Dive Deeper Blog

Is Butyloctyl Salicylate Reef Safe? Or Human Safe?
July 24, 2022

Butyloctyl salicylate is a new ingredient of emerging concern that may be hiding in your ‘reef safe’ sunscreen

With consumers demanding ever-increasing SPF values, many companies today are using SPF ‘boosters’ in their formulas to increase that number. Butyloctyl salicylate is a relatively new inactive ingredient in sunscreens that may boost the SPF factor by not allowing the skin to redden.  Because SPF factors are determined by HOW red your skin gets after exposure, reducing redness allows for a higher SPF factor WITHOUT a true increase in UV protection.

If you’re like most people and just check your sunscreen for active ingredients, you need to reconsider that decision. If it’s there, butyloctyl salicylate will be listed under inactive ingredients, probably toward the beginning of alphabetical or the end if not of what is often a long and complicated list of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce, and it’s far more common than you would expect.

There are obvious ethical issues associated with this practice, and we would even debate if this should be legal, especially when used in formulas for children and babies. Other ‘redness reducers’ in a formulator’s toolbox include the natural ingredients bisabalol and allantoin.

What really makes me angry and doesn’t feel ethical at all is when ‘natural’ companies offering ‘mineral’ sunscreens include butyloctyl salicylate in their formulas.  To make it even worse, butyloctyl salicylate (I’ll appropriately call it BS for simplicity) is also a concern for pregnant women as it may lead to birth defects.  BS has a similar chemical structure to salicylic acid and aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) which warns against use when pregnant. Sunscreens using this ingredient do not carry that warning, and in our opinion, would NOT be pregnancy safe.  Knowing that everything we put on our bodies has the potential to be absorbed into our skin, not labeling it as a concern seems very wrong! (The Australian government recommends it not be used during late pregnancy or for children under 4 by the way, so hopefully, US regulators are paying attention.)

Butyloctyl salicylate is also not reef safe, as it’s categorized as ‘Aquatic Chronic 4’ – May cause long-lasting harmful effects to aquatic life.’  You can read the pub med report here.

I asked two brand owners why they had BS in their formulas.  They didn’t seem to have any answer for me, most likely because they’re not chemists, didn’t formulate their own products, and trusted the large contract lab to formulate something safe for them.  That is not us.  We consciously choose every ingredient in our formulas for efficacy AND safety.

The only way to truly know what is safe and what a product contains is to know your ingredients and question everything.  We do that for you, by intimately controlling what is included in our formulas and preventing harmful ingredients from entering our facility.  I’m not saying we are perfect, but we are doing our best to make sure we offer you, your families, and our blue planet the safest, most effective products we can.  And as we learn more, we do better. We did the science and research for you.  You are welcome 🙂

Stream2Sea has set a new standard for EcoConscious sunscreen and skincare. Along with the required human safety and SPF tests, Stream2Sea products are proven to be readily biodegradable in both salt and fresh water and have passed a comprehensive series of aquatic toxicity tests. Formulated with powerful antioxidant blends to protect skin from sun damage, the Stream2Sea line includes safe sunscreens, conditioning shampoo and body wash, leave-in conditioner, nourishing body lotion and lip balms. Stream2Sea products are currently available online at www.Stream2Sea.com or ask for them at your favorite health food store, dive center or outdoor retailer. Friend us on Facebook or call (866) 960-9513.

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