Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world. The Australian Cancer Council forecasts that 2 in every 3 Australian will be diagnosed with a skin cancer by the time they are of 70 years of age. Per capita, this rate is more than double those of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
Proper use of sunscreen could reduce the nation's skin cancer rates dramatically. But using the wrong sunscreen to achieve those goals could wrack up billions of dollars in damage to our oceans and the wider ecosystems.
Fortunately, you don't have to choose between protecting yourself and protecting the environment. Keep reading to learn how reef safe sunscreen is changing the equation for good.
Australians and Sunscreen Use
Australians don't use enough sunscreen. In part, this is because of widespread misconceptions about sunburn risk. A study conducted by the Cancer Council revealed that 90 percent of Australians were misinformed about:
- Sunburn risk factors
- Safe and appropriate sunscreen use
- The links between sunburn and melanoma risk
These misconceptions lead people to:
- Use sunscreen far less often than they should
- Apply less sunscreen than is appropriate
- Reapply sunscreen too infrequently while out in the sun
- Routinely remain exposed to UV rays longer than is safe
Nationally, this results in sufferers spending more than one billion dollars on cancer treatments each year.
Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early, with a 99 percent survival rate. In spite of this, so many people get skin cancer that it still kills nearly 2,000 Australians every year.
The Cancer Council strongly encourages Australians to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin whenever they are going to be outside. Its "Slip, Slap, Slop" campaign recommends using sunscreen in conjunction with other essential sunburn prevention methods including:
- Sun-protective clothing and hats
- Seeking shade when appropriate
- Wearing sunglasses
The Council further recommends that all Australians take advantage of the Bureau of Meteorology's website and apps to monitor UV radiation levels day-to-day. When UV levels are high, Australians are encouraged to:
- Use broad-spectrum and water-resistant sunscreens rated as SPF30 or higher
- Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside
- Reapply sunscreen generously at least every two hours that they remain outside
Using sunscreen correctly can prevent premature aging, painful sunburns, and potentially life-threatening cancers.
The Devastation of Coral Reefs
Coral reefs worldwide are being decimated by climate change. Drastic shifts in weather patterns are battering coral reefs with water that is at higher temperatures then in previous years.
As a result, reefs are being bleached and starved, and then slowly rotting away.
This loss is devastating underwater ecosystems all over the globe. Some areas, such as the Caribbean, have lost more than 75 percent of their reefs within the last fifty years.
Tragically, sunscreen use is directly contributing to this widespread problem, by further compromising the health and resilience of coral reefs.
Sunscreen and the Environment
An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the world's oceans every year. There, they join the chemical soup of contaminants being washed into waterways from other skincare and personal-care products. Sunscreen, in particular, commonly contains:
These substances are not biodegradable or biodegrade very slowly. They are highly toxic to ocean ecosystems, especially coral. They can do severe damage to coral's ability to:
- Recover from bleaching
- Withstand other assaults
In addition to being unsafe for coral, these ingredients are unsafe for marine life such as fish and shrimp. When they contaminate or kill organisms like those near the base of the food chain, the damaging effects ripple outward across the entire ecosystem.
Sunscreen and You
The same ingredients that make sunscreen dangerous for coral reefs can also make it dangerous for you and your family. Oxybenzone is a prime example. Scientists have linked oxybenzone to:
- Hormone disruption
- Cell damage
- Low birth weights in infants born to exposed mothers
Octisalate and homosalate are also hormone disruptors. They are known to negatively affect human:
- Reproductive systems
All three absorb into the body quickly and can linger or accumulate over time. Butylparaben is linked to male infertility, endocrine disruption, and cancer. Parabens have similar effects on the body. With so many negative effects, traditional screens can present as much danger as they do protection to users of all ages.
Why Reef Safe Sunscreen Is Different
Recently, increased awareness of these problems has led to a rise in eco friendly sunscreens.
These natural sunscreen products tend to be made of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and other non-chemical ingredients that are safe for both humans and the environment. They are suitable for individuals who may not respond well to traditional sunscreens and those who will swim, boat, or otherwise spend time in and around delicate water ecosystems.
Also known as ocean safe sunscreen, these products enable users to get the sun protection they need without sacrificing their green living ideals. They can also help beach-goers stay out of trouble.
Bans on Unsafe Sunscreen
In 2018, Hawaii and Palau enacted bans on sunscreens that are not reef safe. Since then, other national and local governments have begun seeking or implementing similar bans.
Users can expect to see these types of bans popping up more frequently and carrying stiff penalties. This is likely to be especially true in tropical environments that have already sustained serious reef damage.
Choosing zinc sunscreen or another ocean safe sunscreen ensures that you won't end up on the wrong side of the law the next time you head to the beach.
People4Ocean Sun Care
Not all sunscreens claiming to be reef safe are created equal.
In large part, this is because terms like reef safe and ocean safe are not regulated by any governing authority. This means that producers can simply eliminate one or two of the most well-known toxic ingredients and call themselves eco friendly. There is no oversight to verify their claims or prevent them from doing so.
In this commercial environment, buying from ethical and responsible producers is the only way to get truly ocean safe sunscreen.
People4Ocean Sun Care was founded to be exactly that type of company. Created by marine biologists passionate about the health and beauty of the world's waterways, People4Ocean Sun Care cuts no corners. All our products are:
- Free of synthetic chemicals
- Made using sustainable and local manufacturing processes
- Thoroughly tested for quality and safety
- Spa- grade ingredients for sensitive skin
- Broad-spectrum UV protectants
- Environmental Working Group and Therapeutic Good Administration approved
- Safe for all ages and skin types
- Safe for women who are pregnant or nursing
- Ocean conscious
- Packaged in eco-friendly sugar-cane resin containers
People4Ocean Sun Care offers sunscreens for every need, including sport, nourishing, and vegan formulas. Our product line includes supplemental products like After Sun Solution to provide one-stop shopping for all your sun and skin care needs. All products have a generous shelf-life of three years.
Australian-made and Owned, we work with local businesses and invest a portion of all sales into projects dedicated to restoring the world's coral reefs.
Your Choices Matter
Choosing reef safe sunscreen matters. What you put on your skin has a huge impact on your health and the health of the environment.
But choosing great sunscreen is only one of the many ways you can change your habits to protect the world's oceans. Here are expert's other top recommendations.
- Use clean, non-toxic personal care products as much as possible
- Use a minimum of personal care products before going to the beach to avoid chemical wash-off into the water
- Avoid aerosol sunscreens which often coat skin unevenly and end up directly on the sand or in the water where they can harm the ecosystem
- Wear hats, rashguards, shirts, and other protective clothing to minimize the amount of exposed skin you have while outside
- Take advantage of shade whenever it's available
- Stay out of the sun during peak hours
All of these choices can easily but significantly reduce the amount of sunscreen you need. They will also reduce the tide of toxic chemicals being washed out to sea and damaging our waterways. That will make you part of a powerful first step toward preserving our oceans.
Make the Change
Reef safe sunscreen is as great for you as it is for the environment. Check out our full line of ocean safe products and choose a sunscreen you can feel good about today.