Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens

 Chemical sunscreens can have harmful effects on marine life and the health of people who use them.


Human Health:

In 2021, a swarm of headlines cautioned against the use of recalled chemical sunscreens found to contain the notorious carcinogen benzene. However, Benzene isn’t the only concern when it comes to chemical sunscreens. In 2019, the FDA updated their guidelines on chemical sunscreens based on concerning research. They found that Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Homosalate and Avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body just after one use.

These compounds can disrupt hormones and cause skin irritation. They have been found in the body weeks after being used. They have even been discovered in breast milk and urine. The FDA now only considers mineral sunscreens safe and effective. 


Marine Life:

Chemical sunscreens can cause significant harm to coral reefs. The ones that begin with the letter O have been found to be the most detrimental: Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and Octocrylene.

Hawaii outlawed chemical sunscreens because of severe damage they could do to the environment. Key West attempted to ban chemical sunscreens as well but was unfortunately stopped by lawmakers.

Besides harming coral, chemical sunscreens cause damage to green algae and reproductive harm to sea urchins and fish. Worst of all, they have been shown to harm dolphins and percolate into future generations of dolphins.


Consumer Considerations:

When searching for sunscreens, look for ones that do not contain synthetic fragrance, phthalates, or parabens. Synthetic fragrance can contain endocrine disruptors and is often derived from fossil fuels.

Although nano mineral sunscreen is safe for people, it’s not so safe for the planet. It’s still a much better alternative than chemical sunscreens, which are the worst.The best option for sunscreen is non-nano zinc oxide, which is people and planet safe.

It’s also important to look for sunscreens that are in a glass jar or metal tin. Avoiding chemicals that damage reefs is great but it’s also a good idea to choose packaging that won’t pollute.


Continued Readings: The Guardian, EWG, NOAA,,, VeryWell Health, CNN Health, and NPR.

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