Is your sunscreen damaging coral reefs?

When you are purchasing and applying sunscreen for yourself and your little ones, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking about the amount of sun protection from the harmful ultraviolet A and B rays? Are you thinking about whether it is protecting you from skin cancer? We hope so. But are you also thinking about the impact your sunscreen has on the environment? More specifically, the destruction that chemical sunscreens have already caused coral reefs.

It is estimated that at least 14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited into the ocean every year. Even if you don’t go in the water, when you wash off in the shower, the sunscreen that goes down the drain will make its way to the ocean. Spray sunscreens are more likely to stick to the sand than you, so the tide will wash them out to sea. About 80 percent of Caribbean coral reefs have been lost in the last 50 years due to pollution, coastal development, warming waters, and more than 80,000 chemicals from personal care products. According to The Ocean Foundation, for every 10,000 beach goers, 4 kilograms of mineral particles wash into the water each day.

There are two main types of sunscreens you see advertised: chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens act as a shield with teeny tiny minerals deflecting the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens absorb the rays before they reach your skin using synthetic chemicals. One of these chemicals is oxybenzone, a synthetic molecule that is toxic to coral and sea life. Even just one drop of oxybenzone in 4 million gallons of the ocean is harmful to organisms.

Chemical sunscreens don’t just harm the environment. The FDA has put the entire sunscreen industry on alert by proposing that only two active ingredients: ZnO and TiO2 have enough safety information. All other ingredients, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, do not have enough data to determine their safety. In particular, the FDA raised concerns about the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone, its potential to affect hormone levels, and its increased absorption susceptibility of children.

Although convenient, avoid aerosol sunscreens. Watch out for oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and homosalate on the ingredient labels when shopping, and check your bottles at home! So what is a reef-safe sunscreen? Just because a sunscreen is categorized as mineral(or physical) does not mean that it is reef-safe. Reef-safe sunscreens are non-nano, meaning that the particles are bigger than the synthetic chemicals absorbing the sun’s rays in chemical sunscreens. Non-nano means that the particles are physically larger than 100 nanometers, which keeps them from being absorbed by sea life and the ocean.

LEMYKA cares about your skin and the environment. When designing our non-nano sunscreens, we kept both in mind when choosing only organic and biodegradable ingredients. ZnO can get chalky and make skin appear white which has turned many away from physical sunscreens. LEMYKA's technical team understands this and created an advanced lotion-like formula that is lightweight and breathable. Natural mineral ZnO is the only UV active ingredient that is safe for babies 6 months and older. LEMYKA mineral sun lotion contains only ZnO as its active ingredient. We use 21% of ZnO in each of our sun lotions, making it one of the highest ZnO-containing sunscreens on the market.

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