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Embracing Nature with Eco-Sunscreens

As summer comes to a close, Isla Stubbs reports on why we should consider switching to an eco-friendly sunscreen for next year’s holiday season.


As the world becomes increasingly conscious of the planet’s ongoing environmental issues, the beauty and skincare industry is also making strides towards sustainability. Sunscreens are essential for protecting our skin from harmful UV radiation, but the environmental impact of these products has raised concerns. In response, eco-friendly sunscreens have emerged on the market, as a promising solution to ensure both our skin and our planet are protected.


The Problem with Conventional Sunscreens


Traditional sunscreens often contain chemicals that can be harmful to marine life and coral reefs. Chemical UV filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been shown to contribute to coral bleaching, disrupt aquatic ecosystems, and even lead to the death of coral reefs. These chemicals can enter the water through swimming, washing off the skin, and even through sewage systems where chemicals are not completely removed, eventually finding their way into oceans and causing irreparable damage to delicate marine ecosystems.


Additionally, the production and disposal of conventional sunscreens contributes to plastic waste, further exacerbating environmental issues. Many sunscreen products come in non-recyclable plastic containers, adding to the ever-growing plastic pollution crisis.



The Eco-Friendly Solution


Eco-friendly sunscreens offer a way to protect both our skin and the environment. These sunscreens are formulated with natural and biodegradable ingredients that are less harmful to aquatic life and ecosystems. They often use mineral-based UV filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which sit on the skin's surface and create a barrier to reflect and scatter UV rays, as opposed to being absorbed into the skin. These mineral-based sunscreens are safer for marine life and do not contribute to coral bleaching.


They also have the advantage of being effective as soon as they are applied, reducing the need to wait before swimming, unlike some chemical sunscreens that require a waiting period for activation. Be sure to check your bottle and look for a “reef-friendly” or “coral-friendly” label to confirm it’s safe for the planet.


You should also keep an eye out for those that come in recyclable, biodegradable, or refillable packaging to try and reduce your plastic footprint. Remember, even if the packaging says “recyclable” this will only be the case if it is clean and free from creams/liquids. Be sure to clean out your bottles before recycling!


As the need for eco-friendly formulas and packaging becomes more important to both consumers and governments, there are many brand options for your eco-sunscreen available at most cosmetic and healthcare stores, suitable for a range of budgets. This has made it easier for us all to make small steps to help the planet.


Sunscreen and shells. Image Credit: Marco Verch.


Eco-friendly sunscreens offer a bridge between personal skincare and environmental responsibility. By making conscious choices about the products we use, we can safeguard our skin while also contributing to the health of our oceans and ecosystems. As the beauty and skincare industry continues to evolve, embracing eco-friendly options is a step towards a more sustainable and harmonious relationship between humans and the natural world.


About the Author: Isla Stubbs (she/her) has graduated from York with a BSc in Environmental Science, and will be starting her PhD in Ecotoxicology at York in September.


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