Do You Know What's In Your Sunscreen?

January 12, 2016

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Ambassador Debbie Jean Holloman lives on the island of Maui and spends most of her time surfing, sailing, and being in tune with nature and the ocean. She has a passionate consciousness about health and wellness and we're happy to share her tips for simple steps you can take to make yourself and marine life healthier!  Living in Hawaii, my bikini is a year-round accessory, and that makes sunscreen a year-round cosmetic. As any sun-loving bikini babe knows, it’s important to wear SPF; and as much as we all love our tan lines and bronzed skin, the truth is, those rays can do a lot of damage. We’re all increasingly aware of the dangers of too much sun exposure and the importance of lathering up, but have you considered the ingredients? Most sunscreens on the market use chemicals to filter out or absorb skin damaging UV rays, and unfortunately we’re finding out that these ingredients can often do more harm than good. The issue is that these chemicals have been shown to pose a threat to our health, and can be detrimental to the health of our oceans as well. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), of the 1,400+ sunscreens they tested, only 5% met their safety standards and over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer. Harsh chemicals and other additives can penetrate the skin and go directly into your blood stream; scary stuff when they’ve been shown to disrupt hormones, suppress immunity, accelerate skin aging, and even speed the development of skin tumors! Some of the worst offenders are spray-on sunscreens, because all those yucky chemicals then also have the potential to be inhaled. Another major concern with conventional sunscreens is the damage they can do to our coral reefs. A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives estimated that about 25% of sunscreen ingredients wash off into the ocean after swimming for just 20 minutes. The same ingredients that harm us can kill juvenile coral, induce mutations, and can promote bleaching. Bleaching occurs when corals are exposed to stressful environmental conditions and expel the algae living in their tissues, making them way more susceptible to disease. As some of you may know, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just announced a world- wide coral bleaching event, so this is super critical to address! Our reefs are certainly beautiful, but they’re more than just a pretty face. Coral reefs are rich in biodiversity and are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet! They are often referred to as the “rainforests of the oceans” and are actually living creatures themselves. Unfortunately, new studies show that 60% of coral reefs are threatened and that they are disappearing at twice the rate of tropical rainforests! Coral reefs are home for thousands of sea creatures, and they also provide valuable protection against shoreline erosion and are a much needed buffer against waves, storms, and floods. Not only that, they shape waves! If our reefs die, chances are so will your favorite surf break, seriously not cool.  
Below is a list of easy to implement tips on how to protect your skin and protect our reefs. #winning
  1. Read the label! Luckily, the EWG is on it, and they’ve compiled a list of the best sunscreens out there so that you don’t have to do all the leg work. Most of the sunscreens that score high for protection and limited risk are made by natural manufacturers and can be found at your local health food store. Look for things like non toxic, reef safe, and environmentally friendly. We’re also a big fan of companies that are certified organic and don’t test on animals. The only active ingredients you really need are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide with everything else ideally being organic oils for moisturizing. These types of sunscreens act as physical barriers and are a much healthier way to block out harmful rays; although a word of caution, they are generally much thicker and a little bit tends to go a long way!
  2. Wear protective clothing to minimize over-exposure. Wearing a rash guard or surf suit during a session or a big sun hat while you hang out on the beach can do your skin a whole lot of good, especially if you’re on holiday and you don’t yet have a base tan. Also, limit your time in the sunshine. We all know between the hours of 10-2 the sun is at it’s strongest, so plan your day accordingly and spend the afternoon in a hammock in the shade!
  3. Treat Your Skin. Last but not least, now that you’ve got that glowing tan or (yikes) a sunburn... make sure to replenish your skin after any damage. Fresh Aloe is of course best, but if you’re buying product, make sure to read the ingredients here too! Chemicals in personal care items can be just as gnarly for your body and are often not removed at wastewater facilities so they too can also make their way into our oceans. A good bet is to always go as natural as possible.
  Do you have pieces that protect your skin while you play? Shop our surf suits, rash guards and leggings and be safe under the sun.
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