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What is Green Sunscreen?

By K. Testa
Updated Feb 27, 2024
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A green sunscreen is a sun protection product that typically does not contain harmful chemicals. In addition, the term green usually implies that the item is also safe for the environment. Many conventional sunscreens have been criticized for containing ingredients that have been linked to certain negative health conditions in people, as well as for causing environmental problems. Chemical-free and eco-friendly sunscreens have become more widely available as consumer demand for safer products has increased.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization based in the United States, issues an annual report on the best and worst sunscreens on the market. The results of the group’s investigations usually include warnings about unsafe ingredients and suggestions for choosing a green sunscreen. The EWG claims that many chemicals found in sunscreens, including oxybenzone, are potential hormone disruptors. One alternative is to use a product containing certain minerals, such as zinc and titanium, instead of chemicals. The main difference between the two types of sunscreen is that minerals reflect the sun’s rays off one’s skin, while chemicals absorb the radiation into the skin.

Many health experts also recommend choosing a sunscreen with either mild preservatives or none at all. Parabens are just one category of chemicals to avoid since, according to some research studies, they have been associated with certain cancer risks. They also have been known to cause severe allergic reactions in people with skin sensitivities. Types of parabens and other preservatives can usually be found on the ingredient list of most sunscreens.

In addition to being healthier for people by not containing harmful chemicals, green sunscreen can also refer to an eco-friendly or environmentally safe sunscreen. Eco-friendly products are routinely made from recycled or reused materials, using sustainable production methods and minimal packaging. Additionally, there is generally less of a risk of chemicals leaching into water and harming wildlife. Some studies have also concluded that conventional sunscreens can cause damage to beaches and coral reefs. For instance, some chemicals that wash off the wearer while he or she is in the water can actually bleach the coral.

Green sunscreen has become more widely available, but it is more likely to be found in stores that sell natural and organic products. There are also several online merchants that specialize in eco-friendly items. Consumers have several factors to weigh when choosing a green sunscreen. While most people might prefer safe, natural ingredients, this preference usually comes with a higher price tag. They might also want to consider a sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF), since many doctors recommend choosing one with an SPF of at least 15 and applying it frequently while exposed to the sun. Factors such as water and sweat resistance may be important to some consumers as well. Regardless of the type of sunscreen they choose, most people are likely to get the greatest benefit by following the package instructions regarding use.

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Discussion Comments
By Spotiche5 — On Dec 30, 2014

@heavanet- I use a cream foundation that is also has a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30. It doesn't have harmful chemicals, either, and it works for me.

People who would like to use makeup and sunscreen in one product must read the labels. Products that are green and work should have few ingredients and also indicate that they have SPF ratings.

By Heavanet — On Dec 29, 2014

Some mineral and natural foundations can actually double as makeup and green sunscreens. Provided that you don't plan to spend all day in the direct sun, these products should provide protection without the harmful chemicals that are in regular sunscreens.

To be on the safe side, anyone who is considering trying mineral and natural makeup as a sunscreen should check with his or her dermatologist. Based on lifestyle, a doctor can confirm whether or not an extra sunscreen should be used in addition to green makeup.

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