A sign like this was the inspiration for SunSavvy.
The idea for SunSavvy began when my husband, Dak, and I saw a handmade sign at Honolua Bay – a marine life conservation area nestled into the northwest corner of Maui.
The sign asked that people wear only “environmentally safe sunscreen” while snorkeling, to protect the marine life and coral in the bay. Somehow, we didn’t think to take a picture of the sign at the time (drat!). We’d seen similar signs at Xel-Ha on our honeymoon to Mexico a few years earlier, stating that only special sunscreens were allowed in the lagoon. Xel-Ha conveniently sold their 'approved' sunscreens right there - for a highly inflated price, of course…
But Honolua Bay was a very different situation. We’d just driven a fair distance from our hotel, and hiked through a rainforest to reach the bay before being confronted with this sign. Recognizing that most people will do the right thing if it’s convenient or easy, we knew this was probably bad news for the reef, as most people likely ignored the sign and went in the water anyway. Taking an hour to go buy special sunscreen and come back is a pretty big inconvenience to ask of people. (I wore a long sleeve UPF surf shirt, btw, and Dak decided to just not go in the water.)
We stopped to buy new sunscreen on the trip back to our hotel, thinking we’d find something labeled 'environmentally safe.' But we were wrong. There were only the typical sunscreens you can buy anywhere, with their long list of chemical ingredients.
What did the Hawaiians and Mexicans know that we didn’t about the sunscreens we were using? And why weren't environmentally safe sunscreens easier to find?
The experience left us with two big questions: What did the Hawaiians and Mexicans know that we didn’t about the sunscreens we were using? And why weren't environmentally safe sunscreens easier to find? It was the beginning of an educational journey for us.
We soon learned the basis for environmental concerns: Chemicals in sunscreen were long suspected of being toxic to coral reefs. And one chemical ingredient in particular - oxybenzone - has since been proven toxic to coral, in even minute amounts.
But the environmental concerns were only half the story. Both of us had suffered skin reactions to chemical sunscreens over the years – a surprisingly common issue. We hadn't given much thought to this beyond a surface level annoyance, and hadn’t considered other potential health effects. But we learned that these chemicals absorb into your skin, where they undergo chemical reactions, and basically stay in your system. Oxybenzone in particular, is linked to possible reproductive and thyroid problems. It’s also been found in breast milk. And one study even suggests a potentially increased risk of skin cancer.
Some doctors dismiss these studies, stating that there’s not enough proof these chemicals pose a health risk, and generally advise that ‘any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.’ But they also agree that more studies need to be done, because there’s also no proof that chemical sunscreens aren’t harmful.
We’re just not willing to take the risk – especially now that we have a young daughter who breaks out horribly for days from chemical sunscreen. So our family now only uses natural, mineral-based sunscreens, which we've come to view as the safer, better alternative. But we had to wade through a lot of confusing, and even conflicting information online to reach this understanding. And we still had problems finding natural sunscreens in stores when we needed them, or were forced to settle for the one or two brands they carried, instead of the ones we knew and liked.
We created SunSavvy to help make safer, natural sunscreens more readily available, while providing better information about them, their ingredients, and their impact on your health and the coastal marine life that we love. We’re working to offer a wide selection of the best mineral sunscreens available, with detailed information to help you compare brands and make the best choices for you and your family. We also aim to reduce the confusion over everything from recommended SPF levels, to what ingredients to look for – and avoid.
But we're just getting started! We're adding more products every week, working on blog posts and resource pages, and revving up on social media. So we hope to see you back soon – and often!
- Kristie and Dak
SunSavvy is a carefully curated source for natural sunscreens and sun safety information. Our objective is to help you make better informed, safer choices in suncare products for you and your family.
We are committed first to your health, and to the health of our oceans. Chemical sunscreens are being linked to possible human health problems, and are proven toxic to sensitive coral reef ecosystems.
We'll also provide you with the latest information, articles, and how-to tips for minimizing the risks of sun exposure.
SunSavvy is dedicated to suncare, and devoted to your safety, questions, and concerns. Please help us build and grow — we have some great things planned ahead!