How The Chemicals In Your Sunscreen Impact Your Skin and The Ocean

Woman applying natural sunscreen

When you live in Australia, you are bound to spend most of your time in the sun. After all, the weather is nice almost all year round, and the beaches are enjoyable no matter the season. 

Yet, the sun can be really harsh, which is why layering up sunscreen daily on your face and your skin is essential. Sunscreen is needed to protect you against UV and the consequence that comes with it: hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and at worst malignant moles. 

But don’t rush to buy the first sunscreen off the shelf, because they are not all created equals. Like most skincare products, looking at the composition of sunscreen is important. Most of them often contain a myriad of chemicals that impact your skin negatively. 

Our skin is our largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it. 

When we feed it with chemicals, our internal ecosystem is impacted. It can be in the form of an allergic reaction or hormone imbalances. But what is even more disturbing is that those chemicals can also counterbalance the “protective” aspect of your sunscreen against the sun. It's safe to say that keeping those nasty off your skin and your little one is essential.

Unfortunately, a chemically-filled sunscreen doesn’t just impact us, it also impacts the environment. It’s estimated that 14.000 tons of chemicals are released into the ocean through our sunscreens. These chemicals impact the reef and disrupt marine life. 

Thankfully, there are many options for you to protect yourself from the sun, without negatively impacting your skin or the environment. By being aware of what to stay clear from and what to look for in a sunscreen, we hope to empower you to make the healthiest and more sustainable choice.

Chemicals to stay clear from

Oxybenzone & Octinoxate

What it is: Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are popular compounds often used in sunscreen and foundation with SPF as it absorbs UV rays.

How it impacts your skin: As oxybenzone and Octinoxate are deeply absorbed within the skin, studies have shown that they can stimulate the production of DNA-damaging cells when exposed to light. Think of accelerated aging, moles, and malignant cells. 

How it impacts the ocean: Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are particularly toxic to the coral. As we enter the water layered with these chemicals, they dilute off our skins to attach themself to the reef. While the process is not completely understood by scientists, it’s been proven that Oxybenzone and Octinoxate influence the coral to bleach.


Retinyl Palmitate

What it is: Retinyl palmitate is a combination of retinol and palmitic acid chemical that penetrates deeply into our organism. The chemical stimulates the sunscreen’s other components to absorb UV. 

How it impacts your skin: Retinol is well known for its anti-aging properties however the compound should only be used at night as it is photosensitive. The combination with palmitic acid can create real skin damage and promotes the generation of malignant cells when exposed to the sun.

How it impacts the ocean: It's been found that retinyl palmitate is highly toxic to aquatic organisms - algae, coral reef, and small fish - by causing oxidation after light exposure. 



What it is: One of the most popular chemicals out there when it comes to skincare, Paraben is used in sunscreens to preserve the product for a long period of use. If you're still using a sunscreen that is over 2 years old, there is probably Paraben in it.

How it impacts your skin: Paraben has a strong influence on our hormones by acting as unwanted estrogen, which throws off our hormonal health. The chemical also slowly transforms into toxins in our body which can cause inflammations and allergies. 

How it impacts the ocean: The paraben in our sunscreens creates a sheen layer when we enter the water that latches all over the ocean. This is harmful to both marine life and its organisms.

Sun & Earth natural sunscreen label

What to look for instead

Natural Zinc Oxide (non-nano)

Zinc oxide is an organic compound that efficiently protects your skin against UVA and UVB. The difference with regular chemicals is that your skin doesn’t absorb it on a cellular level, making it hypo-allergenic and safe for any gender, age, and skin type.  Additionally, Zinc oxide doesn’t dissolve in water, making it an environmentally-friendly ingredient. So when you're looking to protect your sensitive skin or your bub from the sun, this is your go-to. 

Organic Ingredients

A good sunscreen doesn’t need various chemicals to hold itself together. Organic ingredients like cold-pressed oil and beeswax are often paired with natural zinc oxide to create a protective blend. An all-natural sunscreen is therefore effective against UV rays without being damaging to the skin, or the ocean. Much like our all-day tin, which is 100% organic. 


Protecting yourself from the sun shouldn’t come at the price of your health and the environment. By staying clear of chemicals and opting for natural ingredients instead, you can spend days in the sun without impact or worry.

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