What is a Chemical-Free Sunscreen?

What is a Chemical-Free Sunscreen?

Does your product contain ‘chemicals’? Chemical-free sunscreen – Everyone is asking about it right now.  I’ve been formulating natural skin care products for nearly 20 years.  Every ingredient I use is consciously chosen: sustainably sourced botanicals, nourishing oils and processed ingredients with a small carbon foot-print.  Before selecting, I check its compatibility with the Whole Foods standard, EcoCert, Environmental Working Group and of course the Material Safety Data Sheet. Many of our readers, customers and friends know me as a diver, but I also studied organic chemistry in college and am a cosmetic chemist.  I believe chemistry is the central science – everything is based on chemicals.  Hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon…  One of the questions that used to drive me up a wall was ‘Do your products contain chemicals?’  What I wanted to say was ‘Of course they do! You are thousands of chemicals. The air we breathe has chemicals. Everything is made of chemicals!’  But instead, I would calmly answer ‘My products don’t contain any harmful or toxic chemical ingredients.’ Yet, I just posted a video on my personal facebook page and commented ‘Choose chemical free sunscreens.’  What the heck? There is a drive among conscious consumers to choose ‘Chemical-Free Sunscreens’ And I love the intent of this!  Those that are truly concerned with the health of our oceans (and our own bodies) are consciously choosing mineral-based sunscreens instead of ‘organic chemical’ sunscreens.  Of course, mineral sunscreens are chemicals too, but they are inorganic chemical compounds. Here’s where it can get really confusing: “Organic” doesn’t always mean what you think it does When most people see the word “organic,”...
Going Green with New Year’s Resolutions

Going Green with New Year’s Resolutions

“I’ve made my ‘Going Green New Year’s Resolution,'” becomes an epic fail.  Why does it happen?  It’s inevitable. It happens every January 1st. Most everyone makes New Year’s resolutions committing themselves to lose weight, make more money and eat healthier. They want to  live better, recycle more diligently or go back to school to finish their degree. Whatever the self-promise may be, the vast majority of people lose sight of their goal by the end of February. By Spring the dedication is lost altogether. What causes the gung-ho New Year’s desire to be forgotten and put aside? Over commitment to too many facets. People jump in with both feet to make major life-changes, because it’s “New Year’s.” It’s the time for renewal, and re-birth and closing chapters to hopefully start anew. People become so over-zealous in their end goal that they forget there’s a journey in the middle. Sometimes the journey is difficult, because it requires changing habits that have existed for a lifetime. The number one resolution in America is to lose weight and become healthier. Gym memberships increase, sales at organic grocers and health food stores boom and since awareness to being “green,” now goes hand-in-hand with the concept of being healthy, more people commit to trying to be mindful about plastics and recycling. Changing habits for these lifestyles is more than just fat or non-fat, high-fructose corn syrup or Stevia or in the case of sunscreen: chemical or mineral. Health is everywhere. It’s in everything or perhaps more to the point, is lacking in many things that most people give little thought to today. Whether it’s...
Organic Sunscreen What Does it Really Mean?

Organic Sunscreen What Does it Really Mean?

When most people think of organic sunscreen, they think natural, wholesome and safe. But, you might remember from high school chemistry that “organic” can also mean carbon-based chemicals. So what’s the big deal? When talking about organic sunscreen ingredients, it’s not the same as the lovely organic tomato you might purchase from Whole Foods. Organic Sunscreens Aren’t Always Telling the Whole Truth Simply put, “organic” sunscreen ingredients can be labeled “organic” just because they’re carbon-based chemicals.  These “organic sunscreens” can still be cause for concern to the environment and to our health.  The manufacturers aren’t lying, but they certainly aren’t telling the whole truth. Oxybenzone, for example, is an Organic Compound Take oxybenzone, also known as benzophenone-3, for example. According to the manufacturer, oxybenzone is an organic compound and is commonly added to sunscreens for its UVA- and UVB-absorbing properties. Controversy abounds regarding these ingredients: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that oxybenzone is found in urine samples of 97% of Americans and linked it to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage. According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzone is “ineffective and harmful,” but lists nearly 600 products containing it, including sunscreens commonly found in local drug stores, outdoor outfitters and marketed towards water-enthusiasts. Other studies show that oxybenzone can trigger outbreaks of viral infection in coral reefs, and can disrupt hormones in fish.  What Kind of Organic Sunscreen Ingredients Matter? This is definitely not the kind of “organic” ingredient most of us would want in our skincare products. These chemicals have the potential to bioaccumulate in our bodies and in our environment – a 2010 study by Margaret Schlumpf...
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...