Breaking down ‘reef toxic’ sunscreen

From a country with a giant ozone hole above it, I know the importance of sunscreen. However, it appears that some sunscreens are proving hazardous to the world around us. As some islands are now discovering, the very lotion we have been using to protect ourselves may be harming the underwater worlds we visit.

A tiny nation in Micronesia has recently brought this environmental issue back into the limelight. The Republic of Palau, situated in the Pacific ocean, has announced it will ban ‘reef toxic’ sunscreen from 2020 in a bold step to protect the nation’s reefs and corals.

This follows a vote from Hawaii in May to also ban harmful sunscreens, however, it is not expected to be enacted until a year after in 2021.

Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene and some parabens are key harmful ingredients found in many of today’s sunscreens that may cause harm to the reefs as they wash off and cause a bleaching effect that can be explained far better by LiveScience. For these islands who have become tourist havens with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, this can cause consistent strain on the reefs and coral that may create both lifestyle and tourism issues in the future.

So as a tourist or environmentally concerned individual what are the options?

If water-resistant options have crossed your mind unfortunately even many of them do not make the cut. Oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene still make up over 20% of the active ingredients in Neutrogena’s wet skin products and are also likely in many other worldwide brands.

Fortunately, there are other options that can keep both user and reef safe such as mineral sunblocks. These mineral sunblocks containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide UV protection are less absorbent than other sunscreens but have found to have no effect on coral or reefs.

So whilst more islands are taking a stand for their underwater environment and surroundings, more pressure will soon fall on brands and companies to think outside the box and away from ‘reef toxic’ chemicals and formulas if they wish to remain key actors in the industry.


Image: Pexels License

Breaking down: The controversial Dove advert

For those who have not caught up, Dove recently revealed a new facebook advertisement. However, the short clip has created a controversial response after seeming to depict a black woman removing her skin and becoming white. Dove has since removed the clip and apologised.

So what were Dove’s intentions? 

Dove intended to demonstrate diversity through the clip and illustrate that their product was for all women of all nationalities and ethnicities. Their full response can be seen on their Twitter page.

How else was it viewed? 

However, not everyone saw it this way, and the advert was called “racist” by some as it appeared to illustrate white-washing and ethnic preference towards whites.

There was also an emotional response from some, Sonia Thompson writer for discussed “tears of pain in response to what seemed like a brand I loved telling me there was a problem with my skin.”

What is the culture surrounding this? 

There is a strong culture around what is considered “whitewashing”, where pale skin is considered “more beautiful” than other skin tones. This has developed a skin whitening/lightening market and industry particular in Asia region. For more information on this provides an interesting read.

Lighter skin has also historically been associated with nobility and wealth in a range of cultures from Asian to European.

Skin tone has also been known to be altered digitally and physically for media, advertising, entertainment and other purposes. This has attracted criticism for distorting reality and developing negative definitions of beauty.