Environmentally friendly sunscreen: how should it be?

Using an environmentally friendly sunscreen is everyone’s responsibility. However, the famous “clickbait” makes us sometimes encounter sensational headlines like these:

CNN, CLIMATE CHANGE section. Hawaii would be the first US state to ban sunscreen .

AS Newspaper, ENVIRONMENT section: Hawaii passes a law that will ban sunscreens.

Given these news, we answer the 6 key questions on the matter:

1. Is it true that they are going to ban sunscreens in Hawaii?

Not at all. A law has been passed in Hawaii that, by the way, will not take effect until 2021, according to which they will ban sunscreens that contain two ingredients: oxybenzone and octylmethoxycinnamate, better known to friends as octinoxate. I repeat, 2 ingredients. It is not that sunscreens are prohibited, those with these two ingredients are prohibited.

2. Why do you want to ban these two compounds in Hawaii?

According to various reports, these compounds can have a damaging impact on both the marine environment and ecosystems: They could harm coral reefs. The ingredients can increase the coral’s predisposition to fading. This is a very serious problem and you have to work on it, but the approach given to this news worries me because we love to find villains and demonize chemicals. Describing sunscreens as the bad guys in the film, implying with the headline of a news story that “sunscreens are going to be banned to save corals”, when sunscreens are absolutely necessary to stop melanoma, is irresponsible.

3. To what extent do sunscreens damage coral reefs?

On the one hand, the United States National Agency for the Study of the Oceans and Atmosphere says that the greatest  threats to coral are global climate change, unsustainable fishing and soil pollution . It all adds up, we should use better sunscreens, but let’s not burden the sunscreens with all the owl because damaging the coral reefs there are many bad guys from the movie. Also, not all protectors are created equal. There are already many laboratories that for years have reformulated their products so that they do not contain those ingredients prohibited in Hawaii, there are already respectful alternatives, which use, for example, physical filters instead of chemical ones.

4. What is the difference between physical and chemical filters?

Physicists are the ones who bounce light like a shield, they put a layer on you: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide (they leave more white). Chemical filters are the most widely used and are those that divert ultraviolet light and transform it into heat. Some of this type are potentially dangerous for the environment. More information can be found in this post about the differences between physical and chemical filters.

5. Is it better for the environment to use only physical filters?

From an environmental point of view, minerals from physical filters do not have any negative impact on the environment. They are biodegradable and are the ones that ecological protectors usually use. Ecological sunscreens are much talked about these days as “salvation” because they use these filters. However, we must know several things. There is no uniform European legislation that marks what ingredients an organic cosmetic must contain.We have a guirigay of independent labels, each with its own criteria and standards. We have 20 different stamps in Europe. For example ECOCERT is one of the stamps. Ecological protectors with this seal must have 95% ingredients of natural origin (not 100%) and if they are made from plants, 95% of ecological origin. The packaging and the manufacturing chain must also be respectful. But, I insist, each seal has its standards and these products do not have to be more effective or safer for the environment than the protectors of dermatological laboratories.

 6.  How should an environmentally friendly and safe sunscreen be for us?

We can look for photoprotectors with physical filters exclusively. Not only are ecological protectors like this, but there are also them in the pharmacy. The problem is that since they have worse cosmeticity and they spread worse … people do not like them because they leave you like the plaster. In addition, for highly exposed areas such as the face, it is considered that combining physical and chemical filters can be more effective in protecting us from radiation.

The good news is that although chemical filters include the “bad” ones for corals, there are also many environmentally friendly chemical filters such as avobenzone, mexoryl SX, tinosorb S … which are those incorporated by the majority of relevant dermatological laboratories. . They also don’t have the “bad parabens” we were talking about last week. I’m not talking about rare brands, but brands of the most sold in Spain. There are laboratories that have had an environmental commitment for years and do not include water-soluble chemical filters or silicones as ingredients, using the minimum possible number of filters.


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