At HealthPost, we go to great lengths to make sure that the sunscreens we sell are the best and healthiest products available – not just for you and your family, but for the environment as well.

As part of our Better Choices Promise, all of our sunscreens have to meet the following criteria:

  • Independently tested for label claims
  • Strict ingredient standards
  • Aerosol-free
  • Cruelty Free

While we aim to choose sunscreens that are safer for our oceans, unfortunately we can’t set this as a criteria because currently there is no set definition for what “reef-friendly” or “reef-safe” means. Rather than mislead our customers, we prefer to not make this claim while we continue to monitor the research and wait for a commercial testing method to become available.

Independently Tested 

Why is this important? If a label claims “water-resistant for 2 hours” or “SPF-50”, you’d want to know that the manufacturer has actually verified these claims, right? Amazingly, in New Zealand, it is not compulsory to have sunscreen products independently tested. We think this should be a mandatory safeguard for consumers, and insist on evidence that the product meets the claim.

Strict Ingredient Criteria

We created our Red List to take the guesswork out of shopping for a truly natural product. There are many ingredients in sunscreens that are hormone disruptors and terrible for the environment, so we refuse to accept them in our products, all of which are Good Ingredients Approved.

Some common ingredients found in sunscreens that we don’t allow include:

Certain UV Filters:

  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, Benzophenones(1)

As well as damaging to coral, they are estrogenic in nature(2), contributing to disruption of normal hormone balance in people. With all the other xenoestrogens in our environment these days, like plastics covering our food, carpets made from them, and the off-gassing that happens in our homes, the last thing we need is to choose skincare and body products that also contain chemicals that contribute to our estrogen load.

Preservatives:

  • Parabens, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylchloroisothiazolinone

Preserving products is essential, but we think there are better ways to do it than some of these ingredients that are known for disrupting our delicate hormone balance, releasing formaldehyde, or being highly irritating to skin.

Emulsifiers:

  • PEGs, triethanolamine

We all want a product that is smooth and well blended, but there are other ways of achieving this than using petroleum derived chemicals.

What’s up with Aerosols?

All aerosols release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are shown to be damaging over the long-term to health. The other issue with aerosol products is that it makes it more likely for ingredients to be inhaled. Many ingredients used in sunscreens and cosmetics are safe for use topically because they don’t enter penetrate the layer of the skin called the dermis and enter the bloodstream, but that doesn't mean they're safe to inhale.

What about Nano?

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two mineral based UV filters that are used frequently in natural products because of their broad-spectrum UV ray protection and safety. If you were a child of the 80’s you’ll remember chalky white zinc covered noses. Thanks to nano technology, the sunscreens using these mineral ingredients tend to glide on clear, leaving no trace of zinc, like they used to. ‘Nano’ is a reference to the size of the particle which is about 100 billionths of a meter. Pretty tiny!

According to global authorities, nano zinc or nano titanium (often used in sunscreens) are only an issue when they are inhaled. Since we don’t sell aerosols, these are spread across the skin and are unlikely to be inhaled. Nano based sunscreens have not been shown to pass through the dermis into the bloodstream. It’s hard to believe nano is ok given that so many brands highlight “non-nano”, which makes nano appear bad, but many of these brands are using micronized ingredients which are just a tiny bit bigger than nano. The jury is still out however on whether nano is safe for our precious ocean reefs, so from what we know from the current science, it might not the best option if you’re heading to the beach.

Cruelty-Free

We abhor animal testing. It’s the worst! We don’t tolerate this practice in any products we stock. We’ve even had to discontinue well known natural NZ brands that have opened stores in China, due to the compulsory animal testing rule for all international brands sold there.

Here's what we know about Reef-Safe Sunscreen:

According to National Geographic(5), about 14000 tons of sunscreen is estimated to wash into the ocean each year. Some of the ingredients found in sunscreens (and other cosmetics) have been found in research to damage coral reefs alongside increasing ocean temperatures and acidification of the ocean.

Coral plays a huge role in the health of the ecosystem of the ocean, so if you’re swimming in the ocean, or washing skincare products off in the shower, it appears the ingredients you want to avoid are(1,2):

  • Nano-zinc oxide and titanium dioxide(3)
  • Benzophenones aka oxybenzone
  • Parabens
  • Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate aka Octinoxate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Octocrylene
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Triclosan
  • Microbeads

Because there are still so many unknowns, the best way to protect the ocean seems to be covering up since clothing offers a very strong level of protection against UV rays. Next time you’re at the sea, cover up in a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and loose light-coloured natural clothing or a rash suit if you’re swimming. You can also choosea non-nano based mineral UV filter.

We will continue to stock products that contain nano-zinc oxide for the time being because we are aware that not everyone using sunscreen will be doing so at the water’s edge. Zinc oxide is also very good in sunscreens because it broadly screens both UVA and UVB rays.

Shop our full range of Natural Sunscreens online.

References:

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10646-013-1161-y
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00338-018-01759-4
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Cinzia_Corinaldesi/publication/325344137_Impact_of_inorganic_UV_filters_contained_in_sunscreen_products_on_tropical_stony_corals_Acropora_spp/links/5b2d18a6aca2720785d7f12f/Impact-of-inorganic-UV-filters-contained-in-sunscreen-products-on-tropical-stony-corals-Acropora-spp.pdf
  5. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/sunscreen-destroying-coral-reefs-alternatives-travel-spd/