Skin cancer is common in the U.S. A figure by the American Cancer Society estimated that at least one in five Americans has a chance of developing skin cancer when they reach the age of 70. That same figure also showed that close to 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer daily. Now, that may be bad news, especially for beach lovers and even people who get sunburnt all the time. But, there is also good news: skin cancer is not life-threatening and is avoidable by using sunscreen.
But, sorry to burst your bubble with another bad news: sunscreen is not sustainable for the environment. The chemical used to produce sunscreens is a threat to coral reefs, considered one of the most valuable ecosystems that sustain life on Earth. It’s like a Catch-22 because what can save you from skin cancer has negative impacts on the environment too. That’s life and most of the things that we use to live.
Fortunately, we have some good news for you! So, before you give up protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays and get wrinkles or skin cancer, you should know that there are alternatives to sunscreen that you can use that have less harmful effects on the environment. Don’t think about giving up protecting your skin or having laser skin-tightening procedures yet.
Sunscreens And Our Environment
In 2008, there were an estimated 180 million Americans who went to the beach. Now, imagine if each of them lathered a layer of sunscreen before they swam. And that amount of sunscreen went into the seawater and eventually made its way to the coral reefs and killed them. That is precisely the findings of Craig Downs, Ph.D., a forensic ecotoxicologist and the executive director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, in 2005.
In The U.S. Virgin Islands’ Trunk Bay, where there is a daily average of 2000 – 5000 beachgoers, to the point that the surface of the seawater would look there is an iridescent oil spill at the end of the day. When Downs pulled samples from the ocean and tested them for toxicity, it turned out that there was a high level of oxybenzone, a chemical found in sunscreens killing marine life, specifically the coral reefs. In that same year, an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen ended up in the oceans.
So, what can we do? Several products that you use will give you the same protection from the sun as sunscreen does. They’re environment-friendly, organic, and safe for your skin too. Here are some of them:
While aloe vera is more commonly used to treat sunburns, it also has properties that make it a good sunscreen alternative. Besides protecting our skin from the sun, it can also help moisturize skin, fight aging, and lighten blemishes.
Although you may need to reapply coconut oil very often because it can only block 20% of the sun’s UV rays, it will still be a better alternative for sunscreens. It can also help in moisturizing your skin and helps smoothens blemishes.
Most people might dismiss sesame oil only as an oil for cooking. But it can also be a good sunblock because it has vitamin E, which can protect your skin from pollution, toxins, and of course, the sun’s UV rays.
Olive Oil And Almond Oil
Did you know that with these two oils, you can do more than make food? You make your sunscreen by mixing almond oil and olive oil in hot water along with coconut water and beeswax. That’s so organic.
While it is organic and friendly, you can use shea butter as a sunblock on days when you’re not going to swim for a long time because it has a low level of SPF — it’s only around 6 to 10. But, the good news is that its antioxidants can protect you from the sun and prevent you from getting skin cancer.
Other Things We Can Do To Protect The Environment While Protecting Ourselves
Some of you might feel iffy about putting all these sunscreen alternatives in our list because you’ve known most of them as a food ingredient. If that’s the case, you also have the option to use readily made sunscreens with organic ingredients. Most likely, they will have the same elements we listed for you, but sometimes you can’t just bother putting food on your skin.
Also, when choosing a readily made organic sunscreen, look for creams instead of the ones you spray on your skin. Applying the sunscreen with your hands is better because spraying them on also leaves residues on the sand, which, unfortunately, also has negative environmental impacts.
Lastly, you can choose a time of the day to swim when the sun isn’t that hot so that there wouldn’t be any need for you to put on sunscreen. We all want to have a fun day by the beach, but you can also do it in ways that you will have lesser negative environmental impacts.