With the hot sun glaring at us every day as long as the clouds don’t obscure it, our skins burn, pleading to be protected, and warning us with the red sunburn we all probably know too well. Although the best protection may be provided by seeking shade between 10 AM and 2 PM and coverage by sunhats, caps, sunglasses, shirts and long pants, beachgoers and athletes might prefer some other protection that would not disturb their activities. And that leads us to one thing: sunscreen.
Go to any store, and you’ll find rows of different brands of sunscreen, labels screaming SPF numbers, and other benefits they provide. These products are also pretty pricey, so which do you pick out? There are sprays, lotions, and zinc pastes, all with different properties. The most appealing would be the ones providing the largest SPF and most comfortable application. Little might you know the side effects these could have.
Of course, the sunscreens should be safe for human use, or they should not be sold. Nonetheless, are they safe for our seas? Many ingredients in sunscreens, it turns out, are not. Some may market ‘reef-safe,’ but it would be safer to double-check.
In general, sunscreens are divided into two: physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. As it turns out, different ingredients provide different protection. What we want is protection from both UVA and UVB rays for our skin. According to the NOAA, in a research done in 2016 by international scientists, a common component in sunscreen lotions and cosmetics that could endanger coral reefs. More research and studies were done, and the NOAA created a final infographic listing the chemical ingredients with the potential to harm marine life. These ingredients included oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate, and Ethylhexyl salicylate (ES) are not easily removed by the common wastewater treatments from the many water sources that the chemicals have been found in. According to the NOAA, the chemicals Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, octocrylene, Benzophenone, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methyl benzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc dioxide.
Chemical sunscreens are nano-sized particles, giving it the ability to rub and absorb into the skin and leave less of a tint. They are in no way dangerous to humans, and only a tiny bit is absorbed into the skin. They may, however, wash off or somehow enter the waterways and harm the marine life.
This leaves us to the last judgment: How well does the sunscreen protection from UVA and UVB rays? Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide provide broad-spectrum coverage, while the others protect from either UVB and UVA, with Oxybenzone and Octocrylene finishing third, effectively protecting from UVB rays and short UVA rays. More research should be done concerning this topic, especially to support any action or laws concerning this.
It all ends up with the needs and sensitivity of your skin, and the use of the sunscreen. Be it daily protection, water sports, or outdoor sports. At Odysseys, skin protection is just as important as surfing itself. We have various surf lesson packages, which you could check on our website, and sell sunscreens that will surely protect your skin from the harmful sun while you’re surfing. After all, no one wants to end the day with a searing sunburn on our backs.