Most sunscreen formulas typically comprise up to 20 or more chemical compounds . As the skin rapidly absorbs these chemicals, your health is directly affected via the bloodstream. So while sipping a cocktail by the pool after slip slap slopping sunscreen, your body is soaking its own shot of chemicals.
Living most of my life in the sun (Born in Abu Dhabi, expatriated in Singapore, Mauritius, and studied in Australia and now a marine biologist), I’ve had growing concerns about the impacts chemical sunscreens had on my personal health over the years. Prone to beauty spots and freckles, I consult my dermatologist once a year for a full mapping. After my last consultation, she declared my skin-aging "above average" for my age and recommended that I wear sunscreen every single day.
I took these recommendations home, and started researching for the best sunscreen out there. My investigations led me to several scientific publications highlighting the potential health drawbacks from chemical UV-filters used in most commercial sunscreens: from increased free-radicals in the skin [2, 3], endocrine disruptive properties in the body  and – this is the ironic one – enhanced risk of melanoma in cases of sunscreen abuse for intentional sun exposure . All these years, my daily exposure to commercial sunscreens and cosmetics products (which most of contain UV-filters) were somehow putting my health at risk. I pursued my research with more questions on the insidious impacts of chemical UV-filters.
During my time working at restoring Seychelles coral reefs (2015-2017), another topic caught my attention: sunscreen pollution in the ocean. With the world’s coastal population rapidly growing along with our fear of skin cancer and our obsession for premature aging, the use of sunscreens and cosmetics containing UV-filters has dramatically increased (and will increase further), with millions of tonnes of sunscreen entering our waters ways and eventually, our oceans. As it turns out, UV-filters (e.g. oxybenzone) are detrimental to coral health and can lead to coral bleaching at very small concentrations. Second irony. Protecting my skin from the sun might have been impacting the very ecosystems I had been studying, protecting and restoring during all my professional life!
It has now been five years since I have banned chemical sunscreens from my life and switched to natural sunscreen formulas. I strongly believe chemicals in sunscreens are poisoning us from the outside in with subsequent insidious impacts on natural systems, down the drain or when leaching off our skin. Today, the issue of sunscreen pollution has caught the World's attention and chemical sunscreens will soon be something from the past. This year, Hawaii is leading the way by banning chemical sunscreens to protect its coral reefs.
As a woman, coral expert and ocean & sun lover, I noticed an absence of sun care products capable of addressing the collateral damages of sun exposure (e.g. pigmentation, skin-dehydration, pH stress, premature aging) while providing effective sun protection and still ticking the boxes of respect for personal health and Nature. Together People4Ocean and LaGaia Unedited, set out on a journey to create a global first: a natural sun system loved by marine scientists, luxury skincare users, eco-activists, ocean & sun lovers, resort and spa owners.
In our next blog, discover the ingredients to look out for - and the ones to avoid - on your next sunscreen purchase.
1. Danovaro, R., et al., Sunscreens cause coral bleaching by promoting viral infections. . Environ. Health. Perspect. , 2008 116 (4), 441−447. .
2. Hanson, K.M., E. Gratton, and C.J. Bardeen, Sunscreen enhancement of UV-induced reactive oxygen species in the skin. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2006. 41(8): p. 1205-1212.
3. Chisvert, A., M. Pascual-Marti, and A. Salvador, Determination of the UV filters worldwide authorised in sunscreens by high performance liquid chromatography. . Journal of Chromatography 2001. A 921(2):207-15. .
4. Autier, P., Sunscreen abuse for intentional sun exposure. British Journal of Dermatology, 2009. 161(s3): p. 40-45.