Eco-Sunscreens

It’s no secret that climate change is on the brain. For just about everyone. For the most part, we know climate change is a challenge and one we need to address. But the question we have yet to collectively answer is ‘what do we do about it?’. Growing up, the mantra was ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ but lately, it’s felt like our recycling efforts aren’t really doing anything or are a sham. We pat ourselves on the back for putting our plastic bottles into the recycling but then what? Crazy stats around how little those things are actually recycled blow my mind, if they end up at a recycling plant at all or actually just being shipped off to another country altogether.

So we’ve moved more into cutting out the middle man (recyclable goods) of the reduce mantra which means reuse. Reusable water bottles and coffee cups are the big vogue thing. So we pat ourselves on the back and save 0.25 on our Starbucks coffees. But what else? What else can we be doing? What do we throw out constantly? And what about the other things besides physical use, what about our travel and emissions? Our sprays, creams, soaps, everything that goes into the water and down the drain?

It’s a daunting task but as I’ve done more reading and research on my options, the more I’ve realized there are actually companies and products out there acting as a solution. Baby steps.

I read an article in Women’s Health about sunscreens that are better for the environment, especially the coral reefs, but also better for you as your skin is a giant organ that absorbs this into your body. Now, we’ve been on the organic train for longer than the climate change wagon (or so it feels) so companies like Arbonne and Honest Company have long hailed their skin products as being chemical free and effective. In gearing up for a long trip to Southeast Asia, I’ve been looking into more sustainable/eco-friendly products I’ll be using like sunscreen. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I’m going to test out:

  1. Subjective Advertising – a lot of packaging will say ‘ocean friendly’ or ‘reef safe’ because it has removed the main chemicals that damage the coral reef from the product. But the flip-side is they have replaced it with an equally detrimental ingredient instead so not really ‘safe’ in the end. Based on the Women’s Health article I read interviewing the CEO of Stream2Sea, the big O’s to look out for are oxybenzone and octinoxate but often those are then replaced with octocrylene which is also toxic to marine animals (but I suppose could be reef friendly and thus make their statement true-ish). This came in handy when I was comparing options and price point where a seemingly similarly safe product had a lower price but turns out also contained octocrylene.
  2. Format – remember when they had that color-changing sunblock? Where it went on purple and then faded so you could see where you had applied? So fun! So gross, probs. Turns out like with many things, what makes things more convenient and comfortable is also actually terrible. So spray sunblocks, which I’ve never thought to be effective anyways, are not good for the environment or your body as you can breath in the spray (in addition to absorbing it into your skin…). Also, when you take away the bad-for-you chemicals, yeah, it’s going to change the feel of the product. Just like that gluten-free cake is not the same as the gluten-full one, it’s more crumbly but otherwise great, the natural sunscreens aren’t the same easy-apply, invisible creams we’re accustomed to. From reading reviews, this seems to be a main complaint, that the formula is thicker or harder to rub in or is very white. Now I haven’t tried them yet but am going to keep an open mind: if it’s keeping me safe and not killing marine life, I’ll take the slightly less attractive look (much like a seat belt or life jacket).
  3. Price – as with all things, there is a range in costs and when it comes to the better-for-you products especially, that price goes up. Obviously it is daunting and tempting to buy the cheaper product and hard to justify paying upwards of 2x the price for the better-for-the-environment and your body product. It’s not a tangible or visible difference either, you can’t seeeee the coral reef come back to life as you skip the chemical formulas. But we all need to consider the big picture, just as we do with our money and our health. Invest now for a better future. But when preaching fails, there are also deals. Loads of natural sites offer first time discounts so you can test the product out, get hooked and come back for more. Look around! The options I’ve seen have ranged from £10 (approximately $13) to the ultra of £53 ($68) but watch out for the quantity you’re getting as well.

Personally, I’ve gone for a mid-range option (and used a 15% discount code) which had good reviews, lack of chemicals and will hopefully be effective! There were multiple sites that recommended this product and the reviews said that the consistency was different but overall effective at preventing sunburn. Fingers crossed!

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