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Green Product Purchasing - Suntan Lotions | Help Our Environment

Updated on November 14, 2015

Our Precious Environment - Our Precious Human Skin

Our environment is very precious to us. Our beautiful oceans and lakefronts and natural waterways need to be protected. Choosing eco-friendly lotions is a part every boater and swimmer and lifeguard should care about. We have highlighted air-quality but what about our waterways? Our waterways contain fish and also contribute the soil in our gardens and our food. Yet, we pay little attention to the sun tan lotions that we use when we are at the lakefront or Oceanside beach.

Protecting our environment comes with the price of understanding what the chemicals do and don’t do to our natural waters. We must understand what the purpose is of each chemical and make an informed decision.

Skin cancer is a preventable disease.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer and yet it is the only cancer that we know how to prevent!

Journey with me and learn how to protect both your skin and our environment. Learn what UVA and UVB are and how the sun tan lotions are labeled. Learn what chemicals protect against UVA. Learn what chemicals dissipate in the water and what chemicals remain in the water. Learn what the Caribbean allows for sun tan lotions and why they are so strict about the chemicals that they allow on their beaches and on boats.

Our Precious Environment

Do I really care?

For two reasons, one you need to make an informed decision for both the safety of your own skin and your families. Not having the right protection is essentially a waste of your time and money but more importantly, if you are allowing UVA rays through, research has shown that you have a greater chance of skin cancer.

Secondly, if you are in your swimming pool or hot tub, the added oils means your filter is worker harder. That arena may not be critical but your waterfronts have no filters, the water fronts must digest your oils or simply live with the oil indefinitely. That is why sensitive coral reefs are extremely particular about the sun care lotions you bring with you and why they will diligently discard thousands of bottles from tourists each year.

Great Barrier Reef Video - Why Our Oceans Are So Valuable

So Why No Protection for Our Waterfront Here in the United States?

Good question, I really don't know. I believe since most of our water front is lakes and oceans without sensitive coral reefs the urgency of the legislative relief is not heightened.

While we cannot sacrifice the protection of our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, there are many products now available on the market that will not harm our sensitive lakes/oceans and waterfront environments.

We have also learned over the years, UVA rays play an important role in skin cancer.

As such we must also look for the chemicals that protect us from harmful UVA rays.

To have a full spectrum protection, we must carefully review the label for protections from both UVA and UVB rays.

Laws Within the Caribbean

As many travelers have found out, other countries who value their sensitive natural waterways have very demanding standards on the lotions brought into their country and the lotions that are allowed on their pleasure/tourist boats.

In order to shop intelligently, protect our environment, be legal within the Caribbean and prevent skin cancer for both ourselves and our family, I have included simple review of this critical subject.

To help, I have broken it down into the terminology we need to understand and then provided 5 simple steps that not only protect your skin but also protect our environment.

What is Wrong with Oils in Our Environment?

It is the oils that the sensitive environments are unable to effectively break down in our waterfronts such as lakes, oceans. Additionally, your pool filter and your hot tub filter will have to work harder to trap and dispense of these chemicals. Avoiding the use of oil will extend the life of your filters.

Killing Corals

Additionally, new research as reported in the National Geographic below in more detail is showing the ingredients that are not Eco-friendly serve to activate algae viruses that are not just damaging sensitive corals, these harmful ingredients are killing corals.

50 Ways to Save the Ocean

Terminology - Eco-Friendly Organic & Natural

First let's review the terms so that we are all on the same page. From eco-friendly to organic to UVA to UVB to oils to mineral - what exactly are we talking about. Here is a short summary guide for your review:

What is Eco-Friendly Verses Organic?

Eco-friendly is environmentally friendly also nature friendly and "green" are synonyms used to refer to goods and services considered to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment.

Organic, on the other hand, is derived from a once-living organism, is capable of and predisposed to decay and is natural not man-made. Everything about organic is natural - no man-made chemicals were used in the production of that ingredient. For example, an organic tomato has had no pesticides, a natural tomato MAY have had assistance from man-made pesticides. Don't be fooled with the term "natural", it is not necessarily organic.

Can we have ingredients which are Eco-friendly yet not organic? Absolutely!

Is Natural Always Better?

This is the interesting question, because you would logically think this was true - but it isn't. Titanium dioxide is natural. It is safe for our environment, titanium dioxide is SOMETIMES safe for us. In powder form, titanium dioxide has a link to cancer when exposed to our lungs. In a sunscreen, it is currently considered safe. I prefaced that purposefully because research is always emerging. I am sceptical when one item is not safe when in one form but embedded it is deemed safe. I just wished to highlight a possible future concern. Remember knowledge is power - we need to fully understand the research that has been reported in order to protect ourselves and our families and our environment.

Why choose eco-friendly ingredients that are not organic?

As we will explore, some ingredients that are not all natural, are not organic, ingredients that are man-made are better for the protection of our skin.

The decision making process is about balance - knowing what is needed and knowing what the source of the ingredient is and how it contributes to our health or the health of our environment.

PABA - Para-Aminobenzoic Acid - a Part of Vitamin B Complex

PABA is often hailed as a natural antioxygen. However, no clinical studies show that PABA will protect against UVA harmful rays. PABA is one of the most commonly-used ingredients in sun lotions. PABA is a sun screen however, it is not a full spectrum sunscreen, it will not screen out UVA rays. It i the UVA rays that have been linked in clinical trails to skin cancer.

PABA is para-aminobenzoic acid; a part of vitamin B complex, is required by many organisms for the formation of folic acids, and is often referred to as vitamin Bx.

Another Chemical Concern - Titanium Dioxide
In our effort for a full spectrum of protection, we often see many other added chemicals for protection. One chemical we need to be aware of which is frequently used in sun block and many cosmetic applications is titanium dioxide.

Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring oxide of titanium, chemical formula chemical, TiO2,it has been found to be a possible carcinogen as found by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Sunscreen Activate Algae Viruses

Danovaro and his team studied the effects of sunscreen exposure on coral samples from reefs in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Accorrding to an article published by the Naitonal Geogrphic News on January 29, 2009, Ker Than entitled Swimmers' Sunscreen Killing Off Coral reported that:

"Even low levels of sunscreen, at or below the typical amount used by swimmers, could activate the algae viruses and completely bleach coral in just four days, the results showed."

Eco-Friendly Lotions That Are Smart for Your Skin and Our Environment

Eco-friendly lotions that are smart for your skin and our environment are readily available in the marketplace.  We as consumer simply need to vote for them with our wallet.  Banning sunscreens and government regulation is not necessary when we can simply inform our consumers and the market place will respond.  As the expert interviewed by National Geographic so apted stated:

"Danovaro says banning sunscreen won't be necessary, and points out two simple things swimmers can do to reduce their impact on coral: Use sunscreens with physical filters, which reflect instead of absorb ultraviolet radiation; and use eco-friendly chemical sunscreens."

Physical filters are created from chemical barriers such as zinc and abovenzone, chemicals that reflect the harmful rays from both UVA and UVB.

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We have learned that UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB.

Tanning is the body's way of protecting itself. As we all know, tanning plays a major role in the aging of our skin and wrinkling.

Recent clinical studies have proven that it is the epidermis, the outermost skin layer where skin cancer occures.

UVA damages skin, contributes to skin cancer and may even be the original iniatiator of skin cancer. What we have learned is that we must protect our skin not just against UVB rays but also UVA rays.

As the photos from the Skin Cancer Foundation clearly show, UVA rays is what we need to be concerned with and protect againt.

3 Great Usage Tips for Sunscreens


  • 30 Minutes BEFORE going into the sun, apply sunscreen generously to exposed skin.
  • Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating heavily..
  • Avoid using sunscreens on children younger than 6 months, unless there is no other way to protect them. Keep infants out of the sun, instead, to prevent burns and overheating.

Video on Safety of Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide found in sunblock are safe for humans but not necessary for sensitive corals, sensitive lakefronts.

There is often confusion surrounding the toxicity or safety of titanium dioxide. Here's a little info to help answer a couple questions.

Powdered or microfine titanium dioxide is a concern for toxity. Face powder, eye shadow or body talc may contain titanium dioxide which is a natural mineral but not recommended for our human lungs.

Learn the ingredients that are critical, learn how they are used and how to use them properly. Here is a great video that discusses this very topic.

5 Simple Steps - How to Purchase Eco-Friendly lotions

It can be overwhelming to first learn about lotions, chemicals and the effect upon our environment. The hard part is done - the terminology. Now all we need is 5 simple steps in our review process. While we cannot sacrifice the protection of our skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, there are many products now available on the market that will not harm our environments.

To make the process meaningful and simple, it is recommended to grabe two items in order to compare the ingredients written on the label: (1) Sample Sun Protection Lotions & (2) Sample After Sun Care Lotions. And if you have marginal eyesight like me, a bright light is also helpful along with reading glasses.

Simple Step #1 - Review the SPF Level

This is the level of protection for the UVB rays. The SPF or sun protection factor is an FDA-regulated rating system that categorizes how long it will take for exposed skin to burn even with suncreen applied. This rating is only for UVB rays, does not address UVA rays. We do want protection from a broad spectrum lotion - one that has the needed ingredients for protecting from both types of harmful sun rays.

Simple Step #2 - Review the UVA Protection

The two ingredients that protect us from UVA rays are: 1. Avobenzone and 2. Zinc oxide.

Mineral Ingredients such as Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are minerals that physically block ultraviolet (UV) rays from reaching your skin, as opposed to other sunscreens that use chemicals to absorb UV rays. Minerals are considered the best protection against sunburn because they block both UVB rays (which cause sunburns) and UVA rays (which cause skin aging and cancer). Avobenzone is a chemical that serves to block UVA rays. Unlike the minerals, avobenzone readily breaks down when exposed to water - making it friendlier for the environment and filters to process.

Simple Step #3 - Review the Oil Content - PABA

Oil free should be clearly marked. It is the oils that the sensitive environments are unable to effectively break down in our waterfronts such as lakes, oceans. Additionally, your pool filter and your hot tub filter will have to work harder to trap and dispense of these chemicals. Avoiding the use of oil will extend the life of your filters.

Simple Step #4 - Review the Metal Content

Metals in sun lotion are most commonly found in the use of zinc. Similar to the oils, metals are hard to effectively break down in our watery environments. Likewise, when we avoid the use of metals, we make it easier for our filters on our swimming pools and our hot tubs to eliminate this waste product.

Simple Step #5 - Look for the Presence of Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is available now as a main ingredient not just in moisturizing after sun care lotions but also in sun protection lotions. Look for this ingredient for natural protection.

Summary - Save Our Skin, Save Our Corals, Save Our Waterways

We cannot save the world but we can save our skin with protective lotions.

We can help our precious waterways by learning what the Caribbean does for their environment and follow their lead.

As consumers, we can expand our knowledge and become better consumers and better citizens. As a citizen of the world, it is our duty to protect our environment - it is not just corporate America and governments worldwide, it is each and every one of us. It all stars with one.

The Green Guide by National Geographic

Did You Know: All products reviewed by The Green Guide and available for purchase through are independently chosen, researched and reviewed by The Green Guide editors. Evo is not informed in advance of publication which products The Green Guide editors are choosing to review, nor are suggestions for products or product categories transmitted from the Evo staff to The Green Guide editors. The Green Guide does not accept or receive payment or consideration by product manufacturers. Because we list manufacturer sugested retail prices, these may differ from prices found at individual retail sites.

Disclaimers Copyrights and Disclosures

FTC Disclosure Pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission's regulations for transparency, I am the owner of American Son Products, Inc. and we private label sun lotions that are eco-friendly.

Medical Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. None of the products promoted or sold here are designed to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or ailment. Please contact your physician for additional information, diagnosis, testing, or advice on how to use the information/products listed on this site.

Copyright: © 2010 Gma Goldie All Rights Reserved - GmaGoldie loves to share her ideas but greatly appreciates credit for her hard work. Please email the author for permission for use of terms and ideas shared in this or other Gma Goldie articles on health, fitness and exercise.


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    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      @Shawna Larson I think about everything water. Water - all forms fascinate me. Does that make me a water maniac? Perhaps! So glad you found it helpful.

      @roach I didn't mean to mislead - just inform on both sides of the equation - natural isn't always the best for our environment, zinc is natural but stays in our waterways. Some of the chemicals created may be easier for the environment and the swimming pools and hot tubs to filter. The main thing is to make an educated decision of what is best for each water environment.

      @Bethina As with salt, the industry needs to stand up and be account for - swimming pools, natural waterways need to look at what the lotions are doing to the water and possibly the marine life. I don't have all the answers but I do enjoy as with salt posing the questions for the experts to review in greater detail.

      All too often I have entered a swimming pool to see floating on top oils - I know the oil are from the lotions and it saddens me that these do not disperse. I commend the officials in the Caribbean who impose strict regulations and hope someday the Great Lakes and public beaches take note and at the very least make recommendations of what lotions to use in these populated waterways.


    • Bethina profile image


      7 years ago from 36258 Delta Alabama, USA

      I commend you for a nice article. This article has useful advocate to human as well as to the mother nature. I love the way you presented your write up, it indeed convince me to go for a green living in order to sustain the environmental development.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I really like this topic.I shows the natural is the best way to used.Thank you.


    • profile image

      Shawna Larson 

      8 years ago

      I really didn't think about this until I saw this post thanks for bringing out the awareness its something we all need to work towards to keep this planet clean. Thanks for the article was a really good read.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Maria Cole,

      The information is out there but is so hard to find. I really believe our skin would be helped IF we understood and also IF we understood the effect upon our swimming pools and natural waters such as lakes, etc...

      Thank you for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Maria Cole 

      8 years ago

      Wow, very interesting. A lot of this most people will never even really think about! Thank you!

    • Skin Care Beauty profile image

      Skin Care Beauty 

      8 years ago

      This is an outstanding Hub. I really appreciate your drawing awareness to the impact lotions have on the environment. It is something most people do not think about.


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