Is equate sunscreen biodegradable? (5 components of equate sunscreen)

This article shall answer the question about the biodegradability of equate sunscreen.

The following area will also be covered:

  • The components of equate sunscreen.
  • The different types of sunscreens and their forms.
  • Ultraviolet radiation and its effects on the skin.

Is equate sunscreen biodegradable?

No, equate sunscreen is not biodegradable. The components of equate sunscreen can not be broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

However, the components of equate sunscreens are susceptible to breakdown by UV radiation, and this makes them fewer pollutants to the environment.

Sunscreens are chemical substances that are used to protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiations have adverse effects on the skin and there are a lot of types of sunscreens that have been produced to absorb these UV radiations.

What are ultraviolet radiations?

Ultraviolet radiations are radiations produced by the sun.

They are found in the wavelength of 100-400 nm.

They are divided into 3 different types.

  • Ultraviolet A. 
  • Ultraviolet B.
  • Ultraviolet C.

Ultraviolet radiation A (UVA).

These are found in the wavelength of 320-400 nm.

They have a long wavelength and hence penetrate deep into the skin.

Divided into 2 categories.

  • UVA1-  their wavelength is 320-400 nm, hence they are said to be far UVA.
  • UVA2- their wavelength is 320-340 nm, hence they are said to be near UVA.

UVA radiation can penetrate glasses and as such, photosensitive people can be affected even when they are indoors.

They are transmitted by the atmosphere.           

Ultraviolet radiation B (UVB).  

They are found in the wavelength of 290-320 nm.

They are also called burn rays.

They are mostly blocked by sunscreen.

Some are transmitted by the atmosphere and some are absorbed by the ozone layer.

Ultraviolet radiation C (UVC).  

They have a wavelength of 100-280 nm.

They are absorbed by the ozone layer.  

Advantages of ultraviolet radiation?

  • The ultraviolet advantages include the activation of vitamin D which in return helps the body to absorb calcium.

Eventually, the absorption of calcium prevents diseases like:

  • Ricketts.
  • Osteomalacia.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Sarcoidosis.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Mycosis fungoides.

Disadvantages of ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiation has the following disadvantages to the skin.

  • Cause skin cancer.
  • Cause skin wrinkles.
  • Causes hair loss.
  • Cause rashes.
  • Cause UV-induced immunosuppression

What is sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a substance that prevents a person’s skin from ultraviolet radiation.

Sunscreen can either:

  • Broad-spectrum- absorbing different types of ultraviolet radiations.
  • Narrow spectrum- absorbing only one type of ultraviolet radiation.

The advantages of sunscreens.

  • Prevent skin photosensitivity.
  • Prevent actinic keratosis.
  • Prevent skin cancer.
  • Prevent UV- induced immunosuppression.
  • Prevent solar elastosis.
  • Prevent skin wrinkling.
  • Prevent skin rashes.

Disadvantages of using sunscreen.

  • The disadvantages of using sunscreens include the following:
  • They can cause skin reactions.
  • They can cause eye burns.
  • They can cause contact dermatitis.
  • They can cause skin acne.

Types of sunscreens.

There are different types of sunscreens depending on their chemical composition.

They include:

  • Chemical sunscreens.
  • Physical sunscreen/ blockers.

Chemical sunscreens.

These are sunscreens that are made from organic, mostly aromatic compounds.

Aromatic compounds are unsaturated hydrocarbons produced by plants and have medicinal characteristics.

Chemical sunscreens absorb high-intensity ultraviolet radiation.

The common types of chemical sunscreen ingredients are divided according to the type of ultraviolet radiation they absorb.

  • Chemicals against ultraviolet radiation B (UVB)
  • Chemicals against ultraviolet radiation A ( UVA).

Chemicals against ultraviolet radiation B include the following:

  • Padimate O.
  • Octinoxate.
  • Octisalate.
  • Octocrylene.
  • Ensulizole.

Chemicals against ultraviolet radiation A include the following :

  • Oxybenzone.
  • Meradimate.
  • Avobenzone.
  • Terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid.

Physical sunscreen.

These are sunscreens that contain synthetic or inorganic chemicals which are non-biodegradable.

They protect the skin against ultraviolet radiation by absorbing or reflecting the ultraviolet radiation.

They include the following:

  • Titanium dioxide 
  • Zinc oxide.
Titanium dioxide.

It protects the skin from ultraviolet radiations by reflecting them away since it has a shiny surface.

Advantages of using titanium dioxide as sunscreen.
  • The particles of titanium dioxide are not absorbed by the body hence it is safe to use.
  • It has a broad-spectrum activity.
Disadvantages of using titanium dioxide as sunscreen.
  • When used, it leaves a white pigment on the skin surface.
  • It is not biodegradable, hence it pollutes the environment.
Zinc oxide.

It works almost the same way as titanium dioxide.

It protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation by either absorption or reflection.

Advantages of using zinc oxide as sunscreen.
  • It has a broad spectrum.
  • Its particles are not absorbed by the body.
Disadvantages of using zinc oxide as sunscreen.
  • It is not organic and hence is not biodegradable; polluting the environment.
  • When used, it leaves a white pigment on the skin.

What is equate sunscreen?

This is an SPF 50 sunscreen that is produced using several ingredients.

Components of equate reef-safe SPF 50 sunscreen include:

  • Avobenzone 3%.
  • Homosalate 15%.
  • Octisalate 5%.
  • Octocrylene 10%.
  • Oxybenzone 6%.


This is an organic compound that is derived from dibenzoyl methane.

It has the following properties:

  • It is oil soluble.
  • It is non-toxic to the skin.
  • Absorbs UV radiations at a wide range of wavelengths.
  • It breaks easily when exposed to the sun.
  • It is stabilized by chemicals such as octocrylene, which makes it less susceptible to light degradation.
  • It protects the skin against cancer such as melanoma.


This is an organic compound that is formed by reacting salicylic acid with 3,3,5-trimethylcyclohexanol.

It is used in sunscreens as an ultraviolet radiation filter 

It is stable even when exposed to the sun and therefore, it provides longer skin protection.

Homosalate is derived from salicylic acid which can cause hormonal disruption in pregnant women, and therefore, homosalate-containing sunscreens should be avoided during pregnancy.


Octisalate is an organic compound that is derived from a reaction of salicylic acid with 2-ethylhexanol.

It protects the skin against ultraviolet B radiations.

It is also called octyl salicylate.

Octisalate is an oily liquid with a floral odor.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits its use to only 5%.

When octisalate is overused, it has the following side effects:

  • It causes skin itching.
  • It causes a burning sensation on the skin.
  • It causes skin irritation.
  • It causes skin reddening.
  • It causes swelling.


This is an organic ester compound of 2-Ethylhexyl cyanoacetate and benzophenone.

It is a viscous, oily liquid.

It is clear and colorless.

It is resistant to water.

It protects the skin by absorbing ultraviolet A radiation.

It is also used as an avobenzone stabilizer to increase its activity when it’s exposed to the sun.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limited the use of octocrylene in sunscreens to 6%.

Any use of octocrylene above this percentage can result in side effects such as skin irritation, skin rashes, skin burning, and allergic reactions.


This is an organic compound in the family of benzophenones.

It is naturally found in the flowers of some plants.

It is a pale-yellow solid that is soluble in organic solvents.

It is used in sunscreens to absorb ultraviolet radiation.

It has a broad spectrum activity since it absorbs both ultraviolet radiation A and B.

It is also used in furniture, toys, and other plastics products to prevent their oxidation by ultraviolet radiation.

Most countries have limited its use to 6%.

When overused, it can cause allergic reactions.

Is equate sunscreen eco-friendly?

Effects of equate sunscreen to the environment have divided opinion for some time now.

The manufacturing companies have used labels categorizing equate sunscreen as reef-safe, a term used to describe non-toxicity to coral reefs.

However, some studies have shown that some components of equate sunscreen such as avobenzone, oxybenzone and octocrylene are toxic to the coral reefs.

The chemicals leach into the soil and upon reaching the oceans, they break down coral reefs 

There is still a lot of research going on to prove the safety of these chemicals, but for now, it is advisable to use the limited percentages to reduce toxicity to both the user and the aquatic life.


This blog has answered the question of biodegradation of equate sunscreen.

It has also covered such areas as; examples of sunscreens, types of ultraviolet radiation, components of equate sunscreen, and the effects of equate sunscreen on the environment.

For any comments or questions, use the space provided below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is equate sunscreen biodegradable?

How can you tell if sunscreen is biodegradable?

The biodegradability of sunscreen can be told by checking its ingredients.

Sunscreens containing organic ingredients are biodegradable while those containing chemicals such as oxybenzone, PABA, and octinoxate are non-biodegradable.

Is zinc oxide sunscreen biodegradable?

No, zinc oxide is an inorganic compound that is not broken down by microorganisms.

Sunscreens made from zinc oxide have some degree of toxicity to the environment.

Does sunscreen pollute the ocean?

Yes, some sunscreens contain non-biodegradable chemicals such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone, PABA, Octinoxate, and octocrylene.

These chemicals are carried by water into oceans where they cause toxicity to the coral reefs.


Castro GT, Blanco SE, Giordano OS (2000). “UV Spectral Properties of Benzophenone. Influence of Solvents and Substituents”. Molecules. 5 (3): 424–425. doi:10.3390/50300424.

Carrie Bell. ( May 20, 2022). RS Recommends: The Best Reef-Safe, Eco-Friendly Sunscreens.

Retrieved from:

Sally Wadyka. ( July 10, 2018). The Truth About ‘Reef-Safe’ Sunscreen: Labels don’t tell the whole story. Here’s how best to protect your skin—and the environment.

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