Why We Call Our Sunscreen “Earth Safe”

We get it. You’ve only just started to fully grasp the term reef safe. You’ve adopted the phrase, told your friends about it and finally figured out how to find reef-safe options. And then there we go, changing it up again by calling our sunscreen “earth safe” instead. So, what’s that all about? It might not seem obvious at first glance, but we have a good reason.

Just like everything we do at Goddess Garden, we put the planet first behind this decision. We still use the phrase “reef safe” and feature it on our bottles so they’re easy to find on the shelves. But we wanted a better way to communicate the stakes, which extend further than our coastlines. That way, people can understand the benefits of mineral sunscreen and make the best choice for themselves and the environment as a whole.

“Earth safe” goes beyond geographic regions

Little girl jumping into the pool, active lifestyle, sportive sweet child, water amusement, swimming in poolside, summer vacation, journey concept

We love that people want to save the reefs! In fact, that’s our rallying cry, too. But we’ve noticed there seems to be some misunderstanding about when chemical sunscreen is a danger to corals. Many people think that if they don’t wear it in the ocean or in a coastal region, it can’t harm the reefs. Unfortunately, that isn’t true.

Even if you’re in a swimming pool—or merely showering off—in the middle of Colorado, for example, the chemical actives end up in our water systems. There, they might not be filtered out [i], and guess where the water ends up? Yep, the ocean. These chemicals are so potent that mere drops in the water can damage coral polyps and the symbiotic algae they rely on, leading to bleaching, death and an array of problems for the diverse life that reefs support.

For that reason, we’re choosing to say “earth-safe sunscreen,” because every drop of chemical actives we can keep out of water systems will make a difference. We need everyone on board in order to protect our oceans—not just those who live by them. And, paradoxically, this phrase might inspire more people to choose options that are safe for the reefs.

Chemical sunscreens pose risks to other ecosystems—not just reefs

Summer lakeWe wish this wasn’t the case, but chemical sunscreens don’t only harm reefs. Their damage isn’t even isolated in the oceans, for that matter. These artificial UV filters are widely found in lakes and rivers [ii]. There, the same hormone disruption they cause in people and corals also negatively impacts other creatures. (If you aren’t sure why hormone disruption in people matters, let’s chat.) For example, scientists are finding that chemical sunscreen exposure feminizes male fish and causes decreased fertility among females [iii][iv].

Just like the disappearance of corals causes much larger problems for the entire reef and beyond, so, too, can changes in freshwater fish populations impact larger ecosystems by upsetting the delicate environmental balance, all the way up the food chain. In fact, the further up you go, exposure to contaminants—and their risks—merely increases as they’re transferred from one creature to the next [v].

Because of this ripple effect, it’s hard to say how far the environmental effects might reach. And, while the impact of oxybenzone and other chemical sunscreen actives on aquatic environments is well documented [vi][vii][viii], we don’t yet know what else they might be capable of harming, or what other systems they could endanger. That’s why an earth-safe alternative is important everywhere, not just at the beach.

Minerals are safer for earth and all its inhabitants

It stands to reason that, if chemical sunscreens aren’t good for the corals, marine mammals, fish or humans, they might not be good for other organic life, either—whether it lives in the water or eats or drinks from it.

In general, mineral sunscreens provide a safer option—for corals and the oceans—as well as people and the planet. And it makes a difference, not just at the beach, but everywhere you put on sunscreen. Calling our sunscreen “earth safe” helps encompass more of its benefits as a safe and effective alternative, and encourages everyone to make a better choice for the environment as a whole.

 

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[i] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962218321893
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166445X08002798
[iv] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962218321893
[v] https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/-/m/pdf/education/curriculum/aquarium-9-12-biomagnification.pdf
[vi] https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html
[vii] https://haereticus-lab.org/oxybenzone-2/
[viii] https://haereticus-lab.org/octinoxate/

 

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