Biodegradable Sunscreen: What You Need to Know!

Biodegradable Sunscreen: What You Need to Know!

Just because a sunscreen is biodegradable does not mean it is a safe sunscreen for aquatic ecosystems, particularly if it contain oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate and other harsh ingredients. Biodegradability means that the product will eventually break down within 28-60 days, but our question remains what kind of damage can be done to the environment or our bodies during that time? Toxicity and biodegradability are totally different issues. For instance, one of the most toxic pesticides ever made – dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT – biodegrades into two compounds which are even more dangerous than the original poison. In this case, biodegradability is clearly a bad thing! Is your sunscreen readily biodegradable? There are several tests to measure a sunscreen’s biodegradability, and most are designed to analyze the product’s ability to breakdown in wastewater treatment facilities with high levels of microbes and enzymes. To be considered ‘readily biodegradable,’ the product must break down into its natural state from 60 to 80% in 28 days. ‘Inherently biodegradable’ means it will break down from as low as 20% to 60% in 28 days. Is it tested in freshwater and saltwater environments? When submitting our products to the lab, we requested a test method that would be more in line with what we were trying to prove: that our sunscreens would be biodegradable in streams, lakes and rivers, as well as our oceans, not just sewers and septic systems. Although we were very excited to get the test results showing that not only our sunscreens biodegrade, but also our shampoo, conditioner, lotion, gel… our complete product line is readily biodegradable in both fresh and saltwater.  Even though...
Education. Action. Results: Coral Restoration Foundation Gala, 2016

Education. Action. Results: Coral Restoration Foundation Gala, 2016

Last weekend, I had the honor and pleasure of attending the 4th Annual Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) Gala.  The past few months have been challenging for divers and water enthusiasts in South Florida with the winds blowing non-stop.  But last weekend, the tides and stars aligned delivering an absolutely majestic evening.  Dress code was definitely Keys style – there were little black dresses, Hawaiian shirts, tuxedos and flip flops, and even a lovely gentleman wearing flip flops with his tuxedo.  Come as you are – just my style! The list of attendees at the Gala included many heroes and rockstars in ocean conservation.  While mingling in the cool night air, I was humbled by the number of people rallying together in support of this organization.  Born of Ken Nedimyer’s desire to help improve the local reefs, as Coral Restoration Foundation’s President and Founder he worked passionately to refine propagation techniques for Staghorn coral.  From humble beginnings, CRF’s staff and Board of Directors are now filled with some of the most passionate and influential water conservationists in the world. I had the pleasure of seeing old friends and making new acquaintances including some very influential people like the artist Wyland, Steven Frink, publisher of Alert Diver  (one of the best diver magazines around) who recently profiled the dangers of sunscreen pollution within our reefs, Frazier Nivens (underwater videographer who won two Grammies this year and put together a majestic presentation tonight), Michael Echevarria (friend, social entrepreneur and Chairman of the CRF Board of Directors) and many more. It was inspiring to hear about CRF’s incredible accomplishments in 2015 and to learn about their plans for 2016.  Equally as inspirational were all of the...
Does Your Sunscreen Contribute to the Destruction of Coral Reefs?

Does Your Sunscreen Contribute to the Destruction of Coral Reefs?

If your sunscreen contains oxybenzone and parabens, they could be part of the problem. When the Washington Post and Time magazine both published articles warning about sunscreens killing coral reefs, it didn’t surprise me one bit. The damage caused by benzophenone (also known as oxybenzone) and parabens had already been well documented in previous reports. The really big surprise with this latest research by Dr. Craig Downs, published in the Journal of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, was that such a tiny concentration could cause such extensive damage. Oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3 or BP-3) is a commonly used ingredient in FDA approved sunscreens, including some that are labeled as ‘coral reef safe.’ “The use of oxybenzone-containing products needs to be seriously deliberated in islands and areas where coral reef conservation is a critical issue,” said Downs. We formulated and tested our Sunscreen and body care products to ensure that our products would NOT contribute to the destruction of coral.   My sunscreen is a drop in the bucket. It can’t possibly make a difference…Or can it? “Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers,” Downs adds. Not to negate the other very real threats to our oceans like coastal pollution, climate change and overfishing, but the informed consumer can no longer believe they cannot make a difference. The study showed that miniscule concentrations — about 62 parts per trillion — damaged nearly half of the coral larva exposed to it in a lab setting and researchers documented significantly higher concentrations in waters near reefs...
Can Mineral Sunscreens Really Prevent Sunburn?

Can Mineral Sunscreens Really Prevent Sunburn?

The fast, easy answer: Absolutely. Ask any lifeguard from the 1960s how well zinc oxide worked when they didn’t have another option. The truth of the matter is that mineral sunscreens are the single most effective and safe products on the market – when they’re formulated correctly. But the devil is in the details and it’s really, really hard to formulate them well, as shown by the ongoing questions about The Honest Company’s Zinc Oxide based sunscreen not working. I’ve been a natural products chemist for more than 15 years, and have always looked for ways to make ‘natural’ formulas feel more like ‘mainstream’ products. It’s not easy and sunscreens are, by far, the most difficult formulas to cross over. Mineral sunscreens are often heavy, waxy, oily and white – not exactly the best product to put on your children before they roll in the sand, or the sexy image many of us want to portray when hanging out on the beach. The first thing to understand is that there are two types of sunscreens on the market today – those that absorb UV rays (chemicals) and those that reflect UV rays (minerals). People that choose mineral sunscreens usually do so because they are sensitive to the chemicals or are trying to avoid the impact of the chemical sunscreens on their body or the environment. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been approved by the FDA as mineral sunscreens, because in properly formulated products, they have been shown to be very effective UV filters and can meet broad spectrum claims. Natural product formulators like myself are always challenged...