Putting The Squeeze on Sunscreens

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GUNAS New York
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Deciphering the code of caring for your skin

We all know that beautiful skin is an essential part of being glamorous. Our skin is the biggest organ we have and it is susceptible to mistreatment from many factors in our life. We love the sun and our bodies crave the Vitamin D that it provides, but balancing a healthy glow and avoiding damage can be tricky.

Those of us concerned with our skin’s health, elasticity, and youthful appearance often use a combination of methods, including protective clothing, utilizing shade, fun hats and glasses, and of course, sunscreen. But it turns out that the sun’s harmful rays aren’t the only danger we need to dodge in our quest for perfect skin. The very thing that is meant to protect us, our sunscreen, usually has toxic chemicals in it, and could easily be contributing to premature aging and skin damage, causing us additional harm. So, here’s the skinny on the key ingredients in most sunscreens.

Most sunscreens contain toxic chemicals

Out of 2,000 sunscreens tested, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that more than 75% contain toxic chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer and other health issues. Most sunscreens contain oxybenzone and butylparaben, both of which are listed as moderate to high “overall concern” for health hazards by the EWG.

Oxybenzone is a particularly penetrative chemical that raises concerns of biochemical or cellular level changes and endocrine disruption. It also happens to be the most common allergen found in sunscreens … and the allergic reactions are triggered by sun exposure. 

Butylparaben is an antimicrobial preservative and has been found to cross body barriers and enter the body through the lungs, GI tract, and skin epithelium (National Toxicological Program). And according to the International Chemical Secretariat, butylparaben may also decrease sperm function and alter metabolic hormones.

These are not the only ingredients to run from either. There is a long list of confusing, difficult to pronounce chemicals that we don’t want on our skin – or put into the environment around us. So what about harming the world around us?

Your sunscreen may be harming marine life

You may think that you alone, with a thin layer of standard sunscreen can do no harm.  But it turns out this is untrue. A study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that even a small squirt of sunscreen in six Olympic-sized pools is enough to cause disruption of coral growth, kill coral, and contribute to the increasing rate of coral bleaching. I’ve spared you the details of how it actually does this to the coral, as it broke my heart.

What can you do to protect our coral reefs, sea life, and aquatic ecosystems? Start by using a reef-safe sunscreen! But as for our own healthy bodies, we must go even further.

There are several categories of sunscreen to choose from; chemical free, organic, natural, and reef safe. So it seems the ‘good news’ is that the level of toxins you enjoy is up to you!

While it can still be very confusing for consumers to untangle all of the different categories and claims made by manufacturers, one thing is for sure … we believe the more natural, the better for us.

Putting The Squeeze on Sunscreens-viva glam magazine -XL Catlin Seaview Survey-Heronbleachingsml WEB

Imagery from XL Catlin Seaview Survey. (



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Gwen has been in the magazine industry for 14 years and has extensive experience with both production and Intellectual Property law. She is the Editor-in- Chief of VIVA GLAM Magazine’s print and digital issues, and is also a contributing writer. Gwen covers a myriad of topics for VIVA GLAM, including natural beauty products, travel, events, and health.

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