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Sun of a Beach – June 24

Sun of a Beach!
Protecting Your Skin AND the Environment

With the onset of summer, remembering to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays is extra important. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, 1 in 5 people will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. There are several forms of skin cancer, but melanoma is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Although everyone is at risk, white populations are the most susceptible to melanoma with about 3% (1 in 33) developing it in their lifetime. Thankfully, there are many ways to protect yourself, such as sunscreens, lotions, cosmetics, ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) clothing, sun blockers, and UPF additives/detergents. Having the knowledge and understanding of your options is crucial, so below is a list of sun-protection options and their key attributes.

Protection options and considerations include the following:

  • Sun Blockers and Shade Seeking – Remember that ultraviolet (UV) rays can bounce off materials creating the ability for the harmful UV rays to still reach you.
    • Umbrellas and canopies are great ways to create shade; however, not all umbrellas and canopies are made of materials that can block the different UV rays, so be mindful of their UPF value.
    • Shade created from a tree or building.
    • Covering up with clothing.
      • The more skin covered; the more protection.
      • Dry, dark, tightly woven fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, wool, and silk, provide the most protection.
      • UPF clothing offers lightweight and breathable protection due to its tighter woven fabrics. Special UPF coatings and/or dyes may also be applied during production to offer additional UV protection.

    • UPF Laundry Additives and Detergents
      • UV-disrupting additives and detergents can be used when washing clothes to maintain and/or refortify UPF ratings. These additives and detergents are composed of compounds and optical brightening agents that provide a boost of UV protection.

    • Sunscreens, Lotions, and Cosmetics
      • Many lotions and cosmetics may provide a subtle sun protection factor (SPF); however, unless they indicate they contain sunscreen, it will not be enough to provide ample protection.
      • Sunscreens come in many different forms and protect using different methods. It should be noted that sunscreen is only a filter and does not block 100% of UV rays. In addition, sunscreen should be at least SPF 15 and indicate it protects against both UVA and UVB rays with terms like “broad-spectrum,” “UVA/UVB protection,” and “multi-spectrum.”
        • Physical (mineral/inorganic) sunscreens use a protective barrier, made of zinc oxide or titanium oxide (the only two ingredients currently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA]), to reflect and scatter the UV rays. Despite the name, do not be fooled into thinking they are more “natural” as most products use synthetic chemicals to allow the product to spread more smoothly while being applied.
        • Chemical (organic) sunscreens are similar to lotions, in which the active ingredients absorb into the skin and form a barrier on top of your skin that converts UV rays into heat.

The American Cancer Society suggests using a combination of the discussed protection options for the best chances to avoid sunburn and the risk of skin cancer.

However, another consideration to keep in mind when determining which sun-protection product(s) to use, is how they might affect the environment. The unfortunate reality is that everything we use/consume has an effect on the environment, whether it is positive or negative. To combat negative impact, consumers should do additional research prior to the use of a product.

Questions to consider may include:

  • What are the ingredients and where are they being sourced?
  • What is the chemistry behind the ingredient(s)?
  • Have there been studies to confirm the product’s safety?
  • Are there health warnings?

According to Healthline’s article, “The Ultimate Sunscreen Guide, According to Dermatologists,” chemical sunscreens with the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate are believed to cause coral reef bleaching and were banned in the state of Hawaii in 2018. Oxybenzone has also been linked to hormone disruption as well. In addition, the article indicated that mineral sunscreens may also cause harm to coral reefs due to the nanoparticles of the ingredients. So you may want to select a different option when swimming in the ocean.

In National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) article “Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs,” additional dangers to sea life are outlined. The organisms listed by NOAA in the article as well as the problematic chemicals are shown below:

How sunscreen chemicals affect marine life:

    • Green Algae: Can impair growth and photosynthesis.
    • Coral: Accumulates in tissues. Can induce bleaching, damage DNA, deform young, and even kill.
    • Mussels: Can induce defects in young.
    • Sea Urchins: Can damage immune and reproductive systems, and deform young.
    • Fish: Can decrease fertility and reproduction, and cause female characteristics in male fish.
    • Dolphins: Can accumulate in tissue and be transferred to young.

Chemicals in some sunscreens that can harm marine life include: oxybenzone, benzophenone-1, benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-benzylidene camphor, nano-titanium dioxide, nano-zinc oxide, octinoxate, octocrylene.

NOAA suggests choosing a sunscreen that does not contain harmful chemicals and wearing UPF clothing as the best way to keep the environment safe while protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

In conclusion, there is no doubt in the importance of protecting oneself from UV radiation; however, being mindful of our choices prior to use may also have everlasting benefits to the environment around us.

For more information on this topic, please visit the links below:

How Do I Protect Myself from Ultraviolet (UV) Rays? | American Cancer Society

What Sun Protective Clothing Works Best? (