Eco-friendly sunscreen – keep your skin and the corals safe

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We kitesurfers spend a lot of time in the sun and we’d be burned (pun intended) without a little help from our trusted sunblocks and zinc sticks. Today we’d like to raise some awareness on this topic. We’ve been gifted with seas and wind which are essential for a good kitesurfing session and it is our duty to preserve the oceans and help them heal.

Sunscreen was invented in the 1930s and has since become an essential product to protect against sunburn, and against cancer too. The industry has evolved quickly and today there are hundreds of sunblocks on the market. There are two main types of sunblock available – chemical and mineral, and in the recent years concerns have arisen about the safety of the ingredients used – for humans and marine life alike.

 

We kitesurfers spend a lot of time in the sun and we'd be burned (pun intended) without a little help from our trusted sunblocks and zinc sticks. Today we'd like to raise some awareness on this topic. We've been gifted with seas and wind which are essential for a good kitesurfing session and it is our duty to preserve the oceans and help them heal. 

 

Sunscreen gets (at least in part) absorbed by your skin potentially harming your body, and what doesn’t get absorbed, runs off your skin and disperses in the water. Even if you don’t swim after applying sunscreen, it can go down drains when you shower. Spray versions of sunblock can get dispersed in the air and onto the sand, where it gets washed into our oceans. Studies show that some of the chemicals used in sunblocks contribute to coral bleaching and harm the already retracting reefs. And other studies indicate that some chemicals might be harmful to your health as well, however, scientists admit that the evidence from these studies is not conclusive. Conclusive or not, we opt to stay away from sunblocks containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octocrylene, avobenzone and nano-particles and opt for safer mineral sunblocks, Lycras and hats to protect us against the sun.

 

Ingredients to avoid:

Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, which studies the effects of personal care produscts on coral reefs, has compiled a list of chemicals that can have a negative effect on the marine ecosystems. This list includes:

  • any form of microplastic sphere or beads

  • any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide

  • oxybenzone

  • octinoxate

  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor

  • octocrylene

  • para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)

  • methyl paraben

  • ethyl paraben

  • propyl paraben

  • butyl paraben

  • benzyl paraben

  • triclosan

 

What sunscreen should you buy?

We recommend to always check the ingredients label on your sunblock before buying and avoid the chemicals listed above. You’ve probably noticed that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also listed above, but this refers to nano versions only. Most mineral sunblocks on the market contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that are non-nano in size and are considered safe.

Another thing to keep in mind is the origin (shipping of products has it’s own CO2 footprint implications) and packaging. Most sunblock comes in plastic containers which constitute another issue for the ocean and environment in general. If possible, opt for a mineral sunblocks in a metal or glass container, or at least make sure the packaging is made of recycled plastic. Recycled and reused is always better than single-use.

 

Can I make my own DIY sunblock?

Of course! Making your own sunblock is fun and when you follow a good recipe it is also safe for your skin and the reefs. We recommend you research the ingredients to ensure the recipe you’ve chosen is safe. Please keep in mind that homemade products can’t be properly tested in labs for effectiveness and may not provide proper sun protection. You can buy actual UV-blocking ingredients online (like non-nano zinc oxide), but you need to make sure that they are stable and safely mixed.

Join our sustainability workshops to learn how to make your own skin & coral safe sunblock or help us create a healthier and greener Sri Lanka by joining our Kite Green Initiative.