When it comes to sunscreens, there are already a lot of questions that customers are eager to know: Is that safe for my skin? Can that actually protect me against UV rays?
But it doesn’t stop there as there has been an alarming amount of evidence that shows chemicals found in regular sunscreen can do a lot of harm to our environment, especially the marine ecosystem. If you care about them, the best way going forward is to prioritize biodegradable sunscreens – an eco-friendly solution for this problem.
But what if you don’t know much about them? Don’t worry; this article has got you covered with all information about environmentally friendly sunscreen and the best products available right now.
What You Need To Know About Biodegradable Sunscreen
What is biodegradable sunscreen?
This eco-friendly version of sunscreen doesn’t come with many common harmful ingredients in traditional products that can destroy coral reefs in the natural world.
All the products below are biodegradable, which means they will break down into the environment in the most natural way and minimize the damage caused to the environment.
As more and more eco-friendly sunscreens are available now, we strongly recommend you to use them exclusively when you can. At the end of the day, you should think about protecting the environment as well when using a skin protection product.
How are normal sunscreens harmful to the marine ecosystem?
You may not think that they are a problem, but sunscreens are one of the most popular sources of harmful stuff left behind by tourists, along with sunblocks and oils.
We can’t recycle it and when you swim in the water, they come off your skin and stick onto coral reefs. In a large volume, these products behave like an oil slick and create damage to the marine ecosystem.
Regular sunscreens can cause suffocation, and eventually, death to much of the coral reefs in the ocean. On top of that, they also feminize fish while promoting viral growth.
How can I know whether the sunscreen I’m using is biodegradable?
The simplest way to determine whether your sunscreen is an eco-friendly product is to look for in the information on the label. Most biodegradable sunscreens will tell this right away with a noticeable claim on the package.
Unfortunately, most major brands of sunscreen right now, such as No-Ad, Banana Boat, or Coppertone, don’t produce biodegradable versions.
Is biodegradable sunscreen effective compared to normal products?
If the manufacturer makes it with the right ingredients and you use it properly, these biodegradable products are just as effective as common sunscreens you have seen.
Like regular versions, biodegradable sunscreens also offer several products with different Sun Protection Factor value (SPF), like 15 or 30.
However, the drying time and consistency may vary and differ from the regular sunscreens you have known as many customers have said that they are thicker and dry faster than traditional sunscreens.
But this usually depends on the brand, and just to be sure, you should follow the instructions of the manufacturer when applying or re-applying it.
Since excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun is the main source of skin cancer, using sunscreen is the most effective way to lower this risk, and biodegradable sunscreens have been proven to get the job done just fine.
If you plan to spend a lot of time on the beach or in a pool that requires sunscreen to swim, it’s worth finding a biodegradable product.
If there is nothing available and you still decide to swim without protection, your skin may get damaged by sunburns, which might even be so severe to the point you need medical treatment.
This is especially true in tropical locations where UV indexes are remarkably higher, bringing more risks to your skin. A biodegradable screen in this situation is certainly an obvious product for eco-conscious people.
How to choose a biodegradable sunscreen?
Normal skin protection products are regulated by public authorities like FDA regarding what they can (and can’t) claim about water-resistance or SPF-strength. But the story is completely different when it comes to environmentally friendly terms like “reef-safe” or “biodegradable.”
These are common marketing buzzwords that sunscreen brands use to take advantage of the eco-friendly lifestyle movement. As of right now, there are still no standards about which requirements a sunscreen product must meet to get to call itself “biodegradable.”
The most reliable way right now is to look into the ingredients in the sunscreen since, at the end of the day, there are still regulations on what information manufacturers have to provide about these ingredients, regardless if it’s “eco-friendly” or not.
The best reef-safe products with more sustainability on the market usually have natural sun blockers such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. On the other hand, you should avoid chemicals and parabens like octinoxate and oxybenzone, all of which are harmful to the environment.
Are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide completely safe?
These ingredients haven’t come to the point that you should completely stop worrying about the effect they have on you and the environment.
At the nanoscale, especially under 35nm in diameter, uncoated titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide can go into the cells of invertebrates, causing oxidative stress under sunlight. They then blow up, and the cells die as a result.
The safest bet right now is to opt for coated ingredients that are larger than 150nm. Above this size, the toxicity level drops off tremendously and limits the threat to the environment.
And like most other information about biodegradable sunscreen, this nano-claim has not yet been approved or regulated by FDA, so you should look for a reputable brand that has enough trusted scientific data to back it up.
Are there any other dangerous ingredients?
Plant-based oils that manufacturers usually add into sunscreens like lavender and eucalyptus are also dangerous to invertebrates. Additionally, beeswax may also contain residual industrial insecticides that can be unleashed into your skin and the water when it’s emulsified in your sunscreen.
The good rule you should keep in mind here is always looking for the products with the simplest formula when possible, even with organic and eco-friendly products.
Should I spray it?
Scientists say that you should go for SPF creams and lotions instead of spraying products as they can stick more firmly into the sand and cover it with all kinds of chemicals. This chemicalized sand then enters the ocean when the tide comes in, becoming another source of contamination.
Another common threat happens when it rains and sweeps this sand deep down into lower layers, where sea turtles usually lay eggs.
Are biodegradable sunscreen safe for people with allergies?
If your skin is sensitive or allergic to common sunscreen, your dermatologist may tell you to stop using it, even the biodegradable products. But this is not the end of the story, and you still have hope to enjoy a sunny day on your favorite beach.
When people are allergic to regular sunscreen, it’s most likely to be PABA – a popular ingredient in sunscreen – that their skin has a problem with. If this is the case for you, going for a sunscreen without PABA should be sufficient and safe for your skin, even if the product isn’t eco-friendly.
If you still haven’t figured out the reason causing the allergy of your skin, your dermatologist may lend a hand with a skin-patch test that can determine which ingredient is the culprit of your problem.
Are there any other dangerous ingredients that I should watch out for?
Besides PABA, there is a long list of other harmful ingredients that many regular sunscreens contain, such as preservative butylparaben, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, oxybenzone, octinoxate, etc. Some of them are technically even biodegradable, but since they can cause issues for reefs in the ocean, these ingredients are not “eco-friendly” and also what you should avoid.
Best Biodegradable Sunscreens To Replace Your Regular Products
Raw Elements Organic – The Best Overall
A lot of natural beauty stores are fans of this eco-friendly sunscreen that is also water-resistant, cruelty-free, and can be used on both your body and face.
As we have said, non-nano sized zinc oxide is a safe ingredient that many scientists in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries have recommended, and this is also the main ingredient of the Raw Elements Organic sunscreen.
Many manufacturers have used nanoscale zinc particles as they can quickly blend into the human’s skin without creating a white cast. However, as these particles are so tiny, they can also go into the body of aquatic organisms. On the other hand, non-nano zinc is larger and doesn’t present this threat.
Additionally, Raw Elements is also a member of the Safe Sunscreen Council – an industrial group that is dedicated to raising awareness about what products like sunscreen could do to our environment and promote safer alternatives.
Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer Certified Natural Sunscreen – Best Eco-friendly Moisturizer
This is another tinted product from Raw Elements, but this time around, it’s only a reef-safe moisturizer.
This SPF-30 is one of the most popular biodegradable sunscreens, and with good reason. The Raw Elements facial moisturizer provides skin-soothing vitamin E as well as antioxidants while coming with reusable plastic-free packages.
Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30 with 100% Mineral Active – Top Continuous Spray Sunscreen
The convenience of spray-on sunscreen is totally understandable, and if you also find them appealing, Babo Botanicals has got your covered.
This product is known for its formula of non-nano sized zinc oxide for better protection and the yellow spray bottle that you can easily apply to your entire body.
Suntegrity Natural Mineral – Best Choice For Body Sunscreen
If you want a separate sunscreen for your body, this vegan, cruelty-free, and non-nano sized product from Suntegrity is your best bet. It gives no greasy feeling while containing some antioxidants such as green tea in order to prevent damage from UV rays.
All Good Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion – Top Vegan Sunscreen
This All Good product is a good choice if you prefer a vegan sunscreen, especially when you want to swim outdoors and need a water-resistant (as well as cruelty-free) product. This non-nano sized sunscreen is able to resist sweat and water for up to 90 minutes.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 50 – Best High-SPF Facial Lotion
The Raw Elements moisturizer above is already a great product with good protection for your facial skin. But a sunscreen with a higher SPF is your preference, check out this Neutrogena product.
This sheer zinc sunscreen is not only affordable but also safe for your sensitive skin without leaving white casts. With 100% natural zinc oxide, the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc face sunscreen is a non-fragrant and water-resistant lotion that can make sure your skin dries quickly.
On top of that, it is also oil-free and has antioxidants that can protect your skin from damages caused by free radicals.
Babo Botanicals Daily Sheer Moisturizing Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30- The Tinted Sunscreen Choice
One thing customers have usually complained about sunscreens is the lack of ingredients that can ease absorption and blending, which may mask your skin with a white cast as a result. Luckily for you, manufacturers have acknowledged this problem since and developed more elegant formulas that are friendly to the environment at the same time.
This tinted sunscreen from Babo Botanicals is one of them, making just a slight glow without any white cast like other zinc sunscreens. In addition to that, it also has hyaluronic acid to improve the hydration of your skin and a mixture of natural antioxidants to reduce sun damage.
Supergoop! Everyday Play SPF 50 Lotion – Best Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Besides the protection it can provide for your skin, this face and body lotion can also moisturize and nourish many anti-aging benefits.
With the Cellular Response technology, the Supergoop! Everyday Play is able to shield your skin from all kinds of harmful rays (IRA, UVB, and UVA), while oat beta-glucan fights against dryness. It’s also an oil- and oxybenzone product, meaning it won’t leave any white cast behind.
As you can see, manufacturers of skin protection products have acknowledged the demand for biodegradable sunscreens and started developing earlier than those of other eco-friendly products. This results in a huge variety of products available on the market right now that have been tested by both experts and other customers.
You should not have trouble picking out the right product for yourself from what you have known about regular sunscreens before and the information we have given in this article.