Fashion/Beauty  •  Beauty

Sunscreen Confessions

Just an ordinary sunscreen, trying to come clean about her untrustworthy friends.

April 11, 2017
Hi. My name is Typical Sunscreen, and I feel like I need to come clean about a few things: especially this time of year, when me and my crew are called into to the spotlight—the sunlight, if you will. You see, every summer everyone’s like, “Put on some sunscreen! It’ll protect your skin from aging, burning, and looking god-awful!”

But you know what? It’s not right that you blindly trust me and my friends so much. We’re not all that perfect.

You see, you can’t just put any of us on and go Songkran-style water-splashing in the sun for three hours and expect us to stick around. Dude, most of us have left your skin after the first three minutes if you simply slapped us on a few seconds before you got soaked. Even those of us who’d like to help have to draw the line somewhere. Like after three hours in the sun. The majority of us don’t do overtime, ok?

There’s also something about a few of my friends that I should tell you. They are not all sugar, spice, and everything nice. You might think they’ve got your back, that they’re there to protect you, but …

I don’t want to say this. I’m so ashamed of myself.

They’re actually bad for you. There. I’ve said it.

I know you’ve been told to trust them, that they’re here to protect you, but I have some really nasty friends that you should totally avoid. They have such strange names: oxybenzoate, PABA, benzophenones, retinyl palmitate, BHT, parabens, octinoxate, homosalate, and avobenzone. Don’t they sound like a spell from Harry Potter? Anyway, my friends are total haters. They’ll sneak into your body and wreak havoc.

Take that b**** Oxybenzone, for example. Ugh, she’s so popular I want to gag. She is like the Queen of UV absorbers. I hate to gossip but I feel obliged to tell you what she’s up to: studies have shown that she can seep into your body and show up in your urine, blood, and breast milk samples. As if that’s not bad enough, she’s also bad news for coral reefs, as she increases susceptibility to bleaching. And—you didn’t hear it from me—but she also has a tendency to stain your clothes! What a b****, right?

And there’s that brother of mine, Spray Sunscreen. He might look all trustworthy and efficient, like he’s got you covered, but he’s poisonous. Yeah, he carries technically “safe” ingredients but he’ll never tell you that those ingredients are safe only for topical application, not for inhaling. Yup, he’s sneaky like that.

Then there are the complete posers: moisturizers and foundations who say they have sunscreen protection. That’s like saying toddlers can walk. I mean, yeah, they can, but they can’t do it properly. They are totally flaky. They’re like fair-weather friends: as soon as you start sweating over something, they’re gone.

And then there is the Nano Particle gang. These kids sound so hip and high-tech, but they’re not as great as they think. Take nano zinc oxide, descendant of the great-grandfather of sunblocks, oxidized mineral zinc, whose old-fashioned sunscreens created a thick, white paste on your nose and face. Nano zinc oxide may not make you look like a clown but it seeps into your skin, entering your bloodstream and the rest of your body!

I know what you’re saying: you gotta do what you gotta do, and that includes hitting the beach and swimming in the sea. Short of wearing a big floppy hat and long-sleeve shirt (which are still the most effective ways to protect your precious skin—try a lightweight UV-blocking rash-guard when snorkeling or surfing), we sunscreens are essential for protecting you from UVA & B sunlight. The sad truth is simply that a lot of us are into some hard-core chemicals that may be bad for both you and marine life.

So read up about sunblocks that are biodegradable, reef safe, and protect your skin, including those with vegetable-based homosalate and octocrylene or good ol’ zinc oxide. Not all of us are backstabbers; some of us are really here to help! And there’s information about us everywhere. Check out the gallery below for some friendly options.

And, if anyone asks, you didn’t hear it from me.