I’m Obsessed with Sunscreen and I’m Single-Handedly Killing the Planet

Between growing up in California and Colorado, sunscreen has played a large part in my skin routine from childhood. My grandmother would lather me in sunscreen any time I decided to step outside and the routine stuck with me well into adulthood. To be totally honest, I love sunscreen so much I obsess over finding just the right kind to implement into my regimen–which brings me to the saddest point I will ever make, sunscreen is killing coral reefs, like, permanently.

The BBC published reports on May 3, stating Hawaii would be the first U.S. state to ban sunscreen specifically containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which scientists say contribute to coral bleaching. The new law is still awaiting the signature of the state governor of Hawaii but plans to go into effect January 2021.

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Reports estimate that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited in oceans annually primarily in popular reef areas like Hawaii and the Caribbean, and oxybenzone being particularly damaging because it prevents coral regrowth. Studies have also shown that ocean pollution comes from both people wearing sunscreen as well as through wastewater streams that are sent to the sea.

“More and more people realize, as you go home and shower the water is getting treated and put out into the ocean. So really it’s damaging our corals no matter whether you’re wearing it on land or at the beach,” Hawaii state Sen. Laura Thielen told KHON2

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 12.40.55 PMThe two ingredients to watch out for are, oxybenzone and octinoxate are found in almost all common sunscreens, including products sold by Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat, and Coppertone, as well as some face lotions.

So what’s a summer loving ‘friend of Dorothy’ like me supposed to do? How do we protect ourselves from the damaging effects of the sun, while remaining kind to the environment? Luckily, there are many alternative sunscreen options for sale, but you might not find them at your local drug store—and in an effort to be kind to the planet, and to your skin, maybe we should give them a try.


Image via Popular Science