Before you sun-proof your skin to indulge in a day of poolside lounging, you must know this. There’s a certain ingredient in your sunscreen that isn’t the best for you or the environment. Read on to find out what we’re referring to.
Oxybenzone is found in chemical-based sunscreens. But what are chemical-based sunscreens? This type of sunscreen absorbs U.V rays by seeping into the skin before the rays can penetrate and damage the dermal layer—as opposed to mineral-based sunscreens that block U.V rays by sitting on top of your skin, and functioning as a barrier against the rays of the sun. Oxybenzone enables chemical-based formulas to do much of the absorbing as it absorbs UVA rays as well as UVB rays. While UVB rays are associated with sunburn, UVA rays penetrate your skin more deeply, are linked to ageing (photo-ageing), and can cause your skin to turn brown-ish. And both are linked to Cancer.
According to studies, this filter threatens coral-reefs. It damages the DNA of young coral-reefs, and prevents them from growing and developing normally. This leads to the development of physical deformities, and inhibits them from reproducing at all. And it can cause starvation and viral-infections in corals too. It can disrupt fish’ reproductive systems, damage sea-urchins, and lead to a build-up in dolphins’ tissues. And that explains why places like Hawaii have banned sunscreens containing this ingredient altogether.
How does it reach these bodies of water? Because of us—when we’re savouring a dip in the ocean. And since it absorbs into our skin, and we excrete it through our urine, it enters our water-supply, and well, reaches the ocean in an indirect way.
Oxybenzone is allergenic. It isn’t ideal for those with sensitive skin because it’s known to trigger allergies on the skin. And it’s a hazardous eye-irritant—just to add to that.
It’s worrying—especially because children can absorb higher proportions of oxybenzone than adults; but this chemical has been detected in our blood, breast-milk, and urine. Research suggests that more than 97% of Americans have this chemical flowing through their systems. Because, yes, it trickles into our skin, and enters our bodies. Studies have been conducted to gauge the effects of this compound on our bodies, and they suggest that it disrupts our hormones—while they can affect the production of estrogen in women, they can impact the production of testosterone in men. And that it increases a woman’s risk of developing reproductive diseases. More studies are needed to validate these claims; but current results aren’t in favor of this ingredient.
There are a lot of non-toxic alternatives to oxybenzone. You can look for a broad-spectrum mineral-based/physical sunscreen containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead. These are effective at sun-proofing the skin, and don’t pose a risk to your health like oxybenzone. You can continue using oxybenzone since enough studies haven’t been conducted to verify certain claims; but avoid applying it on children and infants at all costs.
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