For eco-conscious travelers looking to be one with nature, choosing the perfect sunscreen may be about more than preventing sunburn.
Certain sunscreens contain microscopic metals, toxic chemicals, and other ingredients that may be harmful to surrounding ecosystems, according to a study published in The Journal of Environmental Science.
The study notes that products containing nanomaterials, 100,000 times smaller than a human hair, may affect marine life in unpredictable ways. For example, nano-zinc, nano-copper, and other nano-metals may be most harmful to small animals like crustaceans, worms, fish, and algae, the study suggests.
Sunscreen and Human Health
Aside from the aquatic environment, certain products can also harm human life. Many FDA-approved chemical ingredients in sunscreen are considered “endocrine blockers,” which can affect the body’s production of hormones, according board certified doctor and Dr. Oz Show advisor Arthur W. Perry. Perry wrote in a 2013 blog post that these chemicals seep into the skin rather than sitting on top of it to block UVA/UVB rays. As the chemicals move into the bloodstream, they are unable to be detoxified and digested by the liver and can be traceable in blood or urine for the next two days.
Harmful chemical ingredients found in sunscreens include homosalate, parabens, and octinoxate. As for the environment, the eco-conscious shopper may also want to avoid benzophenones and plastic microbeads, which are now banned in the United States. Oxybenzone is also a chemical known to be both harmful to humans and ecosystems.
Fortunately, more natural alternatives exist. In some cases, certain sunscreen ingredients may even boost skincare without affecting marine life.
Recently, in a yearlong study by experts at Eckerd College, sunscreen products from Streeam2Sea passed as “eco-friendly.” The Florida-based study looked at how ingredients of each product could potentially affect sensitive coral larvae and freshwater fish.
Many Stream2Sea products include natural, antioxidant-rich ingredients like wakame seaweed, green tea extracts, and olive leaf extracts. For the skin, green tea is known to reduce premature aging caused by the sun, while olive leaf is known for its immune-boosting strengths.
Watch a test of Stream2Sea products on the newest episode of Trendspotting.
For more a full list of sunscreen hazards, click here.
“Do Sunscreens' Tiny Particles Harm Ocean Life in Big Ways?” by Craig Welch, National Geographic, nationalgeographic.com, 5/15
“Sunscreen and Skincare Products Set New Standard for ‘EcoConscious' Skin Care,” Integral Marketing, Inc. 9/1/15