Two ingredients, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are found in some of the most popular sunscreens available yet countries like Hawaii and most recently Palau have banned products containing these ingredients to protect coral reefs from environmental damage. If its not safe for the environment is it really safe for our skin?
The ban in these countries cover ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which the ICRI described as "known environmental pollutants" which can be "incredibly toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species, including corals, fish, macroalgae and even people".
So why do we expose ourselves and families to these ingredients expecting they protect us and cause no harm if they cause environmental damage and governments ban the sale of these products?
In understanding how these ingredients work, they absorb UVB and UVA II rays resulting in a photochemical excitation and absorption of energy, essentially converting it into a small amount of heat.
According to the FDA in 2019 there is insufficient data and concern for absorption through skin and hormone disruption, yet it has been detected in nearly every American, found in mothers’ milk and shown to have 1% to 9% skin penetration in lab studies. To know research has found Oxybenzone in human breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine and blood is alarming, considering this is an ingredient that is not for human consumption and has no other way to enter the blood stream other than by skin absorption or potentially in exposed drinking water.
When it comes to disrupting hormones studies have shown weak estrogen, moderate anti-androgen and an association with altered birth weight in human studies. Very terrifying stuff knowing that our reproductive abilities can be affected by using sunscreens containing these ingredients. Further more Oxybenzone is a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin which leaves much room for concern as to the exposure of other chemicals we put on our skin. Even if you avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, you may encounter it in other products, including plastic, hairspray, and nail polish so its important to understand these ingredients and check for them.
This is difficult news because we are all trying to protect our skin and health and those of the people we love and at every turn we encounter misinformation and ingredients we don't understand. It's like a full time job just trying to be a natural human.
There are natural alternatives in sunscreen including the uses of Peruvian Maca to protect skin while being natural and safe. In seeking alternatives be mindful many natural products also contain Zinc and research at Macquarie University in Sydney has also found that Zinc is absorbed by the skin in small quantities but stays around for extended periods of time although not in big enough amounts to be harmful according to their research. Maybe on its own it's not harmful but what about when we add in the many more chemicals our bodies have absorbed in the duration of the day and the possible compounding effects of this cocktail of chemicals?
Our advice: Avoid Oxybenzone and Octinoxate at all costs. While exposure to sun can be beneficial to our health to boost vitamin D levels for a short period of the day, consider a Maca sunscreen product but make sure to check the ingredient list and ask the supplier about their process of sourcing Maca to ensure it is grown according to traditional methods and dried correctly to avoid the growth of fungi and mold.