The Dangerous (and Surprising) Side Effects of Sunscreen

For years, sunscreen has been regarded as the go-to form of sun protection. However recently, more and more light is being shed onto the harmful benefits associated with sunscreen. Let’s take a look at the three most shocking sunscreen facts:

1. Toxic Ingredients

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 56% of sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone. The main function of oxybenzone is to absorb UV light, however studies have shown that the chemical actually soaks into the bloodstream. To make matters worse, it’s still unclear how long the chemical stays in our bodies.

The EWG rated oxygenzone as an 8 on their toxicity rating scale, making it one of the most toxic ingredients found in cosmetic products. It has been linked to hormone disruption and found to potentially damage cells that may lead to skin cancer. Additionally, oxybenzone can cause early puberty in girls and infertility in males. It is also one of the biggest causes of allergic reactions and was named “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2014.

2. Highly Ineffective

When we put on sunscreen, we often also often adopt the mindset that we can stay in the sun all day. But that is simply not the case. Did you know that 90% of sunscreens lose their effectiveness in just one hour?

One of the biggest dangers associated with sunscreen is this false sense of security. The EWG found that nearly three-quarters of sunscreens contain claims that don’t add up. This can mean, for example, that the SPF levels are either higher or lower than reported.

To be most effective, sunscreen must be applied a twenty minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every hour. What a pain!

3. Harmful to Aquatic Life

Finally, sunscreen does not only present a threat to humans, but also to aquatic life. Coral reefs around the world have been stressed to the point of turning white, or “bleaching.” While climate change has been found to be a major culprit in coral bleaching, new research shows that the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate may also be damaging coral reefs.

Fortunately, governments across the country have started responding to these devastating findings. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain these two chemicals. More recently, Key West also banned sunscreens with these ingredients.

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