The Difference Between Biodegradable Sunscreen and Non-Biodegradable Sunscreen
Biodegradable sunscreen is, well, biodegradable. The definition for biodegradable is: “capable of being decomposed by e.g. bacteria; “a biodegradable detergent”, this is according to the Princeton dictionary online. So vice versa, a non-biodegradable sunscreen does not decompose. The chemicals remain intact, and continue harming the environment for years, sometimes decades, before decomposition affects the substance. Sometimes, the process of decomposition creates a reaction within the chemical, making it not only a pollutant, but a corrosive.
Some of the most popular ingredients within non-biodegradable sunscreen, are varieties of parabens, cinnamates, and benzophenones. Clinical research conducted, determines these same ingredients, that are the most destructive to the natural environment, are also harmful to the human body, which isn’t really that big of a surprise. After all, if it harms the planet, it harms you; whether it’s directly or indirectly.
Biodegradable organic sunscreen, isn’t exactly biodegradable. The only biodegradable sunscreen that actually works, contains a mineral ingredient such as titanium oxide, zinc oxide, or similar minerals. The mineral element is what makes the product work; there are other things mixed in as well, which ideally would be organic butters, plant oils, and other natural elements. It’s important to keep an eye on popular ‘natural’ ingredients such as shea butter, though, because it can be synthesized from chemicals, which makes it cheaper to produce, and sell at high prices, with a label claiming the contents are ‘all-natural’.
The zinc oxide or titanium oxide within the organic sunscreen varieties may wash into the ocean, from the wearer’s skin. However, the minerals do not affect the surrounding environment. They sift to the sea floor like silt, and get buried in the sediment over a short period of time. Zinc and titanium have low toxicity levels, which means that, on the chance that any organic life form ingests them, they are passed through the system with little or no effect on the body. The same goes for people; the advertisers of biodegradable sunscreen often say “You can eat this stuff!” And it’s true. The ideal sunscreen can be eaten, because it contains only natural, organic ingredients that won’t harm the body (ps: doesn’t mean you should actually be eating it!).
If you look on the back of a bottle of non-biodegradable sunscreen, or in the instructions, you’ll probably see a warning notice, advising you to call poison control in case of accidental ingestion. Does that sound like a safe product to you?