the selfishness of sunscreen

The sun is being unjustly demonized.

There’s an unhealthy concern about our ‘flimsy’ skin and that ‘savage’ star of fire. Yes, there’s the potential for contracting skin cancer by overexposure to the sun but there’s also the very real health risk of not receiving enough Vitamin D3—which we’re gifted to naturally garner from sun-rays—by underexposure to sunshine. Vitamin D deficiency significantly increases cancer risk and poses other serious health concerns. It’s all about balance, people.

Health “professionals,” newscasters and busybodies constantly berate us to wear that sunscreen. This scolding is almost as bad as the non-stop villain-izing of tobacco (BTW, I don’t smoke), and the increased chiding I take for not wearing a bicycle helmet. These fashionable, PC views are all the rage these days (in the U.S. anyway) but they’re more about controlling others and/or fear-based thinking than a dispassionate reality or fairly presented facts.

When I was in Akumal Mexico snorkeling in Yal-ku Lagoon, no sunscreens were allowed. Why? Because annually, around the world, an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons (tons!) of sunscreen wash off swimmers’ bodies causing damage to fragile ecosystems. Plus there’s this: many of us don’t want to dive into a lake, pool, cenote or lagoon with an oil slick sliming its surface.

Could we all get a reality check please? This shouldn’t be just about you and your medical indoctrination of fear. Yes—we know that too much sun damages things; so does too little. But, what about too many chemicals? [the real cause of cancer, IMHO] Sunscreens are brimming with questionable chemicals and our absorptive skin is the largest organ of our body.

The main components of most sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—ingredients that will never biodegrade—which carry the true likelihood of harm to corals and sea life. Several contain mineral oil (petroleum) which has low solubility in water and is known to be toxic or fatal to scores of aquatic life and birds. If sunscreen is noxious to other species then it’s more than probable we’re being poisoned by it, too.

What can those of you who aren’t blessed with Italian skin do? Wear hats, shirts and use beach umbrellas. The men in Saudi Arabia and other arid countries don the light-colored cotton thobe, a loose, ankle-length robe and for their heads, the cotton ghutra. Women in various cultures have used parasols, bonnets and sunhats. What do you think people did for many a millennia before the “invention” of those fondly espoused sunscreens?

It’s trendy to wish to return to a simpler time. Well…start here. We still have a few weeks of summer left. Wear clothes, not sunscreen. Protect your face with a hat. Consider all of your body’s organs and, while you’re at it, contemplate the beautiful organism you live on. Cover—not slather—yourself.

p.s. I despise animal “dress up.”

4 thoughts on “the selfishness of sunscreen

  1. I have a great bathing suit from an Australian company that I have worn snorkeling in Hawaii and Equador. It is light and comfortable and covers me from my chin to my ankles- long sleeves and all. Kind to the aquatic creatures in the reef and to me as well and so nice to swim in!


    • Awesome! I’d love one myself. Send me the info. Can you use this to swim in S.F. Bay, too, like the “warmth” of a wetsuit?


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