What exactly does biodegradable mean?
By definition, if a substance or object is considered biodegradable, it means it is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms. It doesn’t harm them in any way during its decomposition.
Why does it matter if a substance or object is biodegradable?
Because if it can be broken down, it’s not harmful to the organisms that it comes in contact with. The entire ecosystem and food chain can continue operating at a normal pace because this biodegradable substance or object hasn’t disturbed it one bit.
But that’s the ideal situation. In reality, tons and tons of non-biodegradable, chemical sunscreen, among other things, are entering our oceans each and every day, shaking up the ecosystems that live within it (like marine life, coral reefs, seaweed and cute baby sea animals) in a major, negative way.
Chemical sunscreens have such a vast and far-reaching negative impact on the environment, it would take much more than a single blog to explain it fully.
But in short, the ingredients in chemical sunscreen can give the oceans’ coral reefs viruses. When coral reefs have a virus, they expel a super important algae within — a literal life-giving algae that helps them thrive and is also responsible for their beautiful, color. Once that algae is expelled, the coral begins to bleach and die, and the organisms that depend on the coral, also enter a very vulnerable state.
And thus, the entire food chain becomes affected in some way, at some point in time.
How do you know if a sunscreen is biodegradable?
It will likely be labeled as such, but look for the two active ingredients in sunscreen to be Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
Conversely, avoid sunscreen brands that use chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, parabens, and the preservative butylparaben. These chemicals harm delicate marine life in irreversible manners.
And if you worry that biodegradable sunscreen doesn’t protect skin as well as chemical sunscreens, don’t. They protect your skin from sun’s harmful rays just as effectively.
The GOOD news!
More and more marine parks and even national nature parks only allow biodegradable sunscreen to be used, and even the state of Hawaii is currently working to completely ban the use of chemical sunscreens. So it's quite a big deal, and these are all amazing steps in the right direction for our oceans and Earth.
So if you’re headed on a cruise, to a beach in Mexico, or if you’ve now been easily convinced that biodegradable sunscreen is the only way to go, grab yours and get jetsetting.
We, and adorable animals like these thank you.