Is Aveeno sunscreen biodegradable? 

This article will shed some light on the biodegradability of Aveeno sunscreen. Other covered topics would include: 

  • What is meant by the biodegradability of sunscreens?
  • If sunscreen is biodegradable, is it also safe?
  • What is the case of Aveeno sunscreen?
  • Is Aveeno sunscreen reef-safe too?
  • How green is the packaging of Aveeno sunscreen?
  • How are Aveeno sunscreens made?
  • What should be the qualities of good sunscreens?
  • FAQs

Is Aveeno sunscreen biodegradable?

Aveeno sunscreen is regarded as biodegradable because it is mineral based and is not made from any harmful chemicals such as parabens or benzoate. Aveeno sunscreen is also reef-safe which means that there will be no significant impact on the coral reefs. 

Aveeno sunscreen comes in recyclable packaging made from plastics which can be improved to become biodegradable or compostable packaging. 

The production of Aveeno products is done while considering environmental impact. Many practices such as crop rotation, low heat farming, and crop optimisations are done to ensure that the yield is maximum but the impact is minimal. 

What is meant by the biodegradability of sunscreens? (7 ingredients that should not be used in sunscreens) 

Biodegradability of any substance in general terms means how much time it takes for it to be degraded in nature by decomposers. If a substance takes less than a year to degrade naturally then it is considered a biodegradable substance.

When it comes to products such as sunscreens that are made of multiple substances which may or may not be biodegradable, a general rule is applied that if a product is made with natural ingredients then it can safely be considered a biodegradable product.

If it contains any synthetic substance then it may be a non-biodegradable product considering the biodegradability of that particular substance. It is possible that a substance may be synthetic yet biodegradable at the same time.

The possible materials that sunscreens should not have in order to be called biodegradable include:

  • PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
  • Octinoxate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Parabens 
  • 4-methyl benzylidene
  • Camphor
  • Butylparaben

If sunscreen is biodegradable, does it mean it is safe?

Yes, it can be considered safe as a biodegradable sunscreen would only contain natural ingredients which do not harm the coral reefs and are degraded naturally in the environment.

However, there is a lot of grey area and still, more research needs to be done to fully understand the impacts of these ingredients on the environment. Many sunscreens contain minerals such as titanium oxide instead of zinc oxide. 

Titanium oxide has been recently reported to produce hydrogen peroxide (a harmful chemical for marine life) when mixed with water. 

From a general perspective, a sunscreen which has natural ingredients and biodegradable packaging is the best sunscreen and can be considered safe but if its packaging is not biodegradable but recyclable, it is still acceptable but not preferred.

What is the case of Aveeno sunscreen in terms of biodegradability?

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes. These microbes include bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, and even yeast. 

There is a general understanding concerning biodegradability that natural materials or products made from natural materials can easily and readily be degraded by microbes as compared to non-biodegradable. 

The reason why natural materials are more prone to be degraded by microbes is that these materials have natural and nutritional content in them which can be used as food by the microbes. 

To determine if a product is biodegradable or not, there are two factors that need to be considered: 

  • The time taken by a product to degrade in a natural setting
  • The environmental impact of that product 

Since it has been established that Aveeno sunscreens are made from natural materials, it can be claimed that Aveeno products are biodegradable.

Aveeno sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen that does not contain harmful elements such as oxybenzone or PABA. It is also paraben-free. Owing to this, Aveeno sunscreen is regarded as one of the most eco-friendly sunscreens available. 

Is Aveeno sunscreen reef-safe too?

Reef-safe or reef-friendly sunscreens are those that do not contain any synthetic chemicals such as oxybenzone or octinoxate which are harmful to the coral reefs and are non-biodegradable. 

Reef-safe sunscreens contain natural ingredients and minerals but there has been some speculation regarding how different companies label their sunscreen products as “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” because it comes down to the very definition of “safe” and “friendly”. 

Many companies either consciously or unconsciously mislabel their sunscreen products as reef-safe because they do not fully understand the difference between the two terms and do not know how exactly they are to be understood. 

Although the terms can and are used interchangeably, still there are some differences. Reef-safe means that a product contains no such chemical or mineral ingredients that are known to be harmful to coral reefs hence they are termed as “safe”.

While reef-friendly products are those products that contain chemicals or minerals which cause very low or negligible damage to the coral reefs hence they are considered as “friendly” but manufacturers often mislabel their products in order to hide and better market their products.

As we have assessed that the materials used in Aveeno sunscreen do not cause any definite harm to coral reefs, therefore, it can be said that Aveeno sunscreens are actually reef-safe and do not cause any significant harm to the coral reefs. 

How green is the packaging of Aveeno sunscreen?

The best type of packaging for any product is one that is biodegradable, meaning that it can be degraded into a simpler form by natural decomposers such as fungi, bacteria, nematodes etc. Similarly, the best packaging for sunscreen products should ideally be biodegradable.

It is understandable that these products might have to lie on the shelf for two or three years maybe and by that time the biodegradable packaging might not survive hence companies have to resort to non-biodegradable materials for packaging. These materials often include plastics. 

Plastics are widely used for all sorts of packaging so it comes down to whether non-biodegradable packaging is recyclable or not. Certain plastics such as bioplastics, and composite plastics are non-recyclable hence they pose a serious threat to the environment by staying on the plant for hundreds of years.

Recyclable plastics on the other hand such as polyethene can be recycled easily and hence are preferred second-in-line after biodegradable packaging. So, an environmentally conscious person would pick a sunscreen which has biodegradable packaging or at least recyclable packaging. Aveeno bottles are made from plastics.

These plastic bottles may be made from conventional plastics such polyethene or polycarbonate. Most plastics usually require hundreds of years to degrade. 

The problem is not only with biodegradability, the problem also is with the health implications caused by plastic bottles. Although there are safer options as well, the following are the general health impacts caused by harmful plastics: 

  • Hormone disruption
  • Developmental issues
  • Neurological issues
  • Cancer 
  • Damage to the foetus 

That is why, it is asserted that the recycling aspect of Aveeno sunscreen must be cashed so that the detrimental impacts on the environment and life (including human life) may be avoided and averted. 

How are Aveeno Sunscreens made?

If the eco-friendliness of a product is to be assessed, the production process can be analysed because it gives us a fair idea of how green and sustainable the approach of manufacturers is. 

In the case of Aveeno products, there is some relief because the manufacturers of Aveeno products take a number of health steps that make the company one step closer to being sustainable and eco-friendly. 

The following efforts are done to ensure sustainable agricultural practices for Aveeno products: 

  • Use of non-GMO products
  • Use of food-grade ingredients
  • Use of eco-friendly practices such as crop rotation
  • Use of low heat during production 
  • Careful expenditure of energy during logistics 
  • Optimisation of crop growth and yield 
  • Partnering with eco-friendly suppliers 

It is claimed that the materials used to make Aveeno products are extracted from oats that are non-GMO and food grade. Further, oats are grown in cooler areas that use low heat. This is done to optimise crop efficiency. 

Also, those areas are selected to grow the oatmeal where there is a required amount of temperature, humidity, and other external conditions; this is done to ensure maximum optimisation of the process and minimum environmental impact. 

A number of uses and beneficial agricultural practices are also used such as crop rotation. These practices lead to a number of benefits such as: 

  • Decreased soil erosion
  • Decreased use of pesticides and insecticides
  • Increased organic nature of crop
  • Reduction in plant diseases 

When it comes to farming practices, one aspect that needs to be discussed is the energy required to transport the yield to factories and production centres. 

Most of this energy is derived from petroleum-based products that are responsible for increased carbon footprint and environmental anomalies such as global warming, unprecedented weather changes, deforestation, et cetera. 

Although the production of Aveeno products also depends on non-renewable sources, there are some efforts done to reduce the impact. This includes the use of both rail and truck to minimise energy use. 

What should be the qualities of good sunscreens?

Let us diverge against the conformity of Aveeno sunscreens. For any reason, Aveeno sunscreen is not available. What other options can you pursue?

In other words, what should be the qualities of good sunscreens that discern good sunscreen from non-eco-friendly sunscreens? 

  • Its ingredients should not include any synthetic material which is non-biodegradable i.e., oxybenzone.
  • It should not have any natural ingredient that has an indirect environmental impact i.e., palm oil etc.
  • It should have an SPF of at least 15 and ideally 30.
  • All of its ingredients should be biodegradable.
  • Zinc oxide should be used instead of titanium oxide as an active ingredient.
  • Its packaging should be biodegradable or at least recyclable if biodegradable packaging is not possible.
  • It should not compromise on the utilitarian aspect as well.

Conclusion

It is concluded that Aveeno sunscreen is regarded as biodegradable because it is mineral based and is not made from any harmful chemicals such as parabens or benzoate. Aveeno sunscreen is also reef-safe which means that there will be no significant impact on the coral reefs. 

Aveeno sunscreen comes in recyclable packaging made from plastics which can be improved to become biodegradable or compostable packaging. 

The production of Aveeno products is done while considering environmental impact. Many practices such as crop rotation, low heat farming, and crop optimisations are done to ensure that the yield is maximum but the impact is minimal. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Aveeno sunscreen biodegradable?

Is biodegradable sunscreen good at its function?

Yes, biodegradable sunscreens are equally effective. Further, since there are no chemical uses, these sunscreens are actually better for the skin because there is no risk of diseases. 

What is reef-safe sunscreen?

Reef-safe sunscreens are sunscreens that do not contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals damage coral reefs. 

References 

  • Hernandez-Pedraza, M., Caballero-Vázquez, J. A., Peniche-Pérez, J. C., Pérez-Legaspi, I. A., Casas-Beltran, D. A., & Alvarado-Flores, J. (2020). Toxicity and hazards of biodegradable and non-biodegradable sunscreens to aquatic life of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Sustainability, 12(8), 3270.
  • Wood, Elizabeth (2018). Impacts of sunscreens on coral reefs. International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), 20
  • Chatzigianni, M., Pavlou, P., Siamidi, A., Vlachou, M., Varvaresou, A., & Papageorgiou, S. (2022). Environmental impacts due to the use of sunscreen products: a mini-review. Ecotoxicology, 1-15.
  • Aveeno. Our Sustainability. Retrieved from: https://www.aveeno.com/our-sustainability
  • Brede, C., Fjeldal, P., Skjevrak, I., & Herikstad, H. (2003). Increased migration levels of bisphenol A from polycarbonate baby bottles after dishwashing, boiling and brushing. Food Additives & Contaminants, 20(7), 684-689.

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