The Environmental Impact of Sunscreen

Hawaii has become the first location in the world to outlaw sunscreens.

As of January 1, 2021, Hawaii will no longer allow the sale, offer of sale or distribution of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.  These chemical filters help block ultraviolet rays that can damage your skin.  But scientific studies have shown that oxybenzone and octinoxate are toxic to corals and other marine life.

“Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts,” says Hawaii Governor David Ige.  “This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawai’i’s coral reefs.”

U.S. researchers studied the release of sunscreen chemicals into natural waters from bathing and swimming activities.  They monitored seven organic UV-F compounds – including dioxybenzone and octinoxate – across six coastal water sites in South Carolina.

The researchers found “maximum concentrations being measured during the summer season when sunscreen application was at its daily peak.”  Samples were analyzed using an Agilent HPLC system.

Could natural products serve as alternatives for UV-protection?  Italian researchers studied propolis (“bee glue”), a resinous mixture of saliva and beeswax produced by honey bees.  They used an Agilent HPLC system to analyze ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP).

The researchers found that propolis shows both photoprotective and antioxidant properties.  “The combination of these two characteristics moves up EEP to the class of cosmeceuticals, as possible active ingredient of sunscreen commercial formulations for its cosmetics, protective and preventive characteristics,” they conclude.


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