The Shocking Truth About Sunscreen

November 8, 2016
Jenna Lee  Oxford Academy  10th Grade

Jenna Lee
Oxford Academy
10th Grade

When do you use sunscreen the most? Have you ever bothered to look into the ingredients? This past summer, I visited Riviera Maya, Mexico and noticed something very strange as I entered the aquatic theme park, Xplor Park. There was a ban on non-biodegradable sunscreens.

This was also true for the neighboring Xcaret and Xel-Ha Parks. These three parks are all under one company: Experiencias Xcaret Group. At first, looking at the sign, I did not understand why I couldn’t bring regular sunscreen, so I approached an employee and asked, “Why is only biodegradable sunscreen allowed?”Biodegradable sunscreen is eco-friendly and it breaks down naturally in the environment, meaning that it would not destroy the world’s coral reefs. Regular sunscreen includes many ingredients that pollute the ocean and cause the destruction of coral reefs, and up to ten percent of the coral reefs in the world may become endangered due to these harmful chemicals. The top repeating sunscreen ingredients that cause the bleaching of coral include: Oxybenzone, Butyl Paraben (a preservative), Octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor; coral bleaching is the process by which corals expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing the color to become white.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reef areas around the world each year, which is a tremendously high concentration of oxybenzone creating a serious ecological threat.

People should always remember to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, but they should also try to focus on improving the environment at the same time. Furthermore, to reduce sunscreen usage, investing in a long sleeve shirt such as a rashguard and a hat to protect the face would benefit the coral reefs tremendously over time. Now that you know, the next time you go shopping for sunscreen, be sure to look at the ingredients and search for the label that says “biodegradable”!



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    November 8, 2016 at 3:01 PM

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  3. Stream2Sea

    November 9, 2016 at 1:01 PM

    Jenna – thank you so much for being so environmentally responsible and helping to share the message! Keep in mind, some chemical sunscreens can also be biodegradable, yet still include the ingredients like oxybenzone and parabens that have been shown to harm our reefs. Biodegradability is a good thing to look for, but also learn to read the ingredients and avoid chemical sunscreens. Minerals work just as well and don’t harm us or our waters. Keep travelling ecoconsciously!

    With care,
    Formulator & CEO

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