Stay safe with safe sunscreen

Happy 4th of July! I’m hoping that you’re staying safe not just with fireworks but by using sunscreen. There are sunscreens and then there are reef-safe sunscreens. Reef-safe sunscreens, or mineral sunscreens, use non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect people from UV rays, and they don’t use chemicals that damage coral reefs and contribute to coral bleaching like oxybenzone and octinoxate.

So admittedly there are zero reefs in Kansas, but sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have now been banned in various parts of the world. A lot of that is to take steps to help protect coral reefs, but you should consider using non-chemical sunscreens when you’re in Kansas too. Here’s why.

Impacts of chemical sunscreens

UV filters, the chemicals used to block our skin from absorbing UV rays, have been found in water systems around the world; they can’t be filtered out by waste-water treatment plants. The chemicals have also been found in fish and other aquatic animals. There are studies being done to see what the long-term impacts of chemical exposure are on the wildlife, ecosystems, and in turn humans, who may be eating certain seafood.

Image from Raw Elements

For our own health, the FDA is taking a look at ingredients for sunscreens, and it’s currently in the process of figuring out how sunscreen chemicals impact human health. Oxybenzone, for one, is absorbed through the skin and can cause hormone disruption. Methylisothiazolinone, another common ingredient in traditional sunscreens, can cause allergic reactions. Here’s a link to some of the FDA’s recent published work.

Obviously sunscreen serves a purpose – protecting our skin from harmful UV rays. But if traditional sunscreens are also harmful? Go for natural sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the only ingredients the FDA has recognized as generally safe and effective.

Profile and review: Raw Elements, a mineral sunscreen

But do the mineral sunscreens actually work? I had a chance to try products by Raw Elements, a company committed to protecting people from harmful UV rays and also protecting the planet.

Brian Guadagno, who’s an ocean lifeguard, founded Raw Elements. He started by experimenting with different ingredients in his kitchen, and now the line has expanded to include lip balms, a revitalizing skin tonic, and baby+kids products. They use non-nano zinc oxide along with other organic, natural ingredients. A bonus is that many of their products are also in plastic-free packaging. The company was instrumental in spearheading the inaugural World Reef Day, celebrated in Hawaii on June 1, 2019, dedicated to helping people better understand, care about, and protect coral reefs.

Again, I get that as Kansans, we don’t have coral reefs in our backyard. But we do travel! And we have freshwater lakes and rivers and our skin absorbs some of the chemicals in traditional sunscreens.

If you know me, you know I’m very pale, and I was worried that the white cream wouldn’t rub in and it would leave me looking more ghost-like than usual. But it goes on smooth and rubbed in easily. After working outside in the summer, no sunburn. Not even a little hint of red! Plus, even with all the sweating I was doing, it didn’t run – no stinging eyes!

When you’re out celebrating summer here in Kansas or traveling, take a moment for a look at the ingredients in your sunscreen. Look for non-nano zinc and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. Keep yourself safe from the sun with natural ingredients that work and help keep you and the planet healthy.

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