What’s the difference between a mineral and ‘organic’ sunscreen?

We love organic – organic milk, organic eggs, organic aloe, but when it comes to sunscreens, we completely avoid the ‘organic’ active ingredients. When referring to sunscreen, the ‘organic’ sunscreens are REALLY the ‘chemical’ sunscreens like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate and other FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients that no ordinary consumer would consider to be organic. The advantage of using these ingredients is the ability to claim very high SPF ratings with minimal expense, ease of manufacturing and formulating, plus they do go on nice and clear, giving the customer the aesthetics they are used to. The disadvantages are huge, however. They are very unstable and can degrade quickly in high temperatures – like in your beach bag – so they require additional chemical stabilizers. They may also penetrate the skin and disrupt or mimic the body’s hormones. In addition, many of these ingredients have been linked to coral bleaching and aquatic toxicity. (Reference link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/)

Is your sunscreen whitening?

One downside to mineral sunscreens is that they may whiten skin. Titanium dioxide, the mineral sunscreen we chose to use, is white, but we have optimized the formula to reduce that whitening appearance and heavy feel.  To further reduce the whitening effect, you can apply lotion or make sure your skin is hydrated prior to applying. We do have two versions, Tinted: which is tinted as skin tone, and whitening.

We strongly believe that white is the new green! All mineral sunscreens will whiten to some degree. The particle size determines the intensity of the white appearance. The smaller the particle, the less white the appearance. The only way to achieve a truly clear appearance on the skin is to deliver the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in nanoparticle form, which is not safe for humans or the environment. So when using our sunscreen, rub it in well and feel good knowing you are choosing to do better for your body and the environment!

Will your sunscreen stain my clothes?

Mineral sunscreens are naturally whitening and may discolor dark clothing or gear.  It will easily wash out with soap and water in most cases, and using an enzyme based stain remover will help.  For gear, a little soap and water plus a scrub brush will usually remove any staining or whitening.

Our tinted sunscreens use iron oxides for color, and like most mineral make-ups or other sunscreens, they can discolor clothing or towels.  The best way we have found to remove mineral stains is to pre-treat with citric acid or lemon juice and let sit overnight before washing in the hottest water your garment can safely handle, and then air dry.

What do you mean by mineral sunscreens reflect rays while chemical sunscreens absorb rays?

Approved sunscreen ingredients come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters. Each works differently to protect your skin from UV rays. The chemical sunscreens like methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, avobenzone and the like work by absorbing into your skin and absorbing the UV rays. Besides the likelihood of irritating skin and the toxicity that has been associated with many of the chemical sunscreens, I simply don’t like the idea of putting something on my body to absorb something that I don’t want on or in my body. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sit on top of your skin and work by reflecting and scattering the UV light away from the skin… Make sense?

So you use titanium dioxide. I thought TiO2 was bad for me too?

Titanium dioxide has gotten a bad rap for two reasons, neither of which is a concern for us:

1) When inhaled, it can have a similar effect as asbestos. We don’t use powdered TiO2 in our production facility, and don’t recommend that you play with it. You are not going to inhale our sunscreen and we’re not going to inhale the material during production. A-OK there.

2) Traditional sunscreen grades of TiO2 may not effectively protect against UVA rays. Ours does! Significant testing efforts in FDA-approved facilities show that our titanium dioxide provides long-lasting UVA and UVB protection. Used as a single active ingredient, our TiO2 exceeds both the European and FDA guidelines for UVA protection as well as FDA’s requirements for broad-spectrum sunscreen. Our dispersion is naturally derived and has been approved by Ecocert for use in organic and natural skin care products. Our sunscreens also show exceptional photo stability.

I read that titanium dioxide oxidizes in the water and harms marine life! Is that true?

The information provided about titanium dioxide and zinc oxides used in sunscreens, is correct as it pertains to nano-minerals.  T1O2, (titanium dioxide), in its nano-form can harm aquatic life through this exposure.  This is called,  “photo-oxidation.”

It’s really important when purchasing mineral-based sunscreen that you look for “non-nano,” in the ingredients listing on the label and this is why.  The nano particles, while they do make for a more sheer product for our use, can harm the beneficial organisms that make up the ocean.  Phytoplankton in particular, are not just food for other organisms, they also attribute to a large portion of the oxygen we breath on Earth.  Larger organisms such as corals and oysters also, for lack of a better description, can choke on the smaller particles in nano minerals.

NON-nano titanium dioxide, however, does not create a photo-oxidation.

You can read more about this here:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3423755/

I’m sensitive to chemicals and zinc. Can I use your products?
Our titanium dioxide is very mild, classified as a non-irritant and is ideal for children and those with sensitive skin. That said, there’s always someone who is sensitive to something. Please do spot test any new products on your skin prior to smearing it all over your body and ruining your day of fun in the sun!

What about zinc oxide?
Remember the lifeguards at the beach or pool with the blue or white nose? They used zinc oxide mineral sunscreens, which were OK as long as YOU were OK with the heavy, pasty white or blue nose. Today’s sophisticated sunscreen manufacturers have three primary options when using zinc in their formulas:
– Clear zinc oxide which is coated with inert substances. You can recognize this on a label by ‘non-whitening’ or ‘goes on clear’ verbiage. This material has been optimized to improve skin feel and reduce whitening — BUT it is highly toxic to the aquatic environment and should not be in used in any sunscreens when playing in or on the water.  There are several different grades of Clear Zinc, the most common brand being ZinClear™, produced by Dow Chemicals.  It is so highly toxic to aquatic organisms that a cautionary statement is listed on the front page of the MSDS sheet:

– Nano-particle or micro-fine zinc oxide, which typically has a particle size ranging from 300 – 70 nm for microfine or less than 100 nm for nano-grade. The micro-fine is mostly non-nano, but is partially small enough to present potential damage.
– Uncoated zinc oxide, which can be either nano or non-nano. We have no problems from an environmental stand point with the non-nano, uncoated zinc oxide as an active ingredient. However, it is typically more whitening and has a heavier skin feel than titanium dioxide so we chose not to use it.

Is your sunscreen broad spectrum? What does that mean?

YES! All our sunscreens exceed the FDA’s requirements for broad-spectrum claims, offering protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Unless your sunscreen is broad spectrum, it may only protect you from the UVB rays that cause sunburn. The problem is that the UVA rays penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin – causing wrinkles and premature aging, as well as damage at the cellular level.

When you chose a sunscreen labeled BROAD-SPECTRUM, you are purchasing a product that has been tested by a third-party, FDA-regulated laboratory. A sunscreen needs to reflect (mineral) or absorb (chemical) at least 90% of the UV rays to be called broad spectrum. Although some suppliers have said that titanium dioxide does not offer broad-spectrum protection, all of our sunscreens exceed the FDA’s requirements.

Why don’t you offer an SPF 40 or 50+?
Sunscreens with very high SPFs offer only marginally better UVB protection (the rays that cause sunburn) than lower SPFs, yet consumers often believe they are getting double the protection. It would be logical to think that an SPF 30 would be twice as good as a 15, but that’s not how the ratings work. For example, an SPF 15 will block about 93% of the UVB rays, an SPF 30 will block about 97% and an SPF 50 will block about 98%. Moving beyond, the differences in protection are so minute yet give the users such a false sense of security that it may tempt people to stay in the sun longer than they should, while applying too little sunscreen. Your skin may be protected from sunburn, but could leave yourself exposed to the UVA rays that cause other kinds of skin and cellular damage. Our preference is to offer sunscreens that will feel good on your skin and encourage you to reapply every 80 minutes or after a good swim.

I still get burned when wearing sunscreen. Why?
The main cause of sunscreen failure is not using enough product and not reapplying often enough. On the day of your fun in the sun, slop it on. Don’t forget to reapply often. The FDA recommends at least every 2 hours, more often if playing in the water or sweating a lot.

If I use your sunscreen will I still be able to get a tan? Or once I have a tan, do I need to use sunscreen?
The answer to both these questions is YES, however getting a tan will be safer and more gradual. Remember that a tan is the body’s response to injury from UV rays. Darker and tanned skin has a higher melanin content which reduces the likelihood of burning, but it is still at risk for skin cancer. Those with darker skin especially need to use caution because skin cancer is less visible and often not diagnosed until it’s really bad. Our recommendation? If you are white, black, tan, pale, blue or purple — and playing or working in the sun, please use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Why do you not offer aerosol sunscreens?
There are several reasons. First, if you’re applying sunscreen on a moving boat or a windy day, much of the sunscreen may miss its intended target. Then there is the issue of coverage — exactly how much is getting on you, and how much is floating away? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the chemical dispersants used in aerosol products may be damaging to the environment and have been linked to respiratory issues. Children are especially at risk.

Is your sunscreen waterproof or water resistant?

The FDA no longer allows the use of the term “waterproof” when labeling sunscreens.  In 2011, the FDA changed the regulations regarding how sunscreens could be labeled.  Water-proof, Sweat-proof and sunblock were all removed from (compliant) labels, as the FDA determined these were misleading claims.  Some sunscreens are certainly more sweat and water resistant than others, but NONE are water proof!

Under the new regulations, sunscreens must now pass third party testing showing how long the consumer can expect the SPF protection to hold up while swimming or sweating.

How is this done?

Human volunteers apply the sunscreen, then after its dry, they are immersed in comfortable agitated water for 20 minutes.  They come out of the water for 20 minutes, then repeat for a total of 40 minutes of water immersion. The SPF is then measured AFTER the water immersion. This is the SPF that can then be printed on the bottle of the sunscreen that claims 40 minutes of water resistance. Very resistant tests would repeat until a total of 80 minutes immersion is reached..

All of our sunscreens, including our lip balm, exceed the FDA’s rating for 80-minute water resistance. When you are ready to remove our sunscreens, you will literally need to wash them off with soap and water. Another advantage to that enhanced water resistance is that if you sweat or swim, they won’t run into your eyes or rinse off in the water. Even so, you should reapply every 80 minutes if you are sweating or swimming, or every two hours.

Why are your sunscreens fragrance free?
When doing our research, we learned that fish can be very sensitive to fragrances, even natural ones. Experienced fishermen will actively seek sunscreens without fragrance because they don’t want ANY fragrance residue on their hands when handling bait. Eventually, we will launch a couple fragranced sunscreens, but initially we felt that we – and the marine life – were better off au natural. Our other products are all lightly fragranced with natural, phthalate-free aromatics.

I’m going diving in an hour. Do I really need to put on sunscreen?
Great question! We have tested our products against several marine species and coral larvae, and believe that ours is the safest available today. That said, do you really need sunscreen under water? We don’t think so. If you are getting right in, maybe you could wear a long-sleeved UPF shirt, hat and stay under the awning until jumping in then apply when you get out of the water. The bean counters might not like us saying that to you, but it’s a thought…

Does your sunblock contain nanoparticles?
NO – our sunscreens do NOT contain nanoparticles. For those that really want to know, our mean particle size tested at 179 nm. Nano-particles are very dangerous to us and our marine life.

Why do companies use nanoparticles?
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide form a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV light. The smaller the particle, the less whiting the appearance. The only way to achieve a transparent appearance on the skin is to deliver the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in nano-particle form. We feel that a little whitening is a good trade-off for the health of our bodies and our environment.

But what is a nanoparticle?

The European Cosmetics Regulation defines ‘nanomaterial’ as ‘an insoluble or biopersistant and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm.’ These can be up to 100,000 times smaller than a human hair! The chemical make-up of a nanoparticle may be different from its larger physical form, meaning that it can react differently within a living system. The smaller the nanoparticle, the deeper they can travel into a cellular structure. Although manufacturers have stated that nanoparticles are safe, there are still multiple concerns among scientists. Some researchers believe that nanoparticles will be absorbed through the skin and can pass the blood-brain barrier. Nanoparticles in lip balms could be swallowed. If there is a break or burn on the skin, nanoparticles could easily pass through.

We know that every product we use on our bodies ultimately reaches the ocean. A recent study has shown that zinc oxide nanoparticles, even in extremely low concentrations, caused significant developmental disorders in sea life (link here http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b00345) When nano sunscreens wash off people’s bodies, they can harm our environment.

Our motto, when in doubt, throw it out (or recycle it J). We don’t use them. Did we already tell you that white is the new green?

Do you test on animals?
We have a confession to make – we test all our products on friends and corporate officers. We also test our products to ensure they will not be harmful to fish and other aquatic life when used as directed. We are adamantly opposed to animal testing when there are other alternatives. In nearly every case – except aquatic toxicity – there are options besides testing on living creatures. At this time, there are no cellular cultures or models that effectively assess aquatic toxicity to the extent that we feel is necessary. Therefore, our testing includes the use of purposely bred live fish and EcoConsciously and scientifically obtained coral larvae. For more details on this decision, please read our Autumn’s blog post on the topic here.

Are your products safe for use on babies/children?

If your baby is under six months old, always consult your doctor. Whenever applying a new product to your child (or yourself for that matter), it is always wise to spot test on a small area like the inner arm or thigh the day before you are planning to use it to make sure there aren’t any unknown sensitivities to any of the ingredients. If irritation occurs, try another product.

That said, our formulas are very gentle and mild and were formulated specifically to be suitable for children and those with sensitive skin.

Are your products vegan?
All our formulas are vegan EXCEPT for the lip balms, which contain certified organic, sustainably harvested beeswax.
Our founder is an animal rights activist, and was one of the early signers of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Are your products gluten-free?
In order to claim gluten-free, the products must be tested by a third party and we have not yet prioritized that testing. That said, we believe they are gluten-free and do not use any gluten-based ingredients (wheat, rye, barley, etc.) in any of our formulas. So, the fact that we do not use any products that contain gluten, we do believe our products to be gluten-free.

What is Sugarcane resin packaging?

We don’t like plastic either and are very excited to announce that we are using 100% recyclable tubes made from sugarcane resins. Someday we will be cool enough to have a fun video like this, but in the meantime, CocoCola and Dansani have done a great job explaining the advantages of sugarcane-based packaging:



When using paper products, cartons and brochures, we use eco-friendly inks and recycled papers including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified papers. FSC is an independent organization established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. When you see this logo, you can be confident that buying it won’t be harming they world’s forests.