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The Unknown Hazards of Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreens have become one of the most indispensable things we use not only in summer but all year round. But is it enough just to have a sunscreen? Shouldn’t we also consider the environmental damage?
Over time, we have moved away from the protection of hats and thin fabric shirts and sunscreens have become an integral part of our lives. They have been in our lives for over 50 years and have helped us deal with major problems such as skin burns.
But did you know that chemical sunscreens and chemical UV filters negatively affect marine life and human health?
With over 20 years of research into sunscreen ingredients, we follow the work of Craig Downs, PhD, one of the leading forces behind Hawaii’s sunscreen ban in 2021, and use his research as a guide on which ingredients are beneficial. Let’s take a look at why we should stop using chemical sunscreens and switch to mineral sunscreens.
When was permanent damage recognized?
The fact that the loss of coral reefs in the uninhabited basin of St. John, which is entirely forest, was 80% and that these losses were documented before the year 2000, led to a single answer in this region where there is no human activity and no one lives. In response to complaints about ‘what is going on and what is killing the coral reefs’, the shimmering glowing layer on the seas was unfortunately not the glow of the sea, but the oil layer formed by sunscreens.
The Cause of Coral Reef Death: Chemical Sunscreens
The number one ingredient seen was Oxybenzone. Water samples were taken and then the amount of Oxybenzone in the water was measured and everyone was surprised at how high the concentrations were.
After the first discovery of where sunscreens could be toxic was made in the Virgin Islands, laboratory toxicity studies were later conducted with basically larval forms of coral. Sunscreen concentrations in the Red Sea were measured and on the Israeli side, the levels were the highest ever measured.

Over the next 10 years, work continued around the world, from the great lakes in the USA to the Alpine lakes in Switzerland and Germany. Sunscreen levels were also measured in Norway and Alaska.
What are the effects of Benzophenone-2 and Oxybenzone on the health of coral reefs?
There is more to a coral reef than coral, such as macroalgae, the large algae like Ulva. If you like sushi rolls, the algae that surrounds them actually grows in tropical areas like coral reefs and is very healthy to eat. They are really rich in vitamin B12. All these organisms in a coral reef ecosystem can be negatively affected by Oxybenzone.
For corals, the first thing that was noticed was how the embryonic larval coral, the juvenile coral, was affected by petrochemical sunscreens. If we remember a rule in toxicology, the younger you are, the more susceptible you are to the toxic effects of any chemical. A teenager is a thousand times more sensitive to the toxic effects of chemicals than an adult.
One of the first results noticed was that two hours after the coral larvae were exposed to relatively low concentrations of Oxybenzone, they deformed and changed shape in a horrifying and lethal way. Then it was noticed that they started to lose their color. Corals, a symbiotic organism, have a type of algae growing inside them and this algae is extremely sensitive to Oxybenzone. We know that oxybenzone is toxic at concentrations as low as about 50 parts per trillion.
And in other types of algae, they are sensitive to 10 parts per trillion. (Experts say these are really low concentrations) because the base chemical of Oxybenzone is called Benzophenone. And in the 1950s, Benzophenone was actually patented as a herbicide by the chemical company Monsanto.
Benzophenones have herbicidal properties. Benzyphones, whose job since the fifties has been to kill plants and algae, are thought to be one of the biggest reasons why we see a lack of seaweed in these coral reef areas, as well as coral bleaching. Because Oxybenzone is toxic to all algae species.
Hirschsprung: birth defect
Oxybenzone, which is highly dangerous for the juvenile stages of all organisms from humans to corals and algae, is thought to be the most dangerous because of its birth effects. It is associated with endometriosis in women and makes cancer cells grow faster. Some cancer cells grow faster because Oxybenzone is called an estrogen mimetic – it mimics estrogen.

The enemy mistaken for a friend: Paraben
A number of dermatological studies conducted by medical dermatologists show that parabens in sunlight actually accelerate skin aging – a sunscreen with parabens in it is just a poorly formulated product. Because it can no longer be claimed that sunscreen protects against the effects of sun aging.
Parabens are endocrine disruptors without platforms. Methylparaben, one of the most widely used parabens, is a pheromone for insect or webless species. Not the simple design of insects, but the sexually mature transformation of crabs, shrimps and fish can prevent another transformation.
In late 2015, Craig Downs developed a list of people who were looking for a guide to choosing safe sunscreens for themselves and for coral reef health. In 2016, a defensible list based on the scientific literature was published. Oxybenzone and Octocrylene top this list. Experts say a new class of chemicals will soon be added. We know that these are Salicylic Acids.
Chemical Content List
– Nano Zinc Oxide and Nano Titanium Dioxide.
– Oxybenzone
– Octinoxate
– 4-methylbenzylidene Camphor
– Octocrylene
– Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA)
– Methyl Paraben
– Ethyl Paraben
– Propyl Paraben
– Butyl Paraben
– Benzyl Paraben
– Triclosan
What is Mineral Sunscreen?
We can divide sunscreen products used in every age group and every season into two as chemical and mineralized. As ecological awareness has increased, the impact of our lifestyles on our health and the environment has become as important as our habits. As we mentioned above, research shows that chemical-containing product groups are quickly absorbed and absorbed into the bloodstream and have negative effects on health in the short and long term. It acts as an estrogen hormone in the young age group and causes them to enter puberty early. The knowledge that it protects the skin is disappearing. It prepares the ground for aging with its free radical effect. Mineral sunscreens can protect the skin without absorption. We think it would not be a wrong statement if we say that you can think of it as a protection shield on you during the time it shows its effect.

As we mentioned, chemical sunscreens unfortunately cause more damage to coral reefs than they do to human health. It is applied to the skin and leaves 25% of it in the water in the first 20 minutes after entering the sea. It causes the death of baby corals and the deafening of coral colors.
Current data says that 60% of coral reefs are in danger. In recent times, when the global crisis has made itself felt, it has become urgent to take hasty measures. In 2019, the US Virgin Islands pioneered a ban on the sale and import of oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Nature shows us in harsh ways that we are the ones in danger if we don’t change the way we communicate with it. We need to start building lifestyles that are in line with ecological ethics, make small changes in our lifestyles and adopt consumption with holistic values. The fact that 70-80% of oxygen comes from the seas emphasizes the importance of the ecological balance in the sea.
Considering 2 important criteria when making a choice today will make it easier to choose the right product for ourselves and our environment. Non-nano UV filters; Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Choosing a mineral sunscreen with either of these two UV filters is one of the best ways to repay our debt to nature… We wish you to pay attention to this when choosing sun products this summer…

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