What is “biodegradable” sunscreen?

What is “biodegradable” sunscreen?

Biodegradable sunscreens break down naturally into organic components after exposure to moisture, heat and natural micro-organisms. They are environmentally friendly, meaning they minimize damage to plant and animal life. The main difference between biodegradable and nonbiodegradable sunscreens is the absence of environmentally harmful chemicals, some of which are known hormone disruptors. Ingredients in biodegradable sunscreens differ based on the manufacturer, but are free from PABA, octinoxate, oxybenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, oils, chemicals or the preservative butylparaben.  If your sunscreen has any of these ingredients, it has the potential to harm plant and animal life.


When you lather on your sunscreen for the afternoon, do you ever consider what will happen to it when you go swimming or take a shower? As much as we would like to believe, it doesn’t just disappear. Every year, between nearly 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off tourists and into the ocean. Most of this sunscreen contains chemicals and oils that harm marine life, especially coral reefs.

The chemicals and oils that are washed off of swimmer’s bodies and into the water eventually settle on coral reefs and other marine life, causing damage to the delicate ecosystems. This human impact on reefs causes them to become stressed and prone to viral infections, and eventually can lead to coral bleaching and coral death. Oxybenzone , a common ingredient in chemical sunscreens and a known hormone-disruptor, has even been shown to feminize fish. More than 25% of the world’s coral reefs are in danger of collapse from human pressures, due to factors including and much beyond the use of chemical sunscreen. Read more about the importance of reef-safe sunscreen HERE

Mexico and other countries with popular tropical destinations are starting to require the use of biodegradable sunscreen in order to gain entry into the water for snorkeling and scuba diving activities; some places will actually confiscate other types of sunscreen upon entry to their facilities.

Whether you are heading to a tropical paradise or want to minimize your environmental impact in your everyday life, Hawaii Medicinal sunblock is a reef safe sunscreen that is just as effective at preventing sunburn as conventional chemical sunscreens. Our sunscreens use only natural ingredients and do not contain any chemicals that could harm your or the environment. The active sunscreen agent, zinc oxide, is a mineral that washes off your skin and then settle safely into the sediment, with no lingering chemical effects.

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