If your sunscreen contains one of these ingredients, please toss the tube. At first sight, oxybenzone and octinoxate are two elements meant to protect your skin against UVA and UVB rays. But the reality is not as sweet as it seems. Even if they absorb the UV rays, these two substances can cause way more damage than good.
According to a Marine Life report, over 82,000 chemicals from personal care products make way into the world’s oceans. Guess which one has the highest impact? Wrright: sunscreen. It’s estimated that about 14,000 tons of sunscreen are ending up in the world’s coral reefs every year, causing damage that can’t be repaired. “Eighty-five percent of the Caribbean coral reefs died before 1999 or 2000. That wasn’t global warming. It’s pollution,” says Dr. Craig A. Downs, Ph.D., executive director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, for travelandleisure.com.
But not only the life inside the oceans is affected by these two chemicals. You are, too. In 2020, the FDA published a study showing that oxybenzone and octinoxate (among a few others) are systemically absorbed into the body after a single use and could be detected on the skin and in blood weeks after the application ended. Despite the numerous studies and concerns about oxybenzone and octinoxate, these are still approved and used worldwide.
Why You Should Avoid Oxybenzone
According to EWG, oxybenzone has an 8/10 hazardous score, and it’s associated with altered birth weight. Also, it’s believed that oxybenzone can interfere with how some hormones work. Moreover, research published in Reproductive Toxicology suggests a link between oxybenzone and a congenital disability (Hirschsprung’s disease) when pregnant women are exposed to this chemical. Unfortunately, the ingredient oxybenzone “is extremely common in chemical sunscreens,” David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), tells Health. “It’s found in the vast majority of sunscreen with an SPF over 50 and is an ingredient we’ve flagged as a concern for nearly a decade now.”
Actually, oxybenzone is toxic in four different ways: it causes damage to the DNA that may lead to cancer and developmental abnormalities, it is an endocrine disruptor, it causes deformations in juvenile corals, and, lastly, it leads to their bleaching. As a result, Hawaii is banning the sale of sunscreen products that contain oxybenzone beginning in 2021.
Octinoxate has a 5/10 hazardous score. It may show up on sunscreens as “natural,” but it is not. In reality, it’s a mix of sulfuric acid with methanol (alcohol) that it’s heated until it becomes insoluble in water. It’s supposed to protect the skin from sunburns, but instead of staying on the skin, it’s absorbed by it. Even if in-depth research on humans has been limited, several studies show that octinoxate can have harmful effects on animals and the environment as well. While more research is needed, some studies found that octinoxate can cause adverse reactions, such as acne and contact dermatitis, in a minority of people with certain skin allergies.
6 Oxybenzone-Free and Octinoxate-Free Sunscreens
More than 90% of skin cancer is attributed to UV exposure, so experts wouldn’t want Americans to stop using their sunscreens. In plus, it’s not a secret that the sun is the first cause of photoaging. So what then? Pick something that is formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate.
As an alternative to octinoxate and oxybenzone are titanium dioxide and zinc. These minerals are naturally-occurring, and they sit on the surface of your skin without being absorbed into your bloodstream. In plus, when you’re swimming, these minerals go back to Earth, where they came from, without any negative effects on marine life.
COOLA Organic Face Sunscreen
For your face, this sheer, silky lotion nourishes and protects with 50 SPF. Antioxidant-rich, water-and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, it wears amazingly under makeup. The plant-based formula creates a fortified protective shield that defends you from the sun’s rays without irritating or harsh skin with a natural white tea scent.
La Roche-Posay Face Sunscreen
Anthelios sunscreen uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide minerals combined with La Roche Posay’s thermal water, antioxidants, and Cell-Ox shield UV to protect your skin against the sun’s rays. The fast-absorbing lightweight and fluid texture blends well and dries to a matte finish, great to wear under makeup if you want. Some people with dark skin claim that the cream leaves a white cast on the skin, so it probably is better for lighter skin tones.
Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+
With 20% zinc as an active ingredient and the addition of hyaluronic acid, vitamins C, E, and plant extracts, Thinksport sunscreen does a great job! Highly effective with an SPF 50 (UVA and UVB), it protects your skin while being gentle and safe for marine life. This is the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements and top-rated by EWG since its creation in 2010. Also, it’s got multiple awards for its safety and practicability.
SkinCeuticals Protect Mineral Radiance UV Defense
Suitable for dry and sensitive skin, this product not only offers SPF 50 UVA/UVB protection but acts as a real radiance-enhancer. Thanks to the titanium dioxide and enriched with colored mineral pigments, it evens the complexion and reveals your skin’s brightness. Formulated without parabens and non-comedogenic is great to use on the face, neck, and décolleté.
MDSolar Sciences Mineral Sun Cream
A lightweight and silky-smooth cream that blends easily to help blur fine lines while offering sun protection. The naturally-derived zinc oxide and titanium dioxide help reduce the risk of photoaging with SPF 50. Non-irritating, oil-free, it won’t clog your pores and is gentle even for the most sensitive skin types. MDSolar Sciences Cream leaves a matte finish and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Ethical Zinc SPF 50+ Natural Mineral Zinc Sunscreen
Another great sunscreen created with all-natural and safe ingredients. With 22% of pharmaceutical-grade zinc oxide, triglycerides, coconut oil, castor oil, and vitamin E is suitable for sensitive and mature skin and is ocean-safe. Ethical Zinc’s sunscreen is certified by Ecocert and certified Cruelty-free by PETA 2020. The sweet smell is given by French Vanilla, derived from natural plant extracts.
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