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About Biodegradable Sunscreens

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: BStone•updated: 5/20/2011

Many are seeking information about biodegradable sunscreens since most marine parks in Mexico are now requiring beach guests, snorkelers and scuba divers to use only biodegradable lotions. Recent research findings reveal how washed-off sunscreen ingredients can stir back to life dormant viruses.

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    The Need for Eco-Friendly Sunscreens


    Vacationers who are planning to go to Mexico are advised to check for advisories on their intended destinations. Most tourist areas, particularly marine preservation parks, are now requiring their visitors to use only the biodegradable types of sunscreens. This requirement came as a reaction to the findings of an Italian research group, pertaining to washed-off ingredients of sunscreen lotions coming from the multitudes of beach goers. Their report reveals how sunscreen chemicals have stirred back to life a strain of dormant virus found in corals.

    800px-Alyosha is certified cozumel 

    Researchers are quite concerned that a once dormant virus has sprung back to life, affecting important coral algae called zooxanthellae. Most of the corals found on the ocean’s surface have very high concentrations of compounds that were traced as coming from sunscreens. The algae are important for the reef as they provide food via photosynthesis. Researchers have observed how the zooxanthellae algae are being filled-up with the virus strain, as it replicates inside their systems up to a bursting point. The exploding algae will then spread out the virus in nearby corals, thus, causing damages to more marine life.


    Even cruise ships are imposing the same requirement from their passengers to avoid the recurrence of similar past incidents of mysterious plagues that infected the guests on board. Cruise ships have pool amenities and spas that are quite popular among passengers, where such dormant microorganisms may also exist. Swimming pools and spa facilities have often been traced as sources of disease causing bacteria.

    Hence, the need to eliminate the possibility that chemical compounds from conventional sunscreens will likewise stir into activity similar strains of disease causing microbes that may be lurking in their water-bearing facilities.

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    What Do Green Sunscreens Contain?


    The following are some of the known compositions of a biodegradable sunscreen:

    • One type of inorganic metal oxide like titanium oxide or zinc oxide in micronized, sub-micronized or nanoparticle size, which is homogenized in water or water-aloe phase or oil phase to act as the sunscreen’s sun-block agent.
    • One type of emulsifier like an aloe vera gel or ester of coconut oil or a combination of the two to emulsify water, water-aloe or natural oil extracts from organic sources like jojoba, sesame seed, sweet almond, safflower, sunflower, rose, eucalyptus, avocado, raspberry seed, rice bran, castor, macadamia, wheat, beta carotene, arrowroot or grapefruit seed, and a homogenizer and thickening agent like arrowroot powder, wood powder, carageenan or xanthan gum, in combined form or used individually. As emollients, they allow the even-spreading of the biodegradable cream.
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    titanium oxide 


    • Vitamin E and extracts from beta carotene, green tea, grapefruit seed or grape seed, wherein their inclusion is to act as the sunscreen’s antioxidants or free-radical inhibiting agents.


    • Phospholipids or fat containing phosphorous, added to the emulsifiers to aid as a stabilizing formulation for water resistance.


    • Homogenizers used are beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower oil, tocopherol acetate, peppermint oil, rosemary extract, or comfrey root extract, whether individually or as mixture.

    zinx oxide source 


    • Arabinogalactin (0.5%) substance as water soluble polysaccharides and nutraceutical agent for the sunscreen's immuno enhancing properties.


    • Glucose oxidase (1%) as a catalytic enzyme when combined with lactoperoxidase glucose (0.05%) whose known properties to control bacteria can act as effective preservative in food and body care products. However, the regulated use of lactoperoxidase glucose should be observed due to its ability to produce free radicals as it oxidizes estrogenic hormones.


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    120px-Sun in X-Ray 

    In summarizing the information about biodegradable sunscreens, we have gathered certain facts about the natural ingredients most of these products contain. Such natural compositions should provide sufficient protection against UVA and UVB, using broad spectrum sun blockers like titanium oxide or zinc oxide extracted from natural minerals like clay and sand deposits. As UV radiation blockers, these metal oxides reflect, deflect and scatter the sun’s radiation away from the body as opposed to chemical ingredients that absorb ultra violent light and can leave traces or residues of toxic ingredients.

    Inorganic metal oxides are also used in nanoparticle sizes to enhance biodegradability, but there are some issues raised against nano technology.

    However, users of conventional or biodegradable sun tan lotion should also heed the Food and Drug’s Administration’s advice that there is no scientific study to uphold sunscreens, as the ultimate protections against the sun’s powerful UV rays. The protection provided is only temporary; hence, there is more assurance of protection if the sunscreen users avoid frequent application or for that matter avoid staying outdoors when the sun's UV radiation is most intense.

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    Reference Material and Images Credit Section:

    Reference Materials:



    • Wikimedia Commons

All About Sunscreen Safety Checks

Using sunscreen is very important but you need to do some safety checks to make sure you're using the right type of safe sunscreen. Checkout this series and learn about sunscreen safety checks and the natural oils you can use as alternatives in sunscreen protection.
  1. Caution: Your Sunscreen May Have a Harmful Chemical Composition
  2. Natural Oils that May Protect from the Sun
  3. Hidden Sunscreen Dangers, Causing Cancer?
  4. About Biodegradable Sunscreens