Are you planning a beach holiday this year? Choose your sunscreen wisely.
Scientists in Australia have studied the harmful effects of oxybenzone, a chemical found in sunscreens, bleaching the coral reefs. Watch out for – and avoid! – this chemical in your sun protection products. The ingredients may also be listed as BP-3 or benzophenone-3.
This chemical enters our body too, crossing the skin easily; it operates as an ‘endocrine (hormone) disruptor’, which can affect a man’s reproductive capability and may contribute to endometriosis in women. The damage to coral is even more devastating: apart from bleaching out the colour of the coral the chemical changes and deforms the corals' DNA, altering their shape and making them unable to swim.
The good news is that you can use products such as titanium or zinc oxide which will protect your skin without impacting upon the environment. Chemical sunscreens absorb ultraviolet radiation like a sponge, but mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect it back from the surface of the skin like a mirror.
Sunshine is good for us, lifting our mood, and when exposed to sunshine, our bodies make Vitamin D, which is important for strong and healthy bones, for absorbing calcium and to boost the immune system. An NHS study has provided vital information on why natural (aka sunshine-induced) Vitamin D is also healthier than taking it as a supplement. But the advice is clear: protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
I am not advocating doing away with the sunscreen; instead choose coral reef friendly products. You can buy them from various sources – just look out for the 'Reef Safe Ocean Friendly' logo. These products are pricier if you buy them individually, but I came across a combo starter pack with two 30ml (SPF 30 and 15) bottles plus a moisturiser for £14.50 via Green People.
According to scientists, we have just 12 years to change and save the planet from irreversible impacts. I am convinced that it is down to us as individuals to make a stand and change this outcome. Everyone can make a difference and small changes add up. So why not start with your sunscreen?