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A photo of me in my doctor's lab coat.  The caption is "The Doctor is in! I'm writing about coral reef-safe sunscreens.

In this post...


In this post, I will discuss the importance of consistent sunscreen usage as well as the issue of coral reef-safe sunscreens. I will give you a list of safe sunscreens as of this publication date. And most importantly, I will give you some hopefully helpful tips to understand for you and your family to experience “safe sun”!

Protective clothing including hats, coverups, sunglasses.  A cute bathing suit with a coverup, broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a hooded coverup,

When fitness experts discuss the “best exercise plan”, they all typically agree, that it’s the exercise you’ll actually do. With respect to sunscreen use, this is also the case. It’s important to select the sunscreen that you’ll actually wear and reapply as needed.

Suncreen Facts

First of all skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Most importantly, 20 Americans die each day from melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

As a retired dermatologist, I want to increase awareness that skin cancer is a real phenomenon and most of it can be totally prevented with sun protection and early detection. As a lifestyle blogger, I want to tell you suggestions to make “living our best lives” doable, fun and, easy. I wear sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY. But, yet I go outside every day: I walk, garden, drive, etc. I wear hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing. And I get ALL of my skin checked yearly by my daughter-in-law who is also a dermatologist.

An SPF 50mpink rash guard shirt as well as a brimmed hat, to wear over two different swimsuits when in the water.

As you have heard, there is a lot of discussion in the news about coral-reef safe sunscreens. Marine biologists are seeing a definite increase in the death rate of all corals and some early studies are suggesting that chemicals in some sunscreens may be the culprit. But the same marine biologists are also noting that the elevated death rate may be due to global warming and pollution. Because bigger studies need to be done, the American Academy of Dermatolgists (AAD) as of now doesn’t support any restrictions on sunscreen.

Even though the AAD isn’t officially supporting various sunscreen restrictions or avoidance, some states and regions (such as Hawaii and Key West) have elected to ban the use of chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone, or octinozoate. These locales are only allowing physical sunscreens containing ingredients such as zinc oxide. The reason people prefer chemical sunscreens is that they don’t leave behind a white film.

At the end of this article, I will give you a list of safe sunscreens as of this publication date. In the meantime, however, there are lots of other options to accomplish the goal of “safe sun”.

How to Protect Yourself Against the Sun

As I mentioned above, I personally as a retired dermatologist and a current lifestyle blogger can attest, it’s not difficult to protect ourselves from the damaging UVA and UVB sun rays. Here are very specific tips to follow:

A very wide brimmed hat, sun-glasses, and a sarong to cover up.
  1. When outside wear a hat as much as possible. The broader the brim, the better but even a baseball cap (when combined with sunscreen application is better than no hat).
  2. When going outside, apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to all areas not covered by clothing. That includes the backs of the ears and hands. Use sunscreen all year round. Even when it’s cold or rainy, when I go outside for my daily walk, I apply sunscreen. I put on my sweatshirt or jacket and pants and then I apply sunscreen to all areas that I can’t cover with clothes. And then I put on a hat and sunglasses. It’s a habit that protects me from sun damage as well as the aging effects of the sun.
  3. Important sunscreen characteristics: People need to select sunscreens that are broad-spectrum, water-resistant, and have an SPF of SPF 30 or higher. Apply it every day, not just sunny days as the sun is doing its damage every day (see above what I do). Throw out expired sunscreens. The FDA requires that a bottle retain its original strength fot three years. But if there’s no expiration date, toss it out as it may not work.
  4. How to most effectively use sunscreens: Sunscreens need to be applied whenever we’re out in the sun and unable to cover the area fully with clothing. It also needs to be reapplied every two hours when sweaty or in the water. And use enough of the sunscreen. The appropriate dose to cover most adults bodies is the amount in a full shot glass which is one ounce.

Which Sunscreens Should You Use?

I know you are probably thinking this is the longest introduction to coral reef-safe sunscreens ever. But as you have read, the issues are complicated… That said, a reasonable compromise is to look at the website, EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens. This is a VERY COOL and INFORMATIVE website that has a very detailed sunscreen guide that rates all the products by scientists! Check it out!!! In the meantime, here are some great sunscreen products and their associated links to try:

This is from EWG’s list of Best Daily Use SPF Products: These are good to use every day at home under and/or instead of make-up.

  1. La Roche-Possay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer SPF 30
  2. La Roche-Possay Anthelios 50 Mineral Correcting Primer, Tinted SPF 50
  3. Supergoop City Sunscreen lotion SPF 30
  4. Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40
  5. Thinksport Every Day Mineral Sunscreen lotion SPF 30

Best Recreational Sunscreens: This next list (also from EWGs Guide to Sunscreens is for sunscreen when you’re on vacation skiing (high altitude equals much more UVA and UVB exposure), going to the beach, etc.

  1. Cerave Baby Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 45
  2. Blue Lizard Sensitive Skin Sunscreen, SPF 30
  3. Kiss My Face Organics Mineral Face and sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
  4. Kiss My Face Organics Kids Defense Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

There you have it. Multiple linked sunscreen products that are currently considered safe for the environment and for your skin. Please let me know any questions you may have on this topic or any others. Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend. Thanks!


Dr. Julie

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