I spent the first 40 years of my life either not worrying about sunscreen or using it if I knew I was going to get burned without it. About 20 years ago, research showing how much damage the sun causes to skin pushed me into using sunscreen on my face if I was outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., but I mainly just avoided the sun because the sunscreen made my eyes burn. (Honestly, it never entered my mind to worry about what those chemicals that burned my eyes did to the environment.)
Then I started working with a dear friend who has formulated an amazing tinted sunscreen that doesn’t run and has been proven to be safe, even in aquatic ecosystems. (Turns out, the stuff I had been using is lethal to coral larva at a concentration of 62 parts per trillion – the equivalent of a drop in 6.5 Olympic swimming pools.)
Not only that, but it doesn’t protect against the UVA rays are present all day long – not just in the hottest part of the day – and can penetrate clouds and glass. And because UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply, they’re more likely to be implicated in skin damage and wrinkling. This photo changed my mind entirely – it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and shows a truck driver who got more UVA rays on the left side of his face than the right.
The original plan was for her to reformulate her Stream2Sea sunscreen with neem but we didn’t get quite that far this year. It’s still on the bucket list, but I feel so strongly about how important it is to use reef-safe sunscreen that we’re carrying the first product in our 25-year history that doesn’t include neem.
And if you’re thinking that you’re never near coral reefs and don’t need to worry about those chemicals hurting coral larva, think again. Number one – they’re not good for you either and they’re so pervasive that they’ve been found in the bloodstream of more than 95% of Americans. Number two – wastewater treatment plants don’t remove them. That means if you jump into a pool in Minnesota, the sunscreen will wash down the shower, out of the wastewater treatment plant, down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico’s loop current and right over the struggling reefs of the Florida Keys.
Of course, I use it over a good layer of neem, but I also use it on my neck and chest where the long-term damage is even more apparent. I’ll report back in a year or so with the results on how much a combination of neem and a proven sunscreen help 60+ year old skin!