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The Badger'ing of Reef Safe™ Sunscreens

The sunscreen industry is full of lemmings* that utilize Zinc Oxide in their SPF formulas claiming biodegradability and coral reef safe, this poses numerous questions and issues that we’ve outlined below:

*Note: A Lemming is a member of a crowd with no originality or voice of his own. One who speaks or repeats only what he has been told.

Not Biodegradable:

Figure 1: "Be better protected from mayhem, like me." [25]

We here at Reef Safe™ understand that label claims should be 100% truth. That’s why our labels don’t claim to give you x-ray vision or a pet dragon named Murphy. (see figure 1) Zinc Oxide is not biodegradable as even some lemmings admit on their own websites, so how can they make the claim that their sunscreens are biodegradable?  The other chemicals in their products may potentially biodegrade 100%, but more often than not, it’s because these lemmings use an OECD 301-B [1][2] test. This means their products are tested in a dilute mineral salt solution mixed up in a lab with the addition of 0.1% sewage water to introduce microorganisms; this step enhances the biodegradation process, thus providing better results to show the consumer, but in our opinion not conducive to real world conditions.

“The OECD 301-B test of organic chemicals has normally been the first choice for testing poorly soluble chemicals and those, which strongly adsorb.” [1][2]

Science lesson:
Adsorption is the adhesion of atoms, ions, biomolecules or molecules of gas, liquid, or dissolved solids to a surface. [3] This process creates a film of the adsorbate (the molecules or atoms being accumulated) on the surface of the adsorbent. It differs from absorption, in which a fluid permeates or is dissolved by a liquid or solid.” [4]

Broken down further: To Adsorb means having the capacity or tendency to accumulate on a surface and NOT dissolve.   

At Reef Safe™ we use the OECD 306, which is tested in actual seawater gathered from the ocean.  By utilizing the OECD 306 [1][5] test over the OECD 301-B [1][2] test, we provide results more suited to real world conditions; but the fact still remains that zinc will not and cannot biodegrade, thus companies using zinc cannot make the biodegradable claim.  This is made apparent by the above statement that companies utilize this OECD 301-B [1][2] test, because the product they are testing is poorly soluble [2] and strongly adsorbs, [3] in essence these competing products already have a difficult time biodegrading (hence the sewage addition in this test), and can create a film on the surface of the water.  

Oceans, Waterways & Eco-Systems Being Badgered with Zinc

Lemmings make claims that the Zinc Oxide in their sunscreens will settle to the seafloor within a few hours like silt, and become buried in the sediment; this theory is poorly defined and misleading to consumers. 

Did you know that sediment is the number one pollutant of our surface waters? [6]  

Sediment can smother aquatic organisms that are food for fish and make oceans, lakes and rivers murky or muddy; this cloudy water kills the corals.  Since corals are sensitive to pollution and sediment, the sediment can settle on the corals, blocking out sunlight and smothering coral polyps, thus killing the coral. [7][8][9][10]

Another omission in their theory is the fact that just because it’s buried in the sediment doesn’t mean that the zinc resides there permanently. In fact the seafloor is ever changing, when an earthquake or major storm such as a hurricane and other tropical disturbances strike, they cause the sediment to be resuspended. After the sediment has been resuspended, the now murky current transports the zinc filled sediment further out into the deep blue sea. [11][12][13][14][15] Once settled, the zinc bides its time within it’s new home until the next natural disaster strikes to whisk it away on another journey to wherever land, [16][17] thus the zinc continues to flow through our oceans worldwide. We pose another question – Where does the zinc end up in the fast moving rivers and streams, where the current is too rapid to allow settling?  What about at the lake or your pool?
In our opinion, when using a product with zinc as the active ingredient, it is the same as littering our oceans with trash. Everything eventually drains into our oceans even the water you use in the shower; with Reef Safe™ you can apply without worry, knowing your skin and environment will have the ultimate protection.  

When you visit our oceans, lakes and rivers – only leave your footprints behind.

The Dishonesty Behind the Claiming of a Chemical Free Product:            As told by Lemmings’

Figure 2: Does this look natural to you?

Zinc utilizes a hydrometallurgical process based on zinc carbonate ore. The zinc contained in the feed material is leached in an aqueous ammonia solution. Ammonia is stripped from the solution by steam injection and the zinc precipitates as a basic zinc carbonate, which is then transformed into zinc oxide by calcinations and other processes before being U.S.P. grade and suitable for cosmetics. [18] The MSDS states on the front page within a highlighted outlined box that zinc is “TOXIC TO AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS”. [16][19][20][21][22] What part of this process is natural? Answer: NONE. It’s about as natural as time-traveling badgers with laser guns. (see figure 2)


Lemmings claiming “Chemical Free” products, say their products are so safe you could eat them. We suggest NOT accepting this challenge. Even if you were stranded on a deserted island, we’d suggest foraging for local nuts and berries or try out barehanded fishing. Anything is better than eating a cosmetic based product. We definitely would not want to be these lemmings insurance companies after making such outrageous claims.

So why do they claim “Chemical Free”? The human body abounds with various chemicals, many of which we would die without. It’s ridiculous to claim “Chemical Free” because everything in the products these lemmings represent are a form of a chemical that has been processed by a manufacturer per the FDA’s approved guidelines for the use in cosmetics and OTC-drugs. If this were not the case than the lemmings could not utilize the ingredients in their products, well legally that is.

Testing Referrals by a Badgering Lemming

While the study done in Italy that this lemming badgers about on their website was performed at a reputable university, there have been numerous legitimate criticisms by both sunscreen chemists as well as marine biologists about the scientific protocols used in the study. In fact, nowhere have we seen results where zinc was subjected to the same test protocols as the other sunscreen ingredients. So we asked a marine biologist their professional opinion on this study and what they thought would happen if they substituted zinc instead of the sunscreen chemicals brought into question.  Here’s what they had to say, “Basically if we took the same protocol which in layman terms would be a live coral, sea water, a sealable plastic bag and dumped zinc oxide into it and sat it on the shelf for a few days, I am pretty sure the coral would not survive either”. In essence, this is basically what the study did with the other sunscreens they claim bleach and kill the corals.

*Hypothetical situation: Imagine substituting the coral for another animal in the animal kingdom a badger or a dolphin for instance. Theoretically speaking if the university were to have performed the same study with these substitutions – we’re pretty sure throwing a badger or a dolphin into a sealed plastic bag full of sea water and sunscreens with no oxygen and then sat on a shelf for ‘x’ amount of days would lead to death of these animals as well.

*Note: No badgers or dolphins were harmed or used in the creation of this hypothetical situation.

Not only were numerous scientific protocols not followed in this experiment, but it is in our opinion that these types of studies are “JUNK SCIENCE”. These studies are as reliable as believing a starved great white shark won’t devour the baby seal crossing its path for dinner. (see figure 3)

Figure 3: This won't end well . . .

For more scientific reviews please visit: tropicalseas.com/pages/fact-vs-fiction

To learn more about this study and other ingredient facts visit: tropicalseas.com/pages/chemography

A Badgering Lemming Cops Out by Claiming No-Animal Testing

As of late a badgering lemming has been making claims about a “Reef Safe” test being available, this is not true. The correct name for this test is: “OECD 203 Acute Toxicity Test”. [1][23] This test measures the effects on the survival of aquatic organisms in a limit test.  Makes you wonder why these badgering lemmings refer to our brand name rather than the actual name of the test, doesn’t it? We suspect that they only refer to this as the “Reef Safe” test to simply show up on search engine results, therefore playing up the words “Reef Safe” wherever and whenever possible.

To learn more about the OECD 203 Test visit: tropicalseas.com/pages/reef-safe-testing-conclusions

This particular lemming refuses to partake in the OECD 203 Test, [1][23] by claiming their allegiance with the Leaping Bunny program (a coalition that claims to helping make shopping for animal-friendly products easier and more trustworthy), and instead the lemming mentions they are looking into coral testing. We hate to burst their bunny shaped bubble, but just as fish are a part of the Kingdom Animalia, so are corals. [24] We suspect that they know the consequences of submitting their products for the OECD 203 Test, [1][23] which due to their products high percentage of zinc would kill the fish since zinc is toxic to aquatic life. [16][19][20][21][22]  

For more information on zinc toxicity read our Facts vs. Fiction titled ‘MSDS Facts’ on our website by visiting: tropicalseas.com/pages/fact-vs-fiction

Figure 4: Why? Because Poseidon wills it so. Proceed.

At Reef Safe™ SunCare we don’t hide behind a mystical “Reef Safe” Test. You, the consumer deserves to know the truth. If others choose to invoke the super-ultra-secret-trance of Poseidon to verify their product is safe for our ocean and it’s inhabitants, they are more than welcome (see figure 4). Our scientists, however, recommend the OECD 203 Acute Toxicity Test. [1][23] 

We love Poseidon as much as the rest of you, but when in the sun, sea, or on a boat . . .

Reef Safe™ Sun Care Utilizes and Trusts Actual Science 100%!



Water Resistant vs. Waterproof

Let us phrase the question in this respect: 

If you were a police officer purchasing safety equipment, which would you want? 


A bullet resistant vest 


A bulletproof vest

In our opinion, we’d want the bulletproof vest, and the same mentality should apply to your sunscreens.

Water resistant products only resist being washed off for 40 minutes where as a waterproof product, soon to be ‘Very Water Resistant’ due to new FDA regulations, resists for up to 80 minutes or longer depending on your skin type. Most companies’ only offer water resistant not waterproof, so in retrospect to the above question, you are only getting a bullet resistant vest rather than bulletproof. We wouldn’t risk our skin, why would you?


Pricing Value to the Consumer – Psst: That’s You!

In this economy, being conscious about our environment by purchasing eco-friendly products shouldn’t burn the green in your wallet.  

Our 99% Biodegradable, Non-Toxic to Sea-Life Reef Safe™ Sunscreens are Eco-Friendly AND we KEEP the green in your wallet, a typical 4oz Reef Safe™ product retails for $5.00 - $6.00.  Compare that to these badgering brands that are typically retailing a 3oz product for up to $16.00. Even more outrageous, we’ve seen other so called “organic” brands retailing a 2oz product for $40 - $50.

To Put this in Perspective:

With Reef Safe™ Sunscreens you pay just $1.25 - $1.50 per ounce.

With these “Badgering” brands Sunscreens you pay $5.33 per ounce.
Note: This is almost 4 times the price of Reef Safe™ Sunscreens!

Crazy enough on other “organic” brands you pay $20 - $25 per ounce.
Note: This is almost 17 times the price of Reef Safe™ Sunscreens! 

When viewed in these terms, it becomes apparently obvious why these lemmings are “badgering” Reef Safe™ Sunscreens. They cannot compete with our affordable, eco-friendly brand – so they lash out with false accusations to ride on the coat tails of our press.

Points We Do Agree With

Label claims regarding biodegradability and aquatic environmental safety are in fact unregulated, but until these claims are regulated; you as the consumer need to decide for yourselves what claims are gimmicks and what claims have been scientifically substantiated. If a company does not provide actual scientific testing data, then request the data from them, if your request is declined or worse, ignored – you have your answer.

Yes, other factors are definitely a greater threat to our oceans and its inhabitants including the vanishing of coral reefs, global warming and pollution; but purchasing a biodegradable product whenever possible including sunscreens, can make a difference. We recommend doing your research on the brand before buying, don’t just take their word for it – make sure they are legitimate and offer the science to backup their marketing claims.

At Tropical Seas® we don’t claim to know everything – but what we do know, we can prove with science! All products are proven to be biodegradable, safe for you, your kids and the environment.

To view our Reef Safe™ Biodegradable Sunscreens Scientific Testing visit: tropicalseas.com/pages/reef-safe-testing-conclusions

To learn more about our Other Eco-Friendly, Biodegradable products visit: tropicalseas.com

To see how our products our manufactured directly take a look at our YouTube video: youtu.be/EmgC_C85L68