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Tropical Seas Chemography

With popular topics flooding the health & beauty industry lately such as “Are the products we use Eco-friendly for our Environment?” and “Could some products be hazardous to consumers?” – The message is clear that all manufactures need to take responsibility for their products and most importantly their marketing claims.

When developing Reef Safe™ in 1995, we searched worldwide for the most technologically advanced renewable sustainable raw materials available to ensure that our products were good for you and our environment. Considerable funds were spent to achieve our goal of an eco-friendly product that would protect the consumer as well as our environment.   To protect the consumer, we made sure all of our products complied with applicable FDA rules and regulations.  For our environment, we involved the Scientific and Ecological community during research, development, and later testing of our products. We achieved our goal and in 2009, we unveiled our 99% Biodegradable, Non-Toxic to Sea-Life, Eco-Friendly brand – Reef Safe™ Suncare. We continue our goals of bringing our consumers affordable Eco-Friendly products everyday by continually searching for the most advanced ingredients for our products whenever and wherever possible.

Why We Chose to Use the Ingredients We Use in our Products:

First and foremost, all Reef Safe™ products have been formulated and tested to be safe for human use per the FDA guidelines, which were further authenticated by Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP), Scientific Committee on Cosmetic and Non-food Products (SCCNFP), Center for Disease Control (CDC) and many other international governing bodies.
 The most common questions we are challenged with are: The safety of using products that contain the chemicals Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3) and assorted Parabens. Virtually every chemical made in its raw form used at full strength will cause some type of harm.  We use a small percentage of each ingredient in our products with the bulk of the lotion base being made from our specially blended tea of botanicals, and many ingredients are plant or vegetable derived. 

 Why We Use Oxybenzone or Benzophenone-3:

When researching the ingredients that would make up Reef Safe™ Sunscreens, we chose the carbon based sunscreen Oxybenzone or Benzophenone-3 (B-3) not only because it protects our skin from UVB and UVA rays, but also this sunscreen biodegrades very well, which was key to achieving our eco-friendly goals.  As well as being cost efficient, B-3 has been available for 20 years and has been approved by the FDA for human use based on exhaustive scientific reviews.  
Roughly three years ago a lobbying group out of DC known as the EWG (Environmental Working Group) challenged the safety of sunscreens, however, legitimate criticisms arose by leading Dermatologists and Scientists after reviewing the groups’ research citing big problems in the lack of this reports scientific rigor.[1][3]

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation’s volunteer Photobiology Committee who reviewed the studies on oxybenzone and found no basis for concern [1] stated, “What the EWG is doing is developing their own system for evaluating things,” said Dr. Warwick L. Morison, professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins and chairman of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s photobiology committee, which tests sunscreens for safety and effectiveness. “Using this scale to say a sunscreen offers good protection or bad protection is junk science.” Dr. Morison has no financial ties to sunscreen makers, and his work with the Skin Cancer Foundation is unpaid. [1][3]

The brands that this group recommends are lesser-known brands with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are effective blockers of UVA rays, however, they can leave a white residue behind on your skin and they are not Eco-Friendly. Both chemicals are poorly soluble in water and do not biodegrade and Zinc Oxide is toxic to aquatic life.
For more information on zinc toxicity and titanium dioxide visit: tropicalseas.com/pages/fact-vs-fiction and tropicalseas.com/pages/the-badger-ing-of-reef-safe-sunscreens

A few animal studies have raised concerns about the possibility of oxybenzone disrupting the endocrine functions, however several top researchers say that this is a theoretical concern and no such effect has been shown in humans.  Further proving this point, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s analysis states that Oxybenzone “has not been associated with adverse health effects”. [2][3] Additionally, evidence confirming that Oxybenzone is not associated with any adverse health effects in humans, was published by a research team at the University of Queensland, Australia concluding, “That the human viable epidermal levels of sunscreens are too low to cause any significant toxicity to the underlying human keratinocytes.” [4]

Dr. Rigel a dermatologist known as a leading authority on skin cancer, who has consulted for sunscreen makers says, “Nobody's seen any problems from years of these agents being used. To call it dangerous is misleading”. [3] 

The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) states that these chemicals are: “Not a hazard under normal use conditions” It does state that under “Greater than approved concentrations of use” that these chemicals can possibly be a mild sensitizer or mild irritant to humans, however, in our products we use the FDA approved percentage and never exceed approved concentrations. The MSDS goes on to state under Aquatic Toxicity that there is no data available as to any adverse effects this material has on the environment. [5]
The bottom line, a group of people banded together to create mass hysteria among the populace by calling sunscreens into question, only to promote lesser-known brands that they deemed safe without having any science to back up their claims.

Why We Use Parabens: Esters of Parahydroxybenzoic Acid

What are parabens? Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic products, and they are also used as food preservatives. Chemically, parabens are esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. The most common parabens used in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. [6] Some parabens are found naturally in plant sources. For example, methylparaben is found in blueberries, [7][8][9] where it acts as an antimicrobial agent.
We use Methylparaben and Propylparaben in our products to protect our products against microbial growth, both to protect you our consumers and to maintain product integrity.
For over 45 years the employment of parabens as a preservative in cosmetics, foods and pharmaceuticals has been widely utilized worldwide. [10] These preservatives are currently listed as being “GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE” otherwise known as GRAS. Not only is this listing for the use in foods, but also for the use in cosmetics. [10]
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is an industry-sponsored organization that reviews cosmetic ingredient safety and publishes its results in open, peer-reviewed literature. (The FDA participates in the CIR in a non-voting capacity) The CIR reviewed the safety of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben in 1984 and concluded they were safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%; we use less than 0.2 percent in our products.
Controversy arose over the use of parabens, as parabens could possibly mimic estrogen.  In the years following, the CIR began the processes of reopening the safety assessment of parabens in order to collect new data for consideration. In December 2005, the CIR determined, “that there was no need to change its original conclusion that parabens are safe as used in cosmetics. [6]
A study published in 2004 detected parabens in breast tumors, however, the study left several questions unanswered. For example, the study did not show that parabens cause cancer, or that they are harmful in any way, and the study did not look at possible paraben levels in normal tissue. [6]
In a review of the estrogenic activity of parabens, the author concluded that based on maximum daily exposure estimates, it was implausible that parabens could increase the risk associated with exposure to estrogenic chemicals. [6][11] There is NO causal link between parabens and cancer that has been established. [6][11] Further, these studies were done using very high levels of parabens, and the level of parabens used in cosmetics is very low.  
Parabens are colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-volatile, non-toxic, chemically stable, soluble in most solutions, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing to the skin; in fact a very small percentage of the general population has sensitivities to parabens. [12][13][14]
The Material Data Sheet lists parabens as non-hazardous and there are no ecological ill effects. At the present time, the FDA believes there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens.[6][10]  

Why We Utilize These Ingredients and Believe this Coral Study is Junk Science:

Coral bleaching is a vivid sign of corals responding to stress, which can be induced by any of the following: increased (most commonly) or reduced water temperatures, increased solar irradiance, changes in water chemistry, starvation by the decline of zooplankton, increased sedimentation (due to silt runoff), pathogen infections, changes in salinity, wind, low tide air exposure and cyanide fishing. [15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

A recent concern based on a study published in the January 2008 issue of the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that certain ingredients in sunscreens that have washed off swimmers throughout the world are causing coral bleaching by promoting viral infections. The study acknowledges that the phenomenon of coral bleaching is associated with temperature changes, high irradiance, pollution and bacterial diseases.  Basically these coral samples were exposed to sunscreen products sealed inside 2-liter plastic bags containing seawater, and then the coral bleaching levels that occurred were measured. The review shows the study's researchers did expose the corals to sunscreens containing parabens, cinnamates, benzophenones and camphor derivatives. As a matter of fact, the coral in this study was exposed to sunscreens at far higher concentrations than would ever be found in the natural environment, and the researchers in the study even admitted they tested sunscreens containing concentrations of UV filters higher than those reported in most natural environments.
We had our doubts about this study, so needless to say it did not surprise us when various valid criticisms by both sunscreen chemists and marine biologists pertaining to the scientific protocols used came to light.
Firstly, this type of incubation in a sealed bag does not reflect the rapid dilution and water circulation that would occur in the open ocean.
Secondly, the study does not establish a NOAEL (No observed adverse effect level), which denotes the level of exposure of an organism, found by experiment or observation, at which there is no biologically or statistically significant increase in the frequency or severity of any adverse effects in the exposed population when compared to its appropriate control. This level may be used in the process of establishing a dose-response relationship, and is a fundamental step in most risk assessment methodologies. [22][23]
Thirdly, the study makes numerous questionable assumptions about concentrations of ingredients that may be present in open bodies of seawater. These assumptions could have easily been determined by taking a basis of sunscreens per number of swimmer’s per square foot to calculate a more realistic dilution.
Finally, not only were the above oversights committed, but also the researchers left out other sunscreens ingredients in their study, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
With these questionable assumptions and reliability of the study in question, Tropical Seas® outsourced Marine Biologists to get to work on our own study that we’re calling the “Reef Safe Coral Stress Limit Test”. Our study will show that Reef Safe™ formulas reduce the environmental footprint of our chosen sunscreen ingredients by reflecting a test method that more realistically mimics the natural condition found in our environment.
Keep checking our website for updates on our testing by visiting: tropicalseas.com/pages/about and tropicalseas.com/blogs/news

In summary, we use small percentages of each ingredient in our products with the bulk of the lotion base being made from our specially blended tea of botanicals that we researched and selected for their skin soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as for their eco-friendly biodegradability. Our products are formulated in such a way that to quote Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts".

At Tropical Seas® we care about protecting your skin as well as protecting our environment. We strive to find the most advanced renewable and sustainable FDA approved ingredients whenever and wherever possible. This is our commitment to you, our consumers as well as our environment.  

We invite our customers to continually visit the ChemOgraphy page as well as our testing summaries section for ongoing updates and results.
Keep following us on Facebook, Twitter and our Website for company updates, new biodegradable products, and special offers!

Consumers who have questions about sunscreen use and the safety and efficacy of sunscreens should visit:

The FDA's Website at:



The Personal Care Products Council's safety Website at http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/product_details.php?product_id=47 and http://www.cir-safety.org/index.shtml


The safety of oxybenzone has also been reviewed and confirmed by the CIR expert panel ( http://www.cir-safety.org/index.shtml). CIR, an independent panel of scientific and medical experts who assess the safety of cosmetic ingredients used in the U.S., has confirmed that oxybenzone is safe for use in cosmetic products.



  1. ^ The Skin Cancer Foundation dispels concerns about sunscreen “Sunscreen Criticisms Not Based on Hard Science”.(July 15, 2010).
  2. ^ Environmental Health Perspective. Center for Disease Control. (July 2008 Edition).
  3. ^ Tara Parker-Pope. New York Times. Sunscreen Safety is Called into Question. (2008).
  4. ^ Hayden, CG; Cross, SE; Anderson, C; Saunders, NA; Roberts, MS (20 May 2005). "Sunscreen penetration of human skin and related keratinocyte toxicity after topical application". Skin Pharmacol Physiol. Therapeutics Research Unit, University of Queensland, Southern Clinical School, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Australia . (2005).
  5. ^ Material Safety Data Sheet for Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3). International Specialty Products. (2011).
  6. ^ U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Parabens . (2011).
  7. ^ Al-Shamma A, Drake S, Flynn DL, Mitscher LA, Park YH, Rao GSR, Simpson A, Swayze JK, Veysoglu T, Wu STS (1981). "Antimicrobial Agents From Higher Plants. Antimicrobial Agents From Peganum harmala Seeds". J Nat Prod .44 (6): 745–747.
  8. ^ Bais HP, Vepachedu R, Vivanco JM, (1 April 2003). "Root specific elicitation and exudation of fluorescent beta-carbolines in transformed root cultures of Oxalis tuberosa". Plant Physiology and Biochemistry . 41 (4): 345–353.
  9. ^ "In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology". Plant 37 (6): 730–741. 2001..
  10. ^ Database of Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Reviews: Methyl Paraben. (2011).
  11. ^ Golden R, Gandy J, Vollmer G (2005). "A review of the endocrine activity of parabens and implications for potential risks to human health". Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 35 (5): 435–58. (2005).
  12. ^ Soni MG, Carabin IG, Burdock GA (2005). "Safety assessment of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens)". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 43 (7): 985–1015.
  13. ^ Soni MG, Taylor SL, Greenberg NA, Burdock GA (2002). "Evaluation of the health aspects of methyl paraben: a review of the published literature". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 40 (10): 1335–73.
  14. ^ Nagel JE, Fuscaldo JT, Fireman P. Paraben allergy (April 11, 1977). "Paraben allergy". J Am Med Assoc . 237 (15): 1594–5.
  15. ^ Reef at Risk in Climate Change.
  16. ^ Anthony, K. 2007; Berkelmans .
  17. ^ Fitts. 2001.
  18. ^ Johnson, Johanna E; Marshall, Paul A (2007). Climate change and the Great Barrier Reef : a vulnerability assessment. Townsville, Qld.: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
  19. ^ Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, et al. (December 2007). "Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification". Science 318 (5857): 1737–42.
  20. ^ The Starving Ocean: Mass Coral Bleaching.
  21. ^ JONES, R.J. & O. HOEGH-GULDBERG. (1999). Effects of cyanide on coral photosynthesis: implications for identifying the cause of coral bleaching and for assessing the environmental effects of cyanide fishing. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 177: 83–91.
  22. ^ Seton Resource Center . (2011).
  23. ^ Definition of NOAEL . (2011).