Understanding Sunscreens: Myths, Environmental Impact, & Best Practices

Understanding Sunscreens: Myths, Environmental Impact, & Best Practices

As you know I am super passionate about sun protection and I have been affectionately dubbed the "sunscreen evangelist", so a friend sent me an article about this hotly contested topic written by Mark Sisson: "How does Sunscreen work, and should you use it"?

My friend knew that our brand, BU, was created in Malibu, so he thought we might know each other. I realized we do have some mutual friends, that speak highly of him, so I wanted to provide additional information, as I've been making sunscreen for 30 years. So here is my response to his article.......

Mark, like you, the great outdoors has always held a special place in my heart. I craved the sun, often burning in the process, yet brushing it off that it'd soon become a tan (giving me a good base?). I, too, wasn't a fan of sunscreens, mainly due to their feel and the inconvenience of applying them. This is when we decided to create sun protection people love to wear.

In your article, you highlighted the lifestyles of our ancestors. It's crucial to remember that over the last century, the cumulative impact of our advancements and behaviors, such as pollution, urbanization, and harmful emissions, have caused significant damage to the planet, most notably to the ozone layer. Thus, the need for protective products like sunscreen has grown. Fortunately, with reduced CFC emissions, we're witnessing a gradual ozone layer repair.

Allow me to share some additional information and thoughts on the various points raised in your article:

How Sunscreen Works & Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen

You're spot-on. While chemicals absorb and dissipate UV rays as heat, minerals like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide reflect them. However, even the most effective Zinc oxide creams permit a small percentage of UV rays to penetrate and absorbed.

    Pros & Cons

    Endocrine Disrupting UV Filters

    You call out two ingredients,  while BU sunscreens don't contain benzophenone or oxybenzone. It's worth noting that many of the studies you've mentioned were conducted on rats subjected to extremely high doses (fed orally, not applied topically) of these chemicals. We await more comprehensive, peer-reviewed studies on the matter.
      On a personal note, I have used more sunscreen than any human on the planet over 30 years and I may not be the physical specimen you are, but this is due to other factors; Diet, Workout regime, Primal lifestyle and it looks great on you. I will say, I'm doing well and my skin is in better shape than it should be, with all the damage and stress I've put it through in my youth.

      Imbalanced UV Protection

      We're aligned here. BU ensures broad-spectrum protection across all products, addressing UVA and UVB rays.

        Environmental Concerns:

        The rampant misinformation surrounding "reef safe" claims has been frustrating for me, as I care deeply about the environment. Let's start with a simple truth, WE/Humans, are not safe for the reef. Our skin microbiome is home to millions of bacteria, fungi & viruses, then there's the hair care, skin care, suncare that are not benefiting the reef. All of these items are NOT the main issue of our dying reefs. Back in 1980, a scientist in Hawaii notice a factory dumping hot water in the ocean, raising the temperature by 1.5 degrees and they witnessed dying/bleaching reefs. TODAY (July 2023), Florida reefs are dying/bleaching due to increased water temperatures. 

        I am providing a link, Environmental Sciences Europe, which discusses "reef safe", one interesting point, was the lack of information on Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide effects on the reef. One reason is that manufacturers of these ingredients have some of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, as ZnO & TiO2 are in everything; food, toothpaste, haircare, skin care, sunscreens, paint to name a few, this article

        Over the last few weeks, I have received a number of donation requests from the EWG (Environmental Working Group) to BAN TOXIC ingredients, of which Titanium Dioxide is in the top 3. Side note: 25 years ago, a respected Molecular Geneticist, told us to avoid Titanium Dioxide, as he thought more information is needed on the stability of this ingredient, so we never used it in our formulations.
        If you look up Zinc Oxide in PubChem (link attached) PubChem resource, you will notice the primary hazard of Zinc Oxide, which is insoluble in water is the threat to the environment, "very toxic aquatic life with long lasting effects".

        On another personal note, many years ago, in the mid 2000s, I met Jean-Michael Cousteau, the son of famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, who was promoting Reef Safe Sunscreen. I have the testing showing biodegradability and yet it had all the no, no ingredients; oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, avobenzone and preservatives.



        Jean-Michael said, when they used Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, they’d notice when it came off in the water, it would cover the reef and they never biodegrade, they actually bio-accumulate. I'm linking an article he wrote in 2012 in Diver Magazine, The Truth About Sunscreens and Coral Reefs

        I’m telling you this, as now I see products that have Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide and right on the packaging they list, Biodegradable. HOW? This is what I mean about frustrating.

        Sunscreen Ingredients:

        BU strictly adheres to FDA guidelines, using approved ingredients, ensuring the exclusion of harmful substances like Parabens and Retinols.

          Sunscreen Best Practices:

          Your suggestions resonate deeply, and it's heartening to note our common ground.
            1. Use sunscreen alternatives first: agreed- BU makes UV apparel with 98% broad spectrum protection- ultra-light weight feel, that never looses it’s efficacy.
            2. Opt for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunscreens: I believe this is a personal choice, if you don’t properly apply and will never reapply the zinc or titanium creams, pick something that you like to use and will reapply.
            3. Apply wisely: Reapplication is a must,
            4. Toss expired sunscreen: If your cream uses mineral oils or spray uses alcohol, the actives do break down faster in these formulations. BU uses an Anhydrous formulation, that is highly stable and, IF, the sunscreen bottle has not been exposed to/or stored in the sun, it stays effective.
            5. Don’t neglect the inside-out factors: I love it and agree for overall health, there are many factors, but still believe topical sun protection can help.

            I admire your commitment to health, wellness, and the environment. Let's continue celebrating the sun responsibly, prioritizing our well-being and that of the planet. Your efforts in shedding light on these topics are invaluable, and I thank you for that.