Should I be worried about my sunscreen?

I've read that Hawaii will be banning sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate because of their negative impact on coral reefs. The Environmental Working Group also claims that the banned ingredients may cause hormone disruptions and allergic skin reactions. I like Elta MD sunscreens which have octinoxate. Should I be worried?

These are all important issues. Sunscreen is being used in almost every country on this planet. Too much sun damages skin, causes skin cancer, and speeds up skin aging. Therefore, more sunscreen is likely to be used in the future.  Supporting Hawaii’s ban makes sense!

Environmental considerations:

  • Coral reef health world wide is deteriorating, and there are many reasons for that. If we can identify causes and reduce them, we should!  Supporting Hawaii’s ban may help, as will being mindful when we go to other places to swim, snorkel, scuba, etc. near coral reefs.
  • Hormone disruption could occur, but is difficult to prove. Just don’t eat the stuff or put it all over your body for long periods of time.
  • Allergic reactions to sunscreen chemicals can occur with any of them, except perhaps zinc or titanium. Reactions to the last two are very rare.

What we can do to help:

  • When traveling to coral reef areas, read the labels of the sunscreen you take and the labels of sunscreen you buy there. Avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreen!
  • Remember that just using protective clothing cuts down your need for sunscreen.
  • For example, a “sun shirt” or rash guard, which can be found online, in surfing stores, and outdoor suppliers, keeps you from having to sunscreen from the neck to the waist.
  • When snorkeling, I use a thin pair of black, footless tights under my suit to keep from burning, and I don’t have to apply sunscreen on my legs! I just pretend it’s a new sexy trend. 😉
  • There are very thin, full body suits for long distance swimmers that you can order.

Let me know if any of you find other products or ideas that would help!

Hope this helps,
Dr. Brandith Irwin
Founder, SkinTour
Director, Madison Skin & Laser Center
Follow my skin tips and travels on Instagram!
Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
Ask Me Something
SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!