerful UV radiation without losing their effectiveness or forming possibly harmful breakdown products. People might inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so ingredients must not be harmful to lungs or internal organs. Furthermore, sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” to help the product adhere to skin. As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.” Read the full report and the chart breaking down all the concerns.

Don’t despair! Did you know there are sunscreens that are not only safe for marine life, coral reefs, the planet but your family, too? Yup! This summer, slap yourself in white goodness with dozens of brands. Granted, this is not necessarily always easy on your wallet. However, I feel certain things are worth reprioritizing considering the importance of proper sunscreen. Reminder: I work as a casual, part-timer, with two kids and a partner in construction. We are not rolling in the dough! TRUST ME! *eye roll*. But buying sunscreens that are mineral-based, non-nano zinc oxide, free of harmful chemicals like parabens, phthalates, BPA, oxybenzone, avobenzone, petroleum, toxic chemicals, nor using animal by-products or testing, that biodegrade and are not hurting marine life are high on my list. It’s something you use, ideally year-long, but at least for 4-5 months a year in Canada, daily, two-three times a day, minimum!

Using an online store, comparing adult sport versions of Coppertone and Thinksport at about the same weight, Coppertone is about $7 and Thinksport is about $20. It’s almost three times the amount, I know. But I normally find my preferred brands of sun protection for up to 35% off. That makes a big difference!

The trick to save some money? Look for sales and stock up. Sunscreen can last up to two years if stored well in a dark, cool place. Many places like and health food stores run promos on brands like Green Beaver, ThinkBaby, Badger*.

But there are ideal steps to help prevent sun damage:

  • Find shade or make it
  • Wear long layers
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Wear hats
  • Avoid peak hours
  • Follow UV index warnings

At the end of that day, it’s about what’s easy, because that’s how we know we’ll do it. We are a product of convenience, right or wrong, and so to make things easy to help the planet, we need to make it pretty easy on us. Find a brand that works. Buy one of each kind this summer to try them. Try sticks and lotions. Baby or kid. And a note, the sprays don’t usually work that well when they’re “green” sunscreens, and really, you don’t want to use sprays. And you waste a lot more product. Once you figure out what works, buy in bulk when there are sales. Make this summer’s sunscreen application easy to do, easy on the planet, and easy your wallet, but especially make it an easy, breezy summer.

*I only link to products I use or love. I do not receive any compensation.

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