What Is Biodegradable Sunscreen?

Protecting your skin from the harmful UV rays is paramount, but have you ever thought of what sunscreen means to the environment? Or did you ever think of replacing your standard product with biodegradable sunscreen?

According to research by National Institute of Environmental Health Science, sunscreen causes rapid and complete bleaching of corals even at very low concentrations. Coral bleaching has a strong negative impact on the biodiversity of reef ecosystems, causing the illness and death of many marine organisms.

The only way to avoid bringing further damage to coral reefs while staying protected is switching to biodegradable reef safe sunscreen brands.

boy with white sunscreen layer on his face

Biodegradable sunscreen is a cosmetic product formulated to break down naturally into organic compounds upon exposure to heat, moisture, and micro-organisms. This characteristic makes it environmentally friendly, so using a biodegradable product means you’ll bring minimal damage to plant and wildlife.

The main difference between biodegradable and conventional sunscreen in the absence in the former of chemicals known to harm the ecosystem when they degrade, such as oxybenzone, camphor, butylparaben, octinoxate, 4-methyl benzylidene, and benzophenone-2 (BP-2).

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Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Florida, claim that between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of conventional sunscreen wash off people into reef areas each year.

In research published in the journal Archives of Environmental Toxicology, the same experts demonstrate that oxybenzone, alongside other chemicals commonly found in skincare products, poses the third-biggest threat to coral reefs after climate change and nutrient pollution.

Therefore, a simple way to make a positive impact is to ditch your conventional sunscreen and pick a biodegradable one instead.

Why Use Biodegradable Sunscreen?

Many of those taking vacations in exotic places rarely consider the impact their habits have on the environment. Media has told us UV rays are harmful, but the same media rarely promotes biodegradable skincare products.

However, the use of regular sunscreen is so harmful to the environment that many exotic destinations have banned its use.

The chemicals that wash off into the ocean settle on corals and other marine life, causing the reefs to become stressed. This stress exposes corals to viral infections which can eventually lead to coral bleaching and death.

With over 25% of the planet’s fish population depending on healthy coral reefs, it’s easy to understand how coral death impacts the entire ecosystem.

Perhaps you think the disappearance of certain fish species won’t affect you directly, but it does. If you like to breathe, know that up to 80% of the vital oxygen comes from the ocean. If coral reefs die, the oceans will become pretty much lifeless, so the concentration of atmospheric oxygen will drop.

That’s a strong enough reason to start using biodegradable sunscreen without further questions.

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However, if you need further motivation to switch to an eco-friendly product, know that most chemicals that harm coral reefs are also harmful to humans.

Oxybenzone, parabens, and an array of other compounds are believed to be linked to hormone disruption, and they can produce potential cell damage that may lead to skin cancer.

child putting on sunscreen at the beach

Is Biodegradable Sunscreen Effective?

We all know that prolonged exposure to UV rays causes sunburns, sunstroke, and is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. Sunscreens are skincare products developed to block UV rays and reduce your risks regardless of their eco-friendly status.

Applying an ineffective sunscreen won’t do you any good though. That’s why people are reluctant to switch to biodegradable sunscreen. More often than not, the term biodegradable is associated with ineffectiveness.

However, when used correctly, biodegradable sunscreen is as effective as the regular lotion.

Brands producing biodegradable sunscreens offer a wide range of choices. You can pick the product that best suits your needs from several varieties of SPF.

Keep in mind though that the consistency and drying time may be different than those of regular sunscreen, mainly due to the differences in the product’s formula. This depends on the brand, and as with anything else, it is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s indications regarding use and application.

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Biodegradable Sunscreen and Allergies

If you have sensitive skin or suffer from sunscreen allergies, you might be pleased to know biodegradable sunscreen rarely causes a reaction. This happens because the product lacks the harmful chemicals present in conventional sunscreen.

Allergic reactions are often triggered by the PABA, benzophenones, cinnamates, as well as preservatives and fragrances present in sunscreen. Biodegradable formulations often lack all these chemicals.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, minerals known as physical sunscreens, are the active ingredients in biodegradable sunscreen and they are unlikely to cause allergic reactions.

How to Protect Yourself from Sun?

Using regular or biodegradable sunscreen is a must in the warm season. But just because you applied sunscreen, it doesn’t mean you’re protected from the harmful UV rays.

The first step to protecting yourself from the sun is picking a suitable sunscreen with an SPF of 50. While this may seem over-cautious, many studies have shown that people often apply less than half the amount required to achieve an adequate level of protection.

Neck, ears, and back are the most commonly missed spots, so make sure you ask someone to help you apply the lotion.

It is also recommended to avoid exposure between 11 am to 2 pm when the sun is at its strongest. If you do have to stay out during these hours, wear garments made of UV protective fabric for additional protection.

Reapply sunscreen after swimming regardless of the manufacturer’s water resistance claims, and top up your protection every two hours.

Depending on the product you use, you might also have to wait for the skin to absorb the lotion before exposure. This is the case of most regular sunscreens which should be applied at least fifteen minutes before exposure.

Mineral sunscreen, aka the biodegradable type, is effective immediately after application, and that’s another big point in favor of this type of protective lotion.

In Conclusion

Biodegradable sunscreen is not only an ethical choice but also one that will not harm you. It protects the environment while reducing all risks associated with regular lotion, including the risk of developing skin allergies and cancer.

Good reasons to replace your regular product with a biodegradable one for good!

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