Sunscreen, Coral Reefs, Cancer, and You

Sumer Sun & Fun. But Beware of Sunscreens...

Why has Hawaii Banned Commercial Sunscreens?

It's summer, and we all want to be out in the sun. How do we protect ourselves from sunburn and skin cancer? Conventional wisdom suggests lathering up heavily with lotions and sprays to protect our skin from the sun's harmful rays. 

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But, wait, why has Hawaii banned most commercial sunscreens? What is it about the stuff in suntan lotions and sunscreen that's harmful to our health and the health of the environment around us? Believe it or not, sunscreens contain at least two ingredients that are known to bleach out and kill coral reefs and prevent juvenile coral from growing. These are oxybenzone and octinoxate. Research shows that just a single drop of oxybenzone in about six swimming pools worth of water is enough to cause bleaching. Given that 25% of what we apply to our skin comes off in the first 20 minutes of a swim, the National Park Service estimates there is over 6,000 tons of the stuff in waters around the coral reefs of the world each year. And it's killing them.

Sunscreens are killing our coral reefs. And what about us?

But how about us? Do commercial sunscreens impact our health, too? Our skin, after all, is just like a sponge (or coral), soaking up whatever we put on it and passing it through to our bloodstream. What's worse is the sunscreen sprays we inhale as we apply the stuff to our bodies. That gets straight into our lungs and on into our bloodstream. Is it any better for us than it is for the coral it kills?

According to Environmental Working Group (, one problem with sunscreen ingredients is that they need more study. But, oxybenzone mimics estrogen in women/girls and testosterone in men/boys, altering the blood levels of these important hormones. It also suggests a higher incidence of skin allergy from this chemical and draws inferences that it may also cause cancer.

Cause cancer?  Wait a minute. We've all been told sunscreen is supposed to prevent cancer by protecting us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. But now we're hearing that the chemical compounds in sunscreen may themselves cause cancer. If coral is dying as a result, are we killing ourselves with sunscreen? Could this be another cigarette as cancer-causing debacle about to hit the mainstream media?

Will this read "Sunscreen" some day?

Hawaii has placed a ban on sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, to go into effect in 2021. What's a sun lover to do? Particularly those of the fairer-skinned among us? Never leaving the house is not an option for most, so let's take a quick look at alternatives that are healthier and that do the same job as most chemical-laden, commercial sunscreens.

Look for mineral sunblock products instead of the standard commercial sunblocks that permeate the market (and our skin with chemical). Mineral sunblocks are the best alternatives available to date because they actually block the sun from hitting our skin as opposed to being absorbed by our skin to do the UV-blocking work. Most mineral sunblocks use the nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to sit on top of the skin rather than being absorbed by it. This minimizes the possibility of the active ingredients being absorbed into our blood, urine, or breast milk. (Versus most commercial sunscreens that actually rely upon skin absorption for their chemical agents to block harmful UV rays.)

This table shows the two most problematic sunscreen chemicals and their effects. There are seven more chemicals categorized in sunscreens that may be harmful to our health. See: for more information.

Click Here or visit: for an article about the top 5 best sunscreens on the market today. These are organic and non-toxic mineral (also called physical) sunblocks readily available. Until further studies of commercial sunscreens prove otherwise, I feel they are harmful to my (and our) good health and recommend switching to mineral sunscreens today.


Dave Celone writes for the under the moniker Poetic Licence. Tune into his posts and sign up (for free) by Clicking Here or visiting this link:

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